What a day! After my Blue Detective debacle of a morning, I waltzed into the city and saw a curious German film—The Strange Little Cat—in a New Directors/New Films press screening at the Museum of Modern Art. Afterward, still halfway in that poker-faced comedy about the life and times of a family kitchen and its pets, I wandered through the museum’s galleries of late 19th-century art, peering over people’s shoulders at Gauguins and Van Goghs and Matisses. What a way to look at such impertinent paintings, now heralded as sacrosanct. I walked down 6th Avenue to Union Square, ogling window displays of buttons and flowers and velvet trimmings, and munching from a little wax paper bag of cashews sold by a kind-faced, doleful-voiced street vendor. As I walked, I thought about how New York is like the kitchen I’d just watched: always changing, always staying the same. I thought about about how, as much as I like Brooklyn, Manhattan’s street smells—hamburgers and onions, hot dogs, pretzels, smoky and sweet nuts, quick gusts of trash and fancy flowers—trump all. And I thought about how alley cats like me—ladies of a certain age, ladies of a certain indestructibility, ladies of a certain scandalous independence—have been clicking in high heels down the city’s avenues for hundreds of years. I hope we always will.
Something about this still-chilly March Sunday—on which we all felt a little fragile about losing an hour to daylight’s savings—made me keen to steam up my kitchen’s windows. First I brined a turkey with juniper berries, salt, sugar, cloves, chili peppers, thyme, fennel seeds and bay leaves. Then I assembled an enormous and very earnest salad of spinach, fresh feta, blood oranges, roasted beets, tarragon, mint, and parsley, and fed some of it to a friend and myself while her new baby and my tiny cat watched with round eyes. As the bird slowly roasted with red wine, lemons, fennel bulbs, leeks, carrots, and potatoes in a bright blue Le Creuset, we took a stroll around the neighborhood and felt glad about the afternoon light as well as each other. After she wended home with her small charge, I stored the leftovers in carefully labeled containers, and made a pot of polenta with chopped sausage, lacinato kale, oregano, rosemary, fennel, tomato, and garlic. I ate a bowl of all that with grated Parmigiano and a glass of Italian table wine while paging through an elaborate 1970s cookbook, and, when finished, stored the rest of the pot’s contents in more carefully labeled containers and washed all the day’s dishes while humming along to Dinah Washington. By then, the many bridges of my fine city had finally lit up the night sky, and I regarded the view, as well as the contents of the refrigerator, with great satisfaction. No matter what this week brought, I’d ensured I’d be the queen of my castle.
My neighbor—who has held agonizingly long and agonizingly audible fights in Italian with her philandering husband at least three times a week for the entire time I’ve lived in my building—came up to my apartment this morning and informed me that I had to stop with all the thumping and bumping at night as the gigantesco noise was disturbing her famiglia. I nodded, perplexed. I keep very decent cat lady hours, after all. Then I noticed baby kitty Grace batting her toy with a studied innocence, and ye olde wheels started turning. It is true that my tiny, five-pound feline has been hunting and trapping her evil, evil enemy The Horrible Catnip Mouse with an unusual gusto lately. “At least she doesn’t chase big blondes,” I thought, and fed her a bit of fish.