September 02, 2004

The Smell of Breakfast

I was walking to the train station this morning when I felt myself oddly suspended in some kind of nether state between morning and night. To my left, the sky was shot through with the pinks and oranges of a stunning sunrise, portending a spectacular day. To my left, I noticed an almost full moon still hung in the sky, like someone forgot to put it away from last night. One side, the sun. The other side, the moon. Where the f**k was I?

And then I was hit by the smell of someone cooking breakfast. I have never smelled anyone's cooking odors before on this walk. But it reassured me that I was still relatively grounded. And it got me thinking about cooking odors and cooperative living.

We used to live in an apartment house in New York City on the oh-so-posh Upper East Side, a ghetto for blondes. The first time over there from our Upper West Side apartment, my wife commented that she thought we were in Greenwich, Connecticut by mistake. We lived in a building with 6 apartments on our floor.

Apartment living is intimate, even in a pre-War apartment building like ours. You know when your neighbors leave for work, because the door slams. You know who favors stiletto heels, because you can hear it on the terrazzo or on the hardwood floors above you. You know what their reading habits are because you see their magazines when you go to recycle yours. And you pretend that you know nothing about anything when you actually see them face to face. That was the fiction, that you knew nothing about the different guys who were coming and going from your neighbor's apartment in the early morning hours. No problem. I could do that fiction. That changed, of course, when I was elected to the Board of the Coop, but that’s another story.

Another thing you learned about your neighbors is that no one cooked on the Upper East Side. I mean, why bother, right? Chinese food delivered in under 7 minutes. Seriously. And it was good and not much more than what you might spend to cook it yourself and way more efficient in use of time. One of our neighbors actually got a call from the local utility asking if she'd like them to turn the gas off to her apartment since they noticed that she had not once turned the stove on in the last eight years.

Well, I cooked and my neighbors had to learn to ignore my cooking odors. Unfortunately for them, I cook well. I like to cook things that smell really good, like slow braised beef with about 30 cloves of garlic that you cook for 4 or 5 hours on 250 degrees until you just cannot stand the smell of the yummy goodness any more and you have to tear the oven open and dip some bread into the cooking juices or you are going to kill somebody. Or roasted chickens. Or long simmering soups and pasta sauces. Things that just smacked you in the face when you got off the elevator. Yup, my apartment was that smelly cooking apartment.

No one ever said anything, but I know that they all wanted to come over for dinner.

Posted by Random Penseur at September 2, 2004 09:39 AM

That's me in our neighborhood.

We live in a row of Victorian terraced homes, so we are smack dab in the middle, all of our houses the same on the outside. And both Mr. Y and I LOVE to cook, and when the weather is warm, we leave the door open while we do it.

I have become well-known for my chocolate chip cookies and my applie pie (I bring you culture, my English friends! Eat at my table!) but we are also noted for our curries, roast chicken, and other sultry delights.

It's great to be a part of the cooking population, isn't it? :)

Posted by: Helen at September 2, 2004 12:39 PM

ok - hungry now - i am going to make lunch.

Posted by: kbear at September 2, 2004 12:44 PM

I got hungry re-reading it and then reading Helen's contribution, too. Yup, been awhile since I made a good curry with fresh grated ginger.

Posted by: RP at September 2, 2004 02:44 PM

In my apartment building we have a competion at dinnertime between French, Indian, Chinese, Italian & Spanish.

Only those with an extremely strong will survive on diets.

Now I'm hungry!

Posted by: Michele at September 2, 2004 03:58 PM
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