Archive for September 2, 2009

Sheila Lukins

September 2, 2009 1 comment


Sheila Lukins, co-founder of The Silver Palate and author or co-author of assorted Silver Palate cookbooks with Julee Rosso, died on Sunday. I remember the store in its early days, when it was just a neighborhood food store in what happened to be my grandmother’s neighborhood.

Lukins, as the NYT obituary explains, entered the food business as a caterer working out of her apartment while raising two small daughters. The apartment was in The Dakota, the famed Manhattan apartment building on the northwest corner of 72nd Street and Central Park West. My grandmother lived in the Majestic, a famed apartment building in its own right that is on the southwest corner of the intersection, across the street from the Dakota. I spent a lot of time in the Majestic, from early childhood through the 1980s.

Central Park West is what 8th Avenue turns into as it runs north through Columbus Circle, past 59th Street, and becomes the western border of Central Park (hence its name). It is lined with apartments, but not stores or restaurants. Columbus Avenue, which is what 9th Avenue turns into north of 59th Street, runs parallel to Central Park West. Historically, Columbus has been the commercial street with the stores and restaurants serving the needs of residents in the area. Of course, it has gone upscale over the last thirty or thirty-five years, squeezing out the small grocers and drugstores that I’d go to with my grandmother in my childhood. The stretch from Lincoln Center in the lower 60s to the American Museum of Natural History at 77th came to be filled with excellent restaurants.

And with The Silver Palate. Lukins and Rosso opened it in 1977 on Columbus and 73rd. Turning again to the NYT obit, we learn, “The partners spotted a niche that had been created by the emergence of working women, who were interested in good food but lacked the time to produce it. ‘In my neighborhood, the supermarkets closed at 5, because women were home during the day — and if they weren’t, their maids were,’ Ms. Rosso said. From a 156-square-foot shop and kitchen at Columbus Avenue and 73rd Street, the women and their recipes — Mediterranean chicken salad, curried butternut squash soup, spicy carrot cake — intrigued, and then guided, the increasingly adventurous palates of New Yorkers.”

That’s the Silver Palate I remember. The cookbooks and national reputation would follow, but initially it occupied the smallest of spaces — you could barely squeeze in — where my mother and I would marvel at the offerings, make our selections, and take them back to grandma’s for lunch.


One more thing. I can’t resist noting an unfelicity in the NYT obit I’ve quoted from. Early on, we learn that Lukins “graduated from New York University in 1970, moved to London with her husband, Richard Lukins, from whom she was divorced, and took classes at the Cordon Bleu cooking school.” I assume Julia Moskin is trying to tell us that Richard Lukins was her husband in 1970, when they went to London, but was no longer her husband at the time of her death. Sometimes a sentence just can’t carry all that weight.

Categories: Family, Food

Security Theater

September 2, 2009 Leave a comment


The Atlantic’s James Fallows has written frequently about the idiocy of the TSA’s airport security procedures, an idiocy best summarized by the phrase “security theater.” (See for instance his post from last January and the links contained therein. See also the Atlantic article in last November’s issue by Fallows’ colleague Jeffrey Goldberg.)

In Fallows’ latest post on this theme, from yesterday, he links to and quotes from last week’s “Ask the Pilot” column in Salon by Patrick Smith. Here’s one small excerpt from Smith:

There is a level of inherent risk that we simply must learn to accept. But, if we are going to have an airport security apparatus, and if we are going to devote millions of tax dollars to the cause of thwarting attacks, can we please do it smartly and at least improve our odds?

Am I the only one who finds it maddening, and even a little scary, that we can’t get this right? Is it not a national disgrace that TSA should spend its time confiscating butter knives from uniformed pilots rather than focusing on deadly threats with a long historical precedent?

I followed Smith’s “confiscating butter knives” link and found myself at one of his columns from last summer, which I urge you to read. The butter knife story is both hilarious and maddening. One taste (but read it all):

After removing the knife, she holds it upward with two fingers and stares at me coldly. Her pose is like that of an angry schoolteacher about to berate a child for bringing some forbidden object to class.

“You ain’t takin’ this through,” she says. “No knives. You can’t bring a knife through here.”

It takes a moment for me to realize that she’s serious. “I’m … but … it’s …”

“Sorry.” She throws it into a bin and starts to walk away.

“Wait a minute,” I say. “That’s airline silverware.”

“Don’t matter what it is. You can’t bring knives through here.”

“Ma’am, that’s an airline knife. It’s the knife they give you on the plane.”

Categories: Government, Stupidity, Travel

Fast Break Parrots

September 2, 2009 Leave a comment

Check out the video above, courtesy of Companion Birds. I learned about it from Avi Zenilman’s post at the New Yorker blog this morning. He in turn gives a hat tip to GrrlScientist, who regard the video as a demonstration of “patience combined with excellent animal training techniques.”

My favorite sequence starts at the 20 second mark. I love how Hannah, the red Eclectus, gets down the court on offense in support of her teammate Gustav. Gustav chooses not to pass, but Hannah’s ready. Great example of movement without the ball.

Categories: Animals, Sports