A crowd of people stand waiting at the corner of West Houston Street for the light to turn. I've just emerged from the subway. It's only 6:30 but the evening sky is already quickly turning inky and black. I walked a block in the cold air to the Citibike station and inserted my key, waiting for the welcome ping! as the light turns green and the bike unlocks, releasing the front tire. I hop on and cycle slowly to the edge of the street, pausing with the throngs of commuters.
They have that specific, harried-yet-tired, post-work look about them, the shared moment in time imbuing them all with an oddly similar appearance despite the diversity of the crowd. There's a girl clad in gray spandex and a pink tank top, holding a cheap canvas tote bag with some graphic text on the side. There are a handful of middle-aged men in suits. Some are sharp-looking, wearing suits in expensive fabrics in shades of navy and charcoal with a slight sheen. Little details elevate their outfits (a leather watch, a silky pink pocket square, a heavy set of silver cufflinks). Their clothes speak titles to me like finance, downtown or editorial director or architect, family money. The other suits say other things; some are rumpled and slightly ill-fitting, making their owners look even more tired. Those suits are the weekday equivalent of plain gray cotton sweatpants, the thin kind with an elastic band at the ankle.
There are women in sheath dresses that end at an uncomfortable-looking point near the knee. They carry purses, wear low-slung pumps. Everyone at the light checks their phone, glances at the oncoming traffic, stares at the ground. The second it turns, they surge forward and homeward, towards husbands and children and bath times. Empty couches and the doorbell ringing with a delivery man carrying paper bags of greasy Thai noodles. Glasses of red wine. Glasses of white wine. The latest episode of Scandal, the latest hour of Ken Burns' Vietnam War documentary, a novel creased and dog-eared from last night.
I bike east into the heart of Soho, dodging commuters and taxis. Music seeps from restaurant patios. For one solid block, the air is warm and smells like pizza. There is so much activity. There’s movement and exhaust and car horns and cell phone screens and neon signs. My mind is on sensory overload. It keeps repeating the oddest snippets of things, including:
- The first phrase of Frederick Seidel's poem, Hymn to Aphrodite:
"I gather you were in the lobby
Terrifying to almost see you again.
I smelled the shockwave, the burning air."
- Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon in the movie The Trip doing competing imitations of Roger Moore's Bond ("shaken, not stirred") and the hilarious attempt at modern costume drama dialogue in British accents ("Gentlemen, to bed! For we rise at...what time is the battle? About, oh, twelve o'clock? Twelve o'clock. How is it on horseback, about three hours? So we leave about eight, eight-thirty?"). NB: If you have not watched this movie, you must and you won't ever have to do ab exercises again because you will laugh so much.
- The opening line of the fantastic, now out-of-print, children's book Jamberry which reads "one berry, two berry, pick me a blueberry."
Sometimes the frenetic energy and the constant pace and the surge of humans in New York is exhilarating. Today I just want to be home. I want to stand under a scalding hot shower. I want to put my pale blue Eberjey pajamas (these ones, and listen up women of any age, go purchase and thank me later). I want a glass of Prosecco with a splash of cassis. I want a bowl of fresh baby spinach topped with a few ladles of hot pork ragu (made in the Instant Pot using the excellent recipe from Dinner: A Love Story blog via the Food52 Genius Recipes column).
I want Bon Iver songs and old episodes of the show Younger because I love Sutton Foster and every move she makes. I want a toasted cashew and marzipan blondie that I've deliberately underbaked to be crisp and golden on the edges and gooey on the inside, then frozen. Oh wait, I want two of those. No, three. "Good God I cannot stop eating these. Just stop. Go to bed. Brush your teeth. Oh...okay...oh wait...one more bite." -Me, at 11 PM, every night this week.
**My British landlord and I agreed that the only truly appropriate adjective for these ridiculously good bar cookies is "moreish", meaning you will always, always want more. I promise you that these are so, so good and worth every semi-random ingredient they call for.**
***Also, YEAH YEAH YEAH, I KNOW ANOTHER BLONDIE RECIPE, TWO IN A ROW, ROLL WITH IT OKAY. We would all do well to have more blondie recipes in our lives.***
Toasted Cashew + Marzipan Blondies
Makes one 8" square pan of FAT blondies (more size options below)
3/4 cup (6 ounces) unsalted butter
3/4 cup (4 1/2 ounces) white chocolate chips
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) dark brown sugar, loosely packed
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (180 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 ounces marzipan, cut into small pieces
1 cup chopped toasted cashews
1/4 cup (1 1/2 ounces) dark chocolate chips (I like Ghirardelli bittersweet chips)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8" x 8" baking pan and line with parchment paper. You can either make these in an 8" square pan and they will be very thick, or you can make them in a 9" square pan, or sometimes I put the batter in a thinner layer in an 8" square pan and bake the extra in a standard 9" x 5" loaf pan. Experiment and just see what you like!
Place the butter and half of the white chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Microwave until the butter melts, then stir together until the chocolate melts fully. You can also do this in a saucepan on the stovetop.
Let cool slightly, then add both sugars and whisk until well-combined.
Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking until both are fully incorporated. Mix in the vanilla.
Add the flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix until the batter just comes together.
Fold in the marzipan, cashews, remaining white chocolate, and dark chocolate.
Bake for about 30 minutes, or until golden and set but still slightly soft in the middle to the touch.
Let cool fully before slicing. If you underbake them slightly, they are excellent and gooey and freeze wonderfully!!