The Elements Of Style
My apartment in New York had two beautiful windows, a bathroom, and as much living space as you might give, say, a pet turtle.
I didn’t mind. So what if the kitchen was only big enough for a mini-fridge and a hot plate? So what if the ceiling in the closet was flaking off in large, damp slabs?
This was the West Village, I reminded myself. I was living the dream.
The dream came with very little storage space, so I had to be creative in arranging my things. I stacked books in the fireplace. I wedged extra toilet paper rolls in between the pipes in the bathroom, and I used the microwave as a cabinet for granola bars and cereal.
Figuring out where to store my clothes was a challenge. The closet was small and a little black moldy for my taste, but I used it. I tried hanging my dry cleaning from a pipe in the kitchen for a while, but it turned out to be a hot water pipe and the plastic dry cleaning bags melted into a hot mess.
At that point I made the highly original decision to store my clothes in heaps on the floor.
From that moment on, I foraged for clothes every morning the way our ancestors hunted for nuts and berries–half digging, half sniffing for anything that might work. The piles weren’t separated by season, so it wasn’t unusual to come across a tank top and red heels while searching for a warm winter sweater.
This is how I developed a sense of style that is both timeless and not work-appropriate.
I’m telling you this because the Academy Awards are on Sunday, and there’s gong to be a lot of style going on–style very different from yours (forgive me; I’m guessing) and mine (to be sure). Apparently we can expect a lot of cutouts, fishtails, and metallics this year.
It will be awesome, but it will be over by morning. The gowns will be sent back or put away, the rented jewels couriered over to the safes from whence they came. And I’ll tell you what I’m going to do then. I’m going to re-read the end of the poem “Style,” by Charles Bukowski. Because homeboy knows what personal style is really about. It goes:
I have met men in jail with style.
I have met more men in jail with style than men out of jail.
Style is the difference, a way of doing, a way of being done.
Six herons standing quietly in a pool of water,
or you, naked, walking out of the bathroom without seeing me.
As for weekend eats, I made you this beautiful artichoke soup in Saveur magazine but then I decided it wasn’t worthy of you.
So I made you a Caesar salad with homemade croutons and dressing instead.
Now, I don’t want to offend anyone but I have a thing with mayonnaise. It gives me the heebie jeebies. So I make my Caesar dressing with Greek yogurt. Scott is a lover of all things mayonnaisey and he doesn’t even notice.
To really beef up this salad, you can serve with generous shavings of Pecorino Romano, or with a fried egg or some bacon on top, or with sundried tomatoes that have been revived in hot water for 20 minutes and then chopped.
For the salad:
romaine lettuce or leafy green of your choice
For the croutons:
4-5 large, thick slices crusty bread, cut into 1″ or 1 1/2″ cubes (about 6 cups)
1/3 c. melted butter and olive oil (I melt 3 Tbsp. butter and then fill the rest of a 1/3 measuring cup up with olive oil)
2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
scant 1/4 tsp. salt
For the dressing:
2 sardine fillets
1 large clove garlic (or two small cloves), put through a garlic press or finely diced
1/2 c. plain Greek yogurt (0% fat is fine)
4 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
4-5 Tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
For the croutons:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the chunks of bread in a medium-sized bowl. In a small bowl, whisk the remaining ingredients together with a fork. Drizzle evenly over the bread, tossing as you go to coat the bread thoroughly. Spread the bread in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake until golden brown and crunchy, 10-15 minutes, turning them over once or twice during baking so that they crisp up evenly. Remove from the oven and let cool.
For the dressing:
Combine the sardines and the garlic in a food processor and process for 5-10 seconds. Add the yogurt, Parmesan, lemon juice and sugar and process for another 10 seconds until smooth. Add the olive oil slowly–if you can drizzle it in through a hole in the top of the lid while the processor is on, do that; if not, add it 1 Tbsp. at a time, processing for a few seconds after each addition. Taste the dressing and add salt and pepper to your liking. Adjust flavors as you wish (e.g. more lemon, more sardines, more garlic).
To compose the salad:
Toss your greens with as many of the croutons and as much of the dressing as you see fit. Serve. You could also serve with generous shavings of Pecorino Romano, or with a fried egg or some bacon on top, or with sundried tomatoes that have been revived in hot water for 20 minutes and then chopped.