HOT PASTRAMI SANDWICH

Bangkok, 12 August 2015

Last weekend, my wife informed me excitedly that she had discovered a restaurant downtown which claimed to serve Reuben and pastrami sandwiches. Goodness me, we chirruped to each other, it had been years since we’d eaten either. We had to go back to the late 1980s, when we lived in New York for a while, for our last Reuben and pastrami sandwiches. The seminal initiation event was in a small deli to the south of Central Park, one of those places with booths where you slide into your seat (although unfortunately it didn’t have the really cool little juke box that you can see in this picture).

diner booth

We had actually gone in there because we happened to be in the neighbourhood and it happened to be lunch time. Since it also happened to be a Jewish deli, we found ourselves scanning a menu listing Jewish delicacies. After some rumination, we plumped for this thing called a Reuben sandwich and this other thing called a hot pastrami sandwich. What an experience! The deli owner looked on amusedly as we oohed and aahed over our two sandwiches. Thereafter, we ate them regularly during the rest of our stay in New York.

So even though we had had a traumatizing experience two months ago with coq au vin, we decided to risk it. This time, we were not disappointed. We were served very creditable Reuben and pastrami sandwiches. I have a picture of the Reuben sandwich we ate.

reuben sandwich

But in our haste to devour the pastrami sandwich we forgot to take a photo of it. Which is a pity, because if I have to choose between the two, I would plump for the pastrami sandwich, and in fact the rest of this post is about pastrami.

No matter, I can throw in here a photo of a pastrami sandwich from Katz’s Deli.

pastrami sandwich katz deli

This deli, which is on Houston Street in New York, is claimed in certain quarters of the internet to be “the keeper of the Jewish culinary flame” in the city.

katz deli

katz deli inside

Strong claim indeed! Never having been to the establishment myself, I can’t tell you if this claim is reasonable (although I will note that my daughter has been there and was not that impressed by their pastrami sandwich – but then, she doesn’t much care for pastrami in the first place).

Before I get into rival claims, of which there are many in this field, let me quickly review the making of pastrami (something which I’d always vaguely asked myself about but had never bothered to check until I decided to write this post). Start with a cut of beef from around the animal’s navel, the so-called plate cut (you can also use brisket – more of this choice in a minute). Cure it with salt and saltpeter and let it dry for several weeks (you can also throw some herbs into the curing mix). Once cured, rub and coat your meat with a mix of herbs (as you can imagine, the precise make-up of this coating is a trade secret, jealously guarded by rival delis, but onion, garlic, black pepper, coriander seed, possibly sugar, all seem to be common ingredients). Once nicely coated, smoke it at low heat for several days (the precise wood used for the smoke being again a closely guarded trade secret).

So far, so good. This is no different from the preparation of many dried, cured meats around the world, and before the advent of refrigeration these methods had been used by human beings in one combination or another for thousands of years to preserve meat. It’s the next steps where it gets interesting. After smoking, you first boil the meat to cook it, and then steam it for some 15 minutes. These last steps seem to have to do with the cut of beef used. Initially, pastrami was a poor man’s dish. People used the plate and brisket cuts because they were the cheapest, and they were the cheapest because they are fatty and gristly. Boiling and steaming was used to soften both the meat and all those difficult-to-chew parts in the meat.

Then you serve it, fresh from the steamer, on rye bread; actually, it’s a wheat-rye bread, of a kind that the not-too-poor people used to eat in Europe (wheat bread was only eaten by the rich, while the poorest people ate horsebread, so called because it was made of the cheaper grains fed to rich men’s horses). The sandwich should always be served with a pickle (or two or three) on the side. To me, this is capital; the sharp astringency of the pickle offsets nicely the fattiness of the pastrami. It’s often served with coleslaw, but frankly that can be left out, at least the kind of commercial gooey coleslaw that tends to be served nowadays. It adds no real value to the dish that I can see.

The alert reader may have noted a stress in the last couple of paragraphs on poverty. This allows me to segue smoothly into a discussion of pastrami’s history. Pastrami researchers have concluded that its roots are to be found in New York’s community of Romanian Jews, who emigrated to the States in the late 1800s. They were escaping from Romania’s increasingly organized and ethnically-tainted anti-Semitism as well as looking for better economic opportunities. Like millions of other people, they would have transited through Ellis Island

immigrants at Ellis Island

and then been sucked into the slums of New York.

Mulberry street NYC

There, like all immigrants everywhere and at all times, they would have tried to maintain their culinary traditions, and one of these was a dried, cured meat called pastramă (in the early days, New York’s version was called pastrama, which was then changed to pastrami so that it could rhyme with salami, the idea being that this would help people remember it – an early form of the marketing jingle). But as is also often the case, they would have had to modify it to fit the ingredients they could find in their new homeland. And here the change was radical. In Romania, pastramă tended to be made with mutton or goose or even veal (but that must have been a rich man’s version; poor people didn’t eat veal). But what Romanians found in New York was beef (pork also, but that was non-kosher), so beef-based their pastramă became. And because they were poorer than poor, they used the cheapest cuts of beef, the plate and brisket. I suppose it was the fact that pastramă made this way was really chewy that led them to take the extra steps of boiling and steaming. The common Romanian way of eating pastramă is grilled. In fact, pastramă sounds to me like the Romanian version of bacon. Bacon, which is also a cured and dried meat (pork in this case), is also grilled before eating, and it is often eaten with eggs, as is grilled pastramă.

pastrama and eggs

Or was it maybe this gentleman (at the back with the white headgear) who introduced the boiling and steaming steps?

sussman volk

This gentleman is Sussman Volk, an Orthodox Jew of Lithuanian ancestry. He is credited with having introduced pastrami to New York, and through New York to the rest of the world. He had emigrated to the States and had eventually opened a small butcher’s shop on Delancey Street. One day, so the story goes, a Romanian Jew came in and asked if he could store a trunk in the shop’s basement while he went back to Romania. Rab Volk agreed, and in return he got the recipe for pastrami. So Rab Volk started making pastrami, and then people wanted it on a slice of bread, and then he put chairs and tables in, and suddenly he was running a delicatessen. And the rest is history, as they say (just to close the circle, the following year Katz’s Deli opened). It could be that the recipe given to Rab Volk already included the boiling and steaming steps, or it could be that Rab Volk – reaching back into his Lithuanian culinary roots, or maybe other immigrant culinary roots – introduced the boiling and steaming steps himself.

Who knows? In the end, it doesn’t matter. This is the way pastrami is made, and that’s that.

If readers were to think that the story ends here, they would be wrong. Because Romanian Jews also emigrated to Canada, settling in Montreal. And there they also introduced Montrealers to another son-of pastramă, in this case just called smoked meat. The two – relatively small – differences between the two products are the cut of beef used (smoked meat tends to use more brisket) and the mix of herbs used to rub and coat the meat (the fact that both boil/steam the meat suggests to me that these were introduced by the Romanian émigrés rather than by Rab Volk). Schwartz’s Deli in Montreal seems to be a good candidate for “the keeper of the Jewish culinary flame” in Montreal, so I’ll throw in a photo of the deli.

Schwartz deli

And here is the product

smoked meat Schwartz deli

Mmm, that looks gooood!

And now the Montrealers have boldly brought the fight to New York. A Canadian couple has set up a new Jewish deli in New York, the Mile-End deli. They’ve opened one shop in Brooklyn and another in Manhattan, in Bond Street.

mile end deli

Well, the next time my wife and I go to New York, we (or at least I) will forget about visiting the Metropolitan Museum or any other worthy institution. First stop will be Katz’s Deli and then Mile End Deli. To compare and contrast the two products.

_______________

Empty booth in a diner: https://hautevitrine.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/empty-booth-rockin-johnnys-diner-ottawa-2007.jpg (in http://hautevitrine.com/page/17/)
Reuben sandwich: our pic
Pastrami sandwich, Katz’s deli: http://ilovekatzs.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/pastrami1.jpg (in http://ilovekatzs.com/)
Katz’s Deli: http://animalnewyork.com/wp-content/uploads/katz_artgalll.jpg (in http://animalnewyork.com/2013/katzs-deli-opening-an-art-gallery-and-pop-up-shop/)
Katz’s Deli inside: http://www.sheilazellerinteriors.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/00-20-Inside-Katz.png (in https://carileee.wordpress.com/2011/11/05/dining-101-new-york-katzs-deli/)
Immigrants at Ellis Island: http://history105.libraries.wsu.edu/fall2014/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2014/08/Ellis-Island.jpg (in http://history105.libraries.wsu.edu/fall2014/2014/08/28/jewish-immigration-in-the-1940s/)
Mulberry street NYC: https://theselvedgeyard.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/mulberry_street_new_york_city_loc_det-4a08193.jpg (in http://piedader-letspractiseenglish.blogspot.com/2011/11/jacob-riis.html)
Pastramă and fried eggs: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_GzvYAGoAhKY/TH5bioNE7PI/AAAAAAAACW0/bto1mheJNDM/s1600/oua.jpg (in http://elenamutfak.blogspot.com/2010/09/pastrama-cu-oua-ochiuri.html)
Sussman Volk: http://astro.temple.edu/~bstavis/family/oldstavins.jpg (in http://astro.temple.edu/~bstavis/family/oldstavin.htm)
Schwartz deli: http://gottakeepmovin.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/20130914_151229.jpg (in http://gottakeepmovin.com/classic-montreal-schwartzs-smoked-meat-sandwiches/)
Smoked meat sandwich Schwartz deli: https://travelloafers.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/montreal-schwartz-deli-680×680.jpg (in https://travelloafers.wordpress.com/2013/06/11/celine-dion-is-the-queen-of-cured-salted-meats/)
Mile End deli Manhattan: http://mileenddeli.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/photo-for-web_SANDWICH.jpg (in http://mileenddeli.com/)

OF CABBAGES AND KINGS

New York, 5 January 2014

Kale is king of culinary cool this year in New York. Or so it would appear from a cursory glance at the offerings in the city’s food emporia: every restaurant seems to have a dish with kale in it, every supermarket a ready-made salad containing kale.  Several articles tracking the growing popularity of kale have appeared in the New York Times, while a very recent article in the New York Daily News, reporting on a survey of 500 dieticians, has these worthy people predicting that kale (along with ancient grains and gluten-free diets) will be the top nutrition trends of 2014. Why, even a celebrity chef like Gordon Ramsey has weighed in, making lots of approving noises about kale. He went so far as to propose that a National Kale Day be instituted!

Which is all rather surprising to me, since I have always associated kale with something that you feed to cows.  I don’t think I had ever intentionally eaten kale until a week or so ago when I picked up a take-away tomato and kale soup from a Hale & Hearty Soup outlet somewhere near Park Avenue and 45th Street.

Quite what is so remarkable about kale is not clear to me. It is purported to help you fight various cancers, lower your cholesterol, detoxify yourself, and I know not what else. Having been around a while, I am, like this reporter in the Huffington Post, somewhat skeptical of all these claims. How many foodstuffs have I seen over the years for which extravagant health claims have been made!  It is true that kale is stuffed with vitamins K, A and C.  So if you need those, kale might be your thing. But as for the rest …

To my mind, all the froth and frenzy about kale is nothing compared to the wonderful story behind its very existence. Around the northern and eastern rim of the Mediterranean, in what are now Italy, Greece, Turkey, and maybe further south along the Lebanese and Israeli coast, there lives a humble member of the large family of mustards. This species is known to science as Brassica oleracea, but we can call it cole (a name rooted in the Celtic-Germanic-Greek word for “stem”). With time and I presume human interference it spread from its original homeland and now can be found further north in Europe. Since it tolerates salt well and likes a limey soil, it tends to be found on limestone sea cliffs, as attested by this picture, taken on the chalk cliffs in the UK (I didn’t find a picture of the plant in its original homeland):

Cabbage-wild

Anyone familiar with mustard plants will immediately see the family resemblance. And those long stems are what gives the plant its generic name of cole.

At some point, humans found that the plant was edible and presumably added it to their list of plants to gather. Some 3-4,000 years ago, maybe more, as part of the slow move to agriculture, humans began to domesticate the cole, and as they have done with just about every species which they have domesticated they began a forced process of natural selection to encourage desirable traits in their domesticates and eliminate undesirable ones. So far, so good.  But the cole must have a very flexible DNA because over the millennia farmers were able to coax out of this one plant an astonishingly different array of vegetables. From the plant we see above waving on the cliff top, they managed to obtain our friend kale:

Kale-Bundle

Its close cousin, collard greens:

SONY DSC

The cabbage, which itself comes in several varieties, the common white cabbage:

Cabbage isolated on white

the red cabbage, seen here with the green cabbage:

cabbage-green and purple

the Savoy cabbage:

cabbage-savoy 2

Then we have broccoli:

Fresh green vegetable, isolated over white

Cauliflower:

Cauliflower

and its close cousin the strange-looking romanesco broccoli:

romanesco broccoli 2

Brussels sprouts:

brussels sprouts

Kohlrabi:

kohlrabi

And last but not least, the Chinese kai-lan, also known as Chinese broccoli:

Chinese_Broccoli 2

Pretty amazing …

The following picture shows which bits in the original cole plant all those generations of farmers fiddled with to get these massively different vegetables:

brassica oleracea-evolution 4

When seeing all these vegetables sitting next to each other on a supermarket shelf, it might be difficult to believe that they are actually the same plant, but when you see them still in the field the family resemblance is more easily recognized.

Kale:

kale in field

Collards:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Cabbage:

cabbage-white

Cauliflower:

cauliflower in the field

Broccoli:

broccoli plant

Brussels sprouts:

brussels-sprouts plants

Kohlrabi:

Kohlrabi-plant

And when these vegetables flower, which they should not, then you see the mustard-like flower coming through, as in this case of a red cabbage gone to seed:

cabbage-red-bolted

and of broccoli gone to seed:

broccoli bolted

The early history of all these cole vegetables is shrouded in uncertainty. The Greeks and Romans wrote about one or more vegetables which sound like a cousin of kale and collards. The cabbage seems to have been developed in the colder parts of Europe some time in the early Middle Ages. Southern Italians seem to have developed broccoli quite early on, perhaps already during the Roman period, but it was many centuries before it migrated to other parts of Europe. It is generally thought that the cauliflower came to Europe from the Middle East, possibly via Cyprus and then Italy. As the name suggests, Brussels sprouts seem to have been developed somewhere in the Low Countries around the 15th Century, possibly earlier, but didn’t migrate to other parts of Europe until several centuries later. Kohlrabi seems to have been developed at about the same time, although quite where in Europe is unclear. And then there is kai-lan. Quite how this vegetable, the descendant of a Mediterranean plant, ended up being developed in China is a bit of a mystery. It is theorized that when the Portuguese came to China, they brought with them the cabbage. Chinese farmers then did a second cycle of selection to bring about something which looks and tastes more like broccoli.

Little is known of the history of these vegetables because early European chroniclers didn’t deign to follow the experiments in genetic engineering that the humble farmers were undertaking. In his poem “the Walrus and the Carpenter”, Lewis Carroll has the walrus say at some point:

“The time has come,
To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings”

But those who recorded history were interested in kings and not cabbages and their ilk, so we will never know who were those legions of farmers who patiently developed this cornucopia of cole vegetables which we have available to us today. I take this occasion to salute these nameless heroes and to thank them for putting such wonderful vegetables on my table.

_____________________

Cabbage-wild: http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/01810/Cabbage_1810864c.jpg [in http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/earthnews/8281088/Britains-wild-plants-make-a-comeback.html%5D
Kale bunch: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/4b/Kale-Bundle.jpg/640px-Kale-Bundle.jpg [in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kale%5D
Collard greens-bundle: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e9/Collard-Greens-Bundle.jpg [in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collard_greens%5D
Cabbage-white: http://www.realfoods.co.uk/ProductImagesID/2559_1.jpg [in http://www.realfoods.co.uk/product/2559/real-foods-organic-white-cabbage-uk-kg%5D
Cabbage-green and red: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/fa/Cabbages_Green_and_Purple_2120px.jpg/451px-Cabbages_Green_and_Purple_2120px.jpg [in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cabbage#History%5D
Cabbage-savoy: http://www.rivieraproduce.eu/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/image_riviera_savoy_cabbage.jpg [in http://www.rivieraproduce.eu/savoy-cabbage%5D
Broccoli: http://livelovefruit.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/977599_375755671.jpg [in http://livelovefruit.com/2013/06/benefits-of-broccoli/%5D
Cauliflower: http://blogs.kcrw.com/goodfood/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Cauliflowerimage.jpg [in http://blogs.kcrw.com/goodfood/2012/11/recipe-braised-cauliflower-with-capers-toasted-bread-crumbs/%5D
Romanesco broccoli: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/4f/Fractal_Broccoli.jpg/800px-Fractal_Broccoli.jpg [in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romanesco_broccoli%5D
Brussels sprouts: http://ourtinyearth.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/12065713-brussels-sprouts-pile-on-white-background.jpg [in http://ourtinyearth.com/2013/01/08/stories-of-the-misunderstood-brussels-sprouts/%5D
Kohlrabi: http://www.chowlocally.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/kohlrabithroat2.jpg [in http://www.chowlocally.com/blog/2012/03/21/kohlrabi-the-loneliest-vegetable-in-the-world-of-healthy-eating/%5D
Chinese broccoli: http://www.specialtyproduce.com/ProdPics/467.jpg [in http://www.specialtyproduce.com/produce/Gai_Lan_467.php%5D
B. Oleracea-evolution: http://www.doctortee.com/dsu/tiftickjian/cse-img/biology/evolution/mustard-selection.jpg [in https://sites.google.com/site/selectivebreedingofplants/%5D
Kale in field: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-f5RKQQQaduk/T9Fcpear0DI/AAAAAAAAG24/YIJgodBwji0/s400/IMG_4096.JPG [in http://culinarytypes.blogspot.com/2012_07_01_archive.html%5D
Collard plants: http://img691.imageshack.us/img691/1158/collards2.jpg [in http://www.homesteadingtoday.com/country-living-forums/gardening-plant-propagation/397580-ok-collard-greens-growing%85-now-what.html%5D
Cabbage plant: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/70/Cabbage.jpg [in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cabbage#cite_ref-8%5D
Cauliflower in field: http://4photos.net/photosv5/cauliflower_field_india_1342111345.jpg [in http://4photos.net/en/image:105-216983-Cauliflower_field_India_images%5D
Broccoli plant: http://www.ferta-lawn.com/userfiles/image/Broccoli.jpeg [in http://www.ferta-lawn.com/blog-post/Fall-Gardening-Peas-Broccoli%5D
Brussels sprouts plant: http://www.gardeningcarolina.com/veggies/images/brussels-sproutsfull.jpg [in http://www.gardeningcarolina.com/veggies/brusselsprouts.html%5D
Kohlrabi plant: http://www.harvesttotable.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/03/Kohlrabi-plant.jpg [in http://www.harvesttotable.com/2007/03/kohlrabi_kohlrabi_tastes_like/kohlrabi-plant/%5D
Cabbage-red-bolted: http://goodlifegarden.ucdavis.edu/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/bolted-red-cabbage.jpg [in http://goodlifegarden.ucdavis.edu/blog/2011/04/%5D
Broccoli-bolted: http://botanistinthekitchen.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/broccoli_flowers1.jpg [in http://botanistinthekitchen.wordpress.com/tag/kohlrabi/%5D

THE E-CIGARETTE

New York, 22 December 2013

My wife and I have been trying for a while now to get our son to stop smoking. He’s the same age, give or take a year, that we were when we stopped but he’s still on 10 a day – more if the stress levels are high. With us cheering him on, he has tried various things: patches, gum, and I know not what. He even went cold turkey for a while.  All for naught. So when back in May he decided to try e-cigarettes, we redoubled our cheering.
e-cigarette
I know, they’re not the miracle cure they are sometimes claimed to be, but on balance we think they are better than real cigarettes.

Almost immediately, though, our son’s experiment with e-cigarettes went awry. During a night out with the boys just after he started using it the body broke (for the uninitiated, I should explain that an e-cigarette is composed of a body and a head; the two are separable and can be purchased separately, an important detail in the unfolding drama). After much badgering – our son was very busy with his new business (which of course augmented the stress levels and thus the cigarette consumption) – he finally got around to purchasing a new body via internet and received said body through the post. My wife and I breathed a sigh of relief, thinking that he would imminently be throwing away his cigarette packs. But no. Our son discovered that he couldn’t remove the head from the old body despite the use of much brute strength and wrenches. So still no e-cigarette use.

Things stood thus for several months before we came to New York to spend Christmas with the children. We were determined to move things along. After more badgering, we got some guidance from our son as to where we might go to separate head from body. Our initial thought had been to find a repair shop of some sort. But who runs repair shops these days, especially for so arcane a product as e-cigarettes?

So our search shifted to so-called vapor stores. These are locales which are vigorously promoting e-cigarettes and the vapor lifestyle. Again, to make sure that the uninitiated are following, recall that the principle of e-cigarettes is that you inhale water vapor impregnated with nicotine, taste molecules (our son favors mint and watermelon), and a few other odds and ends. Thus, vapor is central to the e-cigarette experience, thus stores offering this new lifestyle are called vapor stores, and thus the devotees of this new lifestyle call themselves vapers (in contrast to smokers; cute, no?).
ELECTRONIC CIGARETTES
We located two vapor stores in Lower Manhattan. The precise location of the stores is already an indication of the life choices of the fans of the vapor lifestyle. Because when I say lower Manhattan, I don’t mean Wall Street or thereabouts, the hang-out of the Gods of Finance and their acolytes from New Jersey, I mean NoLiTa. This is an area north of Little Italy (whence the name NoLiTa; the serious New Yorker must keep up with the continuous creation of new locational acronyms). I am informed that NoLiTa is now a very cool area to live in for those into the more alternative lifestyles.
nolita
After some blundering around the small streets of NoLiTa, we finally found the first vapor store on our list. As we entered, we suddenly felt like dinosaurs, relics from a past era.
dinosaur skeletons
Everyone in the place could have been our son or daughter, and every single one of them was puffing on an e-cigarette. They looked at us rather surprised. Clearly, troglodytes like us did not enter the shop often, if at all.

We diffidently made our way to the counter where a young man served us, e-cigarette in hand. And as we explained the problem, he sucked on his e-cigarette and breathed out vapor from his nostrils in a fashion that was very reminiscent of angry bulls in cartoons – my wife and I checked notes afterwards and both agreed on this point
bull snorting
After this impressively taurine display, our young man managed to separate head from damaged body and sold us a bottle of mint-tasting e-cigarette liquid. At which point our son rolled in and took over, giving my wife and I the leisure to look the place over.

Calling this a store is clearly a misnomer. What we have here is an experience, an event. Other than the counter and the vitrines in one corner showing off e-cigarettes and related paraphernalia

vapor shop-1

our store had a bar in another corner where various high-end teas were being served – no tea bags here – and where clients could sit at the bar sipping their tea, chatting convivially, and of course puffing on their e-cigarettes together.
vapor shop-4
In yet another corner it had a nook where vapers could sit on smart but environmentally-friendly furniture made with discarded objects, and flip through high-end magazines like Monocle, all the while puffing meditatively on their e-cigarettes.

vapor shop-5

(these photos are not of the store we saw, but the fact that I found them, and many others like it, makes me think that this is the basic blueprint of all vapor stores)

It all rather reminded me of the more traditional smoking rooms of the 19th Century

smoking room victorian england

or more darkly of those high-end turn of the 19th Century Parisian brothels which Toulouse-Lautrec liked to paint
brothel Toulouse Lautrec
Like the French say, “plus ça change et plus c’est la même chose”, the more it changes and the more it’s the same thing. In every age, there’s always a part of society which wants to be exotic.

But all my wife and I want is for our son to quit smoking.

_________________

e-cigarette: http://www.vapeitnow.com/pics/joyetech-starter-kit/joyetech-evic-5.jpg [in http://www.vapeitnow.com/products/joyetech-starter-kit/joyetech-evic.html%5D
smoking e-cigarette: http://thegazette.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/ecigarettes680.jpg [in http://thegazette.com/2013/10/10/university-of-iowa-considers-e-cigarettes-and-campus-wide-smoking-ban/%5D
NoLiTa: http://dguides.com/images/newyorkcity/areas/nolita.jpg [in http://dguides.com/newyorkcity/areas/nolita/%5D
Dinosaur skeletons: http://www.dinostoreus.com/rex-vs-ceratops.jpg [in http://www.dinostoreus.com/%5D
Bull snorting: http://www.ecigarettedirect.co.uk/media/catalog/product/cache/1/image/9df78eab33525d08d6e5fb8d27136e95/r/a/raging-bull.jpg [in http://www.eliquid.co.uk/%5D
Vapor shop-1: http://ecigarettereviewed.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/vapor-loft-vape-shop.jpg [in http://ecigarettereviewed.com/so-cal-vapers-creating-their-own-june-gloom/%5D
Vapor shop-2: http://getvapordelight.com/newsite/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/IMG_93591.jpg [in http://vapordelight.com/vapor-bar-lounge/%5D
Vapor shop-3: http://www.yext-static.com/cms/af5ee3ea-019d-4b15-991d-76d4fc371fe1.jpg [in http://yellowpages.ny1.com/biz/buffalo-vapor-lounge/buffalo/ny/14216/53824266%5D
Smoking parlour Victorian England: http://www.victorianweb.org/art/architecture/clubs/11.jpg [in http://www.victorianweb.org/art/architecture/clubs/11.html%5D
Brothel Toulouse Lautrec: http://www.studiomatters.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/719px-Henri_de_Toulouse-Lautrec_012.jpg [in http://www.studiomatters.com/art/olympias-heirs%5D

9/11 MEMORIAL, NEW YORK

Beijing, 13 January 2013

They say that those of us who were alive at the time remember where we were and what we were doing when we heard about Jack Kennedy’s assassination. That is certainly true for me; I was in bed in my dormitory at boarding school with lights out when one of the older boys burst in announcing the news. The same holds for me when it comes to the attack on the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York. I had recently come back from lunch and was working without much enthusiasm on a document when a colleague came running down the hall shouting out the news to all of us.

Since then, every time my wife and I go back to New York, we always take a trip down to ground zero, to see how things have changed. So it was this time that on the last day of our latest stay in New York, after an earlier false start (we hadn’t understood that you need to book on-line), my wife and I managed to visit the 9/11 Memorial. After collecting the tickets, finding the entrance, threading our way through an active construction site, past numerous security checks – more numerous than at an airport – we finally arrived in the area of the memorial itself.

It is a somberly moving monument. First, there is the location of the two square fountains that make up the design. They have been inserted into the footprints of the two towers, thus serving as an eternal reminder of the latter’s disappearance.

aerial view-3

Then there is the design of the fountains. The water doesn’t spray up in noisy, joyous jets as is normally the case for fountains, but instead falls from the rims of the fountains, continuous lines of tears, into the dark pool far below

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from where it disappears down into a central, apparently bottomless void, the hole left in the city’s and the in country’s heart.

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And all around the fountains’ rims, from where the water-tears flow, are inscribed the names of those who died in the attack on the towers, as well as in the attack on the Pentagon and in the airplanes that were used as the weapons.

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Truly moving indeed.

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Aerial view: http://i.i.com.com/cnwk.1d/i/tim/2011/09/10/rmitchell911memorial_480x360.png

other pictures: mine