I Shudder to Think …

August 30, 2014

I was walking along 15th Street when something caught my eye — a spot of bright blue that seemed out of place on the sidewalk in front of a toy store.

I stepped closer to investigate. A blue bowl and a basket that were labelled with small paper tags.

However, the words I read gave me pause. I know that orange juice is made from oranges, and apple juice contains nothing but apples.  But what is the stuff in that blue bowl, and how was it made?

I shudder to think.

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A spot of blue on the sidewalk

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A closer investigation

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What is in that bowl?

Kidding Around

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Egg! Egg! Egg!

August 24, 2009

It was late afternoon and I was walking through Cadman Plaza Park, a small green spot near the steep stairway that leads to the Brooklyn Bridge. As I made my way across the lawn, my attention was drawn to a little girl who was shouting. It sounded as though she was yelling, “Egg! Egg! Egg!”

I walked closer and saw that the girl was pointing to a pigeon waddling in the shadows, between the fallen leaves, and yes, she was calling out about an egg. Just above the surface of the ground, a half-laid egg protruded from the bird’s belly.

I watched, waiting for the wobbly creature to sit down and complete the act of laying her egg. I hoped to see her perched securely above her sticky little white egg. But she took one rocking step after another without pause. Suddenly, there was a flurry of feathers as the pigeon — the egg still stuck between her legs — lifted her wings, flapped across the street, and disappeared into a small grove of trees on Cadman Plaza.

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The bird wobbles between the fallen leaves

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She’s having trouble walking

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The egg is visible between her legs

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A closer look at the egg


I’m too chicken to eat this chicken

January 11, 2009

Go ahead, call me a wimp. A wuss. A spoiled city-dweller who couldn’t survive outside of my urban comfort zone. I admit it; it’s true.

While visiting a Chinese supermarket in Flushing, I saw some small, dark chickens for sale. They were so dark, in fact, that they were black. When I asked why the chickens were so dusky, I was told that the birds were silkie chickens, a breed that has naturally black flesh and skin. “Chickens come in different colors,” explained the poultry man, “just like people.”

I learned that the black chickens are considered a delicacy in China, so I bought one and brought it home, hoping to whip up a special meal. Of course, I could have prepared it like any other chicken, but an online search revealed a few recipes designed specifically for the silkie chicken.

I went back to the shops, assembled the ingredients, brought them home and began to prepare Chef Chai Chaowasaree’s Silkie Chicken Soup. I washed the chicken, leaving it whole, chopped the herbs and other ingredients, dropped everything into a large, black pot, turned on the flame and popped the lid on top.

Soon my home began to fill with delicious aromas, and I returned to the kitchen to take a peek inside the fragrantly steaming pot.

I lifted the lid and saw, to my horror, a pair of glassy eyes staring back at me.  I clapped the lid back onto the pot and ran from the room.

As I later learned, although silkie chickens are cleaned before they are sold, the head and feet are not removed; instead, the butcher folds them back and tucks them deep inside the cavity. While I rinsed the raw chicken off in the sink (something I’ve done countless times), it never occurred to me to look inside the chicken before cooking to see whether any body parts were hidden there. Apparently, my chicken’s head had become un-tucked during cooking and was now bobbing around in the bubbling pot.

I didn’t know what to do with the half-cooked soup on the stove.  I know that all sorts of things happen in restaurant kitchens, but I just couldn’t contemplate eating the little chicken that had stared at me from the big black pot. I was, frankly, just too chicken.

I decided that the best strategy would be to cool the whole pot down, then dispose of the contents. I emptied half the refrigerator to fit the still-bubbling pot inside, closed the door, and went out.

I returned a few hours later, looked into the pot again, and found that the chicken’s head was now surrounded by large yellow blobs of congealed fat, and that its eyes and beak had turned white. Yum.

I took a photo before the mess went into the trash and that night I dined on a simple, cold vegetable salad.

Chef Chai Chaowasaree says extracting the full benefit from a black chicken requires long, slow cooking. His method is similar to poaching, letting the chicken sit immersed in liquid over very low heat. “You don’t want to rush the heat, you want all the nutrition to come out slowly, slowly, slowly.”

He makes soup using ginseng, ginger and garlic, also believed to have healing qualities and which lend the broth a peppery flavor. Don’t bother peeling the ginseng or ginger, he says, and use whole heads of garlic, leaving the paper skins in place.

1 silkie chicken (about 2 pounds), whole or halved
3 thumb-sized pieces ginseng root
6-1/4 cups water
1 thumb-sized piece ginger, smashed
2 large heads garlic, halved
1/2 teaspoon whole peppercorns
Salt or soy sauce to taste
5 dried figs
Sliced green onion for garnish

Cut chicken in half if necessary to fit pot; otherwise leave whole. Soak ginseng in water 1 hour.

Place ginseng and its soaking water in pot; add chicken, ginger, garlic, pepper and salt. Bring to a boil and skim impurities. Reduce heat to a very low simmer (no bubbling at all) and cook until chicken is fall-off-the-bone tender, 2 to 4 hours. Or cook in a crock pot on low heat, about 6 hours. In last hour of cooking, add figs.

Strain soup and debone chicken if desired, or serve with root pieces. Garnish with green onion.

From the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 2002.


Black chicken in soup pot Posted by Picasa

 


It’s a Zoo in There!

December 9, 2008

Central Park has a wonderful zoo designed to teach children about wildlife and conservation. But the hours — especially during the winter — are short and the price of admission can be prohibitive.

Here’s an alternative to the zoo itself; the Fifth Avenue subway station, which is the station closest to the zoo, has brought some of the animals inside. No matter what the weather, seven days a week, 24 hours a day, you can duck underground and visit the cheerful mosaic animals created by artist Ann Schaumburger.

You can even pet these creatures. Just don’t try to feed them.

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Penguin family with three babies

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Penguin family with two babies

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Mother and child horses

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Snail family heading towards a stairway

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Mommy snail

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Family of butterfiles

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Butterfly close-up

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Monkey family

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Baby monkey holding onto Mommy’s belly

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Mommy and baby polar bears (click to see larger)

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A flock of parrots

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Parrots with purple torsos

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Closer view of parrot

Central Park Zoo
Chelsea Art Galleries: Ann Schaumburger


The Howl-o-Ween Parade

October 26, 2008

Once again, Brooklyn is the site of the annual Howl-o-Ween Dog Parade and Contest. Organized by the owners of animal accessory and grooming shop Perfect Paws, the parade is a fund raiser for several animal charities (Brooklyn Animal Rescue Coalition (BARC), Friends of Hillside Dog Park, Blue Rider Stables and Animal Kind) and a source of amusement to the residents of Brooklyn Heights.

The procession of the animals (and owners) in Halloween costumes began on the Brooklyn Promenade at Remsen Street, where it attracted the attention of astonished tourists, proceeded north, and ended at the judges’ table outside the Harry Chapin Playground at Columbia Heights and Middagh Street.

The parade, now in its sixth year, continues to grow larger and attract more attention. Today’s gathering drew several local reporters, most of them fascinated by the two dogs — accompanied by humans dressed as moose — disguised as Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin. While I’m no expert on fashion, I’m guessing that the doggy Sarahs’ wardrobes cost way less than the human Sarah’s, and generated far less controversy, too.

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Judges review a contestant

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NY Giant appeals to the judges

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Greyhound dressed as a greyhound

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I bark for Barack

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Dog disguised as a bumblebee

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Pug in a butterfly suit

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Super hero

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Alice in Wonderland

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Scuba dog

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Scuba dog with family

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Chinese dragon

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French maid guards the prizes

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Spider dog

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Babushka lady

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Neurosurgeon and patient

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Sanitation worker picks up trash

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In a lion suit

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Dog dragon … or maybe dinosaur

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Wonder Woman

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Matching dog and girl ballerinas

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Girl who matches dog ballerina

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Poodle as ballerina

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Chinese dragon with family

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Pirate dog of the Caribbean

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Cow dog and milk carton

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Dog pimp held by “hooker”

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Austin Powers

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Cat flower – the sole feline entrant

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Pirate dog

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Moose holding Sarah Palin

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Moose with Sarah Palin

NY Post: Dog Day for Halloween
Perfect Paws
Brooklyn Animal Rescue Coalition (BARC)
Friends of Hillside Dog Park
Animal Kind


A Brooklyn Safari

June 12, 2008

The tale of their origins begins in the late 1960s when a crate, in transit from South America to points unknown, was opened at JFK airport. Depending on the person telling the story, you might hear that the crate was damaged in an unexplained, unspecified accident, or that a ring of thieves, working inside the airport, forced it open. Either way, the story ends on a dramatic note, with the cargo of little green parrots escaping and rapidly flying away.

The fact is, though, the fugitive flock didn’t get very far. As they soared in the skies above Brooklyn, the birds known as Quaker parrots (or monk parrots) looked down, liked what they saw, and landed. With easy access to food, shelter, and water, the feathered immigrants found a new home and flourished.

Today, the birds have set up small colonies in other parts of the Northeast, but live primarily in two locations near the center of the borough: Brooklyn College and Green-Wood Cemetery, where their nests safely rest atop the enormous, Gothic gate.

If you’d like to visit them, join Brooklyn parrot expert Steve Baldwin on one of his Brooklyn Wild Parrot Safaris.

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Hanging with other Brooklyn “boids”

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On the sidewalk near Brooklyn College

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Perched on a fence at Brooklyn College

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The birds blend in with the leaves

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The neighbors have a great view

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On the fence around Brooklyn College

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Nests on the gate at Green-Wood Cemetery

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Birds at Green-Wood Cemetery

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Atop the gate at Green-Wood Cemetery

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Pretty bird!

BrooklynParrots.com: A Web Site About the Wild Parrots of Brooklyn
Gowanus Lounge: Brooklyn Parrot Poaching
Monk Parakeets
at Brooklyn College: Invaders from the South?


Feeling a Little Squirrely

May 23, 2008

More from the archives.

This fluffy grey fellow was people-watching on a sunny day in Manhattan’s Madison Square Park.

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Grey squirrel


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