The news media keeps coming up with articles that touch upon my life. Here are news stories just in the last two weeks with links to my past.
Mimi Sheraton died last week. I became aware of her existence when I worked as a field editor for Nation’s Restaurant News, sister publication of Chain Store Age, and she was the food and restaurant critic of The New York Times (https://www.nytimes.com/2023/04/06/dining/mimi-sheraton-dead.html?smid=em-share).
In the fall of 1977 I was looking forward to my first visit to New Orleans, that year’s site of NRN’s annual foodservice conference. Gilda would be accompanying me, but our excitement was tempered by a review Sheraton wrote of the food scene in the Crescent City. She found it wanting, except, she noted, for an out-of-town humble shack called Mosca’s where she had the most divine fried oysters, garlic chicken and barbecue shrimp, all cooked Creole Italian style.
Naturally, we decided to go there, cautioned by Mimi’s article that no reservations were taken and that the last guests must arrive by 9 pm. Along with a fellow editor, Connie, and her husband, Bill, we left plenty of time to taxi from the Fairmont Hotel in downtown New Orleans down Highway 90 to Avondale, almost 20 miles away.
Though the cabbie claimed to know how to get there, it quickly became evident he did not. We kept double-backing and crisscrossing roadways, looking for Mosca’s. This was way before cell phones; there weren’t any public pay phones along the dark roads we rambled on. We were four hungry and squished adults sitting in the back of a Mercury Marquis (the unofficial New Orleans taxi model). Since I had recommended Mosca’s, my seatmates were getting quite upset with me.
Finally, at 9:05, we came upon two whitewashed buildings supporting a backlit Budweiser sign. Lots of cars out front, on the grass. We begged entry, explaining the taxi driver couldn’t find Mosca’s. They took pity on us, but advised it would be an hour and a half before we’d be seated. We could stand at the bar.
Gilda, Connie and Bill were not happy, even with $1 drinks, 25 cents for sodas (remember, this was Louisiana, 1977). We waited just 45 minutes to be seated, a few tables away from where Momma Mosca sat watching over her customers. We ordered Mimi’s recommended dishes. They were more than divine. They melted away Gilda, Connie and Bill’s collective anger. It was, we all agreed, one of the best meals we ever ate.
Shun Lee Shines: Unlike the current brouhaha over the quality of Shun Lee 98th Street on Manhattan’s Upper West Side (https://www.nytimes.com/2023/04/07/nyregion/new-york-shun-lee-chinese-restaurants.html?smid=nytcore-ios-share&referringSource=articleShare), some of the best Chinese food I’ve eaten was inside Shun Lee Palace, the much-lauded, and rightly so, restaurant on East 55th Street between Lexington and Third Avenues. Because the restaurant was around the corner from my long-time office on Park Avenue my colleagues and I ate there quite often, at least once every two weeks.
The food was so good that it smoothed over a major rift between Chain Store Age and Sears, Roebuck & Co.
In 1983 we ran a long article about problems at Sears, Roebuck & Co. Upset, the CEO of Sears dispatched the head of the public relations department from Chicago to express corporate displeasure. I took him and his assistant to Shun Lee Palace. Considered by some to proffer the best Chinese food in the city, Shun Lee melted away any semblance of protest from my Windy City visitors.
They so thoroughly enjoyed the meal that we ordered a second round of each dish. For such an honor, the chef emerged from the kitchen to personally bow his respect.
Balancing Act: The other day National Public Radio interviewed one of the hosts of its “All Things Considered” program, Mary Louise Kelly. She has just written a book, “It. Goes. So. Fast. The Year of No Do-Overs,” a memoir about balancing parenting and work.
Kelly turned down a second assignment to cover the war in Ukraine so that she could spend time with her son James during the last weeks of his senior year in high school. She previously had to miss seeing him play soccer because most games started at 3 pm when her radio show is broadcast live.
By making time for family she was able to be at a game when he scored a winning goal with just three minutes remaining. “Oh, it was not just any soccer game. The soccer game in question was James’ senior year. It was for the state championship. He scored with a header with three minutes on the clock,” Kelly related.
I, too, missed seeing our son, Dan, play for his high school soccer team. Work. Travel. Travel for work. But I did show up, for an away playoff game against Mamaroneck in his senior year.
I got there at half-time. The score was 0-0. Dan was the starting goalie for White Plains. As the second half began Dan was not in goal. He wasn’t sitting on the bench. I asked some spectators what happened. They said Dan had been injured preventing a goal. A few minutes into the second half Mamaroneck scored the game’s only goal.
Dan didn’t play college soccer. He played Ultimate Frisbee. Gilda and I travelled to watch him play tournaments in the New York metro area, and went to Boise for the college championships (the Tufts men’s team finished 11th in the country). And we were in Sarasota, Fla., when his post-college club team finished second in the country (we did not go to Prague to watch the team earn the rank of fifth in the world).