By Isa Covo
Still quarantined, or confined which I like better. So what I observe from the window are sunnier days, more (but not excessive) car traffic, a bit more pedestrian traffic depending on the time of day. At night the streets are still empty of people and the number of cars decreases. Also, for the first time a couple of days ago, I saw taxis—not many, but it was something I had not noticed recently.
In midtown, where I had to go this week, I was surprised at how dreadful it looked. If not for the presence of a few cars, you would have thought that it was a ghost town. Very few people, and those were mostly essential workers such as utility repairmen, guards, and a few pedestrians as well as some homeless and their possessions. The post office, FedEx, and a couple of small delis were open, so I assume that some offices were also busy. There was a Whole Foods that seemed open, but would not accept walk-in customers, only pre-orders and deliveries. Strange. Everything else was closed, dark, boarded, neglected. Surprisingly, there were two or three small clothing stores, with their lights on, their windows displaying dressed mannequins, but they were closed. I passed a well-tended vest-pocket park that was completely empty. A couple of kiosks were selling their wares at price-gouging prices ($2.99 for a small bottle of water).
Out of nostalgia I have been looking through some art books with works by painters depicting, among other sites, New York. As many do, I like Edward Hopper, and I was surprised to see something I hadn’t noticed before: Hopper was painting distancing. Such is the lone woman at the Automat, here is the waiting room with people sitting away from each other, here is the famous Nighthawks where except for a couple close together, the third customer is seated well away, and even the counterman does not lean towards the couple. And so on.
On the other hand, the Ashcan School painters had another view. Their paintings of the city were full of its motion and the diversity of its people. John Sloane made several paintings of the iconic McSorley Ale House. He also painted street urchins, restaurant patrons, movie theaters, elegant shoppers, tenement dwellers, and park visitors. The energy in the paintings of George Bellows of prizefighting, the “river rats” youths bathing in the East River, and the beach, William Glackens with his affectionate depictions of the density and the exuberance of the city, and George Luks and his interesting scenes of the Lower East Side, is apparent.
The Ashcan School painters parallel the French Expressionists, and I think that some may have visited France and very likely admired their works, but the Americans painted with more realism, especially regarding New York and they are worth discovering all of them, for those who haven’t done so yet. Next time we meet , I hope we will all be out of our homes.
Scallops are one of the quickest foods to prepare, they can also be served as a first course or a main course if doubling the quantity. If you do not have a skillet large enough to contain the scallops in one layer, use two. Photo by Isa Covo.
Scallops Sauteed with Fresh Herbs
- 20 to 24 scallops
- 2 garlic cloves
- 3 medium shallots
- 3 tbs. unsalted butter
- 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
- 1 pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 tbs. dry Vermouth, brandy, or white wine
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 8 sprigs of chives, snipped
- Peel and chop the shallots and garlic cloves finely.
- Heat the butter over medium high heat and add the minced shallots and sauté a few minutes until the shallots become transparent.
- Add the thyme and garlic, then the scallops, salt and pepper. Stir and cook until the moisture of the scallops has evaporated. Turn the scallops over and add the vermouth, stir and cook about one or two minutes.Distribute the scallops equally to individual plates and sprinkle with chives. Yield: 4 Servings as a main course. Halve servings for a first course.