Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Spam for New Year's

It's the beginning of a new year, and time to celebrate the simple fact that we have gotten this far without screwing up. Celebrating a year in which I was awarded the Hungarian Herzl Prize for being a Laudable and Admired New York Jew in Hungary... although I had to send Golan Tibi in my stead to the ceremony to pick up the prize, and there wasn't any money attached to it, and... I got to visit the Ukraine. I got to tour with the Eldridge street band. I got to play gigs with Muzsikas. And also, a year to celebrate 70 years of Spam!
For those of you who think Asian cuisine is all about healthy flavors and subtle ingredients, you missed the part about spam. Koreans love spam. The Japanese are well into it, particularly those from Okinawa. Spam is a standard part of the Hawaiian plate lunch, and writer Paul Theroux once wrote that spam seemed to be the main source of protein in modern Polynesia, a fact he attributed to it possiblely tasting like human flesh. This mountain of spam was sighted in our local Korean grocery...Ecuadorians and Peruvians, on the other hand, like a nice fried cuy - that's guinea pig - for special occaisions - and our local ethno-vegetable market in Hackensack is happy to oblige, advertising it right in front of the frozen White Castle hamburgers in the frozen goods section. This is probably about as illegal as it gets, but when an Andino wants to chow down on Fluffy the Cute Pet for Christmas dinner, at least he doesn't have to poach the pet shop to do so.
Where else but New York would the Jews have their own Chosen Beer?
Mom and Dad celebrating New Year's Eve at midnight with a glass of champagne (thanks to my sister) and a snack of Hungarian goose liver and truffle pate squirreled away by Fumie for the occaision. Possibly the cutest couple on earth.
Just before Xmas we went with Bob Godfried up to Beacon, New York - about 50 miles north of the city - to a Cajun dance party and Solstice celebration at fiddler John Allen's house. A yearly local tradtion is the bonfire which is lit to remember all those who passed away during the year.
Bob G. slamming through some creole tunes on one row button cajun accordion. Bob is the guy who first turned me onto the joys of primitive, wheezy, narrow-scale diatonic button accordions, which are the most musically limiting instruments I play alongside the Romanian bagpipes and the Black Sea kemence fiddle. But when you need authentic chanky-chank, nothing will do the job like a real louisiana squeezebox.

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