I’m having an Eva Gabor moment. I blame my brother.
This all came about because, as of June 12th, our parents have been married for fifty years. My brother and I decided that this would be the year to jettison our life-long tradition of ignoring their anniversary and actually do something nice for them.
My parents spend summers on the Cape, and they were due to arrive yesterday. As a surprise, Aaron and his wife, Lisa, came up from Manhattan by train on Friday, and we planned dinner on Saturday night at The Red Pheasant, one of our favorite local restaurants.
Aaron and Lisa don’t visit often, and we wanted to show them a good time in the 24 hours we had before my parents were due to arrive. Our idea of a good time was to drag them out of bed at 5:30 AM to make them go haul lobster pots.
They were game, but Lisa was worried about the timing. “What time will we be back?”
I told her it took less than three hours, door to door, so we’d be back before nine. “That should be ok,” she said.
Ok for what?
For the delivery of smoked fish from Barney Greengrass.
Smoked fish from Barney Greengrass!
On the off-chance you’re not familiar with Barney Greengrass, let me explain. Barney Greengrass, The Sturgeon King, is a smoked-fish institution on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. My parents, my brother, and I were all regulars when we lived in New York (Aaron still is), although we didn’t often go together.
I didn’t realize that Aaron went at all until one day when I arranged to meet him there for lunch. “Hi Aaron,” the waiter, Adam, said as we walked in. Then he looked at me, puzzled. “You two know each other?”
My parents and I have discovered that it’s very hard to find good smoked fish outside New York. There wasn’t any in San Francisco when I lived there, and I haven’t had any on Cape Cod, although I’ve heard rumors of a place in Chatham. My parents haven’t found any in Miami Beach, where they live when they’re not here, which is why they get a delivery from Barney Greengrass once a year, on Christmas Eve day, for their traditional smoked-fish brunch. Aaron’s idea to have Greengrass delivered was genius.
Yesterday I picked my parents up in Sagamore, where they’d taken the bus from Logan. I drove them to their cottage, in Sandwich, and we started unpacking. We’d been there about twenty minutes when Kevin arrived.
“Kevin!” my parents said, greeting him with enthusiasm. They like Kevin.
Then Aaron came out the passenger door.
“Aaron!” They were very surprised, which was gratifying.
Then Lisa climbed out from the back of the cab.
“Lisa!” They were very, very surprised. Also gratifiying.
Aaron took the Barney Greengrass box, which had arrived that morning, out of the bed of the truck, and told my parents what it was.
It’s fair to say they were floored.
It’s fair to say they were floored.
The fish needed to go in the refrigerator, so my mother opened the box. She took out bag after bag after bag. There was what looked to be three pounds of Eastern Nova lox. There a was a big package of sable (smoked black cod), and a flat of kippered salmon. There were pickles and sour tomatoes, bagels and two kinds of cream cheese. There was a huge container of the chocolate-covered halvah bars my father is particularly fond of.
“My God, that’s a lot of fish,” my mother said.
Aaron hadn’t been sure what kind of fish my parents liked, but he knew they placed a brunch order every December, so he asked Gary Greengrass simply to send whatever it was that they usually ordered for themselves.
He didn’t know that their brunch was for sixteen.
“You’re going to have to join us for breakfast,” my parents said.
We could do that.
Then we told them we were taking them to The Red Pheasant for an anniversary dinner, and we were off.
We had a lovely meal. The Red Pheasant does game, duck, and fish beautifully, and they have an excellent wine list to boot. Denise Atwood, the charming, vivacious proprietor (her husband, Bill, is the chef), arranged with the pastry chef to do a beautiful chocolate ganache cake for dessert. It was a meal that did justice to the occasion.
This morning, we showed up at my parents’ cottage for breakfast We opened the Barney Greengrass packages and toasted the bagels. We sat down to eat, and I surveyed the table.
I miss this, is what I thought. I really miss this.
It’s all well and good to work the soil and catch our own lobsters, to grow mushrooms and make sea salt. There’s challenge there, as well as gratification and really good food. But I miss lox. I miss living in a place where I can walk fifteen blocks and get lox, from a place that’s been there for a hundred years, from a guy who knows who I am and how I like my coffee. If it’s raining, I can take the subway. I miss the subway almost as much as I miss lox.
This isn’t the first time I’ve felt like Eva Gabor as Lisa Douglas, wife to Eddie Albert’s Oliver Wendell Douglas in Green Acres. Usually, chores and fresh air seem like a reasonable substitute for stores and Times Sqvare, but not today. Not today.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not about to pack it in. I’m profoundly interested in what we’re doing here, and its hold on me will reassert itself in no time. It’s just that, sometimes, I miss New York.