Thursday, February 17, 2011

Apartment Living: The Joy of Cooking

My return to apartment living continues. Almost every week provides an encounter with les temps perdu. This week's engagement with memory was positively Proustian, although baked goods were not involved.

Earlier this week, I stood in the hallway and wondered if I was sniffing something vindaloo or saagwala. Hard to tell through the dominant smell of broiled steak. Low notes of something burning. Breakfast-for-dinner toast? Pizza-saturated cardboard near the garbage chute?

By cracky, I can remember when the olfactory options for New York City apartment hallways were limited to pot roast, corned beef and cabbage, and spaghetti sauce ─ or what the cognescenti call gravy. Being slammed with one or all of these aromas depended on location, location, location. Was the building in Manhattan or one of the provinces? Was the Manhattan building above or below 14th street?* These distinctions made a difference. Then.

Now I live in Baltimore and the cooking aromas in this apartment building's hallways are as richly varied as its residents. Such abundance!

* Before Soho was invented, uptown began at 14th street.


  1. Absolutely gravy is the correct term for spaghetti sauce. I was taught that by the late Lil Ricciardi, originally from Arthur Avenue in the Bronx and 60+ years in Rhode Island. For her last ten years or so, she was my late mom's closest friend. Lil consistently complained that RI was nowhere as good as NYC.

  2. This reminds me of my students days at University in less salubrious surroundings.
    We lived above a Chinese take away. The odorific memories are still with me after all these years !

  3. Jim, Igrew up 4 blocks from Arthur Ave, and it was SAUCE - only those hoity-toity northern Italians who wanted to pretend they were French called it gravy! ;d
    Meredith, I love the pictures you evoke in my mind - and the olfactory memories,too!

  4. Baltimore, huh? Hope you like the smell of crabcakes... By the way, I vote for sauce.

  5. Tonight the hall smells like fried onions.
    Andie: I find Old Bay Seasoning nauseating and can't stand that the smell seems to permeate lots of Charm City grocery stores.


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