Tuesday, April 22, 2014


You might have heard of a pop-up cat café in opening on Thursday in New York. Cat cafes are popular in Japan (although I've read they originated in Taiwan), and on my 2010 Tokyo adventure, I made sure I visited two of them in the company of Anna (from the excellent Tamago Craft). So, dear American cat people: I know you're drooling at the idea of sipping a delicious gourmet coffee while petting kittens and relaxing to a symphonic harmony of purring. What you're going to get instead, it's a bitter lesson in class system. And let me add this, it's about time!

Notice the patrons pretending they are not crushed by the cats ignoring them.

If the New York cat café is anything like the ones in Tokyo, you will be spending a good fee for entrance, drink watered-down and overpriced cappuccino in fancy but not-too-fancy china, and you'll sit there in excited discomfort for your allowed time (many places have a hourly fee) while painfully beautiful pedigree cats avoid you like the plague. In the best of cases, these cats will just sit in their carpeted scratching-post lofts with their back turned to you. In the worst of cases, you will try to sit next to them only to see them leave immediately for the aforementioned carpeted scratching-post lofts. These cats won't acknowledge your calls, won't purr, won't make eye contact: The only thing they'll make very clear is that they think you're low-class scum.

At times an eccentric cat might approach you for a quick petting session, but it will hurry back to its friends immediately afterwards to show you that was just an ironic social experiment. It's the cat version of the purely aristocratic thrill of occasionally mixing with the peasants.

For you American patrons, visiting a cat café is going to feel like winning a lottery ticket to an archduke's ball, but without any introductory niceties. At this ball, nobody is going to dance with you, nobody is going to socialize with you, nobody is even going to give you the slightest impression they want to see you again. And everybody will look a million times better than you ever will (and they know it).

Thanks to these cat cafes, America can finally experience what other countries around the world are dominated by: an immovable class system, the self-hatred of the lower classes, the awesome power of apparently helpless beings, albeit beautiful, heartbreakingly beautiful beings.

Sunday, April 20, 2014


Easter 2007. Bold times.
Today is Easter, my favorite food holiday in Italy, which is surprising since my family must have celebrated it perhaps 3 times total. During Easter time, Italy is inundated with wonderful desserts such as chocolate eggs (hiding gifts!) and my favorite traditional cake, the colomba pasquale, or "Easter dove", a sweet and wonderfully soft bread sprinkled with candied citrus and topped with sugar and almonds. Colomba is not easy to find here, so you can only imagine I much I missed it, especially in my first years as an expat.

In 2007, emboldened by the small group of accolades Italian Dead Chef had, I decided to make my own colomba for Easter. I found a recipe from a reputable-looking blog that required about a day's work and 5 rises for the dough. All bakers out there know this was a Masterchef's endeavour, but I was blinded by the Vuitton-style paper mold I had found at Sur La Table, and I felt invincible.

As you can see from the picture, my colomba came out really pretty, and the sugar topping was perfect. Unfortunately, those were its only qualities.

The first sign that something was wrong was that my freshly-baked colomba was a little heavier than I expected. In fact, it weighed like a stuffed Thanksgiving turkey. It also emanated an extremely pungent whiff of yeast, evidently used in mindless abundance. The taste? My colomba was gummy and wet, bitter and alcoholic: completely and inexorably unedible.

I threw the colomba away and ran out to find a substitute. For the following three days, my colomba laid at the bottom of my trash can, together with the egg shells, the empty bags of roasted almonds, and the empty packets of organic pastry flour. With all that yeast, I was afraid it might resuscitate. You never know with these Christian holidays.


If you're one of the very few people who likes to listen to music while perusing websites, here is a choice song that goes with this Easter post. The song is "Vola colomba" ("Fly, Dove") and was a massive hit in 1952. My parents, who were innocent children when this song was released, will run hiding under the couch if they hear this, but I can safely listen to it ironically from the safe distance of two generations removed. Sing it, Nilla!

Monday, April 7, 2014


I have not written in a while, and the reason is that I have been busy and stressed. I can't even remember what I ate, but I'm sure there was a lot of pasta with pesto and undefined gruel. So I leave you with some thoughts from the past three weeks. I thought about putting the titles as hashtags, but then I felt like an idiot and reverted to normal formatting. I'm still fundamentally shy.


I spent the last three weeks in the throws of the anxiety and excitement of the DC school lottery. For those who are not familiar with it, it's that process by which your child's name is picked among thousands of others to be one the lucky children in DC who can enter school at age 3. Luckily we did win the lottery, and my oldest son will be going to school in the fall. He also just guaranteed a spot for his little brother two years from now. My only concern: Will winning the DC school lottery diminish my chances of winning at a real lottery? Because that's kinda my dream. 


I think the problem with many Type A personality people is that they actually believe that the world would be a better place if everybody thought, acted, spoke, and looked exactly like them. That's the kind of people who cannot conceive that people might enjoy a little bit of slack in life. Really, you can't get that worked up if a guy younger than you decides to grow a beard. Get a fucking grip.


For the first time since I've moved to the United States I have been to a "pizza parlor". It was called Cesar's Pizza Palace and it was located in a strip mall. It looked like a car mechanic converted his/her garage into a restaurant by way of painting the walls with trompe-l'œil grape vines. I was expecting my taste buds to commit suicide and my sarcasm-o-meter to explode, but you know what? The pizza was pretty good. I did order a safe option, though: ricotta and broccoli rather than chicken pineapple.


My baby naps only 40 minutes at a time, and my oldest decided to stop napping altogether. So I decided I'm going to stop wasting energies trying to sleeptrain them, and I will instead refocus on
training them to let me sleep. Now I need two iPads, 3 dozen toy trucks, and a pair of noise-canceling headphones.