Our debut interview at Grand Central Terminal Market…

I’m generally pretty camera shy which is why our video series has been so delayed, but I do love turning every day activities into mini adventures especially when it involves food talk. Sometimes that means you have to smile for the camera! The paparazzi is the price we pay. It’s so easy to fabricate an adventure in New York City. You never know who you’re going to meet. There are so many interesting folks in this town, and if you go left instead of right or to one market instead of another, you just might meet some of them. That is exactly what happened to us last Saturday on our ordinary weekend trip to pick up groceries.

It all started with the jeans that mysteriously stopped fitting me and several other articles of clothing that I’d rather not discuss. We knew we needed to stock the fridge with some fresh, healthy options. We simply couldn’t justify living off the fat of the pantry any longer. Pasta, rice, potatoes: you’re not losing us. You’re gaining some vegetables! These are the stories I tell myself and my food in an effort to become camera ready. Anyway, the sun was shining and the breeze was warm that afternoon. It was the perfect day for my open toe shoes and elastic pants to scour the market for fresh produce and lean protein aaand possibly give an interview…

I admit that I’m making much more of this than it was but why not? I dream of being part of the professional food world, that elite club of best-restaurant attending food stars, snagging cookbook deals and being interviewed about their food thoughts and ideas. The interview/camera part does concern me, but we have to push past our comfort zone in pursuit of our true calling, don’t we? So as we were gathering the fixings for our waist-friendly salad, I happened upon two young women interviewing one of the cashiers at the vegetable market.  Too curious to let it go and having an opinion on the question I had just eavesdropped, I stopped to make small talk with them. I learned that they were college students doing a class project and that none of the patrons at Grand Central Market were willing to be interviewed by them (we’ll leave that part out of my Chef’s Table documentary). They were thrilled when, waiving my imaginary and exorbitant interview fee, I happily obliged.

Produce and paparazzi at a favorite local food market

The two college-students-turned-reporters wanted to know what would compel shoppers to buy their groceries in the expensive markets of Grand Central rather than the much lower priced grocery stores in the area. It’s a great question, really. We’ve written about food shopping in New York City before in Live Globally…Buy Locally, so of course the topic is significant to us, but it was interesting to see the question being considered in a college class. The gracious cashier, so generous with her time attributed the traffic in the market to wealthy commuters. That makes sense. On a typical weekday, almost one million people use Grand Central Terminal to go in and out of the city or simply to commute to and from work on the island. Sure, plenty of them are wealthy. Is it really just a matter of convenience and income though? I wonder how many of these commuters shop at the market and how many prefer to make an extra trip to a lower priced grocery store in their neighborhood.  As for us, we weren’t commuting anywhere except from our apartment to the market that day, but Grand Central is in our neighborhood. Although there are definitely more economical options, we see the value in high quality ingredients since we cook most of our meals ourselves at home. The difference between the over ripe and wilting vegetables at the grocery store two blocks from our apartment and what we find at Grand Central or other smaller mom and pop shops is really significant to us. Also, at Grand Central, the merchants are local business owners and most of what they sell is sourced locally.

I eagerly explained to the young college students the role that food plays in our lives and why we like to seek out high quality, whole ingredients. I also informed her that contrary to the cashier’s earlier comment, not everyone who shops here is wealthy. And that realistically we have to balance these special shopping trips with more affordable ones. For instance, we buy paper products and spices online and milk at the grocery store, but vegetables are worth the splurge. We like buying cheese from Murray’s just a few vendors down from where our interview is taking place, for the experience as much as for the selection and superior quality. We like learning about the cheeses and sampling them before we decide which to buy. We don’t just eat because we’re hungry; we view mealtime as the most important part of the day and respecting the food and buying it locally whenever possible is all part of what goes into dinner for us. When I told my interviewers about Big Bites Tiny Kitchen, I could see the interview falling into place for them. They went from no one interested in discussing their shopping habits to interviewing a food blogger with a vested interest in the very topic they were reporting on. It was one of those New York moments that is too small on its own to serve as an endorsement for city living, but  in conjunction with all of the other New York experiences that happen unexpectedly on any given day, add to the city’s charm and character.

I didn’t want to hijack their interview so I didn’t ask all of the questions running through my head. Instead I let them ask the questions and then before you know it, we were going our separate ways like so many chance encounters in the city. In hindsight, I wish I learned more about what they were doing. I’m so curious to know the point of their project and what they learned from the interview.  I don’t even know what school they go to, but it must be fascinating for them to be in college right now with technology enhancing so much of what and how they learn. That coupled with the plethora of opportunities awaiting them at every turn in this city; it must be so cool for those two mystery students. To the two lovely young women from Grand Central Market, if you’re reading this blog post, our purchases from that afternoon were well worth the cost. Please reach out to us in the comments or via the newsletter if you have a moment because we’d love to hear all about your project. We’ll definitely write back!

Cut calories but still eat like a food star

As for lunch that day, we made a delicious salad with green leaf lettuce. We chose it as an alternative to romaine mostly due to the latest e coli outbreak, but also because it looked beautiful and it was available. Its tender leaves and mild flavor were perfect in this salad. It’s not a variety we find at our local grocery store. We also picked up green-house tomatoes that of course were not quite as as juicy and flavorful as New Jersey tomatoes in August, but a really great option for the off-season. So often I’m lured into buying tomatoes in the spring by their shiny red skin only to be disappointed by their mealy and insipid flesh. This purchase was a score. We added fresh scallions and because we lack patience, a mostly ready to eat avocado. It probably needed one more day. The last purchase we added was a lean chicken breast that we sliced and seasoned with salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder then grilled on the stove top. The warm chicken mixed with the vegetables, tomatoes and avocado produced a perfect combination of texture and temperature. The juice that the chicken created might have been enough but in addition to it, we dressed this healthy creation with balsamic vinegar and quality extra virgin olive oil. Yes, we could have done it cheaper and quicker, but we knew from experience that the quality would have suffered. We had the lunch we needed along with a fun conversation about the impromptu interview and what might be next for Big Bites Tiny Kitchen!

Sometimes the city or fate or the universe conspires in your favor and brings you to the right place at the right time. We were considering going to the Amish Market (also very good) instead that afternoon. The reporters could have woken up an hour later. If either of these things had happened our paths would have never crossed. My food star fantasy would have had no such platform on which to unfold. I hope my input was valuable and I hope they enjoyed my explanation of Big Bites Tiny Kitchen as much as I enjoyed being interviewed. If I had thought about it, I would have given them the name and number of my fake agent. Ahh hindsight! For the sake of my future food-darling self, I hope they run the video they took through some sort of beauty filter. It was a Saturday afternoon strolling through food markets in New York City, after all. I was definitely NOT camera ready and I didn’t even have my usual pretend video release form with me so who knows what will become of that footage.

In the meantime, check out our recipe for Green Leaf Salad with Grilled Chicken and Avocado here. You can enjoy it while binge watching YouTube videos, and maybe you’ll catch a glimpse of my debut food interview.