New York City is a terrible place to summer. Whereas some water-bound towns have cool breezes rolling in off the ocean all day, we can better rely on the hot exhale of garbage trucks. Offices are set to roughly the same temperature as a polar ice cap, but subway platforms are so unfathomably sweltering that on my first day in NYC 14 years ago, I — adorably, like the wee baby New Yorker I was — uttered the words, “Is this even legal?” It’s a rare day that you don’t walk down the sidewalk and have a window a/c unit drip you-don’t-want-to-know run-off on your head. Flip-flops may cool your feet outside, but you may never recover from seeing the new color of your toes at the end of a day, and it always seems like everyone but me has Summer Fridays. The city tries, it really does, to make things more livable: the 14 beaches are free, there are dozens and dozens of free public pools, something like a zillion sprinkler parks, and you know all those endless photos you see of children frolicking in spraying fire hydrants? Hardly a symbol urban decay, it’s actually legal and encouraged. But the fact is that from July 4th on (and possibly earlier this year), anyone that has the means to be elsewhere is, and the rest of us plebes schvitz it out on the pavement.
If I were to sum up this year (which I won’t because I’m long-winded enough when describing a single day, it’s terrifying to consider what I could do with 365 of them), after I got past all of the good stuff — and really, it’s been a spectacular year, what with two book tours and several vacations and lots of awesome family time and dinner parties and and and… see, there I go! — I’d admit that at least from the vantage point of trying to relocate recipe ideas from my head to the kitchen to this computer and then onto yours, I’ve somewhat flopped and I have the photo IOUs to prove it. Would you like a tour?
Last Friday, we had 17 people over for dinner. No, we haven’t moved to a larger apartment. No, my kitchen hasn’t grown to the size of a normal one (though some mornings I tiptoe in, hoping it will surprise me). No, I hadn’t really expected almost all of my friends to be able to make it when I invited them, but I wasn’t the least bit sad when I found out they’d all come, mostly because my vision of the ideal apartment gathering resembles the party scene from Breakfast At Tiffany’s. And boy, we get closer every time.
Is everyone on vacation without you? Are your social media feeds one big blur of the freckled faces of people you once thought you loved basking in the Caribbean sun, showing unintentional contempt for you, back here, shivering and damp? Do your so-called friends in warmer climes gush about pea tendrils and new artichokes while your local market has shriveled roots that last saw the unfrozen earth in October? Of last year? Maybe, just this one time, an exception should be made and a tidy, brief pity party would be acceptable. I have just the elixir.
Look, guys. It’s Saturday. I don’t want to blow anyone’s cover or make you feel worse if you shivered out the week in an over-air-conditioned cubicle but I have to tell you: I think everyone is on vacation but us. I think they’re on beaches, building sandcastles, accumulating freckles, having lobster rolls for lunch and cherry pie and juicy peaches for dessert. I don’t think they’re thinking about us at all. I’ve already broken my please-don’t-be-so-dull-as-to-discuss-the-weather-Deb rule once this week and I don’t want to do it again, nevertheless, given the state of That Which Shall Not Be Named, I think it’s about time we stopped pretending that we’re actually going to be turning on our stoves until sometime in October.
This is how I’ve decided to prepare for summer this year: 1. Buy tiny madras shorts and aviator sunglasses for the toddler. Like I could resist. 2. Let fear of bathing suit season convince me to let a friend drag me to my first Pilates class, ever, and not even a beginner class. Ow. I’m pretty sure I should have resisted. 3. Allow myself the purchase of a single purpose, space-hogging (well, not for a normal sized kitchen but definitely for mine) appliance I have coveted for more than a decade, just because it will take us from lemons to lemonade in under 5 minutes. I’m so glad I didn’t resist.
Old as it may be, I hadn’t heard of milk punch before a few weeks ago but can assure you, I’ve thought about nothing else since, not blizzards, not book deadlines and not how long it will take for all of the molars to show up so we can get back to sleeping again. Nope, nothing but milk punch. An avid fan of eggnog — also, John Denver & The Muppets Chrismas album, carolers, chestnuts roasting on open fires and all sorts of things that are probably not expected from girl who celebrates Hanukah — but wary of all of the raw eggs and too impatient to tuck it away for anywhere from three weeks to a year to mellow flavor, milk punch seemed right up my alley.