I remember the day I found out I was moving to New York so vividly that it feels like mere days have passed since then. I was 18 years old, a senior in high school, and what I wanted more than anything was to go to New York University and live in New York City. I had wanted this every day since my first trip to New York a year earlier, when my friend Ilana serendipitously suggested I come with her on a trip to B&H to buy her a new Leica. I was hooked from the first moment we stepped off the train at Grand Central, that glorious turquoise, constellation-dotted ceiling catching my breath. Back in Arizona nine months later, it was a warm day in April and I was coming home late from school expecting my parents to be long asleep. I was surprised to find them not only awake but sitting in the living room listening to Frank Sinatra. To New York, New York. They sat on the couch beaming at me – it took me less then half a second to figure out what they were up to. I can’t remember what came first – the tears or the laughter – but I remember them both coming with such force my face began to tingle and I could barely hear the words coming out of my parents’ mouths. I had been accepted to NYU and I was moving to New York. I could not have been happier if you told me I won the lottery, because in mind I had. I was leaving Phoenix, moving to New York, and starting a new adventure.
And here I sit, nine years later, on the cusp of my next move. Compared to moving here, the decision to leave New York was not nearly as decisive or seamless as my decision to leave home. I cannot look on a calendar and pinpoint the exact day I decided to leave and there are no joyous anecdotes to share. To be honest, I have spent the last three months fantasizing about this moment, where I sit a mere 6 hours away from a flight somewhere else, boxes in storage, bags packed and nothing but the unknown in my future. So I am a little surprised that in this moment, mixed with the excitement and anticipation, I am feeling a heaviness settling in. I am sad at leaving people I care about and anxious about giving up good job in a shitty economy for an uncertain future. I have mixed feelings about walking away from a city that I have both loved and despised in equal measure over the years. I could be back, yes. Anything is possible. Frank says if you can make it in New York you can make it anywhere, but I am not so confident. I’m reading all the Eckhart Tolle I can get my hands on and saying mantras and slapping Post Its on available surfaces with encouraging words that propel me forward, but I can’t help it. After nine years here, there is a part of me thinks I may not be able to make it anywhere but New York. Can I live without bars that close at 4:00AM and The Met and steamy summers in Prospect Park and greasy take-out Chinese at all hours? Of course I can. But do I want to? We shall see.
If you are a sane person you might be at the point of asking, “Yeah, great Natalie, but what the hell are you going to do?” Valid question. In the next few months I will be exploring passions I have long nurtured but have never had time to devote to. Though not necessarily lucrative, cooking and writing and swimming in the ocean and exploring new places excite me. Instead of making me feel uptight and anxious they make me feel creative and calm and purposeful. Preparing and exploring these new passions has been the highlight of the last three months – Chopped and Googa Mooga and Oaxacan Goat Roasts and Tamales and many more. And now I am off to Phoenix and San Diego and Guatemala and I am ready for all three, excited and humbled and as prepared as I think I can be. For what, I have no idea. But I am ready.
I am leaving New York, and starting a new adventure.
Spicy Mexican Pickles
These are the spicy pickles that I brought to the Oaxacan Goat Roast. Any mix of vinegars will do here. I used about half red wine and half white vinegar. Experiment and see what you like.
Active time: 30 minutes, Inactive time: 1 week; Makes about 5 pounds of pickles.
5 cups each vinegar and water
½ cup kosher salt
2 heads cauliflower, cut into 2-inch chunks
1 pound carrots, cut into 1-inch rounds
1 pound green beans, cleaned and ends cut off
2 zucchini, cut into 1-inch rounds
2 red peppers, cut into 1-inch strips
10 jalapenos, cut in half (leave seeds for extra heat)
20 garlic cloves left whole
2 onions, cut into 1-inch rounds
¼ cup pickling spice
1 ½-2 gallon tub or jar with a wide lid
Start by making the brine. In a large stockpot combine water, vinegar and salt. Bring to soft boil and make sure salt is dissolved. Turn off heat and add cauliflower, carrots, green beans and garlic. Let sit 10 minutes. In the meantime, stuff all other ingredients into a clean jar (no need to sanitize jar as you won’t be processing) and sprinkle pickling spice over vegetables. Carefully ladle cauliflower mixture into the jar, using the back of the ladle or the bottom end of a smaller jar to pack everything in. Ladle brine over vegetables until liquid is about an inch from the top of the jar and seal tightly with lid. Let jar cool on a countertop for an hour, and then transfer to the refrigerator. Will keep for up to two weeks.