Saturday, February 10, 2018

Buy my latest poetry book before it is my second-latest poetry book! 

I am now a part of a bilingual publishing company called DarkLight, and we specialize in poetry in English with Spanish translations and vise versa. We have about ten titles as of now, and I am happy to note that my first full-length book of poems, Songs of Mute Eagles, is the second in DarkLight's inaugural series, "Bridges"--a link between the cultures and poetry of the USA and Mexico.

Available on Amazon as well as Barnes & Nobel online--in digital or hard-copy, as shown
with illustrations by great artists, living and dead

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Air Is An Ingredient! (Anyone Need a Paperweight?)

The Food Saver and the Limits of Air--As every holiday season rolls around, the kids are wont to ask old Papa “Waddaya want for Christmas?”, to which I’ve been responding with varying levels of gift “do-ability”, from warm sox to world peace. However, this year I actually had a Sanity Claus request—something smack dab in the reasonable cost area, and of a fantasy nature satisfying enough to keep me occupied for a long time. A food saver! My fridge is always one-quarter dying…something I try to keep up with when planning meals. But then, a lot of it gets away from me…until the smells begin. I had to start preserving my food better.

So it was with genuine glee that I opened the big box from my daughters and their families last Christmas to discover a Food Saver vacuum seal machine, complete with bags to use for the next six months. I was off to the races.

I made leftovers specifically to save them—some of the dishes were never a regular meal to precede their becoming leftovers. They were born leftovers. It was all about the sealing process.

Take my doctored chorizos, for instance…

I have joyously discovered a mass-marketed chorizo that is as true to real Mexican chorizo as anything I’ve yet to discover—north of the border, that is. Johnsonville, the sausage and pork people, have done it! Their Mexican-Style chorizo, at just about six bucks a pound, is like the real thing. 

For me, that “real thing” is a quest. I smuggled an entire kilo  of both red and green chorizo past customs last time I returned from Mexico--and I don’t do well in jail. However, if I had been incarcerated, at least the Mexican prisoners would have respected me. The contraband turned out to be not only delicious, but a learning experience as well. I discovered that, for culinary reasons unknown to me, or merely as filler, the chorizo I brought back from a butcher’s stand in the sprawling San Juan Letran Mercado area of Mexico City had both pasillas and cacahuates inside. We’re talking raisins and raw peanuts here.

So –just to be on the safe side—I have been removing the chorizo skins and blending in peanuts and raisins—along with a drop or two of hot sauce (as in: why not?)—and refrigerating the chorizo mass for future use. Which is where Food Saver comes in. My freezer is full of packages of my second-favorite breakfast meat.

And, as I said, I proceeded to go nuts with the technology, vacuum-sealing anything that could rot. Buy a pound and only use ten ounces today? It’ll be bad when you get back to it at the end of the week; but if you repackage whatever it is, suck out the air and seal it, it’ll be there for weeks. Vegetables, cheese—you name it. Of course, there are limits—limits that should be clear. If you think about them.

But I was intent on solving an old problem that usually comes up when I occasionally splurge and buy a giant loaf of olive bread: I pig out for a couple of days and then grow weary of it-- and thirty, forty percent dries up or gets moldy.

That’s what I was thinking when I stacked three  big inch-thick slices of olive bread (a crusty white bread with Kalamata olives) inside a sealer bag. Then I set up the Suck function and let ‘er rip.
This is what I got. It has looked like this for some time now. . . .
It—this bread mummy—will never dry out or get moldy, because both those conditions depend on one simple thing: air. What I failed to remember is the old adage that, white bread is all air.

Anyone want an interesting paper weight?

Tuesday, November 10, 2015


Art Gatti's  "Mexico--Dust in my Blood" is a collection spanning over a half century of my experiences in our southern neighbor. I am selling it through Amazon--just go on line and type in name and title. It will cost--with S&H--under ten bucks!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Run Away! Run Away!

           Everyone wanted to be a part of what Stan had going for him. Food and Wine magazine called it “an American food empire.” But it eventually dawned on people that he had basically two business talents, independent of his genius with menu, décor and attitude. First, he was usually able to put together any kitchen he wished to (Mexican, Cuban--even Chinese), relying on various families of Dominican cooks and prep men who eventually were all in his debt for the many jobs gotten through him. The other talent—if that’s what it was--was that he filled the remaining key roles with people who had big smarts, but who were usually untrained in what he hired them for. This was “the Start-‘em-up Stan” method. Hire them--then let them figure it all out; or, more likely, hire them--then run off to start another restaurant. This is what happened when Stan arranged to turn the old Horn of Plenty restaurant at Charles and Bleecker into his first restaurant on that site, Del Rio’s Bar and Grill.
Named after the curmudgeonly patron saint of the Cottonwood Café (Stan’s first place and the source of his local fame) its menu was a shift towards the Mex side of Tex-Mex. The namesake, Eliseo Del Rio, had inspired the young Texans who ran and staffed the place, turned them left, politically, with his tales of fighting for the Republic in the Spanish Civil War. They loved the man and his poetry, wrote a beautiful song about him—watched helplessly as emphysema wasted and then killed him…gawked at a memorial at which several living veterans of Del Rio’s old army unit, the legendary Abraham Lincoln Brigade, were present.
But Del Rio’s was a business. And as soon as Stan signed the lease and hired me and a few others to do this and that, he split for Key West to open another branch of the Cottonwood.
It would take about a month to get the place in shape, and it was mostly grunt work. But there was no contact with the guy who hired us—and therefore no money to pay anyone with. After the second week of this, people began to be very antsy about Stan’s whereabouts.
In the early eighties we still relied on phones like the ones in restaurants that took dimes. We dumped pockets full in the payphone, trying to get the mercurial start ’em up guy to commit to arranging for workers to get paid. It was almost three weeks by the time I finally got through to him—with hired hands lurking anxiously nearby, waiting to hear what was what—and uttered words that would make me famous among those yuppy peons for months to come. Desperate, I yelled into the telephone mouthpiece,  “Stan, there are people starving in this restaurant!”

Part of my job was prepping the kitchen for a health department inspection, and this involved steam blasting years of grease off the walls. Why were the walls covered with grease when the Horn of Plenty was there? Maybe because Archie, the landlord/owner, knew who to grease--or maybe an inspection was de rigueur only for a new place.
Stan had arranged for the rental of a steam blaster--a gizmo that we could aim at the walls. It was a simple enough contraption, slapped together out of iron and tubing: a squat machine the size of a picnic cooler on wheels, with an attachment like a high-pressure garden hose, a hose that shot out boiling water in steam or spray.
At first it sounded like fun…until we discovered that you didn’t plug the thing in—that it had a gasoline engine. O-kaay…so we gassed it up. And then we tried to read the scorched and grease-stained directions, which were not helpful even where they were readable. We had to pull this, do that—and ignite it all with a flame!

Well, that’s what we tried to do--until the infernal beast began to cough and wheeze and shudder, the flames glowing hotter. Sure, when you know what you’re doing, noises and sparks may seem harmless enough, as in just a part of the process. But when you don’t have a clue….
Neanderthal man accidentally discovering fire-–maybe after a lightning strike—is what I compared it to. I didn’t care what happened to the crazy jumping machine, or what would happen to the restaurant if it blew—or to the guys running close behind me for that matter. All I knew was that my feet were in charge. And I am alive to tell of it.
In the end, the restaurant stayed unexploded, the kitchen got degreased--and the place saw some success in its day. I had my first chef gig there, right out there in the middle of the garden floor, at a grill.
In the next Stan place that emerged there—Cuba Libre—the rent wasn’t paid toward the end, and—well, read the post called “The Night East Third Street Earned Five Stars”.

[The Horn of Plenty closed in the early 80s, then there was Del Rio’s, something else for a bit (?) then Cuba Libre, Cucina della Fontana, Hue and the East Coast flagship shop of Juicy Couture most recently. Around the time Hue closed –probably early 2000s—I heard a guy who just looked at the premises, talking on his cell phone and quoting a sixty-thousand-dollar monthly rent. It has a smallish upstairs, but an opulent garden downstairs—and Juicy Couture only used upstairs, thus probably paying about a hundred bucks a square foot per month, since the place couldn’t be more than 600 square feet upstairs.]

Saturday, May 24, 2014


It started by accident. I think it was for lack of space that I first placed a scrawny twig of red grapes atop my old radio/stereo thingamajig. I figured they’d hear some Mozart, or some blues--and get to be close to the window, where they might see some last rays of sun before they die--or maybe I’d pop one of the little wrinkled, overripe things in my mouth on a rebellious whim.
I forgot about them after a while.
Then one day I looked at them--and they were perfect raisins. At least six of them were. The ones that had clung to their scrawny little stems had fallen victim to that white mould that forms on rotting grapes. Since then, my observations lead me to believe that the mould is a manifestation of the hatred of the grape by its shriveled stem--the little nonentity who has given so much of itself by pouring the goodness and sweetness of its life-giving sap into the ungrateful little wretch. It is a white sickness that will slowly dissolve the unwitting grape. It’s all very ugly. Don’t fuck with Mother Nature.
In any case, there those six raisins were—a living tribute to serendipity. Dried inside of a week by WQXR or WNYC or WBGO or Spotify or my CDs. It was warm atop the machine—the top was a screen/grid to let the heat escape. It was perfect!
Since those early eureka moments I’ve been recycling instead of trashing the grapes that I don’t eat soon enough. I have a problem with grapes—and, actually, a lot of fruit—in that I begin with fervor, then slack off and let the stuff rot. But no more, not when it comes to grapes at least. I did winter strawberries once (what else can you do with those sorry imposters?) but most of the drying occurred inches from a hot steam pipe.
Keep in mind that these are raisins of prodigious size, something that suggests to me that raisin grape growers are raising relatively small grapes. Mine are the ones that are sold to be eaten—big, juicy, sweet. I have recently discovered that, among the red grapes that are available these days in these here parts (Manhattan Island, lower half, in April), the rule is: the darker the sweeter--also, often, the larger as well.  So I await the latest harvest…the darker ones. I will taste-test the small of the dark ones against the largest of the redder ones, and we’ll just see.
When I summered in Oregon, I used to dry things on the porch in bamboo and screen driers. When that proved to be too long a wait for my New York sensibilities (and it drew bugs), I bought electric drier trays at yard sales and sooner or later caught on that the reason no one wanted the things was the electricity it cost. Dedicated electricity like that erases any cost-effectiveness that drying your own fruit has.
But I listen to my old stereo all the time. Yeah, it’s an energy consumer and all that, but it has cool interface features that make it unnecessary for me to play computer music with that clever but costly Bluetooth nonsense. The whole hookup cost me forty bucks, and now my Bose speakers are blasting whatever I’m listening to on line—iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, whatever. And I’m drying grapes.

I have attached the “schematic” for my hookup, if there are any adventurous Rube Goldberg types out there…with a good strong magnifying glass and a healthy sense of humor….[but seriously, if you want a larger copy, message me.)

Thursday, April 24, 2014


       In this sensory memoir, I have enhanced my memory of the cheese, citing a method of ageing that I only recently became aware of. You can age Parmesan or Romano cheese in a way that creates insanely flavorful grated cheese by doing the following. 1] soak cheesecloth in vinegar and mostly dry it before wrapping it tightly around the three-inch-by-four-inch (approx.) pieces of cheese you are going to age; 2] place the wrapped cheese in a cool dry place where it gets some air; 3] leave it for several months....What happens is that the moisture evaporates very slowly, after which what remains of the oil tightens the cheese and causes the piece to become harder than some woods. When it reaches this hardened state, it will be real exercise to grate it. It is too tough to be grated on anything but the finest grater, and the result will look like sawdust--sawdust with more cheese flavor packed into it than you could ever imagine. [When the pieces have been grated so far down that more grating risks skinned knuckles do not throw them away. Simmer them in broth, chicken soup, whatever. More amazing flavor boost!]

Taste Buds--art gatti

The hot room with its high, doily-covered dressers,
their mute, framed faces staring down at me:

Men in black cassocks
showing me where my gene pool ended
in that small corner of the Old World –
scattered, sterile seeds,
lost in cavernous, dark seminaries.

An ice box in the corner,
drip pan beneath, sparse provisions within.
All the rest victims of the hot room with
its thick, drawn drapery.

Hard cheeses, sour auras redolent when you’re near,
wrapped in cheesecloth,
aging in the open air;
flagons of wine
and a green viscous oil that it would take years
for my American palate to love.

My grandparents would mutter
in their strange and fluid tongue
and urge me to mangia.
I was too thin–“Fagiole!”

The salad of crisp green--
cool, ignoring the August day–
greens and orange slices.
My little face cries silently at the first taste--
why did they douse it like that?
I liked olives–if they were pitted...
and dyed black, and swimming in a can
under murky, innocuous water.
But this green oil was from no olive I knew.
And with the black pepper, too,
the oranges were spoiled for me.
Bitter and sweet, bitter and sweet.

Why did the old people mix bitter with life’s joys?

I would not mangia,
me, with taste buds
not yet born into the flavors of my people.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Celebrating the Melted Cheese Sandwich-

    It was the first culinary adventure I ever embarked on. My oeuvre were not considered very special, but I liked them: grilled cheese sandwiches. Clearly, this isn’t something to brag about, but it was a beginning, back in 1954.
     My mom worked, so when I returned home hungry after school the fridge was my go-to. But what did I know? I surely wasn’t going to suddenly learn how to produce the meals my mom could turn out. So what was there?
     What there was were sliced white bread loaves and American cheese.

     I already had developed a craving for melted cheese sandwiches—and the part that was most enjoyable was the crispy run-off that fried brown along the edges of the sandwich. I would scrape this part off and eat it first…and sometimes I would return the sandwich to the fry pan and let more run  off and fry brown.
     That’s where the brainstorm appeared: why bother with the bread, when the cheesy, crispy part was all I craved?!
     So I started to fry cheese, sans bread. I would simply heat up the pan and fry up slices of cheese and eat them with drippy, oily fingers. This became something of a minor jones. No cheese was safe.
The problem arose—along with a serious talking-to—when I started frying Limburger….
     As you might imagine, there is a strong odor accompanying ANYthing you do with Limburger. I guess it was because of my deviated septum that I didn’t consider this a big deal. Family members with normal senses of smell took exception. But it was too late! The mad kitchen scientist was on his way!