What Have We Inherited

Melissa Jarmel

Photo courtesy of Melissa Jarmel

While the fate of many Broadway shows remains to be determined, some have already announced closures. One show, The Inheritance by Matthew Lopez, was set to close on March 15th anyway, but the cast unwittingly took their last bow just a few days before, as the entirety of Broadway closed their doors on March 12th. This show has frequently been on my mind since the pandemic began to alter our existence. It was written about and for gay men in New York City, though the themes of inheritance are universal, so I thought I’d start with talking to one of my favorite people and theatre buddies, Dylan K., about his experience seeing the show. 

Dylan K.: I had absolutely no idea just how much The Inheritance would affect me. A bit of background: I’m an NYC-living cis gay man in his thirties grappling with my own identity as such, and The Inheritance is (at the surface) about NYC-living cis gay men in their thirties grappling with their own identities, too. Needless to say, I found the content of the play extremely personal. Before my cohort of 30-something gay men, the previous generation was hugely impacted by the HIV/AIDS crisis. The disease itself is responsible for ending the lives of thousands of gay men who could have been the teachers, mentors, or friends I never got the chance to meet. I never fully considered all the ways the suffering of these men, their families and loved ones, as well as the stigmas still in society that stem from this time in history, have unconsciously shaped who I am today. Watching this play made me laugh a lot. But I also cried a lot, too. For me, that is why I go to the theater. To me, The Inheritance felt like a full-length mirror, placing at the forefront many ideas and questions about myself that I had buried deep in my subconscious. 

Melissa Jarmel: What will you carry most with you from this play? 

DK: The Inheritance made me deeply think about who I am today by understanding what came before me and forced me to question what I can offer to those who will come after me. The show teaches the consequences that come from not acknowledging or accepting one’s history, as well as it demonstrates the harm of holding too tightly to the past. The Inheritance made me realize there is so much I don’t know about the history of gay men in America and made me think hard about what kind of mentor I can be down the road. It made me realize that cross-generational communication isn’t properly celebrated in the gay community. I have a lot to learn from those who are older and younger than me. The Inheritance made me want to be a better listener. Also, we all have inherited a great deal from those who came before us, whether we are aware of it or not. 

Dylan was not alone in the laughter and tears he mentioned watching this play. When I attended, the largely male audience was audibly connecting with the show in a visceral way to a degree that is rare to experience en masse at the theatre. While the play toed the line of being pedantic at times, it clearly struck a nerve with many theatre-goers. Though there is one scene in particular that has been replaying in my mind since New York went on pause. The group of friends are discussing politics and one of them likens America to a living organism that you can break down into its cellular components, so if you could find a way to heal the cells, you could heal the body. Another friend runs with the analogy and reminds his friends that T-cells, specifically, are what alert the body that there is an infection, but HIV targets these cells that are supposed to be our watchful guardians. 

He goes on to say, “…if America is an organism and if its T-cells are its democracy, then what about [Trump]? Where does he fit in this analogy? You could say he is HIV: a cunning, pernicious retrovirus that has attached himself to the very core of American democracy and is now destroying the American Immune System: journalism, activism, politics, and even voting. And, like HIV, he is replicating his genetic material from tweet to tweet, from person to person, institution to institution, across the entire nation. Consequently, America is now falling prey to opportunistic infections its immune system had once been able to fight: fear, propaganda, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, white nationalism. And so, like any person with untreated HIV, you could say this nation has developed the American Immune Deficiency Syndrome. Let’s just call it what it is and diagnose it properly: America. Has. AIDS.” 

These are strong words, but maybe they’re not strong enough, especially in light of how the people the current president of the United States put in charge of this nation have failed to adequately inform and protect the American public throughout this pandemic. I’m not the first to draw parallels to the HIV/AIDS crisis and what is happening now, but when Dylan spoke of the loss of mentors and friends due to what happened then, my heart not only mourns for the thousands of families that are mourning their loved ones who have passed away due to COVID-19 but also for the future generations that have lost these thousands of lights as well. 

Theatres in New York City are officially closed until June 7th, but a recent interview with the president of the Broadway League revealed that the community is expecting an opening date of September or later. The Public Theater has also announced that there will not be Shakespeare in the Park performances this summer; however, for the first time in forty years, a recording of a previous summer 2019 production, Much Ado About Nothing, is available for free to stream until May 26th. The Globe Theatre in London is also streaming a previous Shakespearean production every two weeks for free. And Broadway World has compiled a list of 157 shows you can watch at home. Hopefully, we will be back in the theatres before the year’s end, but until then, I’m grateful that we have at least inherited all of these streaming options.

Saint Patrick’s Day in New York City

Gretchen M. Michelfeld

Photo Credit: the Tenement Museum

The New York City Saint Patrick’s Day Parade is one of the oldest, largest, and most famous Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations in the world. It began when a group of homesick Irish expats and military members stationed with the British Army in the colony of New York decided to march through lower Manhattan to honor the fifth-century missionary who became the patron saint of Ireland. On March 17th, 1762, fourteen years before the start of the American Revolutionary War, people proudly wore green (a symbol of Irish pride that was banned by the British in Ireland), played Irish pipes, sang Irish songs, and gloried in speaking their native language.

More than 250 years later, today’s Saint Patrick’s Day Parade boasts over 200,000 participants and millions of spectators who line the streets or watch the festivities on television. If you’re planning to attend, the parade starts at 11:00 a.m. and travels up Fifth Avenue from 44th Street to 79th Street. Everyone should experience this New York tradition at least once in their lives, but if you’re looking for a quieter, more intimate way to honor the day, here are a few suggestions:

  • Take the Irish Outsiders tour at the Tenement Museum. Learn about Irish culture, traditions, and faith on this daily guided tour of an apartment at 97 Orchard Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Immerse yourself in the lives of the Moore family. In the mid-nineteenth century, the Moores were one of only two Irish Catholic immigrant families who lived at 97 Orchard. They struggled through poverty and disease and faced rampant anti-Irish prejudice. Tour their home as it stood in 1869.
  • Check out the weekly Irish Music and Dance Session at Paddy Reilly’s. Located on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Paddy Reilly’s has been presenting live Irish music sessions since 1986. On Thursday nights, Niall O’Leary, the acclaimed founder of the School of Irish Dance, hosts musicians and Irish step-dancers from around the world.
  • Join the Irish Arts Center at Symphony Space for the 8th Annual Celtic Appalachian Celebration. On Friday March 13th at 8 p.m., hear Irish, West African, and Appalachian themes woven through a range of American folk tunes, played by Green Fields of America, Danny Paisley and the Southern Grass, Nora Brown, Stephanie Coleman, and Megan Downes. Love Bluegrass? Clogging? This celebration is for you.
  • Experience a traditional Irish céilí!  A céilí is an old-fashioned house party or community social. The word is derived from the Old Irish céle meaning “companion.” It later became céilidhe and céilidh, which means “visit” in Gaelic. Later Irish orthography reformed the spelling as céilí. Every year, Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Parish Center hosts a St. Patrick’s Day céilí that is open to the public. On Sunday March 8th, you can purchase your $25 tickets at the door (230 East 90th Street) and enjoy all the corned beef, cabbage, and live Irish music you want from 12:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. There will be a cash bar and dancing.

Many people also choose to celebrate with a cozy day at home and some fun Irish cooking. Local Irish artist Anne Heffernan recently told me about her St. Patrick’s Day traditions: “I always make Catherine Fulvio’s Guinness Casserole served with Irish flag-colored veggies and bake shamrock shaped shortbread,” she said. Anne’s pet peeve? “It is not ‘St. Patty’s Day!’ It’s either St. Patrick’s Day or St. Paddy’s Day!”

Mardi Gras, or Let the Good Times Roll

Aileen Marshall

Mardi Gras this year is Tuesday, February 25th. What is Mardi Gras, you ask? Some of you readers may know Mardi Gras as Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday. While it has religious origins, it has become synonymous with a big party in New Orleans, Louisiana. This holiday has evolved over millennia to become the major tourist attraction that it is today.

Some believe that its origins go back to ancient Rome. Saturnalia was a boisterous festival celebrating the arrival of spring and fertility, dating back to 131 BC. However, most of the rites of Mardi Gras can be traced back to the spread of Christianity around the world. Fat Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent in the Christian church. Lent is a time when followers spend days fasting, abstaining from meat, and practicing other means of personal sacrifice. Therefore, Fat Tuesday is the last day to indulge and have fun before the six weeks of Lent. The early church decided it would be easier to incorporate the tradition of Saturnalia, rather than try to prevent it.

Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras in French, is a day to eat a lot of rich foods, hence the name. Some places recognize a whole season called “Carnival”. This stretches from the Epiphany, or Three Kings Day, on January 6th, until Fat Tuesday. The word carnival derives from the Latin carnelevarium meaning to take away meat. The word “shrove” in Shrove Tuesday derives from the word shrive, meaning to absolve.

While these festivities started out as religious practices, Carnival and Mardi Gras were gradually adopted as secular celebrations. They are celebrated in various ways around the world. In some countries in Europe, Latin America, and the Caribbean it is traditional to eat rich fried pastries and pancakes, so the holiday there is called Pancake Tuesday. In Belgium, people dance throughout the city of Binche all day. This Carnival of Binche is recognized by UNESCO, as are the door-to-door processions in the Czech Republic. Venice, Italy has a big celebration known for its decorative masks, and residents of the Italian city of Ivrea stage the Battle of Oranges.  There is a record of the Carnival celebration in Nice, France going back to 1294. Quebec, Canada has its Winter Carnival, with a host of snow related activities. Brazil has its famous Carnival in Rio de Janeiro consisting of a week of parades full of samba dancers in elaborate costumes that attracts millions of tourists from all over the world.

One of the most famous Mardi Gras event takes place in New Orleans. In 1699, the king of France sent two brothers, Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville and Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville, to defend his claim to the Louisiana Territory. They made camp on March 6th of that year at a spot about 60 miles south of where New Orleans is today, and named the location after the day, Point du Mardi Gras. Bienville went on to found Mobile, Alabama in 1702, and actually the very first planned U.S. Mardi Gras celebration took place here the following year There is still an annual festival in Mobile today. Iberville founded New Orleans in 1718. A record from 1743 indicates that costume balls were already an annual tradition there. The first Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans was in 1837. Mardi Gras was declared a legal holiday in Louisiana in 1875 and is the only state in the country to do so.

New Orleans Mardi Gras maskers, c. 1915, from old postcard. Note, women carry whips to fend off any unwanted attentions. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The New Orleans Mardi Gras festivities are run by social clubs, known as “krewes.” These started out as secret organizations of white businessmen. The oldest, the Mystic Krewe of Comus, was established in 1856. The next year they held a torchlight parade with marching bands and floats. The Rex Krewe was founded in 1872. They started the practice of having parades in the daytime and having a King of the Carnival, or the “Rex”. Some krewes elect someone from their club, whereas others will pick a celebrity. In 1892 the Rex Krewe established the colors of the New Orleans events, green, gold, and purple. They were chosen because the Grand Duke of Russia was visiting that year and those are the colors of the Romanoff family. The Rex Krewe says that green stands for faith, gold for power, and purple for justice.

In 1909, in response to these restricted clubs running the festivities, the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club was formed by a group of Creole and African American people. They had their own parade with a king in a tin can crown and a banana stalk scepter to mock the Rex. They are known today for the hand painted coconuts they toss to the crowds. Today these clubs are open to anyone who pays membership dues and any members of the clubs are allowed to ride on the floats.

The New Orleans Mardi Gras celebrations go on for a week, with balls and parades every day, ending on Fat Tuesday. There are many traditions associated with Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Since the 1870s, “throws” have been used as items that are tossed or handed out to float spectators. Common throws are doubloons, wood or aluminum coins with the name of the krewe or the name of the float. The most famous kind of throw are the strings of beads. Over the years these beads have gone from glass, to metal, to plastic, and now back to glass. Sometimes the beads are in the shapes of animals or people or other objects; some are limited edition. Sometimes stuffed animals, small plastic toys, plastic cups, or individually wrapped moon pies are thrown out. And there are the aforementioned coconuts. These started out as gold painted walnuts from the Zulu Krewe, hence they are often referred to as golden nuggets. By law, these coconuts now must be handed to the crowds rather than thrown because of injuries. The tradition of flambeau, or torch carrying, has evolved into dance performances by the torch bearers. People will tip the flambeau performer with dollar bills. It is common for both parade participants and spectators to wear costumes or masks. These costumes tend to be of animals or mythical creatures, or medieval dress. On the other hand, there is also a tradition of people being in various levels of undress. These costumes can be very revealing, and women are known to flash their breasts for throws or to walk around topless. This practice, documented since 1889, goes with the theme of indulging before Lent. The French phrase Laissez les bons temps rouler, meaning “Let the good times roll,” has become the slogan of these celebrations. King cake, a bundt shaped cake covered with sugar in the three Mardi Gras colors, is served during this season. Some people will hide a plastic baby inside and whoever gets the baby has to host the next party.

Mardi Gras time in New Orleans, 2009. Source: Karen Apricot.

In 2006, after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, there was some debate as to whether to have the Mardi Gras celebrations that year. But the festivities went on as a morality boost for the residents and for the economic benefit from the tourism. Some floats had been damaged in the floods and several incorporated this into the designs. A number of floats poked fun at the situation by mocking things like the Federal Emergency Management Agency trailers and the Army Corps of Engineers.

While New York City does not have any official Mardi Gras events, many bars, restaurants, or clubs will have promotions. Or if you happen to be in New Orleans this February 25th, the famous revelries are a must see.

Mardi Gras Fan Gal, 2004, Bywater neighborhood. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The Elusive Egg Cream

Aileen Marshall

A New York Egg Cream. Photo Courtesy of Jason Perlow, Wiki Commons.

Egg Cream Components: Fox’s U-Bet, Seltzer and Whole Milk. Photo courtesy of Jason Perlow, Wiki Commons.

How many of you have heard of an egg cream? Do you know what it is? Have you ever had one? If you are of a certain age and from the metropolitan area, you probably remember this beverage fondly. An egg cream is one of those disappearing iconic New York City foods. Lou Reed even wrote a song about it. “You scream, I steam, We all want Egg Cream.” Ironically, it has neither eggs nor cream. It is simply milk, chocolate syrup, and seltzer. While that combination may not sound appetizing, if made right, it can be delicious.

Until the mid-twentieth century, combination candy store and luncheonettes were common in the city. These were the type of establishments where there were registers up front that sold candies, cigarettes, and newspapers. In the back was a lunch counter and maybe some tables where one could get sandwiches, burgers, fountain sodas, and ice creams. This was the kind of place where you would go for treats such as an egg cream, an ice cream soda, or a malt. In those days, it was common to make the soda by mixing the syrup with seltzer from a tap.

It is not clear exactly where the egg cream was invented. The most popular attribution is to a Brooklyn candy shop owned by Louis Auster in the 1890s. It is said he sold as many as 3,000 egg creams a day. Auster made his own chocolate syrup in batches in the basement. His egg creams were so popular that a large ice cream manufacturer offered to buy the rights to his syrup recipe. He felt the sum was too small, so he turned them down. When an executive from the ice cream company heard of Auster’s refusal, he called him an anti-Semitic slur. Auster was incensed and vowed to take his secret formula to the grave. It is said that Auster’s grandson made the last batch of his chocolate syrup in 1974.

The competing claim to the egg cream’s origin is that it started on the Lower East Side in the 1920s. This candy store’s owner, a man named Hymie Bell, liked to add vanilla ice cream to chocolate soda. From there he got the idea to make a drink with cream, chocolate syrup, seltzer, and eggs. Competing stores quickly copied this drink, but removed the eggs to make it cheaper.

Bell’s concoction is one hypothesis as to how the egg cream got its name. Others say it came from a man named Boris Thomashevsky, who was an actor in the 1880s. After returning home to New York from a tour in Paris, he asked soda fountain clerks to make a drink he had there, “chocolat et crème.” Possibly “et crème” sounded like “egg cream” to American ears. Another postulate is that Yiddish speakers would refer to the drink as “echt keem,” which means “pure sweetness.” This phrase got anglicized into “egg cream.”

The decline of luncheonette style eateries and drinks like the egg cream started in the 1960s. With the growth of mass produced sodas, there was less demand for soda fountains. Egg creams are difficult to bottle or can. The syrup tends to settle on the bottom and the bubbles dissipate. This drink is best when freshly made.

Egg creams are traditionally made in a small, preferably chilled Coke-style glass. Whole milk is needed to get enough creaminess. There is debate as to whether one should mix in the syrup or the seltzer after the milk. Adding the seltzer first will result in a white head; the syrup first method leaves a brown head on the drink. Some devotees insist it should be Fox’s U-Bet Chocolate Syrup in an egg cream. Fox’s was invented in Brooklyn in the early 1900s. What makes Fox’s syrup stand out to aficionados is the lactic edge from the milk powder in the syrup. It’s best to add the seltzer from a pump to help the frothiness, but you can also whip it up by hand. However you make it, you want to strive for a balance between creaminess, sweetness, and bubbles. Here is a simple recipe from Serious Eats:

2 tablespoons Fox’s U-Bet chocolate syrup

1 1/2 ounces whole milk

3/4 cup seltzer

In a tall glass, add chocolate syrup and milk. Tilt the glass slightly and pour (or spritz) the seltzer off your stirring spoon until you have a nice foamy head that’s nearing the top of the glass. Stir vigorously to mix the chocolate in and serve immediately.

If you don’t want to try to make one yourself, there are still places in the city where you can order an egg cream, such as the Times Square outpost of the famous Brooklyn eatery, Junior’s, or Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop on Fifth Avenue at 23rd Street. Another famous location for egg creams is Ray’s Candy Store on Avenue A, near 7th Street. In the outer boroughs, you can find the retro Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain in Carroll Gardens, the famous Eddie’s Sweet Shop in Forest Hills, on Metropolitan Avenue, near 71st Avenue. Queen’s also holds the last location of Jahn’s, the well-known ice cream parlor, in Jackson Heights on 37th Avenue at 81st Street. The price for an egg cream at these locations varies from $2 to $7. Keep an eye out the next time you are in a city diner or deli and see if they have an egg cream listed under beverages.

An egg cream is a traditional NYC treat. I would highly recommend rewarding yourself with one sometime after a hard day’s work.

Resilience: Bouncing Back and Moving Forward

Emily Atlas


Sharon Milgram, Photo Courtesy of NIH OITE

“To become a successful scientist you must be resilient.” A phrase like this may sound familiar or perhaps even trite. Most would agree that the path to a Ph.D. (or M.D.) requires the ability to cope with failure and to regroup, restrategize, and reenergize after setbacks. However, is resilience a trait that can be learned? If so, how?

In mid-March, Sharon Milgram, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Intramural Training and Education (OITE) gave a talk about “Becoming a Resilient Scientist.” The event was cosponsored by two organizations at Memorial Sloan Kettering: The Gerstner Sloan Kettering Women in Science and the Female Association for Clinicians, Educators and Scientists (FACES).

Milgram was an extremely engaging and entertaining lecturer who used her story-telling skills to impress upon the large audience of scientists and M.D.s the importance of self-reflection and subsequent intentional action to become more resilient. The graduate students introducing Milgram opened up the talk with a lighter mood, sharing that when Milgram had first applied to graduate school (with goals of becoming a professor of physical therapy), she was not accepted. When she applied again, she ended up enrolling in a cell biology program. Then, she had to take her qualifying exam twice (and delayed taking it the second time for fear of failing again). But now she has her own lab and leads the NIH OITE, a testament to the fact that failures or slow starts can be more than overcome.

Milgram began by asserting that we are all life-long learners, particularly as scientists, since we are often learning new techniques and working on new problems that require entering semi-uncharted (and often uncomfortable) territory. Milgram adapted a summary of the four stages of learning a new skill from management expert Ken Blanchard. When we first embark on learning something new, we are “enthusiastic beginners,” and generally have low competence but are very confident. We then move on to the “disillusioned learner” stage in which we are more competent, but lose confidence, perhaps because at this point, we are aware of how little we actually know. When we are at the disillusioned learner stage, we generally feel very uncomfortable. Here, it is key to be resilient and move forward in order to reach the stage Milgram called “cautious performer,” where our competence and confidence have both increased, and finally the stage of the “high achiever,” where we have mastered the skill at hand and hence are much more confident. As scientists, we are often cycling through these stages and it is key to remember that each stage is only temporary.

In order to keep moving forward when we are experiencing a time of low confidence, we have to acknowledge our emotions but not drown in them. Resilience is the ability to both adapt and grow through adversity. We must navigate through the obstacles with both “intention and skill.” Milgram emphasized that resilience can be learned, but only if we are willing to reflect on how we currently deal with adversity.

We need to learn to be resilient at a time when we aren’t facing major challenges, so that in the face of adversity we are prepared to tackle roadblocks. Milgram outlined a few steps we can take in order to become more resilient: First, we should try to learn from past experiences; journaling can be a good technique to reflect on times in which we have succeeded in moving forward and times we could have done better. Second, developing strong relationships with peers and mentors is key and helps to remember that we are part of a larger community; we are not in this alone. Third, it is crucial to use resources and be proactive. Every institution has resources available and we need to learn how to ask for help when we need it. In some cases, counseling is also an important resource for people to utilize. Finally, we should be thoughtful about how we approach setbacks in our lives and careers and become more mindful of the “self-talk,” often negative, that we engage in during times of setback.

Milgram then elaborated more on negative self-talk. Inspired by Marshall Rosenberg’s techniques of non-violent communication, Milgram asked us to imagine both jackals and giraffes (jackals conjuring up the image of vicious creatures, and giraffes, peaceful, graceful ones). After we fail at something, we often tell ourselves stories in “jackal” language, rather than “giraffe” language. Furthermore, the stories we tell ourselves are often far more negative than the situation warrants. We may experience cognitive distortions or automatic negative thoughts that make us feel hopeless. Our brain has a negativity bias, because being anxious and on high alert has evolutionary advantages, keeping us safe from danger. However, negativity can be harmful when we are not in danger, but are doing something new and uncomfortable.

Milgram delineated five types of negative self-talk, asking the audience to raise our hands if we identified with any of the five. The audience was filled with giggles at this time, as most people found themselves strongly identifying with at least one or two of the categories that Milgram described:

  1. All or nothing: We tell ourselves that if anything goes wrong, the whole endeavor was a failure.
  2. Catastrophizing: We exaggerate the implications of a failure and how it may affect a much bigger part of our lives or career.
  3. Mindreading: We make assumptions about what someone else is thinking (perhaps for example, after a conversation with a Principal Investigator). Milgram calls this a “special kind of fortune telling.”
  4. Minimizing: We downplay the importance of our accomplishments or positive qualities. This can also play into “imposter fears”—we tell ourselves “it was just luck.”
  5. Over-Generalization: We apply one negative event to others, assuming that because one thing went wrong, others will too.

To overcome these types of negative self-talk, the first step is to recognize and acknowledge them and then to talk back to them. Milgram suggests trying to think about our negative thoughts at a distance, thinking about how logical or scientific our fears and anxiety are, i.e., what evidence do we have to really back them up? Then, try to find inspiration from something positive, be it an affirmation, a phrase, even an image that strengthens you. Journaling and talking about our fears and anxieties is also very useful.

Pathway to resilience, Photo courtesy of American Psychological Association

The second part of Milgram’s talk focused on imposter fears, which are very common among students. People who fear failure, have perfectionist tendencies, and compare themselves to others are more likely to have imposter fears. External factors (such as messages from friends and family, or organizational culture) can also feed into imposter fears. Imposter fears are normal, but if unchecked they can seriously increase stress over the course of a career and ultimately result in self-sabotaging behavior, such as not applying for new opportunities or not studying. To overcome imposter fears, we need to normalize them by reminding ourselves that they are a common response to new situations, but we also need to find meaning in other aspects of our lives, so we are able to move forward and not let these fears hold us back. It is crucial to think about “what brings meaning to our days, months, years,” and ideally, we should find meaning in relationships or activities separate from our work; this helps us stay resilient. At this point Milgram addressed what she calls the “elephant in the room,” the fact that the culture in science and medicine doesn’t always value self-care, but she challenged us to fight against the culture and try to change it. At the end of her talk, Milgram summed it all up by reminding us that in order “to do well, we have to be well.”

With a Schmear

Aileen Marshall

Assorted bagels, photo credit: unemployedeater.com

Bagels with lox, photo credit: Stu Spivak

New York City is known for many things—culture, nightlife, and food, to name a few. We already know about the widely recognized style of New York pizza and hot dogs. But did you know that the city is known for having the most authentic bagels? You can now get one anywhere, from a mass produced bagel in your local grocery store (generally not recommended) to many bakeries, delis, and restaurants around town, however they weren’t always so widely available. Where did bagels come from?

Various ancient cultures had some form of a bagel-like bread. There are Egyptian hieroglyphics that depict everyday people with round shaped bread with a hole in the middle. The design makes for even cooking and allows for easy transport, since many can be carried on a stick or a string. The bagel as we know it probably evolved in Eastern Europe, particularly Poland, in the Middle Ages. The earliest mention of a bagel in writing was from 1610 in the “Community Regulations” of Krakow. There is a legend that they were invented in 1683 in honor of the Polish king Jan Sobieski for saving Austria from Turkish invaders, but the earlier mention casts doubt on the story.

Bagels came to this country with Eastern European immigrants in the late nineteenth century. By 1900, there were seventy bagel bakeries on the Lower East Side. In 1907 the International Beigel Bakers Union was founded, which had the effect of limiting production mostly to this city. As these immigrants assimilated and moved across the country, so too did the popularity of and demand for bagels. Murray Lender, a Polish immigrant, opened a wholesale bagel bakery in New Haven, Connecticut in 1927, one of the few outside New York at the time. A turning point came in 1956, when the Lenders bought a freezer. They soon realized they could ship frozen bagels to distant retailers without them going stale. Today bagels are common in supermarkets, but Lenders’ bagels are the only mass produced bagels that retain authenticity.

By tradition, bagels are made by letting the shaped wheat-based dough sit for twelve hours at a cool temperature, around 40˚ to 50˚ F. Then they are boiled for about a minute before they are baked.  It is the boiling that gives them the sheen on the crust. True bagels have a dense chewy texture with a crust that has a slight snap when bitten. They should have absolutely no resemblance to white Wonder Bread.  Some say that New York City water gives bagels a better taste. According to the Smithsonian, the ratio of calcium to magnesium in our water binds with the gluten in the dough to give the bagels the accurate degree of chewiness.

Bagels come in different flavors including onion, sesame seed, poppy seed, cinnamon raisin, pumpernickel, rye, whole wheat, and egg. An “everything bagel” has some combination of these ingredients, having evolved from bakeries trying to use up all the dough they had left over. Bagels can be eaten as is or toasted, and usually topped with either butter, cream cheese (a schmear), jelly, lox, tomatoes, onions, capers, or some combination of these.  Around Saint Patrick’s Day, you may see some bagels dyed green. Different cities have their own style of bagels. In Chicago bagels are not boiled but baked with steam, giving them a very soft texture. Montreal’s bagels have dough containing malt and sugar but no salt. Honey is added to the boiling water for a sweeter taste. In London, bagels are smaller with a courser texture and more air bubbles. Since there is no legal regulation, many companies produce what they call “bagels” that are very far from the real thing.

Here in New York City, there are several famous bagel places as well as many smaller neighborhood establishments. The most familiar are Zabar’s, Russ and Daughters, the Second Avenue Deli, and Ess-a-Bagel. Another well-known store, H&H Bagels, is characteristically New York in that it was founded by a Puerto Rican family. The closest source to our university is Bagelworks, on First Avenue at 66th Street. So enjoy a typical city Sunday morning tradition and pick up the New York Times and a couple of bagels with a cream cheese and spend the rest of the morning relaxing with them.

Rockets’ Red Glare

Aileen Marshall


Are you looking forward to the Fourth of July holiday? It’s great to get a day off from work, and, of course, it is a celebration of the country’s independence. Yet another thing to get excited about is the traditional fireworks displays. Fireworks have been a part of the Independence Day tradition since the holiday started. There are all sorts of displays across the country, from hour-long, high-tech shows in big cities to local fire departments setting off Roman candles and a few standard fireworks in small towns.

Where did fireworks come from? Although some sources credit India as the country of origin, most sources say they were invented in China as far back as 200 B.C. People would roast bamboo branches, then the air pockets inside the bamboo would make a loud pop. At first, the Chinese would use these to ward off evil spirits. Some time between the tenth and twelfth centuries, they learned that if they put an early form of gunpowder inside the branch, it would make an even louder bang, which is credited as being the first firecracker. Adding shavings from iron or steel inside the bamboo make them sparkle. After a while, they learned to attach firecrackers to arrows, and shoot them at enemies. They even created simple rockets by putting gunpowder in a wide tube with the bottom end open and lighting a fuse, which they then aimed at opposing armies.

During the twelfth century with the development of the Silk Road, gunpowder and fireworks started making their way to Europe. Throughout the Renaissance, fireworks spread across Europe and became popular to use for celebrations. They were used during the wedding of Henry the VII of England and the coronation of Anne Boleyn. Italy became famous for its experts in fireworks manufacturing and the production of colorful displays. In 1742, George II ordered a display to mark the end of the War of Austrian Succession and commissioned Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks specifically for the event.

The early European settlers brought fireworks with them to the American colonies. Captain John Smith set off the very first fireworks in America in Jamestown, Virginia in 1608. It was John Adams who started the tradition of using fireworks, or “illuminations”, as they were then called, to celebrate Independence Day. On July 3, 1776 he wrote a letter to his wife about the Continental Congress adopting the Declaration of Independence. In the letter, he wrote, “I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. … It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.” Philadelphia held the first Fourth of July fireworks show the following year, along with shooting off guns and cannons. In 1789, fireworks were used for George Washington’s inauguration. At that point, fireworks were widely available for sale to the public. Over the years, it became common for politicians to use them to attract attention to their speeches, though early displays were relatively small by today’s standards. By the mid-1800s it was common throughout the country to have fireworks for the Fourth of July. A relatively long fireworks show was launched over the Brooklyn Bridge in 1892 to mark the 400th anniversary of Columbus landing in the Americas. Notable pyrotechnic shows were held in Washington D.C. in 1976 for the Bicentennial and New York in 1983 for the Brooklyn Bridge Centennial.  What many consider the greatest display was held over New York Harbor in 1986 for the 100th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty.

The very early fireworks were nothing more than a big bang and a flash of orange light. It was the addition of various chemicals over the centuries that created the different colors and shapes that we know today. The Chinese early form of gunpowder consisted of saltpeter (potassium nitrate), sulfur, and carbon from charcoal. In the 1800s, Italian masters added various chemicals to create colors and the sunburst shape. Today, pyrotechnics are made up of two parts: the mortar that propels it up into the air and the shell that explodes in the air in a pre-determined shape. The mortar contains gunpowder, where currently, potassium nitrate is replaced with potassium chlorate, an oxidation agent, raising the combustion temperature of the fireworks to 2,000 °C (3,632 °F). This allows for the utilization of a variety of chemicals for colors. The shell holds gunpowder and nodules of chemicals, called stars, which give the firework its colors. Various metal salts burn to give off the different colors. Calcium salts burn orange, sodium salts burn yellow and copper salts burn blue.  If the stars are distributed randomly in the shell, they will explode in a circular shape. If they are packed in the shell in specific patterns, they will explode in specific shapes, such as a weeping willow or concentric circles. The chemical reaction of gases expanding faster than the speed of sound makes the loud boom.

Unfortunately, fireworks also have their downside. They can be very dangerous and cause damage, injuries, and even deaths. As early as 1731, a law was passed in Rhode Island banning the “mischievous” use of fireworks. By 1783, out of a growing concern for public safety, weapons for Independence Day celebrations were phased out and municipalities encouraged only official fireworks shows. From 1903 to 1907, 1,153 people were killed and 21,520 were injured in the United States from fireworks. In 1964, a Macy’s barge set up with fireworks for the Fourth of July show went off prematurely. Two people were killed and four were injured. A fireworks factory in the Netherlands exploded in 2000, destroying 400 houses and killing 17 people. As late as 2013, eight people died and 11,000 were injured in the U.S. A. alone. On July 4, 2015 Jason Pierre-Paul, a defensive end for the New York Giants, severely injured his hand trying to setoff some fireworks. He subsequently had to have his right index finger amputated, which significantly affected his career. Today, the sale of fireworks is illegal in many states, including New York. In those states where it is allowed, fireworks sold to consumers are supposed to contain less than 50 milligrams of gunpowder.

However, here in the city, we can enjoy some great pyrotechnics without the danger. Macy’s has had a Fourth of July fireworks show for over fifty years. The barges will be back on the East River this year, which means that some of it can be seen from the Rockefeller campus. The actual fireworks show starts at 9:20 p.m., but the television broadcast on NBC starts at 8:00 p.m. There are always a number of celebrities performing. This year they will be marking the 100th anniversary of Irving Berlin’s God Bless America, with a rendition by Kelly Clarkson. Whatever you do during this holiday, be sure to be safe.


Black Magic Juice


Johannes Buheitel

I’m confused, disoriented. The ringing from my alarm still in my ear, I’m performing the absolute minimum necessary number of tasks that prepare me to go out and join the herd of zombies slowly moving through the streets. Phasing in and out of consciousness, me and my fellow undead finally manage to stumble into the same type of place, as if we had all been drawn there by an invisible force. It is here, where I get what I crave: A black magic juice whose ingestion will allow me to start feeling like a human being for the first time that day. What I crave, of course, is coffee.

I might be slightly exaggerating for dramatic effect, which doesn’t make it less true that many people all around the globe rely on a good morning cup of joe as an essential part of their daily routine. But recently, those people started to grow increasingly worried as news outlets have begun reporting that the State of California wants to force coffee shops and other places that sell brewed coffee to label it as cancerogenic. So clearly, many are now asking: Have we been drinking poison the whole time?

Let’s back up a moment: Since 1986, California law requires all companies with 10 or more employees to post clear warnings on or around products that could pose a danger to a potential consumer (apparently, if your company has only 9 employees you’re allowed to give people cancer, but let’s not go there). This risk is defined by a product containing certain chemicals that are listed in the law’s documentation, among them, one at the center of this debate: acrylamide. Acrylamide is formed as a byproduct of the Maillard reaction, which occurs pretty much anytime food items (especially starchy ones) are heated over a certain temperature. This reaction is responsible for the crust on a seared steak, the dark rind of a freshly baked loaf of bread, or the crispy exterior of a french fry (you know, all the good stuff). And—you guessed it—coffee beans owe their beautiful brown sheen to this chemical reaction happening during the roasting process.

So how dangerous is acrylamide? Well, it all depends on how you look at it. The results of studies in which mice and rats had been fed with the chemicals have shown a clear dose-dependent correlation between cancer and acrylamide. Taking these results at face value, we could fairly confidently assume that acrylamide will have a cancerogenic effect on humans as long as—and this is important—one ingests enough of it. I’m stressing this fact, because the amount of acrylamide the rodents were exposed to in these laboratory experiments are 1,000 – 100,000 times higher on a per kilogram basis than what can be expected from dietary consumption in humans, which makes it very unlikely that one can take up enough dietary acrylamide to cause immediate harm.

Of course, this fact doesn’t exonerate acrylamide just yet. What about long-term exposure of humans to small amounts of this compound? This is where it gets complicated. You see, long-term dietary studies are usually quite tricky to perform, control, and analyze well. This is due to many reasons, with one of the most problematic being the reliance of many studies on their subject’s self-reporting and our tendency to (willingly or unwillingly) misrepresent the number of things we put into our mouths. Nonetheless, these studies have been scientists’ bread and butter (no pun intended) for decades, allowing them to assess the influence of diet on our health. And up to this day all of these studies have failed to prove a clear correlation between acrylamide in cancer in humans. This means that from all the information we have so far, we can assume that it is unlikely that the concentrations found in a normal human diet (including in coffee) will have any measurable effect on your health. In particular, your cancer risk is way more likely to be influenced by factors such as genetics, certain habits, such as smoking, or whether you are occupationally exposed to higher concentrations of chemicals or radiation. But, as I mentioned, our current studies aren’t perfect, which is why the National Cancer Institute suggests additional epidemiological long-term studies that do a better job tracking certain metabolic markers.

But now let’s get back to coffee. Should you stop drinking it because of acrylamide? Probably not. Should it get a label because of its acrylamide content? Probably not. Even so, you might say to yourself: “Well, let’s just play it safe and cut the coffee”. In this case; however, I want you to consider this: In 2014, the results of a meta-analysis of 21 studies conducted between 1966 and 2013 showed that coffee consumption of 3-4 cups per day was not only not correlated with cancer mortality, but even decreased (!) the likelihood of death from all causes and also specifically from cardiovascular disease. So, the next time you want to reach for this expensive face cream behind your bathroom mirror, think about going into your kitchen instead, because those little brown beans on the counter might hold the actual secret formula for longevity. Black magic juice, indeed.


For Your Consideration – And They’re Off! Edition


Jim Keller   


I maintain that one can liken the Oscar race to a horserace with each studio betting on its thoroughbreds hoping to place. In the analogy, the studio is the owner, public relations is the jockey, and the horse is the actor or film. Here I’ve included my rankings as they stood on the eve of Oscar nominations—the number in parentheses indicates my placement following nominations. I chose eight nominees for Best Picture out of a possible ten. All other categories reflect five nominees. The picks that appear in black text within the table were my original nominee picks, and those in red represent actual nominees that I had not chosen.  

 Because Christian Bale and Michael Shannon have history of sneaking in at the last minute, I chose to go with them. (See Bale’s Best Actor nomination in 2014 for American Hustle and his Best Supporting Actor nomination in 2016 for The Big Short and Shannon’s supporting role last year for Nocturnal Animals). That’s the thing about the Oscar race: just because you try not to get burned, doesn’t mean you won’t in the end. 

 With that, I give you my current Oscar predictions:


When Winter Makes You Feel Like Crap: A Look at Seasonal Depression


Antonia Martinez

A text message stopped me dead in my tracks: “The moving truck is coming next Friday.” So soon? Wasn’t it only a few weeks ago that my cousin mentioned the idea of relocating to Nevada? She has lived in New York City her entire life. Now, here she was nearly all packed and ready to leave for good. “What made you want to leave now?,” I asked. “It’s the cold,” she said, revealing that heading for warmer pastures had been a secret desire for years. “I get so depressed in the winter time.” Coincidentally, I had just been reading about people like her. “That’s a thing,” I told her. “Yeah,” she said. “I know.”  

That “thing” is seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a pattern of recurring depression that coincides with the change of seasons. Winter SAD, or winter depression, is the most common. Symptoms appear in fall or winter then subside with the return of spring or summer.  Reverse SAD, or summer depression, is rare, accounting for only one-tenth of cases.  SAD affects an estimated 1-10% of the global population, predominantly those living far from the equator. It is more prevalent in women than men and more frequently starts in young adulthood. Roughly 10 million Americans suffer from SAD.   

The clinical definition of seasonal affective disorder began appearing in the scientific literature in the 1980s, but the phenomenon of illness triggered by seasonal change has been described since ancient times, including by Hippocrates himself. Yet, the exact cause remains elusive. Many scientists believe that seasonal shifts in the amount of available sunlight create imbalance in the hormones that affect our mood and internal clock, triggering depression. Reduced sunlight reduces levels of our “happiness hormone,” serotonin and increases levels of the ominous-sounding “hormone of darkness,” melatonin, which affects sleep patterns. However, some scientists question if SAD really exists. 


Signs and Symptoms 

If you find yourself desperately seeking brightly lit or sunny places every winter or keeping the lights burning all night at home, you might have SAD or a less severe form of the condition called “winter blues.” In his book, Winter Blues, SAD research pioneer Norman Rosenthal, M.D. says many sufferers instinctively gravitate toward light in an effort to feel better, but don’t necessarily make the connection. Some people worsen their condition by withdrawing to dimly lit or dark places in response to their darker mood. Other unhealthy attempts to self-medicate include overeating and excessive use of stimulants. Common signs and symptoms of SAD include: 

Winter SAD: low energy and extreme fatigue,  difficulty waking up, increased cravings for sweets and starches, increased cravings for alcohol, caffeine, nicotine or recreational drugs, weight gain, poor concentration, feeling down or depressed, social withdrawal, decreased sex drive, and unexplained aches and pains. 

Summer SAD: poor sleep or insomnia, loss of appetite, weight loss, and anxiety. 


Treatment and Prevention
If left untreated, SAD can become more severe, leading to other problems, including serious mental health issues such as eating disorders and suicidal thoughts. Treatment may include light therapy, medication, psychotherapy, and mind-body techniques such as meditation and relaxation techniques. Light therapy, the go-to treatment for SAD, exposes the patient to full-spectrum bright light in an attempt to rebalance hormone levels and readjust the internal clock. However, people may mistake SAD for conditions that have look-alike symptoms, among them: seasonal bipolar disorder, hypothyroidism, hypoglycemia, and chronic fatigue syndrome. So it’s important to consult your physician if you think you may have seasonal affective disorder.  Preventative measures you can take to help reduce symptoms or your chances of triggering SAD include: exercise regularly, spend more time outdoors, stay socially active, restrict your sleep to 7-9 hours a night, eat a balanced diet, reduce stress, use full spectrum light bulbs and home and work, get plants, and add color to your walls and wardrobe. 


Explore these resources to learn more about SAD: 

Winter Blues:  Seasonal Affective Disorder and How to Overcome It, Norman Rosenthal, M.D. 

Seasonal Affective Disorder (NIH) 

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) (Mayo Clinic) 

Why Winter Makes You SAD: Seasonal Affective Disorder Explained (The Royal Institution YouTube Channel) 


Nessa Noms: Paku Pakus



Vanessa J Wu*


Paku Pakus is a new ramen restaurant on 2nd Avenue, between 72nd and 73rd Streets. It is right off the 72nd Street stop on the Q line and opened on Monday, October 23. The restaurant is the culmination of two sisters’ love of food and Japan, modified to fit the needs of those on the Upper East Side. They are enthusiastic about their housemade products, signature flavors, and quality you can taste. I spoke with both the owner, Chin Ip, and the chef, Sarah Ip.

Paku Pakus Sisters.


NS: Would you say there’s a special meaning to the name Paku Pakus?

CI: Paku paku literally means open and close. So for dining, it means your mouth is opening and closing constantly. Eating nonstop and also in big mouthfuls. Paku paku is also this [picks up origami fortune teller]; it is part of our logo. This paper-folding is like fortune-telling, so it would be good to expect what is unexpected and let life tell you what is going on and the next step.

Paku Paku.


NS: What inspired you to open this restaurant?

CI: I spent quite some time in Japan–a lot of different kinds of places, a lot of different kinds of food. But ramen has really become my passion. I like trying different kinds of ramen from different regions. Different regions have different kinds of soup. Like kaito is more fattening, more rich. Soup noodle is one thing, but I found out I also like mazemen, which is with different kinds of sauce; it’s kind of spicy. In the Upper East Side, you don’t see a lot of ramen shops, unlike Lower Manhattan, so I saw this as a good opportunity to open one for myself. And I knew to find a good chef, so I hired Sarah and the team in the kitchen. I think, together, we can really make it work.


NS: Sarah, how did you start working with Chin and Paku Pakus?

SI: Actually, we’re sisters! So we’ve been working together for quite a long while. We’re always looking for good food, good restaurants. If we thought a restaurant was serving crappy food, we thought, “Oh, if we had a restaurant, we could do it better.”


NS: How long have you been cooking?

SI: I’ve been cooking since I was young! Actually, I was a pastry chef before. I love cooking and I went to Paris for cooking classes. Also, I spent time in Japan. We tried many different places for ramen, so we were like “Oh! Maybe this is something we can handle and try to make our own.”


NS: How long were the two of you in Japan?

CI: I have been on and off for 2-3 years; Sarah would travel to Japan and visit me. She also visited her friends there before. She and our cooking staff have been working on Japanese food for quite a while, so I thought this would be a good team to start with.


NS: What do you both think makes for good ramen?

CI: First of all, it should not be soggy. The noodles have to be chewy, but not undercooked. For soup noodles, the soup has to be steamingly hot, especially to fit the cold weather in New York. The meat–the chashu–has to be melty, not dry; it should still be moist, so we keep the fat to keep the moisture of the meat. Egg-wise, it should not be overcooked, it should be—

SI: Soft-boiled.

CI: Yes. That’s what I was thinking. How about you?

SI: No MSG! The soup that we cook, I cook over 8 hours. A lot of people just use from concentrate.

CI: We are trying to tell the story to the community about the birth of our most popular dish so far, the Rich and Creamy. So how we get it, we have a big pot and we load it with a lot of bones, full of gelatin, which is good for our cold weather.

Rich and Creamy.

SI: We use maybe 60-80 pounds of meat in order to reduce to only 20 quarts of soup. So in the summer, we will probably make it less concentrated, because it will likely be too rich for people in the summer. But in the cold, it is really good when it’s really thick. So if you put a spoon to your lips, it’s gonna’ stick.

CI: It’s one of our most popular ones so far. It’s really picking up in the cold weather.

SI: For the dumplings and everything, we grind the pork ourselves, do the dumplings ourselves, instead of just buying it from the store.

CI: The principle is that we are not making anything for our customers which we ourselves don’t eat. So for us, no MSG and the pork has to be hand-ground. That’s our principle; that’s our rule.


NS: What would you say is your favorite item, for each of you, on the menu?

CI: Tantan men! I always go for some strong flavor–black coffee, strong tea. So tantan is my favorite because it is spicy, nutty, sour. Everything seems to be going on in your mouth.

Tantan Mazemen.

SI: The chicken lollipops. First, we got the Japanese wing sauce, and after that, we thought why don’t we put some strawberry puree and balsamic vinegar? We loved it. That’s still my favorite.


NS: What are your future plans for the restaurant?

CI: After we get more business, we will be thinking of spinning off to other areas in Manhattan or Queens. That will be some years down the road. We want to really stabilize our quality, make this one successful, and make a name for ourselves before we start expanding.

SI: After we make this successful, maybe we can have a central kitchen and make our own noodles. It is only one store right now and the space in the kitchen is not really big, so we cannot make our own noodles. But if we have a central kitchen, we could.

CI: Our next step is making our own noodles. That’s how you can maintain the quality and customize it, too.

SI: For example, some of our customers think the lunch portion noodles are too big. If we could make our own noodles, we could make it a smaller portion for lunch hours. For lunch, we have our lunch combo with the salad and appetizer; if they have the full portion of the ramen, it’s probably too much and they’ll fall asleep when they get back to the office.

CI: Also, we think the mazemen, those with sauce, should go with a thick noodle. It’s like pasta. To me, I’d like for it to be like linguine, but when we check with our supplier, the thickest they can offer us is not really to our standards.


NS: And are you planning on expanding the menu?

SI: We are minimizing at the beginning because we like to do everything step by step. We still have a lot of interesting dishes that we’re going to do.

CI: Some of the items printed on our flyer, we are taking out from our menu, because we talked to the staff and they said it’s better to minimize the number of dishes and make sure it’s good quality before we expand the menu. I think the next step is vegetarian stock. We are now offering fish stock and the pork stock that we are proud of. It used to be a Jewish area, so the pork stock is actually a minus here. As for the fish stock, some people are vegetarian, so they can’t even take the fish stock. So we really want to embrace our vegetarian community.


NS: Do you have any sneak previews of what you want to add to the menu once you start expanding, besides making your own noodles and veggie stock?

CI: The ones we planned before that we’ve taken out from the menu. Like the cheesy gyoza. We find it quite interesting. The first few days, we offered it and people loved it; it’s just a little labor-intensive.

SI: It has parmesan on the bottom, so it’s crispy.

CI: It takes a long time to prepare, so I said let’s sacrifice it for the time being and come back later. That is one thing. Another is the eggplant, which is on our flyer, but we took it out as well. That one is –

SI: Spicy miso and also lime miso. We use the Korean spicy sauce, mix it with the miso on the eggplant, and grill the top; you can eat it alone or with chips.

CI: The miso that we use is four types of miso; we blend it all together in different portions, so it is something that is really house-made for us. It’s not something you can get from the supermarket. We want to use this miso blend that we have, our signature one, and use it in more and more dishes.


NS: The area we’re in is more Eastern, traditional seating while the rest of the restaurant is more Western style seating. What made you choose this difference in layout?

CI: Tatami is very uniquely Japanese. I thought a tatami table would be good especially when it’s facing the street, kind of overlooking the street: being seen and also seeing people. The problem with the tatami is that a lot of Westerners, probably with long legs, would have a harder time, because with the real tatami, people sit on the floor with their legs folded at the back. That’s why we have the hole down there so people can stretch out their legs. We tried to make it Japanese, but we modified it in order to try to fit the Americans. We have the long table over there in the back as well. We thought of putting those low stools, which is very Asian, but we found out this area, the Upper East, has a lot of elderly people, so they may have problems with backless seating. So for the backless, we have it at the bar, but for in the dining hall, we have something with a back.


NS: There’s this eye-catching mural all along the wall when we walk in. Tell me about how that came to be.

CI: Noodle shops usually have a long noodle bar. This was our first thought of what to do with our décor. But the thing is our setup is a little difficult, so we changed our mind. When you think of a noodle bar, it’s a long table. And we wanted to have a lot of different, colorful characters. When you think of a long table, with a lot of characters, the first thing that comes to mind is Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper.” So when I talked to my manga artist in Tokyo, I gave them the idea of a long table with different characters that [mimicks] Da Vinci’s “Last Supper”. So some of the gestures, you can find in “The Last Supper” as well. The judge who is holding back those two guys behind him, you can also find in “The Last Supper,” but we kind of changed it a little bit. The theme is still there, but instead of Jesus saying someone betrayed him, we get the reactions of colorful figures and how they handle their different bowls of noodles. A little boy gets shocked by his dad and drops his bowl, so it flies off the table and we have a girl in school uniform flying off and catching a mouthful. And we have a guy nonstop paku paku, nonstop eating. We also have a ramen competition–three contenders trying to get in the competition: the winner and the other two, still trying to fight for it and stay in the game. We’re thinking of different ways people will handle their noodles, how people treasure it, and fight for what they want.


NS: You mentioned the ramen eating contest. Do you think you’ll have anything like that here?

CI: That would be a very good promotion for us, but we haven’t really thought that through yet.


NS: Is there anything either of you would like to add?

SI: I really want to take any comments where we can make improvements from it. At the beginning, I don’t mind. Tell me, instead of not coming back!

CI: Daily, we are fine-tuning our recipes from the comments we are getting from our customers. The serving team and the cooking team are working very closely. If anyone isn’t finding it good enough for any reason, we always tell the cooking team.


*This interview was conducted on November 4, 2017. Since then, Paku Pakus has made some of the changes mentioned in the interview, such as creating a vegetarian-friendly broth.


New York State Of Mind


Guadalupe Astorga

This month Natural Selections interviews Kipchirchir Bitok, Postdoctoral Associate.

How long have you been living in the New York area? 

Five years now.

Where do you currently live?  Which is your favorite neighborhood?

I first moved to Brooklyn before I came to the Rockefeller housing. I like the Upper East Side, because it’s convenient to go to work, I can go running to the Central Park and the East River esplanade, Randall’s Island, even Brooklyn. You also have access to several subway lines, so it’s very convenient.

What do you think is the most overrated thing in the city? And underrated? 

Overrated, I think is the subway. It’s always crowded and delayed. I like the Citi Bikes over the subways. Underrated, the diversity of the city, there’s people from all over the world, and a great variety of food. I really enjoy meeting people from far countries.

What do you miss most when you are out of town? 

Even if I think the subway is overrated, I miss it when I’m out of town. When I go to a city without a subway I really miss it.


Has anything (negative or positive) changed about you since you became one of us New Yorkers?

Not really, I can’t think of anything negative or positive that has changed. I thought I wouldn’t like the city because it would be overwhelming. But, I really like it now, and I know how to navigate the jungle, so that’s positive.

If you could change one thing about NYC, what would that be?

Pay fewer taxes. I feel I pay too much in taxes and get little out of it.

What is your favorite weekend activity in NYC?

I like finding hidden places with delicious food, I like to walk around different places, do my groceries. I like to run on bridges all around the city. I also enjoy getting out of the city and to go hiking.

What is the most memorable experience you have had in NYC?  

When my parents came, I enjoyed showing them the city and watching their surprise was a great experience.

Bike, MTA or walk it?


If you could live anywhere else, where would that be? 

I would live outside the city. I like the area of Mountain Lake, upstate. The city can be overwhelming.

Do you think of yourself as a New Yorker?

Oh, yeah!

Dominique Ansel Nominated Best Pastry Chef in the World: A Cronut Comeback?


Juliette Wipf

Picture by Edmondo Campisi

Who hasn’t heard of the famed 2013 food the Cronut? After quickly gaining worldwide attention, Cronut followers were soon considered frivolous, and the pastry over-hyped. TIME magazine naming the pastry one of the 25 best inventions of the year in 2013, can be a particularly bittersweet pill for us scientists to swallow. However, the fame of this hybrid delicacy is based on the skills of an extraordinary chef, Dominique Ansel, creator of the Cronut, who recently won the title of “Best Pastry Chef in the World,” as part of the 2017 World’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards. Ansel received his training at Fauchon in Paris, a legendary delicatessen company and symbol of French-style luxury. Without having any sort of culinary degree, he started as a seasonal staff member, and ultimately worked himself up to head of Fauchon’s international expansion. In 2005, he settled down in New York City and worked as the executive pastry chef at Daniel, a renowned French restaurant on the corner of 65th Street and Park Avenue. Many ascribe a large part of Daniel’s success to Ansel, who worked at the restaurant when it first received three Michelin stars. He finally opened his own bakery in Soho in 2011, which gained cult status long before the Cronut® hype. Other popular pastry creations by Ansel are the DKA (Dominique’s Kouign Amann, a Breton puff pastry), Frozen S’mores (ice cream covered in chocolate millefeuille and flamed marshmallow, served on an apple wood-smoked willow branch), the Chocolate Chip Cookie Shot (a shot glass shaped cookie filled with cold-infused vanilla milk, only available after 3 p.m.), the Magic Soufflé (notably the only soufflé that does not collapse, with Grand Mariner liquor and orange blossom), the Gingerbread Pinecone (a layered pastry finished with 70 individual chocolate petals), and the Christmas Morning Cereal (only available in December). You can also choose from more conservative, but similarly beautifully presented pastries on display, or a classic chocolate croissant. My favorite is the Pear & Champagne Mousse Cake.

In case you decide to try a real Cronut, let me give you some advice. Everyday, about 350 Cronuts are made. The flavor of the Cronut changes every month, and is never repeated. Dominique Ansel Bakery opens at 8 a.m., and to secure a Cronut you should arrive before 7:30 a.m. If you are lucky, the bakery will serve you a sweet little appetizer while you are waiting in line. Once you get to the cashier, you can purchase two Cronuts per order. However, you can go back to the end of the line, wait again and purchase two more. If you don’t want to wait in line, you can plan ahead and preorder the pastry online. Every Monday at 11 a.m. sharp, orders are taken for dates two weeks out. You will therefore wait longer for your pastry fix, but are allowed to purchase up to six Cronuts at a time.

Good Luck!

Picture by Juliette Wipf

Picture by Edmondo Campisi

Culture Corner: On the 50th Anniversary of Sgt. Pepper’s


Bernie Langs

Detail of the elusive back cover of Sgt. Pepper’s with lyrics and The Beatles in full costume

Late 20th century philosophy took a longwinded detour from practical thought with its micro-analysis on the importance of the structure of language, but there is one idea that emerged that I find of great interest. It is the notion that once an author writes a work of literature and publishes it for a wide array of readers, in some manner the writer relinquishes his or her rights as the sole proprietor of the work. Since the reader is drawing from their own experiences, what is created in their minds brings whole new meanings, imaginations, and so on beyond the control of the original author’s intention.

Along those lines, I would suggest that after The Beatles (George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney and John Lennon) laid down the instrumentation and vocals for the songs on the 1967 masterpiece Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band with George Martin producing and scoring the orchestral charts and Geoff Emerick at the helm as engineer, the meaning of the work was passed on to their multitude of listeners as individuals. What follows here is a song-by-song analysis of my personal notion of Sgt. Pepper’s.

The LP opens to the sounds of a mulling crowd outdoors, awaiting the stage appearance of a good-time band, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. A distant, surreal wave of an accordion invites the listener to join the pleasant afternoon outing. After the misery of touring and the madness of Beatlemania, McCartney devised the concept of Sgt. Pepper’s as a Beatles’ alter-ego group, who would perform the album. The famous first lines, “It was twenty years ago today, Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play,” nods to an imagined, sweet nostalgia. The guitars are on the heavy side and Martin introduces the first break with bold horns as the crowd elicits a peal of laughter to some antic on the bandshell they are witnessing.

McCartney enthusiastically tells us in his vocalization about what we will be hearing in the “live performance” to follow, and sends the cheering crowd off to listen to singer, “Billy Shears.” We’re seamlessly led next to the quieter studio sound of Starr singing With a Little Help from My Friends. The acoustics and overall sound of Pepper’s is immediately discovered to be new for The Beatles. The mature period of the band began with its two previous albums, Rubber Soul and Revolver, each boasting revolutionary songwriting and production, but still maintaining a loose feel in sections. Pepper’s, on the other hand, is musically and sonically perfect and The Beatles sang or played take after take to make sure it would be so. It’s incredibly cleanly produced and also very tightly bound, as if the band knew their efforts would be examined and listened to for many decades. This near sterility contrasts sharply with The Beatle’s swan song, Abbey Road. that is also technically perfect but very warm in production.

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Life on a Roll

Qiong Wang

One amazing thing about New York City is that it is never the same experience whenever you step out onto the streets. You will always witness different details, even if you are walking on the same street, at a different time of the day, on different days of the week, and in different seasons of the year, such as brand-new street arts that appeared overnight, new décor from fashion store windows or random moments of a New Yorker that fit beautifully into the city backdrop. It is like you are going on a date with a different city at different times. Here are just a few examples of these city moments on a roll.


Quotable quote

“Loblolly – A lout; a stupid, rude or awkward person

Blatherskite – A person who talks foolishly at length

Poltroon – A spiritless coward

Cacafuego – A swaggering braggart or boaster

Crepehanger – A killjoy; someone who takes a pessimistic view

Slubberdegullion – A dirty rascal; scoundrel….”

In Merriam-Webster.com. Retrieved 4/15/15, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hacker

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

By George Barany and Marcia Brott

George Barany is a Rockefeller alum (1977). Marcia Brott is a human genome researcher by day, wordsmith by night. Both are currently at the University of Minnesota. For more about this specific puzzle, including a link to the answer, visit http://tinyurl.com/wonderlandpuz. More Barany and Friends crosswords are at http://tinyurl.com/gbpuzzle.

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