October 12, 2012
LIFE CAFE NYC ON TOUR —
We’ve been gone awhile and we have truly missed you! With big Life changes come adjustments. And we’ve had plenty. After 31 years of running Life Cafe in NYC, it was time to put it behind us and reconnect with John’s roots in Europe. John said I deserved to go out in style (I couldn’t say no!) and so he booked us passage on Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 to Southampton, England. The great ship is the largest liner in the world and has to be the classiest.
The QM2 was berthed at Red Hook, a short taxi ride from our old apartment near Bushwick. The sun blazed down on the top deck from where we had glorious views of New York Harbor. At precisely 5pm the great whistles blew, the sun glinted on the towers of Manhattan and the ship cast off. As we sipped our G & Ts (the very English Gin and Tonic) and pulled away from the dock, Frank Sinatra sang out “New York, New York”. It was a moment to bring tears to a glass eye!
Being a guest on the QM2 was an amazing experience; we had the North Atlantic to cross in seven luxurious days and nights. It was all so new for us. It was luxury on steroids.
I had visited Europe and Britain but not for an extended time as I’d always had Life’s business to come back to. For John the trip was a return to familiar pastures in England. But Spain was going to be a completely new experience for him too.
All meals aboard the luxurious liner were “White Star” sumptuous so as we were to begin our quest for down-to-earth fare once we found ourselves on terra firma, we had a long way to tumble back down to Bohemia. Meanwhile, High Tea was very grand!
Once we landed in Southampton where The QM2 docked, we had to get up country to York. From there we made our way over to John’s favorite seaside haunt, Flamborough Head, a little known rocky limestone promontory which sticks out five miles into the North Sea. His generous sister and brother-in-law, Ann and Terry, graciously offered us the use of their luxurious caravan where they promised we would have a comfortable buffer as we transitioned into our new life.
John had waxed hungrily all along the way about the delicious yet simple foods of his childhood connected with trips made with his grandparents to Flamborough in the fifties. There they had a caravan (“trailer” if you’re American) called “Rosea” that hung on fast to its site on top of a cliff through long and stormy winters, and welcomed them back in Spring with hissing gas mantles, salty air and scary insects under pillows.
John wanted me to try first Gammon (Ham Steak) and Eggs, the same as they ate at a pub on a stop along the 70-mile journey over to the coast in his grandfather’s Ford Popular. We enjoyed a very excellent rendition of the dish at the Rose and Crown in Flamborough Village.
This was all very well (and delicious). As for me, I yearned to discover what a Dressed Crab was.
The delicacy was introduced to me by Alf, one of our formal dinner partners in the Britannia Restaurant on the QM2.
Alf would say no more than it was the only civilized way to buy and eat crab, which perked my curiosity. I also discovered John’s Granddad, Harold, couldn’t resist fresh North Sea crab on occasion, even though he was allergic to it! Luckily, I was able to acquire one side-by-side with my personal favorite, Lobster, both freshly harvested less than a half mile away from where we bought them in Flamborough and cooked, seasoned then dressed right there on premises.
Once we settled ourselves into Ann and Terry’s comfortable caravan, it was time to undress our dressed crab and make it the star of a very special crab salad served traditionally with brown bread and a refreshing glass of dry white wine.