Ciao, Manganaro Foods

Another New York staple closes. It opened in 1893.

In 1949, E.B. White wrote “No one should come to New York to live unless he is willing to be lucky.” But now anyone who comes to New York can be lucky. There is no challenge to it because the city caters to being easy, to being effortless, to being the same as every other place, to catering to every whim, serving every caprice, and in so doing, abandons its own sense of self. Only if you know where to look now, does New York peek its head from around a remodeled building and bashfully approach to say hello, extending a warm hand, a weary smile, frightened to get too close in case it gets slapped again. But too soon it’s drowned out again, sent back into its shadows and side streets by the fury of the construction of another shiny new structure and the lines of cleverly dressed patrons waiting to get into the next place that is here today and irrelevant next month.

Manganaro was a place where the food that was produced and consumed by the kind of people who made this city possible and struggled to make it what we know it as today was made. The food nourished not only gastronomically, but also like stories told among people, memories offered around a table, and by serving a way of life that we could use a little more of today. Clearly, Manganaro’s devotion to its store and neighborhood never changed. Which makes it all the more appallingly shocking, how deeply and profoundly we have changed. Probably for good, and not always for the better. Progress is a tricky thing because, while necessary, it too often makes the arrogant suggestion that all that came before needed to end. Other great cities of the world seem to instrinsically understand something that we simply don’t about how much richer it is to move forward carrying the things from the past that made us who we are.

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Ciao Manganaro. You will be missed by many though you were of late appreciated by too few.

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Adam Gopnik at the 92nd Street Y, Tribeca

As a proud, unabashed lover of cold weather it was with great delight, the kind I reserve for the first snowfall of winter and the first Hockey Night In Canada broadcast of a new NHL season, to hear that writer Adam Gopnik would be doing a kind of ‘sampler disc’ of his 5 part CBC Massey Lectures on Winter.

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The lectures travel through different facets of winter entitled Romantic, Radical, Recuperative, and Recreational. In the last segment of the lectures and of his talk, “Remembering Winter”, Mr. Gopnik reflects on the idea of losing winter and the effects of that loss, both in the metaphorical sense through a disconnect with what struggling through winter used to mean before our modern-day conveniences made ignoring winter possible and in the literal sense with the realisation of our effect on the planet through climate change.

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For those of us who have had to reluctantly or otherwise embrace winter for most of our lives, whether it arrives with the crawl of a mudslide or like the snap of a broken tree branch, Mr. Gopnik’s reflections have a way of thawing from our memories the moments we cherish about winter that we dust off and re-examine every year as we once again pull out our winter coats, checking the pockets and stitching for any loose threads. There is, invariably, always something we had forgotten about last winter with the passage of languid summer and those memories warm and protect us like the sweater we haven’t worn since the last time the trees had no leaves.

Even when, as Mr. Gopnik put it in his book, he risked “getting lost in philosophical snowdrifts from which my frozen body will someday be recovered”, he was still a joy to listen to and, never having heard him speak since first reading him ten years ago, I was glad to have met one of the people who’s work gave me the courage to write.

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As we left, one of only three snowfalls of the year. How appropriate…