Thursday, November 19, 2015

Where Time Stands Still

It's rare--or impossible, I guess--for time to stand still.  I am all for forward movement and embracing the new (that's my story anyway), but there is something undeniably special about places where time changes little.  Where I live, almost nothing looks the same it did when I was a child.  Sometimes as I'm driving past a strip mall or a bank, a vision of the field or farmhouse or forest that used to live there will consume me.  Probably as people 25 years older than I felt when they would drive past my suburban childhood neighborhood.  But what belongs and what doesn't is often seen through a rather selfish lens.  At least for me. 
Those twinges of sadness pale in comparison to the joy I feel when I pull up to Carfagna's.  


Carfagna's has been there forever and nothing has changed.  It smells the same, they have the same inventory, the aisles are still tight, the butchers still wear those coats, and the parking lot is always a disaster. 
There are charming and engaging ladies at the cash register, and men to carry your bags to your car.  The wine guy either likes you or he doesn't--he'll let you know.  If he likes you, it is hard to get out in less than 45 minutes.  He likes me and I like him.  I look forward to seeing him and hearing about his newest buys.  He perpetually tries to convince me I'll like this Chianti and sells me on the love story that goes into any good bottle of wine.  I still don't like the Chianti that much, but feel a part of the vivid imagery now attached to the label.  The meat counter is always busy and you will always have to wait.  Do yourself a favor,  don't come if you are in a rush.  Sure, the line will move quickly.  But you'll miss the butcher banter behind the counter, the perfectly sculpted shampoo-set in front of you, the happy labels on all the Italian imports, and the symphonic aroma of olive brine, freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, starchy pasta water, and simmering marinara. 

A very light line
The Map

It is, absolutely, my favorite store.
Forgive me, environment. I still get the plastic bags here because I love them
'tis the season

Does bourgeois olive oil taste better? I'll let you know.
Aunt Patti's Favorite.
Hands down, my favorite balsamic.  
Occasionally, if I can be coaxed and inspired,  I will make rolls or biscuits for Thanksgiving.  I find them rather annoying, and their tendency to burn (rolls) or smoke up the oven (biscuits) is often more emotional turmoil than I'm willing to endure.  So for the inevitable buuuut it's not Thanksgiving without rooooolls!, I always have bread and dipping oil to appease.  I make this dipping oil often and I'm sure I never make it quite the same.  It need not be exact.  I always use a food processor, but I suppose you could hand chop all this too.  If a food processor is not on the scene, I might roughly chop the ingredients in big pieces, let them infuse the oil, and then strain out.  You don't need to be mincing rosemary for hours on end. 

Sundried Tomato Dipping Oil

2ish cups Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3-5 sundried tomatoes
6-10 manzanilla olives (with pimento is fine)
12 inches of rosemary sprig or sprigs (if a man is to cut, send him with a ruler, inches can be highly subjective)
3-5 oregano leaves
2-4 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
1ish Tablespoon kosher salt
1ish teaspoon sugar
1 large garlic clove or 2 small
Combine all ingredients in food processor.  Let sit at least overnight or for several days in the refrigerator.  Remove from refrigerator about five hours before you wish to serve. Taste to check for salt/sugar.  You can always dilute it with additional olive oil. 
 
I needed to fill this platter, so I minced additional sundried tomatoes for more
color. From June 2011.
For the wedding last month
The first time I went to Carfagna's was with my Aunt Patti.  She bought me good olive oil and showed me the map of other shoppers' Italian roots.  She asked one of the butchers all sorts of questions--pretending she didn't know the answers.  He cheerfully answered, making eye contact with me.  He was in on it.  One of the memories for which I am most thankful.  I feel like I'm walking right back into it every time  I visit. 



Do you know of a place where time stands still?

50 comments:

  1. Not only does time stand still there but also what a sense of belonging! It's exquisite. I love this store from your wonderful description of it and if I lived nearby I'd be there three times a week. How much do I wish I could buy some damn wine at the grocery store? It's a ridiculous thing here in Ontario, the liquor control board is so regulated, but seriously it makes total sense to be able to buy wine along with food, duh government. The wine guy at your store sounds fantastic. He's worth his weight in gold.
    I grew up in Amherstburg Ontario which had a perfect grocery store that seems similar: Rocco's Fine Foods. My mom used to send me there on my bike to get groceries. And then I rode home with the groceries hanging from the handlebars of my banana seat bike. It was awesome. XOX

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    1. What?! That is insane! And tragic! And I thought the no wine sales before 1PM on Sundays was strict here! How sweet about Rocco's! Is it still there?

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  2. I would love that store...have lots of cloth bags.

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    1. You would! I do too, but I love their plastic ones!

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  3. Great store. Every community should have one. The big box grocery stores do not have the personal touch nor the selection that your store provides. I bet they have a great following. Sounds like you have a long standing history with them. A real gem.

    I can't believe that you bake rolls too. There is nothing that you can't do. Very impressive! Susan

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    1. They do! Although I have to admit I'm at Kroger like once a day! Haha rolls have always been annoying to me, but they're really not too hard (if you watch their last five min closely). But there are so so many things I can't do! Like math.

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  4. Oh, I would love that store too! We have a burger joint in town here that's remained the same since I can remember. They still hand form their beef patties, chop their own potatoes for french fries and hand-dip real ice cream in every imaginable flavor. It's all decked out like a 50's malt shop complete with pictures of Elvis everywhere.

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    1. Oh the diner sounds so great! Especially the ice cream! Do they have ice cream sodas? Like real ones not just called that!

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  5. stephen i have a story about our local gourmet market sitting in my draft box. mine is nestled right in the neighborhood, not downtown where all the businesses are. i love that. Carfargna's sounds so wonderful. i love it when time does stand still...there is such a romance to it. xo

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  6. Oh I can't wait to read it! This is the market catering your Thanksgiving I take it!

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  7. That place looks absolutely wonderful! I love old fashioned markets, they are so charming. We have one place like this, Soto's in Cambria, however I didn't grow up going there. You are VERY lucky to be able to visit a place like this that is much the same as when you were growing up. And how nice that some places strive for that familiarity and serve multiple generations of the same family.

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    1. I'd love to see Soto's! You're so right, I know my paternal grandmother shopped there often, so that makes three generations in my family. And it's kind of a nice feeling to imagine her shopping there too. She passed away when I was six, so it's nice to sort of feel her there. Even though it's really more of a suggestion than a memory.

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  8. I feel a bit teary reading this, and not just because had a trial run for prep (school) with my kid today and discovered first hand the nightmare of the parking situation there and how the police are on hand giving out parking tickets on a daily basis...

    The place where time stood still for me where both sets of grandparents homes that remained for me unchanged from 1972 until 2015. 43 years, my whole life. One home was sold a month ago and the other one is going to be moved off the block soon so it can be subdivided and I cannot tell you how hard to bear I have found this. Crying for real now. All over my key pad.

    Anyway, bringing the focus back to you can someone please give you your own cook book/guide to life/tv show? The world needs you.

    Last night as I lay in bed watching Steel Magnolias Darryl Hannah said "I will not let my personal tragedy interfere with my ability to do good hair". There is something in that for all of us.

    Now stop making me cry x

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    1. Omg prep school! I can't believe that's where we are on the FF II timeline! The parking lot sounds terrible. I'm so sorry about your grandparents' houses! That is so hard to have it all hit at once. Steel Magnolias is so damn tragic but I do love it. Of that style and vintage but I love so much more is Fried Green Tomatoes. I hope you've seen that one. Honorable mention in this category is Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood. It suffers from a terrible title but is pretty good. There are some questionable Southern accents in there that are rather entertaining, including Maggie Smith. And a 1989ish buttercream colored Rolls Royce convertible that gives me the vapors.

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    2. Those were really good books too - I actually preferred the books to the movies of Ya Ya and Green Tomatoes.

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  9. Oh my god Stephen this brought back memories. When I was little, every Saturday my mom and I would go to Mancini's market, a little Italian grocery/deli shop in our neighborhood. We would walk there and my mom would get all the cold cuts and cheeses for the week and anything else we needed. I can still smell the olives and the sopressata hanging to dry. The best part for me was that Pasquale, the patriarch of the family, was always hanging out there and every single time would give me a quarter. How simple but lovely life was!

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    1. Love that he would just be there holding court! How sweet! Mancini's sounds so similar to Carfagna's. Do you know if it's still there?

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    2. No its not there anymore, its now a Greek pizzeria (I know!). It didn't survive after all the "superstores" started moving into town.

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  10. Buds Corner Market about three blocks from our house where we could walk by ourselves and come home with a giant pickle from the big jar or a slim jim, a coke, swedish fish and an Ice Cube (it's chocolate). That was my usual splurge.

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    1. How sweet! Sounds like Bud's had s little bit of everything.

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  11. I moved around too much to have a solid reference but a few places came to mind: Galatoire's in New Orleans, the much missed Kahiki in Columbus, Maison Genin for saucisson in Arles (open since 1877, same recipe since 1655 or something like that)...

    I just wanted to say thank you. It has been a tough week here as you know and these posts always manage to make me laugh at least once. Much Love to you...

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    1. So instead of one, you have three! So when I read this I exclaimed out loud "the KAAAAH-IKI!" I haven't thought about it in so so long! did you know it's on the register of historic places? Which I just can't help but think is so funny. I'm so glad to hear that, thank you! Hope you're having a lovely weekend, and that you can find some cranberries! Did you know Ellie bought frozen cranberries in Paris and brought them to Provence in her purse because she wasn't sure she could source them there?!

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    2. She was totally right to do so! There is no way she would find them here. Unless Picard - the excellent frozen food stores (yes, you read right) would have them and even that I doubt hiiighly. And I love the image of her bringing them in her purse. heehee

      Have a good weekend, Stephen.

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  12. I am a new subscriber who meandered over after months of enjoying your comments at Have Some Decorum and Lost in Arles. After reading this post, I can't wait for more. The externals of our worlds are not much alike, but the internals are at least cousins. Until soon, Leslie

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    1. You took the words right out of my mouth, Leslie. :-)

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    2. Leslie is here! And puppyfur too! :)

      Stephen, Leslie is a friend and she is an amazing, amazing woman. And, most importantly she is a dog-lover. Puppyfur is too!

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    3. Leslie! I was about ten minutes away from taking you up on your offer of shipping me cranberries straight from the bog! Thankfully they began to roll into Kroger shortly after. thank you!

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  13. Nearly died laughing reading the line "if a man is to cut, ... scissors, as inches are subjective". Before writing this comment sent sms to my GOG imploring him, no begging him to read your blog. I'm not using my genetically enhanced Greek match making skills for just anyone. Your writing cheers everyone. Den xxx
    Ps nothing stays the same for long in Sydney! It's always being torn down and rebuilt usually into apartments. Not good. The delis I grew up with have been rebuilt into shiny and new big stores - not necessarily better.
    Ps2. Showing my MIL ( mother in law) the photo of campagnas with the woman with blonde hair standing behind man pushing the trolley, as it looks like MIL's cousin and husband who live in Ohio. How crazy would it be if it is them.

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    1. Haha I believe in Greek match making skills! I have seen them in action. How sad about Sydney! But I'd imagine it's way harder and more competitive to keep a family business going in a huge city. That would be so funny if it's her! I chatted with her in the checkout line!

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  14. About 10 years ago I found a butcher shop in town called MidShore Meats that has interiors not unlike Carfagna's and looks exactly the same to this day. They won me over on my first visit when they asked if I had ever tried their sweet sausage. When I said I had not they gave me a pound for free and told me that once I had tasted it I would be back. Indeed I was, not only because the sausage was unbelievably delicious, but because I couldn't believe that they would throw me a free pound like that! In Jersey nonetheless! Over the years it became a Cheers like scenario - where everybody knows your name. They all knew about the move to Nashville etc etc and when the husband pops in now they ask how I'm doing and on and on. They make the BEST arancini EVER and I am not too proud to admit that I bought every single one I saw prior to leaving. I ate my body weight in rice balls before leaving since I had no clue when I would get to have them again. I just said to one of the ladies that works for me here that I need to find a butcher since Kroger meat is not cutting it for me and she told me that there are plenty of butchers but also places where I can just buy a whole cow if I needed. {insert wide eyed emoji here} We're not in Jersey anymore....

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    1. oh I've heard the food culture in Nashville is fabulous. I'm sure there are tons of great dairies and wonderful cheese makers! And is it warm enough there that you can keep rosemary alive there through the winter? What growing zone are you now? Your market in NJ sounds so wonderful! I'm sure you can have some arancini shipped to you!

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  15. So HAPPY I found your blog- a very happy accident as I was scanning Google for images of a delicious pairing of coffee and Disaranno..... and a lovely pix of yours appeared- a latte. I clicked on the pix and was intrigued by your blog! So delighted I found your blog full of my favorites, beauty, food, and humor. Just wanted to say Hello!

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    1. Well thank you so much! Welcome! Those lattes really are good! Let me know if you make them :)

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  16. You are very lucky to have a place like this - i have racked my brain but no place is similar. I think the only constant I have is Harrod's food hall but then I don't get fuzzy feelings when I go there. Cities change so much or stores are disappearing from high rents or they refurbish to such a degree I don't recoggnize them. Seoul is no longer the city of my childhood. Melbourne has also changed so much although there is a place called Queen Vic's market but I didn't cook so much in my university days...You are so lucky to have a place like this!!

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    1. I really am! It's such a wonderful store. Still family owned and they've branched out and have a restaurant that does really well and a line of jarred marinara that I think sells really well. The store isn't in the best neighborhood but luckily it's not too bad.

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  17. I missed this post. Love stores like that. They are a home away from home. I used to go to a little meat store where time stood still but, alas, for the owner time did not stand still and he finally retired-leaving me meatless for a bit. lol Those places are few and far between, Stephen, and I am glad you have a place like that. xo Diana
    ps. I will measure my own rosemary-thank you. lol

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    1. What a shame your place couldn't stay open! I would be so devastated if something happened to Carfagna's! Thank you!

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  18. I have said it before but your food presentation is just so, so good! I loved this post. I have to say that I live in a very, very good location for food. South Australia is a foodie paradise, and we have some very significant food districts only an hour from our capital city (which is Adelaide). The Barossa Valley is world renowned for the wine, but also has a long tradition of German food (sausages, cured and smoked meats, breads, pickles etc) from early Lutheran settlers in 1850, and also in the Adelaide hills and nearby Mclaren vale (also wine regions) we have excellent olive groves, oil, meat and fruit. All of this is available in the supermarkets, so I don't often have to go to the market.. but we do have the Central Market, which is in the city, and is the primary produce market. The stallholders have often been there for generations and mix in food from all sorts of different cultural backgrounds. There are also food festivals that revolve around all of this… we take our produce very seriously! x

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    1. Oh thank you! Barossa! I love that name! What wines come from that region? I don't know much about Aussie wines. I would be sooooo happy if you did a post on the Central Market!

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  19. Love this post! I'm sad to say I can't think of any place similar here. A lot of the old stand-bys are gone because the proprietors either died or retired with no interest from grown kids carrying on the tradition. Let's hope Carfagna's has plenty of kin waiting in the wings!

    I'd have a hard time using my canvas bags with such charming plastic ones!

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    1. Thank you! I do worry about that because I notice the shoppers are generally older. But luckily the atore is always booming.
      I figure if I use my canvas bags most of the time, I'm allowed to get my favorites at Carfagna's :)

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  20. Yes, at my antiques shop :) Okay, please make extra rolls, and send a few this way. My fav part about Thanksgiving: the carbs!!! Bring on the stuffing, mashed potatoes, bread, yum yums!!! Hugs to you and Barbie :) And a wonderful and warm Thanksgiving!!!
    xoxo
    L

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    1. Haha that is true in an antique store! Not sure rolls are in the agenda this year, but lots of stuffing and bread and potatoes and cake to fill the void :) is Thanksgiving at your house again this year?

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  21. If you're ever in the Cleveland area you have to go to Gallucci's. It's worth the drive just to buy their spices. Talk about dirt cheap! I love this place. The mature woman that works the bakery counter always says..What ya need honey? I love it!! At my age anyone calls me honey I love them!!! Happy Thanksgiving

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    1. I think that a friend of mine has told me I'd love it there too! I need to get up there! Happy Thanksgiving!

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  22. I haven't been to the Carfagna's store but they make my favorite sauce. It costs a little more but it's worth it.

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    1. Oh you'd love to visit the store! I've tried their Sicilian sauce and it's very good!

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  23. I found your blog through Hartwood Roses blog and started to read through iyour blog. You are a terrific writer and say what so many people think , but stop short of actually saying. Plus my jaw dropped when I saw the Carfagna piece. I love their pasta sauce. Go figure. I need to get back there and wander through the store. What a great place.

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