The first time I fell in love with New York was in December of 2001. In September of that year, my husband (then my fiancee) left for a two year MBA at the Stern University in New York. We agreed that we would meet in New York in December. I was giddy with excitement at the thought of spending Christmas in New York. What fun! For the three months prior to my leaving, I daydreamed about ice skating at the Rockefeller Center, walking hand in hand around Central Park, making a snowman for the very first time, the BIG after Christmas sales and of course, the BIG BIG reunion after being apart for what seemed like an eternity!
I touched down at the JFK early on a Friday morning and was met by my fiancee. It was the perfect “airport reunion” scene – you know the one where the guy is standing at the arrivals section holding a dozen roses. There were tears (mine), hugs (his) and kisses(ours!) and it was all very romantic. Of course a great start to my dream Christmas holiday.
Of course, things don’t always go as planned.
We headed back to his flat and he told me that he had would skip his 9 am class to spend time with me. I was tired and wanted to take a shower and a short nap so I told him to go to his class and we would catch up around mid-day.
After my quick nap, with nothing better to do, I wandered around his room and there it was – on his study table… his cel phone. He had left it.
I know, I know… I shouldn’t have. But I picked it up and went through his messages. First the inbox – one message – from Samantha*. DINNER ON SATURDAY. IVE BOOKED FOR 7 PM. First, this took me completely by surprise. I sat down and couldn’t breathe. Then, I was furious. I wanted to get out of the flat – I didn’t want to be around when he came back for fear of what I would say, or do. Imagine, waiting for this moment for over three months, traveling over 20 hours to see him and then I see a message from Samantha?
I left his flat.
I wandered around the streets of New York for three hours. I was tired, angry, and betrayed. I was also cold and hungry.
Then I saw a little hole in the wall restaurant that had people lining up around the front counter. I could smell the aroma of grilled corn and it was intoxicating. Even in my sadness I knew I had to eat something and if people were queuing despite the cold weather, it must be worth trying!
It turns out, everyone was waiting to order the grilled corn, Cuban style. Dare I say it made me forget my sadness, even for those five minutes? When you try it, you will understand why. Sweet corn, perfectly grilled, slathered with mayonnaise and then sprinkled with Cotija, an aged cheese , chili powder and finished with a dash of fresh lime. The flavour sensations were amazing.
I went back to his flat, prepared to fly back home. When I got back, he was frantically pacing the front of the building. “What happened to you!? Where did you go?!?” he screamed at me. “You left your phone, I read a text from Samantha” I replied.
He started laughing at me. He explained that Sam was his classmate from MBA. She also worked part time at Balthazar and because it was notoriously difficult to make a booking on a Saturday night with such short notice, she pulled a few strings and got a table for him and me on Saturday. Then, I started laughing with him.
The holiday was back on!
Recipe from Cuban Style Grilled Corn Inspired from Cafe Habana
- 2 ears of corn, husks removed
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup grated cotija cheese (can be substituted with grated parmesan cheese)
- pinch of chili powder (depending on how hot you like it)
- lime wedges
- Grill the corn over a barbecue or a hot grill until slightly charred
- Slather with mayonnaise
- Top with the cheese and chili powder
- Finish with a dash of lime
*Note – names have been changed to protect the innocent.