Lead Editorial Innovator, Vocal. Author, critic, friend, parent, cook. New book: Chief Engineer: Washington Roebling, The Man Who Built the Brooklyn Bridge. Twitter: @EricaWgnr, Insta: @ericawgnr
Beigel Bake Bliss
A beautiful spring morning on Brick Lane, in East London. The sky an astonishing blue, unmarked by the white contrails of airplanes; even in this ultra-urban setting, you can hear birdsong. Thanks to COVID-19, many of the shop are shuttered, but not Beigel Bake, which has been serving the community here since 1974. Only three people are allowed in the shop at a time now, thanks to social distancing; we all behave ourselves as we wait for our breakfasts. When it’s my turn, Fiona — one of the stalwart women who work behind the counter here, and keep this place running day and night — fills the giant steel teapot from a hissing tap of boiling water. She swirls the bags to let them steep and despite the tough times, gives me a big smile, for we are old friends. I’ve lived nearby for 25 years, and have come here nearly daily, if only for a cup of tea and a chat.
A virtual walk across the Brooklyn Bridge
This is a public service announcement. Good morning! Good afternoon! Good evening! I really hope you’re well, and that everyone you love is well. This is tough stuff. It’s a pain to be stuck inside. It’s hard to worry about people and worry about the world. You’re in lockdown. You're self-isolating. You’re social-distancing. You feel cooped up, stir crazy and maybe a little scared. I know I am; I’m there with you. So: I’d like to invite you to take a walk with me, a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.
Down about Warren? Think of Mantel and Atwood, and cheer
A person could become pretty despondent about – well, about nearly everything, these days. But let’s focus on one thing: Elizabeth Warren dropping out of the Democratic primaries, leaving Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders as the clear front-runners in the presidential race to come. Make no mistake, she was the one responsible for pushing Mike Bloomberg out of the race: at the primary debate in Las Vegas last month, she called him out as a “billionaire who calls women fat broads and horse-faced lesbians”. He withered beneath her intelligence and ruthlessness, and that was the end of that.
A quick break, a simple delight
The deli was in Hammersmith, around the corner from my school. At my old school, in New York, I didn’t go out for lunch; I liked the food in the cafeteria there. But in London, at my new school, the food was – well, the truth is I don’t remember. So I’m going to tell you that the food was bad. It’s up to you whether you believe me. But this is my story. What I say is up to me.
Hands-On Pasta in Rome
What could be more blissful than an autumn week spent in Rome? I'll tell you what: learning to cook perfect Roman pasta on a sunny Roman afternoon. I'd come from London to Rome to stroll the ancient city's streets in the company of a dear friend and expert tour-guide, the writer Kate Nicholls, who lives in the Eternal City — Cucina Trastevere, opened just a couple of months before I arrived, happened to be right around the corner from her flat. If you are visiting this extraordinary city, this is an experience not to miss.
Walking into Deep Time
A silver doorknob. Aluminium? I suppose. A little loose, somehow, so it catches when I turn it—but wait, before I turn the knob I’ve got to reach up to the top lock—my mother calls it “the double lock”—and turn its much smaller knob to the right to open it. Now I can turn the doorknob. Now I am pulling open the metal door of my parents’ apartment, now I am stepping across the threshold to see, just to my left, a poster from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Beneath my feet, sturdy brown carpet scrolls all the way down the long hallway to the elevators, fifteen or twenty steps away. A mirror opposite the four lifts, the metal call buttons I still think of as “new”, even though they were installed when I was a teenager. I’m fifty years old now, and my parents have been dead for a dozen years, but their apartment, this hallway, remains—I believe—perfectly contained in my mind and heart, and so in my imagination, I decide to talk a walk, beginning here, in the place I tell myself I still know best.
In my kitchen, Elvira is starting to stretch herself, expand herself, push herself up against the confines of her jar and reach toward the lid settled lightly above her. A few hours ago I took her out of the fridge, added rye flour and water, gave her a gentle stir, and set her on my counter. Now, I peek under her lid to see how she’s getting on. Hey, Elvira, I say. Looks like we’re nearly good to go.
Vanessa Williams Is a Metaphor for Conservative Hypocrisy
Here's a little Jeopardy-style quiz. The category is “Women’s History”—if we agree, just for a moment, that women’s history is different from any other kind of history. So: “Margaret Gorman, a sixteen-year-old from Washington DC, in 1921.” If your answer is “Who was the very first Miss America?” then you win the prize; and you’ll probably know, too, that five years later “the Inter-City Beauty Pageant,” as Miss America had once been called, had come a long way, baby. Miss America 1926, Norma Smallwood, earned $100,000 in appearance fees—more than Babe Ruth made that year, or for that matter the President of the United States. (Who was Calvin Coolidge—but you knew that, I’m sure.)