Many immigrants to New York support friends and family back home through money transfers known as remittances. Outside this market you can see the draped banners of two electronic providers, Transfast and MoneyGram, as well as an alternative, in the round, just outside the front door. Barrel shipping replaces fungible currency with tangible goods; though barrels travel more slowly and under less regulation than electronic transfers, these "remittances" give greater assurance that the money has been well-spent.
At markets such as this, a vigorous flow of outgoing remittances, in whatever form, often signals a deep and varied supply of incoming goods. On this afternoon a traveling companion secured several harder-to-find West African ingredients; most had apparently been imported in bulk, then portioned into plastic tubs and branded with the Legacy name. I also noted a large open bin of dried kangbe, further labeled as flying fish — though given their dessicated and gaping-mouthed condition, it's hard to be sure of that I.D.
Legacy Africana Market 671 Bay St. (opposite Broad St.), Stapleton, Staten Island 718-876-6695 Closed Sunday
Polished and frosted by the physical and chemical weathering of salt water, the most beautiful sea glass is often decades in the making. In recent years sea glass has been difficult to find on the Jersey Shore, a welcome indication that less waste glass is finding its way into the ocean. Environmental-protection efforts, the greater use of lighter and less expensive containers, and the nickel deposit levied on beer and soda bottles likely all play a part.
I was surprised, then, that sea glass was so easy to find on the beach of Conference House Park, on the southern tip of Staten Island. (It's also the southernmost point of New York State, marked by a literal "South Pole.") Shown here is the booty of not-especially-diligent beachcombing, in green, white, and the less common pale blue. (Red and amber are rarer still.) Of these, the two pieces of white sea glass may have been longest in the water: They have the heaviness and squared-off shape of old medicine bottles.
Also known as the fruit of the American cranberrybush, highbush cranberries are botanically unrelated to that mainstay of the Thanksgiving dinner table. From their size and color, and from their adaptability to jellies, preserves, and sauces, you can easily understand how these cranberries earned their name — but, this being a New York City park, limit your "harvest" to what fits between forefinger and thumb.
Neatness is not always a virtue. The gray uniformity of factory-made gyro (first photo, rear), whatever the original source of the meat, does appeal to some customers. Children, especially, said the fellow in charge of the sandwich station. He was prouder of his chicken and lamb shawarma, whose irregular cones he had assembled personally. Each was crowned with a hefty wad of fat; the lamb also sported a second wad about halfway down. The shavings that stuffed my lamb shawarma sandwich (below) varied greatly in size, shape, and texture, but none were dry. Credit dripping fat as well as many customers: A busier shawarma spit is usually a juicier shawarma spit.
Also shown: termis, or lupini beans, a peel-them-yourself snack (click on the photo for a closeup look and you'll see one stray skin at bottom left); fresh-squeezed sugar cane juice. No ice = good value.
Staten Island Egyptian Festival Archangel Michael and St. Mena Coptic Orthodox Church, 4095 Amboy Rd. (at Linderwood Rd.), Great Kills, Staten Island (The 2015 festival was held on September 26-27. It will conclude on October 3-4, noon-9:00, though outdoor activities may be curtailed due to rainy weather.)
The pawpaw been called "the best-tasting, biggest American fruit you probably haven’t tasted." Until a few days ago, I hadn't, either. A few fruiting trees do grow within the five boroughs of New York City, their locations kept secret by those in the know. These ($5 per pound), the bounty of a chance Greenmarket encounter, hailed from Pennsylvania, where the season will run another three, maybe four weeks, according to the farmer.
When the skin yields easily to light pressure, the golden flesh — typical for a member of the custard apple family — has a spoonable, fetchingly creamy texture. Don't dig into the skin or suck the flesh too avidly from the 10 to 12 almond-sized seeds; both are inedible. Chilled, the ripe fruit is easier to slice open and less messy to eat, but at room temperature, the mango-banana aroma and flavor are more pronounced, more becoming.
Crabapples are native to the temperate regions of North America, but they've won favor among certain immigrants from tropical Southeast and South Asia, too. In season, the crisp, tart, juicy fruits are widely available at Cambodian markets in Lowell, Massachusetts, generally accompanied by a bindle of seasoned salt.
At this boardwalk festival on Staten Island's South Beach, a Sri Lankan stall sold bags of rosy fruits that proved to contain tiny, inconsequential seeds. One could flick away the stubble of the flower end and bite the fruit entire, withholding only the stem. Seasoning was not included, but an Indonesian blend awaited the apples that made the trip back home.
Festival food was also available from a Filipino restaurant and market and a Chinese stall, but the broadest and most interesting selection, crabapples included, was assembled as a fundraiser by the ladies' guild of the Staten Island Buddhist Vihara. Also shown: string hoppers with coconut sambol and fish curry; an achcharu, which depending on the diner's gusto is a condiment or a salad, in this case comprising green mango, pineapple, and olives; the festival, except for a correspondingly small tented performance area; South Beach.
Cranberries are on the menu morning, noon, and night, but not in that order: Turkey dinner is a Friday affair, followed by breakfast, then lunch (hot, open-faced turkey sandwiches) on Saturday. From the happy middle: "deep dish" cranberry pancakes, heavy on the sauce.
Bethel United Methodist Church Cranberry Festival Bethel United Methodist Church, 7033 Amboy Rd. (at Bethel Ave.), Tottenville, Staten Island www.BethelUMCSI.com (The 2014 festival was held on November 7 and 8)
That's a lot of text for a roadside ad. Usually such signs are much more terse, but this one can afford the verbiage because it's directed toward drivers and passengers in a stopped line of traffic. The bottle shape quickly frames the subject; the text, which emphasizes lower sales tax and no bottle deposits, also suggests that a two-minute drive from Staten Island might save you $8 to $10 on both beer and liquor. No telling if that's before, or after, the toll for the Outerbridge Crossing.
Fun fact: That cantilivered span across the Arthur Kill, shown below from a nearby vantage at low tide, was named for the Port Authority's first chairman, Eugenius H. Outerbridge.
Outerbridge Liquors 45 West Pond Rd., Perth Amboy, New Jersey Sign posted at the corner of Ellis St. with Arthur Kill Rd., Tottenville, Staten Island