June 28, 1992.
It was Pride weekend here in New York, and marked the very first time I had ever attended a Pride event though I had been living in New York for slightly under four years at the time. I marched down Fifth Avenue in drag — a hoop skirt more accurately, which was covered over by lavender and white silk organza, in addition to a fuschia and white bustier. I even had a handbag to go along with the outfit.
As I recall, I had been living in Astoria for slightly over a year, in a three bedroom apartment back when Astoria was just another neighborhood with affordable housing and not the gayborhood that it is today. One of my roommates back then belonged to an organization called “Southerners” (or gay and lesbians from the South living in New York). I was marching with the group just for fun and also to experience the parade. They needed someone for the drag outfit and I volunteered. Even though we had a brief downpour (around Ninth Street in the Village), it was a lot of fun. I managed to make it all the way down to Greenwich, though by then, the hoop skirt felt like a ton of lead bricks from having soaked up the rain.
David (whose last name I forget) helped make the hoop skirt and also took part in manning our group’s booth at PrideFest. Tall, lanky with rugged masculine features yet possessive of an almost innocent, boyish quality. He was, more or less, the glue that held Southerners together. He organized and facilitated meetings, coordinated with outreach groups and was active in our community. Little did I know at the time that he was HIV+ and not on meds. The first protease inhibitors did not appear until December 1995 (Invirase) and March 1996 (Norvir and Crixivan) respectively; would that they had appeared sooner, he might still be alive today.
I remember that it rained on and off during the evening. I remember that a great time was had by everyone in our group. I remember that we stayed for a bit after the fireworks and the festivities had worn off, helping David deconstruct our booth as part of the cleanup crew.
And I remember that he fell ill a week later, with flu-like symptoms that rapidly progressed to pneumonia. A month or so afterwards, he was dead.
He was the first person I knew personally who died as a result of AIDS-related causes. He was a warm, sweet, generous and loving person and he is sorely missed.
The spring equinox is next Wednesday, and asparagus will soon make its appearance at our farmers’ markets. It was one of David’s favorite things to eat, even though he claimed, it’d make you smell afterwards.
Spring is a season of rebirth — a light born out of shadow. Tonight’s dinner is dedicated to David’s memory, wherever his spirit is now.
Poached farm egg, with asparagus and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
5 stalks asparagus, trimmed and sliced in 1/2″ pieces
extra-virgin olive oil
freshly milled black pepper
shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Place asparagus in a small bowl. Lightly drizzle with olive oil and add a small pinch of salt. Season lightly with black pepper. Toss to ensure that the spears are well-coated. Transfer to a Pyrex baking dish or roasting pan and roast at 350 F for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.
To view a demo on how to poach an egg, click here.
To assemble: Spoon asparagus spears onto a salad plate. Lay the poached egg atop asparagus. Shave Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese atop the egg; spoon a little olive oil atop the egg and around the plate. Sprinkle with parsley, then serve at once.
Time: About 20 minutes, including prep.
Potato gnocchi, with asparagus and black trumpet mushrooms
1/2 lb. potato gnocchi
6 stalks asparagus, trimmed and sliced into 1/2″ lengths
1/2 cup black trumpet mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 clove garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
freshly milled black pepper
freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese or pecorino romano cheese
Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Working in batches, add gnocchi to the pot and cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute. The gnocchi will be ready once they rise to the surface. Lift out gnocchi with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl. Set aside.
Simmer asparagus in the same cooking water that the gnocchi was cooked in, about 5 minutes. Drain, then plunge the asparagus immediately in a bowl of ice water. This will shock the asparagus and halt it from cooking further, thus preserving its green color. Drain, then set aside.
Add garlic, along with 1 tablespoon unsalted butter to a cold pan. Melt the butter over medium heat. Cook until garlic begins to turn a pale gold, about 1 minute. Add mushrooms to the pan. Sauté the mushrooms until they become tender, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add asparagus to the pan, along with the remaining tablespoon of unsalted butter. Cook until asparagus are heated through. Add the gnocchi to the pan. Stir once or twice vigorously, then remove from heat. Taste for salt and pepper. Spoon gnocchi and vegetables onto individual warmed pasta bowls, top with cheese and parsley, then serve at once.
Time: About 45 minutes, including prep. The gnocchi were bought from Eataly and were pre-made. If you choose to make your own gnocchi, they can be done a day ahead.
The asparagus and poached egg dish are my contribution to Weekend Herb Blogging #325, which is currently hosted by Ancutza of Matrioska’s Adventures. Weekend Herb Blogging is a weekly food blogging event organized by Haalo of Cook (Almost) Anything At Least Once and was originally begun by Kalyn of Kalyn’s Kitchen.