A Gypsy in New York
by Juliette de Bairacli Levy
Pre-publication preview courtesy of Ash Tree Publishing
Chapter 1.7, continued from last month…
The sun came out above the towering rooftops of Manhattan. Then the harbor sky was no longer ashen; daffodil streaks appeared there, and golden sun-rays like the tall yellow candles I have seen the Baltic Gypsies carrying to the shrine of the world’s only Gypsy saint, the Black Virgin, Sainte Sara, who has domain over her underground chapel, beneath the ancient church of Les Saintes Maries de la Mer, in the French Camargue, Provence.
The sun over New York! When later I came to know artists in New York, they told me that, in wintertime, nowhere in Europe, not even in southern Spain famous for its light, is there to be found more sun and light than along the open places of New York, by its waterfront and its parks.
But all the time I was in New York the sun was associated with one of my greatest frustrations: for there is nowhere to sunbathe! Every grimy rooftop, every patch of parkland, seemed overlooked. I am, with all my being, a sun and fire worshiper. And I do not mean the artificial fire or light from electric sunlamps or fire stoves or gas fires! I mean the powerful, naked sun, and the flames from true Gypsy fires of piled wood or turf, or next best, from rich chunks of coal. When one sunbathes and firebathes, one never feels cold. In the bitterest of New York subzero weather, I was always warm; I never once wore a topcoat. Because immediately before coming to America, I had been fed for three years by the sun of Spanish Andalucia and later of Mexico, living always in primitive places where it was possible to sunbathe completely.
Whenever the sun was shining I envied the New York pigeons. Sun-seekers, like all the family of the doves, they flitted from sunlit ledge to sunlit ledge of the New York buildings, and the golden light gilded their plumage, which has the colors and the shimmer of iris flowers. In Washington Square I found the pigeons more at home, as if in their original woodland setting, for there in the Square they had found tree hollows for nesting places, and on sunny mornings, even in the winter months, they made their soothing pigeon sounds, which were a strange but pleasing addition to the surrounding noise of Manhattan.
The modern steam heating of New York, Chicago, and other towns in North America that experience cold winters is considered an essential of civilized life. Yet most foreign visitors to New York complain about the stifling heat of New York apartments and of the big stores and restaurants. I was never able to accept, enjoy, or understand that unbearable, airless heating; it seemed to me to be the best formula for catching a true New York feverish cold! From which most of my friends were suffering at one time or another whenever I was in that city. To go out from such unnatural winter heat to the cold of often ten degrees below zero in the streets! Those over-hot New York buildings made me feel often that I was being slowly steamed alive. Here is a horrible Chesapeake Bay recipe, which a beer firm was advertising under the headline of “From Chesapeake Bay, land of pleasant living.” It concerns the slow steaming alive of crabs. Here it is:
Use a steampot that has an elevated platform. For every dozen crabs used, put into the steamer one cup of beer and one cup of vinegar, and enough water to cover.
Place live, soft crabs (meaning those that have just shed their shells) on platform in layers, sprinkle seasoning (suggested red pepper, mustard, salt, paprika, cayenne) between the layers of crabs. Steam (do not boil) for about twenty minutes, until crabs are a fiery red. The crabs are then ready to eat.
Shameful. However, despite the present-day world being meaner and crueler to animals than ever before, many crabs and lobsters are first stabbed through the back before being immersed.
As if the slow steaming alive were not agony enough, without the additional sprinkling of burning spices to prick eyes and other parts of the live creatures piled upon one another. And crabs are wise and clever. I came to know very well the land crabs of tropical Mexico and also the sweetwater crabs of the Sea of Galilee.
No wonder that I bring up my two children to be vegetarians and hope they will stay that way. I have read out the crab recipe to them as a reminder.
To be continued…
by Juliette de Bairacli Levy
Author of Common Herbs for Natural Health
“In Memory of Juliette the Grandmother of Herbal medicine”
A Gypsy in New York
Author: Juliette de Bairacli Levy.
In this richly detailed memoir, Juliette de Bairacli Levy – one of the founders of American herbalism – offers us a rare documentary. It is at once an herbal, a travel book and a compendium of Gypsy lore and Gypsy ways. 210 pages,
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This collection includes three great herbal medicine books and one video by Juliette de Bairacli Levy, well-known as the "grandmother of herbal medicine."
Nature's Children is a classic book on natural childrearing; it includes remedies, recipes, and fascinating lore.
Traveler's Joy is a unique guide to finding the wild bounty in simple living; Juliette covers topics such as travel, water, dwellings, medicine, and food.
Common Herbs for Natural Health is an essential herbal with lore and uses for 200 herbs including cosmetic, culinary, and medical recipes.
Juliette of the Herbs, the exceptional video included in this collection will delight, entrance, and inspire!
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by Juliette de Bairacli Levy. The classic text for natural child rearing, now revised and expanded. Back in print at last! Remedies, recipes, and fascinating lore on nourishing and healing children naturally. Introduction by Helen Nearing. 196 pages, index, 14 classic photographs.
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