MVPs

July 11th, 2011 · 17 Comments · Dinner

In the summer of 1996, I was walking west on East 86th Street holding a baguette that I would eat with dinner that night in my studio apartment one block north. I was wearing a black waffle fitted polo with a khaki wraparound skirt and a pair of black pointy-toed Nine West mules, which may have been the most unattractive pair of shoes any female has ever worn in history. Why do I remember this? Because don’t you always remember every detail about what you’re wearing the first time you meet your crush? In this case it was Derek Jeter. I recognized him because he was the Yankee’s latest wunderkind — that day, in fact, he was named Rookie of the Year. He was walking east with Gerald Williams, who I immediately recognized…because the kid walking with his dad in front of me shouted “Dad! It’s Derek Jeter and Gerald Williams!”

I had a crush on Derek Jeter ever since I read an interview with him in the New York Post where he said his sister was a better athlete than he was. And the crush only grew stronger after meeting him because…I am a girl and because athletes are not like TV stars — they really do look like Gods when you see them on East 86th Street walking east through a sea of mortals wearing terrible shoes.

The boy and his Dad asked for Jeter’s autograph. What was I going to do – not ask? So I ripped a piece of paper from the baguette bag, handed it to Jeter and, holding it against his hand, he signed his name, making a joke about coming over for dinner. He went on to lead the Yankees through season after impossibly amazing season. It seemed like every year during that period, just when you thought they couldn’t top themselves, the Yankees would come from two games down to win four straight against the Braves (Maddox, Glavine, Smoltz) and win the World Series (1996); then they’d have the winningest season in baseball history (1998); then they’d make New York City feel like the best place to be in the world when they played, and beat, the Mets in the Subway Series (2000). And Jeter was always there, pounding hit after hit, doing his little clap whenever he landed on base. Every time he came up to the plate in a big spot, we sighed a sigh of relief, cause you knew he’d come through. You knew it! I still think of these years as the pre-9/11 golden era of New York , when every corner of the city – not just Yankee Stadium — was booming with possibility.

After meeting Jeter that night, I went home, breaded a chicken cutlet, sliced up the baguette, and called my then-boyfriend now-husband Andy who shared my excitement about the sighting. That’s the thing about Jeter, boys had crushes on him, too. (Unless you are from Boston, in which case I hope you like our lamb chops enough to supercede the DALS Yankee allegiance.)

A lot has happened since then. I married Andy, for one. As I type, my seven-year-old daughter is kicking a soccer ball against the side of our suburban house as her nine-year-old sister reads Pseudonymous Bosch beside her. I’ve racked up almost 4500 dinners in my dinner diary while not paying nearly enough attention to the Yankees, the team that played in the stadium two blocks from where my dad grew up in the South Bronx. And Derek Jeter? He’s been busy, too. He’s been steadily racking up his own numbers  – in case you haven’t heard, over the weekend he became the first Yankee in history to reach the 3000 hit mark.

And three thousand hits later, as his team is still relying on him night after night to come through in the clutch, guess what I’m still falling back on for dinner? Those breaded chicken cutlets. The recipe is not A-Rod flashy, but it’s the kind of dish that you can build an A-Team around. If you’ve got the cutlet in your line-up, you can have Chicken Milanese (above) or Chicken Parm or Chicken with Cold Asparagus Sauce. We have a bunch of these kinds of meals in our rotation, and it’s funny, even though in theory I have an entire diary filled with adventurous answers to the question What do we make for dinner?, inevitably I fall back on one of the old reliables. Ladies and Gentlemen, our MVPS:

1. Breaded Chicken Cutlets
2. Pasta with Caramelized Onions, Spinach, and Parmesan
3. Chili: Either Turkey or Chicken
4. Shrimp with Feta
5. Salmon Salad
6. Pasta with Turkey Bolognese
7. Fried Flounder (below)

Like Jeter, they’ve been there from the beginning and always, always come through for us.

Number 7: Pan-fried flounder. A summer favorite that shows up in the diary on a weekly basis.

PS: The SI cover above was pinned to my office bulletin board for four years. I found it over the weekend in a folder labeled “Things I Just Can’t Throw Away.”

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17 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Jan @ Family Bites // Jul 11, 2011 at 11:21 am

    Great story, Jenny. And I love that you have a folder of things you just can’t throw away.

  • 2 Epicurea // Jul 11, 2011 at 11:29 am

    indeed does mastering the art of breading open a whole new universe. personal favorites (besides breaded fish like flounder!) are veal in the viennese style and stuffing cutlets with cheese or ham before breading.

  • 3 jodi // Jul 11, 2011 at 11:51 am

    Gap black cotton skirt, Gap white T-shirt, black Steve Madden stacked-heeled loafers. Walking east on W. 45th Street, 1996. And yes, I shouted, “OH MY GOD YOU’RE DEREK JETER!” Unfortunately, I have no memory of what I made for dinner that night, but breaded chicken is in the current rotation.

  • 4 sheri silver // Jul 11, 2011 at 11:56 am

    Hello!
    I am a Rivertowns resident too – I am writing (belatedly) to tell you how MUCH I love your blog – I, too, have my “MVP”s and this story hit home (no baseball pun intended – really) for me.
    Thank you for putting out such consistently warm, engaging writing!

  • 5 Meg // Jul 11, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    I was hoping you guys were Mets fans.

    You’re food is fabulous, but as a Red Sox gal I can’t get on board with the Jeter love…

  • 6 Jess // Jul 11, 2011 at 1:06 pm

    Love the story, I’d be all over Jeter, too.

    I have to be the obnoxious Braves fan and point out that it’s Glavine with the ‘e’, though. :)

    xoxo

  • 7 Jenny // Jul 11, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    Jess – funny. Thanks for pointing out. All fixed.

  • 8 654carroll // Jul 11, 2011 at 1:43 pm

    grey flannel chalk-stripe mini skirt, J Crew collared cardigan, Prada boots. Tampa in January 1997. He was dating Mariah Carey at the time; otherwise, obviously, i’d be posting as 654mrs.jeter.

    clap-clap; clap-clap-clap.

  • 9 Beth // Jul 11, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    Mets fan here, married to a dreaded Yankees fan…I too hoped you were Mets fans. But I love Derek Jeter too, not as much as I love Mike Piazza…but close! Loved the post today

  • 10 Jenny // Jul 11, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    654: what the heck is a collared cardigan?

  • 11 Barnadine the Pirate // Jul 11, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    Jeter is a great player. Too bad he plays for the Borg.

  • 12 torrey // Jul 11, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    I’m so glad chicken chili makes the rotation, even in the summer heat. Of all the lovely things I’ve made from DALs, it’s my hands-down favorite. Super simple, feels healthy enough for me to give myself a little “good mom” pat on the back and everyone’s happy to see it turn up on the table.

    Also love the rebranding of what gets call “dinner rut” in my house into MVPs. Well played…

  • 13 Jennifer Duncan // Jul 11, 2011 at 8:30 pm

    I was wondering where that story was going. :)

    Seriously? Those are your fallbacks? Wow! Now I feel inadequate. My most glamorous fallbacks?

    Roast chicken
    Pan seared shrimp with grits
    Steak
    and Pasta.

    Though I have to say, my boys have discovered they like grouper, so that is becoming a quickie. An expensive quickie, though at $19/lb. Any suggestions for a cheaper fish that tastes like grouper?

  • 14 Elizabeth // Jul 12, 2011 at 3:20 am

    Yum. Those all look terrific. And just for the record, I think I had those exact same black pointy toed mules in NYC when I lived there in the nineties. I loved them — thought I looked amazing in them — :)

  • 15 Tara // Jul 12, 2011 at 9:30 am

    Even from my vantage point from deep within Red Sox Nation, I have to admit that Jeter is a class act and a really amazing athlete. You have to cheer for someone hitting the 3000 mark, no matter where you’re from.

    We’re sweltering here today so I can’t really think about things like pasta or chili. But shrimp with feta has possibilities on a day like this. Especially if I can cook it outside on the little side burner of the gas grill. Thanks!

  • 16 jbs // Jul 14, 2011 at 11:14 am

    Just have to say this is the best.blog.post.EVER.

  • 17 Angie @ Just Like The Number // Jul 20, 2011 at 11:04 pm

    This is precisely how I feel about Peyton Manning, more specifically a “Got Milk” ad featuring the Manning brothers and their dad. It’s been taped to the inside of my kitchen cabinet for more than 5 years. Now if only I’d met him at some point to recount my outfit.

    More pressing matter need attended to, though: where is the recipe for the lima bean-corn salad next to the flounder? I need to know!

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