“Perhaps..” I suggest gently, glancing at my two sons listening intently in the bike trailer. “..perhaps it might be better if you took a deep breath, it would be awful if you had a heart attack or something”.
She proceeds to go completely postal and then takes several photos of me with her iphone
“I am going to the police” She screams. “You fucking people” she screams.
“Mummy why is that angry woman taking your photo?” asks my eldest in a bored voice. “It’s ok” I say, grimly locking my bike with a shaky hand and wondering in the back of my mind if she’s going to come back and slash my tyres. “It’s all ok “I scoop up my blonde, blue-eyed one year old and smile calmly at the old racist woman. We’ve been living in this wonderful, middle-class suburb of NYC for almost 3 months now. This street I cycle my kids to every day is, as far as I can tell full of organic chocolate-covered rice cake eating Birkenstock wearing people. You know, people just like me. It has a Montessori nursery next door to the famous co op. I’m yet to see a single gun. Even the labourers on the nearby building site whom I’ve befriended and who watch my bike for me are well mannered. There are no rednecks. It all feels a bit surreal.
“Please do call the police.” I tell her. “because I’d love to know what I’ve actually done”
“You fucking people. You ran over my fucking foot”
“riii-iight. Firstly, please don’t swear like that in front of my children. For the record I was nowhere near your foot. And you just ran 4 blocks after me to take my photo? Gosh, you must be in terrible pain. And what exactly do you mean by you people? Which people are you referring to?”
She slinks off and I feel pissed off for the rest of the afternoon that she’s managed to make me feel pissed off. I phone my husband and he’s upset and sympathetic but ultimately as a middle class white male he will never really understand this experience. I talk to my friend Angelica about it “Yeah welcome to America” she commiserates. “don’t let it get to you Rej. Just remember, for every one of that nutjob there are a thousand of me”. I bloody love Angelica.
Thankfully, most the above is a totally false picture of our time thus far in Brooklyn. Even since our adorable neighbours came round to welcome our jet-lagged family on our first day with coffee and bagels and flowers; things have been nothing short of verging on the ludicrously idyllic.The park (with a zoo, 4 playgrounds, a toddler’s paddling pool and a botanical garden) on our doorstep is fantastic, the weather lush and sub-tropical, the people super-friendly and the food my god the food. Even in the most basic corner shop it’s all just endlessly fascinating, properly delicious, local, fresh – just the sort of thing I used to have to get a train into town to get hold of if I was lucky. And yes, by and large the people really have been friendly, educated, international, well-travelled and super cool. As my mate Piper reminds me, this is the nicest, least racist area she’s ever lived in (and she’s lived all over the states).
But this crazy old hag has decided that people like me shouldn’t be allowed to cycle my kids around her neighbourhood. Perhaps she assumes, like some people that I am their nanny (I’ve been asked this while breastfeeding my youngest in the park. I’m not even joking. For the record, no I am not a wet nurse and I apologise for not realising that we are in fact still living in colonial times. FFS), not that this would make it ok. But she is an exception, which is probably why it feels so shocking. I’m just not used to being spoken to like that, to being made aware of someone elses ignorant hatred in such a shameless, deranged way. One minute, I’m cycling my kids in their honeybee burley trailer along the leafy bike lane by Prospect Park like an absolute wanker, the next I’ve apparently run over a racist‘s foot and she’s going to shop me to the cops.
So for that crazy old nutter and for crazy racist nutters everywhere (because let’s face it, this could just as easily have happened in London, Paris or anywhere) here’s my culinary contribution towards easing race relations. It might seem like a bit of a mission, but you know, racism isn’t something that can be solved in 5 minutes and when you savour the sublime crunch of deep fried tandoori-buttermilk soaked prawns, the spice soaked baguette against it’s foil of smoky beauty that is Bangla aubergine remoulade (make extra and keep in your fridge, trust me this will transform the meekest of cheese sandwiches) your efforts will be echoed and yes, quite possibly salaamed a thousand fold by your grateful tastebuds. Think of it as the very best bits of multicultural America in one handy little sandwich. And people of Brooklyn, don’t forget to look out for my face on wanted posters.
Tandoori prawn po boy, or a sandwich to stuff in the mouths of racists
For the tandoori marinade
for the seasoned flour
-1.5 cups gram/chickpea flour (or plain if you can’t get hold of it)
-1 tsp. tandoori masala powder
French baguette (the best you can get hold of) split open lengthways
Whisk the tandoori ingredients. Set aside while you fill the baguettes. Smear one side with the chilli sauce, the other with the aubergine mayo. Stuff with the tomato, onion, iceberg, pickles, chilli sauce
Get your deep frying oil up to temperature and line a plate with some kitchen roll. Dip the prawns in the tandoori buttermilk. Then coat with the seasoned flour.