Llewellyn King: Guilt-stricken meat eater; review of train stations; our beaches are better

'They treat us like equals''

'They treat us like equals''

NOTEBOOK

 

Italian Veal Caper

Let me be out front about my hypocrisy when it comes to eating animals. I’m a shameless carnivore, but I hate to think of the herds of cattle, pigs and sheep that I've eaten.

In my heart, I’m a vegetarian, but my stomach has an hereditary attachment to the hunters who preceded me. So I eat meat and wish I didn’t.

The best I can do to atone for this sin is to avoid bacon, not because I don’t love it; I do, but I think, along with Winston Churchill, that pigs are pretty terrific creatures. Of course, I do gobble the odd pork roast and chop; so my hypocrisy flourishes.

In case you’ve forgotten, this is what Churchill had to say about pigs, “I like pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.”

Well, all of this is by way of a gastronomic enquiry: Why is there so little veal on the menus of Italian restaurants, which abound in New England? Rhode Island's numerous Italian restaurants just give a nod to veal, once the staple meat of the fine Italian table, north and south.

Now, I find chicken has replaced veal on Italian restaurant menus. Such standards as veal franchese, veal saltimbocca and veal marsala are mostly made with chicken.

Osso buco (braised veal shank) has almost disappeared from restaurant menus. You can't make it with chicken. My wife, Linda Gasparello, makes delicious osso buco. But buying the veal shanks for a recent dinner party involved perseverance.

Are we saving the calf and sacrificing the chicken? Looks that way. Eat up and leave the agonizing to me.

Train Trials: Amtrak Stations That Are  OK, Great and Awful

In the main room of the  Providence train station. On the floor is carved the lovely phrase from Robert Louis Stevenson:  "For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move.''  

In the main room of the  Providence train station. On the floor is carved the lovely phrase from Robert Louis Stevenson:  "For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move.''
 

 

As readers may know, I’m the fat man in the bow tie, so often seen on the Amtrak train between Providence and Washington, D.C. I take the Northeast Regional in times of low economic activity, as it's now for me, and the Acela when economic activity is robust.

The train is really pretty good or, at least, agreeable. But the stations are something else.

Starting at the head of the line, Boston's South Station has lots of places to eat, but few to sit and wait for your train.

Providence's Amtrak station is a train-rider's joy. A small rotunda with a wonderful sandwich bar – with possibly the best sandwiches in the state – Cafe La France

Going swiftly to my next alighting point: New York's Penn Station. It's just scary, with too much third-rate retailing, too many people squeezed together under a ceiling that’s too low. It's filthy, unfriendly, probably unsafe and everything that train travel used not to be. Even a Zaro's Bakery outlet can't redeem it.

Union Station in Washington, D.C., is an architectural masterpiece and the main hall has been fabulously restored. However, Amtrak, which operates the facility, which also serves commuter trains into Maryland and Virginia, seems to care more about rental income than people. There's too much retailing near the train gates, too little use of the glorious main hall. Worse, passengers waiting for trains have to hunt for the few broken chairs in the station.

It’s a pleasure to get on train just to sit down. I hasten say that Union Station isn't as awful or threatening as Penn Station, but it could use some passenger-friendly improvements.

California Beaches Versus New England Beaches

 

 

Recently, I found myself again in one of those arguments that won’t be settled and won’t go away: Where are the best beaches? This argument usually boils down to a contest between California and  southern New England.

Let me be partisan: Our beaches are best.

The reason has nothing to do with the tonnage of sand per bather. Rather, it's our secret weapon: the Gulf Stream, which in the summer and early fall sends water that can get well up into the 70s to the southern New England coast, most noticeably into Buzzards Bay. It means that in summer, there's no beach that isn't bather-accessible. You can go in the water.

I've done some pretty thorough research on the western shores of the country and they do have great sand, surf and sunsets -- maybe the best -- but the water is cold. I once ran naked into the Malibu surf to impress an actress: It didn’t work and I froze. In fact, you have to go as far south as San Diego before the water is swimmable.

Sunsets and sand are nice, but you do want to run into the water? We win.

Llewellyn King (llewellynking1@gmail.com), a frequent contributor to New England Diary, is executive producer and host of White House Chronicle, on PBS. He’s also a veteran publisher, editor, columnist and international business consultant