The fist time I went swimming in New York was a sunny day in March. I was excited at the prospect of once again being totally submerged – and eagre for that irreplaceable endorphin high that only cathartic exercise inspires. When I walked into the brick building housing the pool, I immediately noticed there were only three lanes. I asked the big black woman behind the counter who was filing her nails (with the intensity of someone taking a make or break scholarship exam) where the big pool was. She didn’t look up, but flailed her crusty file towards the three-lane pool, already churning with what looked like all of Williamsburg.
After ignoring the passive aggressive sign demanding I shower before entering the pool – um, what? – I walked confidently to the fast lane (obviously the only place for a seasoned swimmer like myself). I lowered myself into the simmering human soup and pushed off from the wall, straight into some guy’s heels. I got up to dislodge my goggles from my eye sockets before 100 per cent swimming through a warm current of someone’s pee. I know it was pee because I pee in pools all the time – it’s just so much worse when it’s not your own and a recent kick to the face has left you feeling a little hazy.
The fast lane was indeed that. Full of middle-aged corporate types who no doubt worked 60 hour weeks on Wall St, with slim athletic legs propping up enormous hairy stomachs - the result of too much whiskey combined with a general dissatisfaction with their lives. The fast lane was a place one could unabashedly flex their masculinity in a socially acceptable situation. While I wished they would take their primal chest-beating poolside, I couldn’t help be impressed how they managed to stay afloat carrying such gargantuan egos.
Being the only female in the fast lane, it did not bode well with my fellow lappers to be overtaken by a girl. I was given the stink eye at every turn and challenged to treacherous duals that nearly resulted in a head on collision with a bewildered breastroker. One guy even had the audacity to literally grab my foot – leaving me thrashing like someone realising they’d left their phone back in the bathroom halfway down an escalator. Fed up with the misogynists, I decided to escape to the medium lane, hosting only a timid looking latino woman and an old man who was walking up and down the shallow end while robotically lifting little weights above his head. The rest of my swim was pure bliss – until I got out and realised I had no towel.
As I was drying myself with copious handfuls of scratchy one-ply toilet paper, I decided then and there to try and be less extreme. Which I obviously took extremely seriously. My first step was to slow right now and make an elaborate picnic dinner to preliminarily herald some warmer weather.
CARAMELIZED PINEAPPLE SHRIMP UDON
- 1 packet (about 5 serves) cooked udon noodles
- ½ finely chopped pineapple
- about 1 kg of fresh green shrimp (prawns)
- 1 diced red onion
- 4 cloves grated garlic
- ½ cup soy sauce
- ¼ cup siracha
- ¼ cup honey
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Sesame oil for frying
- Fresh cilantro
- 2 cups shredded cabbage
- 2 cups shredded carrot
- ½ cup shallots
- ½ cup crispy shallots (try the Asian isle)
- Fresh cilantro and mint leaves
- ½ cup kewpie mayonnaise
- ¼ cup siracha
- Juice of one lime
- 3 tablespoons crunchy peanut butter
- Marinate the chopped pinapple and shrimp in the soy, honey, siracha, lemon and garlic for about two hours.
- Fry the red onion in the sesame oil until browned. Add in the bag of marinating mix and simmer until honey starts to caramelize. Toss with noodles and chopped fresh cilantro before serving.
- For the salad, combine cabbage, carrot, shallots (both) and herbs in a large bowl.
- For the dressing, combine siracha, lime, kewpie mayonnaise and peanut butter in a food processor. You may need to add a little water to bring it together.
- Pour over salad and toss until well covered.