In this column, Katherine Knowles divulges recipes you can make in your tiny New York City kitchen.
This, courtesy of my friend Sara, who related it after dinner one night as the apple punch simmered on the hob and the fire (totally legal, btw) flickered in the grate.
“When I first moved to New York, I got a great deal through a friend of a friend of my mom’s: a studio that used to be part of a bigger apartment on Park Avenue. It was cheap, but in return, I’d go next door and sit with the lady who owned the building. I’d bring her milk and juice sometimes. She had the first stages of dementia and she liked to have company.
“I moved in. Everything was going fine. There was just one thing: The coat closet door kept blowing open at night. The sound of it tapping against the door frame would wake me up. I’d get up and close the door, but as soon as I settled back in bed, it would click open again and start banging again. Tap. Tap. Tap.
“Eventually, I got so frustrated with the noise, I propped a chair against the door when I went to bed.
“I was dead asleep — really, fast asleep — when I heard a huge crash. I leapt up, flicked on the light. The chair was on the floor, and the closet door was open, swinging very gently to and fro, to and fro.
“The next day, I was sitting with the old woman next door and she seemed much more lucid than she often did. She asked me how I liked the apartment, and I mentioned the closet door. She said, really matter-of-factly, that years and years ago, her son hanged himself in that very closet.
“Honestly, I was totally freaked out. I wanted to run away straight back home to New Jersey, but then I thought, no way. I have a rent-controlled apartment on Park Avenue! I am not going to be spooked out of it.
“So that night, I sat up and I waited. I listened to every creak of floorboards, every tick of the pipes. I waited and waited. Nothing.
“With a tiny click, the closet door opened.
“I sat stock-still for a moment. And then, a creak and a tap, tap, tap, as the door knocked against the frame.
“I took a deep breath and went over to the closet, and I said something like, ‘I’m sorry that something terrible and sad happened to you, but this is my apartment now, and you need to rest in peace.’ Something like that — I Googled what to say, and surprisingly there’s quite a formula for it. Anyway, I said my piece, and my voice sounded unnaturally loud and high-pitched in the quiet and the darkness. Then I closed the closet door firmly, and went to bed.
“I don’t think I slept at all that night. My ears were buzzing with the silence. The hours crept by, and every shadow seemed to hide a shape. But nothing. And the closet door never swung open of its own accord again.
“Make of that what you will.”
Obviously, a stiff drink:
Bobbing for Apples Punch
3 cups apple cider
Tbsp brown sugar (optional)
4 1/2 ounces spiced rum
2 1/4 ounces Cointreau
Slice a couple of apples into a Tupperware pot. Cover with vodka and crunch in a few cinnamon sticks. Let this sit overnight. The next day, heat up 3 cups of apple cider, with a couple of cloves and a cinnamon stick. Add a tbsp. of brown sugar if you prefer sweet cider, and stir to dissolve. Once the apple cider is steaming (but not boiling), add 3 measures (4 1/2 ounces, if you’re using a shot glass) of spiced rum, and 1 1/2 measures (2 1/4 ounces, by the shot glass ratio) of Cointreau. Divide the hot drink between 4 mugs, and add a few slices of the boozy apple.