I used to equate New York City to tap dancing sailors and hopes of becoming a Rockette. When I finally realized that the 1940’s were over and my legs would never be long enough, NYC instantly lost its appeal. I don’t like the grit nor the glamor – So, I resolved to remain a Midwestern soul, shy away from city life, and reduce cutting-edge food trends as snobbish extravagancies.
But life never goes according to plan. And I like spherified salad dressing. And I like fois gras. And things happen. Sometimes, even good things.
Next week, I move to New York – an unforeseeable and curious development. It isn’t unusual that I am startled by my own happenings – I’ve found that if one contemplates life too long there are consequential feelings of slight disorientation and vague amusement. The other alternative is complete terror – and I’d rather not go that route.
As much as I love my pierogies and beer, Bob Evans, and a world where people don’t judge when you for drinking Folgers – and as much as I can do without the jaded waitresses and blood-lusting pit bulls- I am excited about New York. There is something undeniably romantic about being a little fish in a pond – and I will certainly be a little fish.
It is the world of Eleven Madison Park, Daniel Boulud, slummy diners and more cupcakes than imaginable. I don’t necessarily desire to work for the top dogs, nor sell my soul. Dr. Faustus – I am not. I am happy to saunter along as a member of the underground fraternity of culinary misfits (the UFCM). I am simply in search of great foods and great flavor, without the magic hats and penguin suits. It is a misconception that that they are mutually exclusive. One doesn’t need Alinea to know how good fried chicken can taste.
Living an hour north of the city I plan to dip in for the occasional Hawaiian heart of palm or duck terrine, but I will quickly return to winter stews, biscuits, and rustic pumpkin pies. Food can be an art, but it is also the craft of simple nourishment. Don’t let New York confuse you otherwise.
While New York has always seemed like big, angry pit bull of a state, I am still going in with my favorite philosophy – It is from the play, “Harvey,” and I’ll recommend it every time.
“Years ago my mother used to say to me, she’d say, ‘In this world, Elwood, you must be’ – she always called me Elwood – ‘In this world, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.’ Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. And you may quote me.”
– Elwood P. Dowd, “Harvey”