We’re moving to New York next year, and my relationship with food in America will have to change.
Helen and I are currently here to find somewhere to live and hopefully sort out my visa so I can work. The move is fuelled by Helen’s professional brilliance, I’m just along for the ride.
As with my usual four day jaunts to America I’m eating everything;
Buffalo chicken whenever we’re at a bar
Korean lunch for one whilst Helen was at work
Slightly over cooked burger with fries and sprouts for “brunch”
Mexican but more specifically a gloopy pile of cheese laden Nachos (plus a few tacos) for dinner, between us
I’ve only been here just over 48 hours, and I didn’t even take a photo of the quinoa Shakshouka I had at a breakfast job interview. Nor the enormous (and gross) pepperoni pizza we ordered up to the room.
America, and especially New York, is the land where everything is available, no questions asked. In London the same range might be available but begrudgingly and between certain times. In New York it’s whatever, whenever (all you have to do is pay for it)
And much of it is wonderful, life affirming stuff. Sat in a dive bar, sport on the screens with beer, wings and Helen is about as happy as I get. As long as I’ve got a big enough pile of napkins I want for nothing.
That Korean food was an almost equally lovely solo experience. I sat there hovering my chopsticks over the bowls choosing where to nibble from next. I was gleefully switching between the spicy octopus stir fry and the tofu broth until my nose ran like a tap.
The US has also reinvented and reinvigorated the Brussels sprout. When I was a child it was “cool”/lazy to hate them. Then the cool kid chefs started to play with sprouts, and now they’re delicious. Roasted or fried they go almost sweet alongside the earthiness. The ones I had here in New York were tossed through home fries.
But these delights could be dangerous now I’m living here. A few days of American indulgence then back to UK restraint was ok, I remained healthy if podgy.
Everyone knows the portions are bigger here but it’s the whole relationship with food that’s troubling. You hear it in the language;
Customers order food by saying “I’ll do the…”
Servers ask if you’re finished with a friendly “are you still working on that”
Food shouldn’t be a job, especially in a restaurant. I don’t want to be working at a meal. But American meals do become work before you’re finished.
This was best illustrated by the nachos. Unrelenting thick melted cheese stops being pleasurable pretty abruptly. There’s no middle ground; the second bite is smile triggering indulgence, the third a claggy chore. And there are still a lot more to go!
The only way to survive will be to leave food, but then you get the sort of pitying looks given to the defeated. My new aim, to remain perennially defeated but alive.