Friday, November 13, 2009

Pastrami on Rye

The first printed mention of bagels...is to be found in the Community Regulations of Krakow, Poland, for the year 1610 which stated that bagels would be given as a gift to any woman in childbirth."
from by Leo Roste, "The Joys of Yiddish"

[Cut to a "Swedish film"; a barren winter landscape narrated by a man and woman speaking in Swedish, with English subtitles]
Man: When does the bus come?
Woman: The bus never comes.
Man: Then I want to die.
Anthony Bordain, "No Reservations"
"Take Out" ("Delivery") menus, New York
I am beginning to realise that I'm a slow learner.

When I first came to New York, and for many years after, I believed that sooner or later that I'd be invited to dinner parties, the keystone of a social life.

Yep, I was Melbourne through and through. Coffee with friends on weekends, dropping in, and a dinner party or two, monthly.

It didn't happen of course. I took a while to learn the rules of New York life. It isn't about dinner parties. And coffee in a coffee shop? Helloooo!

Coffee is that slop you put in a polystyrene cup and have at your desk at work.

I have been to two dinner parties in my fourteen years in New York. The first was about ten years ago and I can't tell you much about it. All I can remember is there was a man there who had to interrupt the dinner to call his pet canary. But obviously there was more to it than that.

Coffee in a Box with Donuts
The second was about two years go. A neighbour in my building invited me to "dinner with friends to celebrate the 4th of July". I was elated. "Good things come to those who wait" - who said that? My mum? It felt like it was true. I bought a good bottle of wine and knocked on the door round 8:00 p.m.

It seemed that I was the first to arrive. "What cuisine would you like, the others aren't here yet - I asked my hairdresser and the girl at the pharmacy," said my neighbour in one breath. She then laid out a selection of take-out ("delivery") pamphlets from local restaurants. I could pick from a dozen or so cuisines. Great.

I can't remember much more about that night. The human brain is a wonderful thing.

The upshot is that I've now come to realise that socializing in New York is NOT about dinner parties or coffee in polystyrene cups. It is about ... it is about. Well it isn't.

Which brings me to the subject of FOOD. TV is big in America, and one of the more popular channels is the FOOD Channel. I've recently become an avid fan. This will surprise though who know me, as I've never considered myself as a good cook, or as a gourmet. But now I am beginning to understand - the food thing, that is.

It's not about food. It's not about dinner parties. It is about imaginings.

Take Bourdain's "No Reservations". New York chef, Anthony Bourdain goes to a different country every night. And we can all WATCH!

On coming home from work and eating a hot dog or a knish, we are all equal. In the democracy that is America, IF we have (premier) cable, we can ALL watch Bourdain slide across exotic countries, criticizing and or admiring the cuisine. It's almost like being there!

And if we are in a negative frame of mind we can tune into BBC America and watch Geoffrey Ramsey ("Kitchen Nightmares") try to rescue a vegetarian restaurant in Paris run by a spoiled child of a Scottish business man. We can then feel good that WE aren't the child. OR the businessman parent.

It isn't about food. It is about ... well it is about, not being ALONE.

Who NEEDS a dinner party? Who WANTS one? Not me.

It's much easier to dial the local [restaurant of your choice] and tune into a cable channel.

The world at your fingertips.

Enjoy.

3 comments:

Joachim said...

had a dinner party at 93 street, actually I cooked it, and the guests were elated.
jps

Kate said...

Was I there????

Boggy said...

Sounds like New York isn't the way I had it pictured in my youth. Very sad, Kate.
I sometimes watch Bourdain, but I've grown sick of him. I'm a a very lucky bloke. Bunny reads cookbooks for pleasure and cooks all the time from the recipes she finds. We subscribe to Cook's Kitchen web site and actually use the recipes. They are the very best. Yum!
Granted, we spend a lot of time in the kitchen and shopping, but then, we are retired. Thank god!
Bill

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