Last night, I went out drinking with my friend Faith. Safely ensconced at the bar, where huddled over pints of Smithick's we avoided the arctic Manhattan air, we got around to talking about morality. A bit heavy for a Saturday night on Third Avenue, but Faith got me thinking when she described her recurring vision of New York: a giant, hulking head eating everything in its path; a model of consumerism; a place that exists only to ingest - the ultimate in Americana.
I didn't disagree with her, though I argued that one thing that sets New York apart from most cities is that its reputedly unabashed commercialism isn't so unabashed after all; most New Yorkers I know are constantly searching for meaning in their consumption, hoping to infuse every moment not spent in the office with a sort of holy significance, a justification for the way we work, work, work to earn the money to pay our ridiculous rents.
This search, I think, is a great deal of what fuels New York's long and ongoing obsession with food. Restaurants, farmers' markets, gourmet grocery stores (such as Eli's Manhattan, above), and kitchenware emporia are our new cultural status symbols; a spring morning spent searching for the batch of perfect ramps at the Greenmarket in Union Square is as respected a pasttime as an afternoon spent at the Frick. Dinner in New York is entertainment, both high and low, in and of itself; who needs a movie when you can watch your host brulee their creme or enjoy the shocking heat and vibrant color of a meal at Sripraphai?
I'm sure there are New Yorkers who don't give a hoot about their food - I just don't happen to know a single one of them. Moving to New York seems to transofrm even stalwart meat-and-potatoes types into Thai food-loving, wine-collecting participants in the city's vibrant, all-encompassing food scene. It may just be that in a city of more than eight million people, there actually is something for everyone, culinarily speaking.
Through this blog, I hope to share some of my own enthusiasm for and experiences in this foodie paradise with all of you. I'm hardly an expert on anything, but I'm an eager amateur, and my excitement, I hope, will be contagious.