Ethnic Food, and the Ethnics Who Make It
Let us now praise bagels, bialys, smoked salmon and hamantaschen at Russ and Daughters, halvah, lebny and baba ganoush from the Lebanese food emporium, Sahadi's, pupusas from a food truck parked near a ball field in Red Hook, sfinci di san Giuseppe and wheat pies from the anise-scented bakery at Court Pastry.
Also to be praised is that these places have been doing business for decades, with no signs of slowing down. Well, Court Pastry seemed a little down on its luck when I was there a few months ago. Its shelves seems bare and just one woman was working the counter, not the three I used to see when I lived in Carroll Gardens in 1991.
In Cleveland, where I'm from, there were ethnic enclaves, with restaurants and shops that reeked of garlic and cumin and paprika, especially the multiculti food shrine, West Side Market. In Ada, where I'm going, the essential spices are salt, pepper and Sweet 'n Low.
I won't go on and on about how multiculti New York City is, how it's the melting pot and the crazy quilt, the apotheosis of immigrant dreams of assimilation and striving. But I'll say this: living here has made me more comfortable with Otherness than with Sameness. I feel a little out of balance when I'm in an environment where, as the disco song went, "no blacks, no Jews and no gays."
So there I was, minding my own bidniss, heading down Spring Street toward Broadway, when I came across New York's Finest, conducting an arrest of two guys in the middle of the street. From the looks of things, the brothers are guilty of Excessive Sartorial Color Brilliance. Bright orange shoes. Electric blue shirt.
My first impression of New York City as I emerged from the Christopher Street stop on the 1 at Sheridan Square in 1986 was of an angry little dwarf, screaming at a stoned, big galoot on crutches.
New York City's streets are an extension of people's dining rooms, living rooms, bedrooms. There's never a dull moment.