“The photographs are not illustrative. They, and the text, are co-equal, mutually independent, and fully collaborative.” James Agee, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, xi.
Piglet is squealing.
Mark Ladner, chef at Del Posto, wears square granny glasses and blue latex gloves. With a practiced snap to check for fit, Ladner bends over the cutting board.
Pig: Sus scrofa domesticus: child-like. Its hairy and pink skin reflexes upon palpitation; it snuffles to the human touch. Cradled in the arms of a pubescent girl, its heart beats in languid, muffled, contented ka-thumps. It avoids cold, wet, and windy weather, preferring the safe habitations of a straw-lined litter. In the bluster of a kitchen, the pig peeks its pointed head between open oven doors, inquires into burbling pots, and trips, nervous, as though made uncomfortable by the warm voices far overhead. They speak of dinner and death. Continue reading
October on Bayard Street tastes sharp like radish and blue zinc; Chinese mothers carrying cucumbers and mackerel quicken their step, bundled in black cloaks against the cold; schoolboys slurp hot and milky tea in Taiwanese snack shops; the rare tourist pauses and studies his subway map in confusion, for he has wandered far from Canal Street and needs a woman, clutched like a chicken foot, to guide him West. Against the current of the crowd sweeping over the sidewalk, flowing between lampposts and parked bicycles, pushing from Mott to Mulberry, head buried and burrowing on, a fruit stand is set. Its lights shine on tangerines and the season’s last grapes, shrunken and timid and priceless. Swimming against the mob I grab a jackfruit for dear life and poke my head above water, breathing in the light before surrendering myself to another block before dinner.
Inside Xi’an Famous Foods, I ordered spicy and tingly lamb face salad at the cash register. The morning had been a matter of anticipation, the afternoon an exercise in agonizing delay. Lunch: peanut butter and jelly on English muffins. Milquetoast fare for cubicle living. At long last, I had found the center of my office maze and escaped the gray and white and leapt free from plate glass up, out, over Midtown, across Hell’s Kitchen (sneaking peeks into ramen noodle houses and peep shows), down the West Side Highway and East, due East, into Chinatown. After changing my twenty and taking a seat, I listened to the call, “28, order 28,” and then “29,” and then, mercifully passing over the next number, “31, lamb face salad.”
I am watching Anthony Bourdain eat off my plate, fending off his pernicious fingers with a pair of chopsticks. Continue reading