Maybe this happens to you too. When I leave a place, like home, for instance, I don’t only think about all the people and the places I will miss. I think about the food. I dream about the food. And I obsess about the food. Take it or leave it. That’s me. I start planning a series of “last suppers” a week in advance. There’s nothing I can do to change it. And in my efforts to suck down every last bite of a place, I usually eat way, way too much. Again, everyone has a vice. And I kind of like mine. It’s tasty.
Leaving New York to come back to England inspired a manic incarnation of my need-to-eat syndrome. I went to the Vinegar Factory and had about three raspberry-jam stuffed corn muffins, that crumble and stick to the roof of your mouth in that solid-peanut-butter way that good corn muffins have. I had the black squid rice and shrimp enchiladas at Maz Mezcal–because it’s not that easy, sorry, to find adequate Mexican in the UK, no matter what anybody tells you. (If you know of some, please tell me, because I’m dying for it!) As I shoved spoonfuls of saffron rice studded with oily black ink and squid bodies and olives and roasted pequillos and peas upon forkful of tender wine-soaked shrimps shrouded in corn tortillas and tomatillo sauce into my mouth, and I chased with still more excruciating bites of refried beans and double-salted tortilla chips. Some people gaze across a landscape. Others breath it in. I inhale it–off a plate.
I made other stops for specific things that aren’t part of the UK food culture. Like Yura for a great turkey sandwich–an American staple that hasn’t been imported into England. Piles of king crab dumplings and Kiss of Fire sushi rolls at Haru. I mean, this was all in the space of a few days, and I’m still standing.
But last but not least was my trek over to The Shake Shack. I took my father, who had never been before, and walked across the park to pre-emptively burn some of the all-American calories we were already guilty about consuming. As I stood in line to order my shack burger, fries, seltzer, and vanilla shake, I did stop and smell the fryers a bit. Perhaps I learned to leave New York by eating up the entirety of the Big Apple because the restaurants are the kitchens of New York. In the way a kitchen is the heart of a home, so a restaurant is the heart of the City. Kids were weaving their way through anxious, hungry legs that stamped like a herd’s in line. Couples were discussing the sourcing of the Yukon gold fries, and just why exactly they were less fat than other fries. The sun glinted in from the glass-paned walls, and I squinted out onto Columbus Avenue. I remembered coming to this very spot with my friend Amanda, who used to live a block away, and ordering a salad with blue cheese dressing and a side of fries when it was another restaurant.
It was New York, and I wanted every last drop of it.
And then I sat down at the glorified picnic table with my dad and my burger. That soft, buttery bun. The crumbling beef, the oozing vinegary sauce. The crisp resilience of the crinkle fries that we shared across the table. That sweet, thick, oozing ketchup. And the shake that wouldn’t budge up the straw–so different from the milk-based shakes of the UK. It was all-American, and I ate it all up to the last crumb. The only thing I didn’t take a bite out of that day was American Pie. But that’s on my list for next time.