I Shall Wear the Bottoms of My Trousers Rolled
I slipped my thumb ring off my finger and into the Bosphorus the other day. It was the last of many steps in an ongoing, inevitable and long overdue process of de-Fierification. Call it an embracing of my inner Cosby. My sous-chef Steven gave me that ring a long time ago. Back in the day, we, all of us in the crew at the Supper Club got them, on the eve of a James Beard dinner event. A phalanx of famous, better known and (frankly, better all-around) chefs and their assistants were joining us in the kitchen the next night and we wanted something appropriately white trashy to set us apart, distinguish us as the home team. Like the skull and knife logo, I drew on our jackets for the occasion, the rings signified a sort of underdog unit pride.
We may have kind of sucked—but we worked hard, dammit—and if nothing else, habitually cranked out a helluva lot more dinners than anybody on the visiting team. By the time I dropped the thing in the water, the ring had outlived its usefulness. It went the way of my earring, joining—in one sense or another—my Dead Boys T-shirt, my telescoping billyclub and my crack pipe in some Davey Jones locker of once cherished but now abandoned objects. I think Steven will forgive me.
Speaking of rings, it’s worth noting that they’re notorious hiding places/vectors for bacteria and thus frowned upon in food handling. With each added ring, a cook is increasing your chances for infection exponentially. When you eat food handled by a guy with four or five rings on his fingers, it’s like the gastro-intestinal version of unprotected group sex: each added protuberance makes it that much more likely you’re picking up something — really nasty. You might consider that next time Guy Fieri makes you an order of wasabi meatballs.
My shame and misery while shooting the upcoming Outer Boroughs show was entirely heartfelt. It’s shocking and unforgivable that I’ve lived so long in New York City, have seen so much of the rest of the world, and know so pathetically little about the wonderlands of food just across the river. The world has passed me by in no small number of ways, but this is painful in a fashion that my other areas of ignorance are not. Residents of Brooklyn and Queens in particular will carp that I show so little of their exploding food scenes—that I missed so much. Exactly.
Just eating around Flushing leaves me feeling much as I do in China, confronted with every bite by my own mortality and the lack of sufficient time left to do a proper job with a humongus subject.
On the plus side, I did get to down tiki drinks with David Johansen–though his enthusiasm for the New York Dolls of old seemed less…fervent than mine. Staten Island, it turns out, is the home of the last irony-free Hawaiian/Polynesian tiki palace in New York. A fine and beautiful thing. I brook no snickering with my flaming pu-pu platters.
In keeping with the “wallowing in my own ignorance” theme of this blog entry, let me say that any preconceived notions I might have had about Turkey being mostly about meat on a stick have been proved terribly wrong. Istanbul is a freakin’ foodie paradise. It’s downright brain bending how much good stuff is to be found at even everyday eateries—how difficult it is to walk down the street—any street—and not want to eat everything in sight. Table service is stunningly good as well—something of a rarity on this scale.
Finally, may I refer any of you who have inquired, jokingly or otherwise, over the years, about a job on the show, to production assistant Helen Cho’s excellent Crew Blog entry. She discusses the seamy underside of a day’s toil at Zero Point Zero, citing a “to do” list that included the wrangling of a bong, a compliant pet store, a rodeo clown and three dead prostitutes. I’m guessing life’s a little less weird over at Passport To Europe. But then you never know.