One of the benefits of NOT working a traditional job (or, in my case, at all) is the ability to do things that can’t be done when you are otherwise engaged from 9-5 on a regular basis. To that end, this week my friend invited me to come with her into Manhattan to see a taping of a talk show. I’d never done something like this before; never even thought about it, actually. The only show I ever wanted to see live was David Letterman, and as a teacher, the only time I’d be able to do it would be in the summer and I wasn’t keen on the idea of standing outside in the humid summer with fetid exhaust fumes just to maybe not get in at all because that’s always a possibility. And now he’s going to retire so there’s a life event I might not get to fulfill, but with this new schedule you never know.
ANYWAY. We left our comfortable suburban New Jersey homes to tangle with the wild beast of NYC, and emerged into the huge monster known as Penn Station. You can’t just get off the train and pause to gather your wits about you, peering at signs to determine which way you want to go. No, that’s a good plan only if you intend to be swept away by crowds and poked with umbrellas and assaulted with backpacks from all the folks who have some. place. to. be. now. dammit. You just start walking in the same direction as everyone else and wait for an open area to present itself. Then you fling yourself violently against the wall and catch a deep breath because of course the escalator stairs weren’t working and you just climbed the equivalent of three flights of stairs in double time and you’re sure your heart has never reached a tempo quite that fast before, all the while wondering which of these passing strangers might perform CPR on you because surely you’re about to die? But then the world starts to focus slowly and you can figure out which exit you want without ending up on another train to an exotic location like Poughkeepsie.
No matter how many times I go into New York, it’s always a bit of a culture shock when I emerge onto the street. I get transported back to the days when I had to go into “the city” with my mom when she was working as a comptometer operator and she had to bring in big office envelopes of completed work. The smell was exotic and heady and at the same time just a bit disgusting. Cigarettes, burned pretzels, taxi exhaust, coffee, and heat. Enter the subways and you can add a fine layer of old urine and mechanical grease to that. I was like a dog trying to identify all those odors, but at the age of 4? I guess? it was just a mishmosh that immediately signaled that exciting yet mysterious stuff was going on all around us.
Today, as a mature adult, I certainly don’t lift my nose in the air and give a long appreciative sniff followed by several little ones as I used to, but I still get that jarring sense of excitement and danger when I hit the streets. Even though it was a bit chilly (and I’m sorry, Bill Evans of Accuweather Forecast, but will you please stop saying it’s going to be 64 degrees when it never seems to get over 48? Thank you.) I didn’t care, I was on an adventure. On a Wednesday! At 11:00 in the morning! I wasn’t teaching third grade how to play recorders or 8th grade how the music industry is a growing one or reporting for cafeteria duty!
We decided to head to Eataly. And there, my friends, is where I died and went to Italian heaven. If I ever meet Mario Batali or Lidia Bastianich, I am going to kneel before them and kiss their talented fingers. (I have seen Lidia Bastianich before. I worked in an office that managed the books and payroll for her early restaurant, Felidia Ristorante, and I think I worshipped her then, too.) This place which takes up an entire city block of Manhattan, is like a grocery store, import store, deli, and restaurant with everything Italian you could possibly dream of. If we were not continuing our journey on to a show taping, I would have bought enough Italian goodies to sink us into serious debt. (As it is, I’ve informed my family that we WILL be making a visit there. Soon.)
After some serious touristy-type gawking, we decided to eat at the pasta section. The other option was pizza, and I love a good pizza but come on! PASTA. Just look at this gorgeousness:
That? That is spring pea and lemon-ricotta ravioli, with scalloped edges, and buttered asparagus with cheese. OH. MY. LORD. I grudgingly offered a bite, but thankfully it was declined and I had the whole plate of deliciousness to myself. Had it not been so crowded I totally would have licked the plate. My friend had this:
I believe this was called parchetti, but I could be making it up. It is like amazeballs giant rigatoni and had shrimp, scallops, mussels, and probably lobster. Ohhhhhh…….
And then we shopped among all the jars of pesto and jardiniere, packages of every pasta you could think of, fresh meats, chocolates, fresh fruit and veggies, kitchenware, and this delightful looking spot:
Oh, man! Cheeeeeeeeeeese…………
Are there any other places like this? Does Wisconsin have a huge palace devoted to the delights of Dairy Country, with the artistry of a master chef (or two)? Indiana? What about West Virginia? I want to know. You know. For science.