I made it to the food fair, on 9th between 57th and stretching, it seemed, as far down as 40th. I only made it to 44th or so, but I still saw a crazy bevy of sights. Games, food, shows, amusements – it seemed totally out of place for New York City.
I was assaulted in quick succession upon entry to the area by water-gun games and ‘horse racing’ games (the kind in which players roll balls up a ramp and into slots on a board, each trying to push their horse to the finish fasted in order to win a prize); I saw underwear vendors and bedspread salesmen who touted the thread counts of their linens; I saw a man selling Sham-Wows (no mention of the oroginal pitchman being in prison for hiring, and then assaulting, a Las Vegas prostitute); I saw children playing on inflatable slides and in bouncy castles, which sparked in me for the first time in years the yearning to be young and tiny once more.
But mostly, I saw food. Here are the things I saw for sale, and which I ate:
Fried fish, fried chicken, chicken wings, rice and beans, mac and cheese, and fried shrimp, all of which were for sale at a vendor who marked their wares halal, of which I was suspect, given that I believe shellfish to be as verboten for observant Muslims as they are for Jews. Carribean food – jerk chicken, curried goat, meat patties. Mozzarepa, a grilled cheese sandwhich served on grilled two corn pancakes. Chinese food – which I saw plenty of people eaating out of the white-and-red takeout containers. Why they decided to walk around eating fried rice in the middle of the street, I have no idea; there is almost no other food less conducive to ambulatory walking. Burgers, one vendor of which touted as the best in New York and offered a challenge for people to find better – a challenge which is easy to make, given that few people at the street fair would have the means to walk home, make a burger, and carry it back to the man still fresh and hot and in time for him to try. Pizza, which prompted me to strike up a discussion with one guy I ran into – a man whom I found out is a trained chef, though not someone who cooks professionally, and whom had once been on a Food Network TV show – about the glory and ease of making Breakfast Pizza.[i] Chocolate-dipped-anything on a stick: marshmallows, strawberries, apples, and grapes (which, few people know, is actually the best of all possible chocolate-dipped fruits; they are sweet, but tart, and the skin gives a natural and satisfying snap as you bite through the chocolate shell and into the fruit, a snap which yields to soft, unctuous, and sweet – but, again still tart – inner flesh). Chocolate cake, topped with raspberries, which, after mac and cheese, delectable flour-battered shrimp, and sangria from an outdoor bar stand that also served the Asian Chicken Salad that a number of people with whom I had since joined up tried, I bought from a pair of men whose prinicipal ware was soft shell crab sandwiches. They let me watch as they pulled a live crab from a bucket, ripped out its guts, floured it, cleaved off its forebrain and face, and threw it, still twitching into a pot of boiling oil that sat just a foot above the city’s pavement whereupon car tires had passed screeching not two days before.
There were plenty of alcohol vendors besides the one sangria place, which was nice, though most sat in front of brick-and-mortar bars to which it was clear that they belonged; it seemed in fact that the only restaurants along the busy 9th avenue that bothered to open storefront street cafes were places with liquor licenses that relied primarily on the booze trade both in al fresco settings and inside. There was greek food, delicious looking shwarma and gyros and kebabs. I saw whole roasting pigs on spits, which took me back to Texas in my mind; there were also pulled pork sandwiches to be had. The Cuban places served pork as well and didn’t shy away from showing off whole hindquarters of roast pig at their stalls; the Latin booths (Dominicans, especially) offered a whole varieyty of foods all their own that were no less tantalizing for their relative obscurity in the American culinary landscape: empanadas, patties both meat and vegetarian, tamales, items con queso and con quezo, et al. In fact, in hindsight, the most glaringly absent ethnic foods were some of the more popular in regular New York City culinary life: Korean, Japanese, and Indian were nowhere to be seen. Instead, there was all the bevy listed above, plus more. I saw clams being offered, and fresh-shucked oysters on the half-shell; more than once did I see folks chowing down – in the middle of the street! – on opulent whole red lobster!
[i] Breakfast pizza is a bachelor’s dream. It’s a great food in the morning in the afternoon, equally good whether hungover or not, requires little in the way of ingredients and nothing at all special or out of the ordinary. It’s hot, but the cooking and prep time are minimal, and it makes for great use of leftovers that would either go to waste, or be consumed under sub-optimal conditions and without a great deal of pleasure.
How to make it? It’s easy. First, take your leftover pizza, the stuff from last night that you threw into the fridge. Now get a pan, butter, and some eggs.
Scramble the eggs and pour them into the hot buttered pan. You can keep scrambling them in the pan, but it’s better if you leave them omelet-style – it tastes better, looks better, and is easier to eat.
When the plain omelet is about ready, pull off the top of the pizza – the cheese is cold and congealed now, so this should be pretty easy; it doesn’t have to all come off in one piece – and place it into the middle of your omelet. Look at that! You’ve just made a cheese omelet – hell, maybe a pepperoni and cheese omelet, or a mushroom, cheese and onion omelet, or whatever else you had the pizza topped with!
That’s pretty good, but it gets better. You’re going to take that now-naked slice, and stick it in an oven, toaster oven, or microwave. Heat it up, and when it’s done, drop your nice hot omelet onto your pizzatoast.
Ta-da! You’ve made breakfast pizza! It’s delicious, and I bet no one has ever thought to show you that neat trick before. Go ahead, impress your friends.