Times Sq. New York, New York – May 27th 2009
This is the greatest smear of humanity I’ve ever seen.
All around me is a barrage of illumination. Colour. Smells. Flavours. Noises. So many noises. A bottomless orchestral attack.
Fading chalk drawings cover tyre treads. Light bulb fireworks explode from ground to sky. Wide-eyed photographers catch single moments. Smoke from streetcart barbecues drifts over the road. Leaflets passed from hand to hand find their way quickly to the floor. ‘Cheap tickets. Broadway tickets.’ ‘You like stand-up comedy? Wanna see a show?’ ‘Happy hour all day, all cocktails half price, all day today.’
I’m sat on a plastic chair, on Broadway, in the middle of Times Square. This section of the road has been closed to cars for 48 hours. Around me is the greatest multi-sensory onslaught I’ve ever experienced.
This rich palate of humanity shifting through a single space dedicated solely to consumption. In all its forms. I find it fitting that this was once the city’s red light district – a better metaphor than I could ever have come up with.
It’s my last few minutes trying to get an understanding of this place before we have to take the Subway in the vague direction of JFK airport. And I can’t. There is no unified whole. No single defining factor. No culture nor cuisine unique to here. Just here.
And I love it. Because that is how to define New York: by its impossibility. By its vast richness. By its indefinability.
Normally over five days you’re able to begin the process of unravelling a city. I’m delighted I haven’t been able to.
The delicious variety of New York stretches to the food too. It is elusive, obvious, effusive and subtle. Characterised by nothing more than its globally disparate origins. This is a true food-loving city in every sense where you can eat your way around the world around the clock.
So that’s what I did.
But rather than relay a tired list full of information yet devoid of flavour, I’m going to take a slightly different approach.
In an effort to pin down what really characterises the cuisine of the Big Apple, I’m going to try and recreate each glorious food moment in words and in the kitchen. Burgers, fries, pizzas, knish, pork buns and all.
And it would be an honour if you would join me on this little adventure through Central Park, Little Italy, The Village, SoHo, NoHo all the way down to the Lower East Side. Come on, it’ll be fun. We might even have time for a hot dog.
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