In the same way that New Orleans has the Po’ Boy and San Francisco has sourdough bread, New York City’s signature food is supposedly pizza. I disagree. I say New York’s signature food is a sandwich in the rain— a dish that matches the soul of this unrelenting city. But, it doesn’t stop there. Listed here are a few meals that mirror the ethos of NYC.
New York Meal #1: A Sandwich in the Rain
Having missed the A train by 5 minutes with the next one coming in 23, you know you are going to be late. You have sweated through your white dress shirt and now there are visible stains in the armpits. That is a shame, because you are going to an interview to be an au-pair. It will be tough to explain to an expatriated millionaire French couple why you are qualified to care for their trilingual 4-year-old, considering that you are 45 minutes late and drenched in sweat. Nevertheless, you made the appointment to meet with Claudia and Marc, so you must go.
You pop out of the train station and order a cold-cut turkey and swiss sandwich from the corner store. You’ll have to eat it standing up because you must be ready to dash up the steps when you hear the train coming. As you bite into your sandwich, the sky tears open, and the rains cascade down in biblical proportions. The bread of your sandwich is now soaked, rendering it inedible. The train, meanwhile, pulls in the station and you miss it again.
On the bright side though, you just had a signature New York meal.
New York Meal #2: An Ice Cream Cone under Threat of Violence
It’s been a good workout and an even better time throwing the football in the park with your intramural league. It reminds you of throwing the football as a teenager after school with your friends. Nostalgia courses through your veins as you notice an Ice Cream truck in the near distance— another symbol of your idyllic youth.
You approach the window to order a simple vanilla ice cream cone to round out your perfect day when you notice that another ice cream truck has pulled up. As you are handed your tasty treat, you hear glass shattering. The driver of the other ice cream truck has shattered a taillight. Unbeknownst to you, you have stumbled into a turf war between rival small business owners jockeying for prime real estate and it has turned violent.
Fear overtakes nostalgia as you consider that your sweet tooth might be knocked out of your mouth with a Louisville Slugger. Hurriedly, you finish your ice cream as you bear witness to two men in their forties chasing each other around the park with a baseball bat and golf club.
New York Meal #3: Halal Food on the Train
This is a very experiential meal. And by that, I mean you are not the one eating it. You are merely experiencing a man eating a plate of lamb over rice while standing up on a packed 7 train. The smells and sounds of this most pungent dish overtake the train car for your commute home.
You see, New York, at its heart, is a large network of sub-communities. A bee’s nest with each honeycomb representing groups bound together by a mutual interest. Soccer leagues and startups. Sommelier tasting workshops and sex dungeons. It is in this same spirit that all the people on a packed train smelling the potent mixture of watered-down hot sauce, mayonnaise, and 3-day-old lamb are also a community. A community bound together by a creeping sense of nausea and a weariniess of getting any of it spilled on them.
New York’s beating heart is its people. The thing that powers this beating heart is the food that we put into our frail, weather-beaten, malnourished bodies. This isn’t just pizza. This is experience. This is New York. New York is a sandwich in the rain.