Thoughts on “A Casual Sunday Lunch”

When you think of mealtime on Sundays, I’m sure visions of stacks of pancakes, muffins and scones straight from the oven, french toast dripping with maple syrup, sausage links and crisp bacon slices, fluffy omelets oozing with cheese, and other indulgent offerings come to mind. To me, it also strongly evokes catching up with friends and lingering over several cups of coffee, so eating on-the-go is the last thing I would associate with a casual weekend repast. It never occurred to me to me to pair a proper meal with a subway ride, but I thought it was a fun, provocative idea.

“The subway is a familiar place, providing a necessary means of transportation for many New Yorkers. Its stairwells, turnstiles, platforms, trains and unpredictable elements are all-too-familiar to its dedicated patrons. One begins to know the exact time of travel from one destination to another. One begins to intuit the conditions of a ride, anticipating smooth stretches and knowing when to brace for a jarring turn. Through a series of familiar gestures, presented in commonplace locations in unfamiliar ways, we set out to challenge a habitual experience.”

Probably also because it feels damn good to take on, and pull off, something like that, which warrants going out and drinking obscene amounts of alcohol to celebrate how wicked and awesome you are.

As the dawn of culinary school approaches, I keep checking in with myself and asking if this is really what I want to do. When people ask why I’m doing this (on occasion with a hint of “are you out of your bleeping mind”; but for the most part with a genuine “I’m happy for you” curiosity), I tend to come back to a few reasons that, while they may come across as formulaic and maybe even pretentious, really do ring pure and true to me. Basically, cooking brings out the creative, the competitive, the passionate, the social, the inquisitive in me (in interwoven, multi-layered ways). It also, relating back to the topic of this post, draws out the progressive in me (though it’s worth stressing again how interconnected these qualities all are, how they complement and enhance each other). In general, I consider myself a pretty conservative person — conservative in the sense of being drawn to tradition, establishment, classics. There’s a reason why I prefer reading Dickins to David Foster Wallace — though DFW’s story, “All That,” is one of my favorites. But when it comes to food and cooking, a lot of times I’m thinking to myself, “how can/would I do this differently or put my own spin on it?” “how can I take what’s being done now, or what has been done, in another (less conventional) direction?” Maybe it’s more accurate to say that I don’t actively address these questions, but that how I like to cook is by doing something different, putting my own spin on it, taking an unconventional approach, keeping an open mind and in doing so, hopefully challenging and inspiring others to broaden their own culinary horizons. I think a large part of why I found this lunch on the metro so compelling was precisely because it forced me to revise my understanding of what a dining experience is, what a subway is, my ideas of the city, of transportation, of what it means to eat, etc., by challenging not just the “habitual experience” of the subway ride but also that of a proper (sit-down, fork and knife, multiple course) meal. And it inspired me to strive to do the same for others.

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