Eaters of Habit

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Welcome to our first installment of Morsels, a collection of short musings on different themes. Our first theme is Eating Habits: our own or those we observe in others; sweet, personal, or unbecoming; all circling the consideration of what we do when we eat. If you have a short form piece pertaining to this or other themes, please pitch us! We’ll be adding to the posts as we go.

“Candy is perfectly suited to being alone.”

SWEET MEDITATIONS

by Madeleine Schwartz

For as long as I can remember, I have, every few weeks, spent the afternoon buying candy and then munching on it while taking a walk. It isn’t a particularly exciting way to eat, but of the many habits I’ve developed over the years, it’s the only one that’s stuck, and I’ve begun to wonder whether it has some kind of secret psychic resonance.

The afternoon always unfolds in the same way. I go to a candy store, the kind where you can pick and choose from clear plastic bins, and gather up four or five sour belts, three pieces of licorice, and one new, unknown candy that I almost always throw away after purchase. Currently, my favorite store is Sockerbit, in the West Village. If I’m feeling especially in need of a treat, or if I find myself in Soho on a weekday, I go to the Dean and Deluca on Prince Street, where shop attendants pull the candy out for you and the containers are made of glass. (Dean and Deluca, and only the SoHo store, also has a beguiling and complex candy called “licorice caramel” that I’ve never found anywhere else—but that’s another story). Then I walk around for a while, bag in hand, until I’ve licked every sour-sweet crumb off my fingers.

Cooking for one often means resigning yourself to sad leftovers, and dining solo elicits unfortunate glances, but candy is perfectly suited to being alone. After all, you can’t fit more than one hand at a time in one of those little bags, and they usually come in paper, so you don’t have to explain your choices. It’s an excellent way to walk around the city, too—not going anywhere in particular, but knowing exactly what you’re doing.

“There is scarcely a restaurant in New York City that he has not made into the scene of a moral struggle.”

MY DINNER WITH MIKE

by Davey Volner

Laurence Olivier’s camp classic Hamlet (1948) begins with our hero—Olivier, of course, not the title character—intoning the following preamble: “This is the tragedy of a man who could not make up his mind.” Shakespeare would certainly have thought of this cunning little epigram himself, if only he’d lived long enough, but Olivier beat him to it. I know that I would have thought of it eventually, having eaten dinner at regular intervals with M. for upwards of fifteen years.

M. is an academic and critic who lives in the uppermost reaches of Manhattan. We met during our bright college days, and from the very first, I recall thinking that this was a man of unique appetites. There is scarcely a restaurant in New York City that he has not made into the scene of a moral struggle. Watch as in agony he attempts to select between the lemon-zested game hen and the simmered lamb pilau. See the beads of perspiration form on the brow while his mouth forms the words “cheese plate” and “flan.” Menus have had to be replaced after being wrung to tatters, though the wait staff never minds, since all the while his companion is running up the drink tab in an attempt to maintain mental equilibrium.

The sheer abundance of choice afforded the casual diner in Our Teeming Metropolis tends to exacerbate the problem. But relief is at hand: Ayurveda, on Amsterdam and 94th St., is a vegan-vegetarian Indian restaurant which serves up an array of daily specials on a single plate, with additional helpings gratis, and no ordering needed. As we have gathered from the restaurant’s informative placemats, the traditional ayurvedic diet promises its adherents the balm of shantih, the peace which surpasses understanding. They don’t know the half of it.

“A silent fruit laurel for a nighttime King.”

COME OUT, DAMNED SPOT!

by Evan Fleischer

Lady Macbeth committed murder in the middle of the night. I also do something in the middle of the night. It involves jam. I do not commit murder with the jam, nor do I try and commit murder by spreading the jam on someone and hoping for the worst. No, no. I eat the jam. I take a spoon and clink it from one side of the glass rim to the other like Juliette Binoche pinging back and forth across an abandoned pool in Blue, and in the kitchen with all lights off, skating across the tiles, I take tiny bites of preserved blueberries or figs and use them to asterisk the end of the day, a silent fruit laurel for a nighttime King, and though there may be no Lady Macbeth, there is someone with whom mornings are spent making army toast and coating it with equal parts honey and hummus, and that’s the second habit, the worse habit, and, boy, is it a good one.