There was a time when I was paid to eat. And not just eat, but eat too much, pork belly, duck eggs, french fare, little chorizo tapas plates, spicy pickles, juicy turkey burgers and pad thais till the cows came home.
It sounds easy, it was actually hard: ordering things I didn't want to, clandestinely jotting down notes in a little pink moleskin, sizing up the hostess, assessing the crowd, casually asking about the materials used in a wrap-around bar, a banquette, a lush gathering of drapes. Don't get me wrong, I love to eat--I've asserted more than once I'm a fat person in a fairly skinny person's body (that's thanks to my trainer, and I can't imagine this body will last past 35 even if I go macrobiotic, so why not go bacon now?). But the work around eating, the assignments, the scoping out, that's not just a leisurely meal. That's work. Cool work, but work, I promise. There was calling of chefs, checking up with purveyors, grilling the manager on the wine list choice, demanding why the paella wasn't as crispy as advertised once I revealed myself behind the curtain I'd drawn. And then there was the new way to say tables, seating, booths and cubes. Figuring out how to describe ten mediocre bistros in a way that would give you, dear reader (of another place, not here, a place far more legit, where I had a great editor who would make me tear up because I wanted to do right by her so badly, this is a mark of a good editor--one that brings you to tears, I'm sure of it) is not easy.
Eating until I need to be rolled out of a restaurant is. Not ordering the cocktails (which are not covered, of course), until I have fully assessed the joint to my powers, that was another story.
Well in such economic times, sadly the restaurant writing has temporarily (I hope!) dried up. They've slashed and burned across the boards, all the great food mags, all the great food sites, they need to keep their high paid talent and cut the lowly staffers and permalancers (that's me). I get it. In times like these, people can't eat out as much. Great places are shuttering left and right: the unbelievable fried green tomato, southern fried classics and Jamaican jerk chicken restaurant in Chelsea will go this week. The neverending (we had wistfully said once over lattes with rock candy stirrers) gastropub brunch spot where they didn't shove you out the door and still had market fresh ingredients every damn day has already closed its doors.
And when the work dries up, the solace is found in meeting in dimly lit places, cocktails and small plates and commiserating. Except we have no money, we have no new places and our old favorites are gone, and yet, we've become addicted to the rich life that we led. It's a spoiled brat problem. And my friends and I are suffering from it. We're back to our first few months in the city, canned soup and skipped meals, which isn't bad, in fact it's a damn decent way to live. It's proud. If only we hadn't eaten to near gout proportions before. If only it hadn't been my job to see every new place and go in, and eat every damn thing there. If only I hadn't been lucky enough to taste it all, in New York, in the first place. I'd feel less addicted now, and far less foolish, drooling over the fancy people and their fancy meals, just like I had when I was twenty...