I am back from New York. The City. I left there about seventeen years ago, and have only returned three times since – once for a wedding, once for a funeral, and once after a divorce. New York was my home from the time I was fourteen years old till the time I left, basically – except for a few travels here and there – but I always returned.
I left New York to be married. To have children. To grow a family. And I have done so – though not exactly in the way I supposed I would, with a husband by my side, but rather without a husband by my side. That’s another story, for another time perhaps.
I returned to New York this time with my daughter. My daughter headed herself towards the city without any urging from me. It is where her heart has led her at the age of sixteen, to study art at one of the best schools that exists for studying art – and in one of the most challenging programs.
There is pathos in this picture, for the similarities between the way my daughter entered the city to begin her life there (if only for this month of summer school) and the way I entered the city to begin my life there are just about as different as day and night. But this is not about that, this is about the food.
It’s hard to get a grasp on the picture of a person through food, really. It can be drawn, a picture, of anyone – with food. The hidden meanings of the food can be brought forth, the adjectives and verbs tossed into the picture as if with a charcoal pencil, to ink out a personality. Quite useful, very entertaining. Often false. The delicate vegetarian can hold a heart full of driven hate and the meat-gnawing potato chip chomping pagan just might turn out to be a gentle soul cautious of ever saying the least offensive thing to anyone at all who may cross his path.
So I’m not going to try to do that – to draw a picture with food. Nor am I going to draw a picture of food. Instead I’ll just tell of a walk down a street in Brooklyn Heights that has something to do with food.
My daughter and I walked down the street in Brooklyn Heights. I showed her the apartment I lived in, before there was a person called my daughter, who now walked beside me. I pointed to the building where I’d knocked on my father’s door (the address of which I’d found to my great surprise in the phone book)(and to my even greater surprise found that he lived in the same neighborhood I had landed in) for the very first time ever to introduce myself to him without warning, at the age of fourteen. There were several restaurants whose doors had remained open all these years in the neighborhood that I’d lived in (a rare thing in the city) but we passed them by.
We walked way down to the end of Henry Street, and entered a narrow-fronted brick building. After all these years, during the time I’d grown a daughter, this restaurant had remained open. This was the first restaurant I’d ever eaten in, when I was around my daughter’s age – that made food something which held a sense of artistry within it, and a depth that went beyond my perception of what food was – or what it could be.
We sat at a table, and I looked up and saw the same guy cooking as had been cooking at the line all those years ago. It did not seem real, but it was. The menu had changed somewhat, but still had the fine touches but not glaring spotlights that spell a deft touch without a vaudevillian edge.
The food was good. It always was.
But I must say that any food pales in my mind and heart in comparison with that simple walk down the street to get there, with my daughter. One fourteen year old runaway had come back to the city she’d entered with a duffle bag full of clothes and forty dollars. That’s me. And she’d brought her daughter to go to art school, and to eat at the restaurant that had first inspired her to think of food in such a way that led to becoming a professional chef – Henry’s End.
Is this about food? I’m not sure. But if you ask me about food and my trip to New York, this is what comes to my mind.