Meet the New Food/Same as the Old Food

The past few weeks have been a period of culinary indulgence.

First there was the pre-Valentine’s day Cold Front dinner at Bobby Van’s Steakhouse in Financial, followed by an equally as chilly dude’s night out at Lure Fish Bar in SoHo (it wasn’t until Arun arrived that I realized the interior was made to look like an ultra-luxe yacht). Last night, it was Leigh, Romaine, and Arun for an attempt to eat at Babuji that was quickly transformed into dinner at Duck’s Eatery. All reminded me that dining with friends is one of the great joys in life, and a particularly relaxing and decadent endeavor in New York. When you live in a place that sometimes feels like a hostile, sentient bear-trap full of cold weather and crazy people (I’m ready for even this relatively mild Winter to be over), paying an establishment an exorbitant amount of money to be nice and feed you delicious things can be a nice reminder–or serve as an illusion–that you’re still coming out ahead.

ANYway, Duck’s is on the same street as Motorino, one of the many upscale Neapolitan style pizza restaurants that dot the city like acne on a blogger’s face. Further discussion amongst the group eventually wound its way around to two things: 1)pizza’s newfound status as an Identity Marker and 2)what I might call “Brooklyn Boilerplate”–that is to say, the nouveau standard items to be found on any hipper-than-thou restaurant seeking to get featured in Gothamist writeups and the #foodporn hashtags of only the most discerning cool kids.

Brussel sprouts were my go-to pick, as they seem to be an appetizer almost everywhere I go, but Arun argued that they have already crested the wave of hip and receded back into played-out territory. Likewise with bone marrow and pate, though mac ‘n’ cheese seems to be continuing its high-wire balancing act. Just as gothninja and normcore eventually yielded to athleisure and something else I don’t know about, all of these staples have are slowly beginning to fade. As for what will replace them, only time can tell.

Pizza, in my opinion, is oddly occupying some sort of faux-niche/faux-hip status. For other members of my generation and beyond (that is, people in the early 30s and below), pizza had always been a default option. “Everybody” likes pizza, in a manner that transcended the former “fake wacky food obsession” golden child that was bacon. Pizza is the food of our childhoods, the sense memory item linked to one thousand nights in with family and friends and significant others, birthday parties, and little league celebrations. Throwing one’s arms around pizza always seemed a strange affectation for the cool kids, because pizza always seemed so populist, traditional, and above all, obvious. As I mentioned in so many words on twitter, the manic pixie dream girl who obsessively fills her social media feeds with pizza minutiae seemed like a dark analogue to the frat guy who is very vocal about how much he loves pussy.

Maybe this is the “new sincerity” that Jesse Thorne was talking about. Has hipness finally transcended irony? This was what I always wanted, but now that we’re here it feels strangely empty. I’ll still go to all the hip new pizza places and I’ll still throw down $20 for an 18″ pie from some anonymous spot in Queens, but I’ll never understand the need to paint one’s self as a “pizza person”.

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There’s a First Time for Everything

I had never dropped a course after attending the first few classes, until this year.

 

There had been the “Introduction to Oceanography” course I eagerly registered for my first year at UT-Austin, fondly recalling my adolescent love of marine life and naive ambitions of studying marine biology. It was a moment of shameful deja vu when I acquired the textbook a few days prior to the beginning of the term, cracked it open, and stared with a tight chest at all of the graphs and equations and complicated looking charts before remembering that I had discovered, years earlier, that I was not and never would be a scientist, no matter how into sharks I had been as a 9-year-old.

 

This term it was “Comic Alternatives”, a course I had signed up for after snagging my first choice “Medieval Death” and failing to get registered in time for my second choice, “19th Century Transatlantic Literature.” The description sounded promising enough, and gave me the impression that the course would be a look at comedy the roots of comedy as a genre and the means by which comedy explores power dynamics in interpersonal and socio-political contexts. It sounded like just the type of fuzzy-headed liberal arts ballyhoo that I could get behind.

 

No such luck, however. I had ignored a few whispered, dire warnings that the Professor was a bit of a luddite, assuming them to a bit overblown. When I showed up to the first day, I sat with gritted teeth as a former head of the department (now returning-out-of-retirement-adjunct) pontificated at great length about what the course might be, what it definitely was not, and what would (probably) be expected of us. This was a man who clearly had some very strong opinions about the “youth” of today, as he muttered something about “laying off the phones” when a query about an obscure greek literary term was not met with an adequate explanation. I weighed my options for the remainder of the evening (it was my last chance to recover 3/4ths of my tuition), but I think that comment was the final nail in the coffin. I’m a grown-ass man who is paying a lot of money to take graduate courses and my phone was nowhere to be found.

Lord, deliver me from a future in which I feel my worth as a teacher can be measured in how inadequate I make my students feel, and make me the kind of old man who doesn’t bitterly weep for the lack of longform bluebook examinations in a 21st century graduate course. I still have unknowable amounts to learn for certain, but I expect, as all students should, to be met with good faith and treated with respect (so long as I prove I deserve it).