“Don’t tell me you’re starving.”
Don’t tell me you’re starving. And certainly don’t tell me you’re starving to death. When did we stop being hungry? I ask a friend “Are you hungry?,” and the answer more often than not is “I can eat.” I know you can eat, we’ve been chewing down three-course dinners together since college.
I’m not about to lecture anyone about eating habits having been a vegetarian, a vegan, a pescatorian (which was my favorite because it sounds so lofty and academic), and someone who would not eat anything that ever had a face. If you grew up as I did, watching cartoons with rows of singing cabbage heads, and carrots that square-danced, that last one could be a problem.
Yes, we Americans are food crazy – not to say we are all modern-day foodies, the Felix Ungers of eaters. Foodies were once thought of as a group who appreciated delicious food, fresh food, eager tasters, enthusiastic cooks, and the friends most likely to invite you to share the culinary treats they hauled home from Italy. In other words, good folk to know.
It seems that over the years as we have become a food-obsessed nation, many self-proclaimed foodies have evolved into persnickety would-be gourmands who wouldn’t know the difference between PeriPeri and Perry Como. And why should I care, I ask myself. Maybe it’s not so much caring as wondering. We see each other eating in public. Take the airport for instance, we’re eating chips at $4 an ounce, and sometimes clad in what appears to be sleepwear. I tell myself that it’s none of my business. I also tell myself that it’s none of my business if people want to identify as vegetarian even while being served a whole trout. That would actually make them pescatorian with elegant taste.
“So why am I even raising the topic of Americans and food?”
So why am I even raising the topic of Americans and food? Why, indeed. Well, my friends, I was recently on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, a neighborhood I know well having grown up there and having spent a good deal of my childhood scooting around the nooks and crannies of my aunt’s luncheonette. Her luncheonette was probably the only one on Manhattan’s east side not to have claimed the invention of that renowned fountain drink, the Egg Cream, which contains neither egg nor cream. It’s mystifying, but charming in that peculiar New York way.
So there I was in the old neighborhood hankering for a blintz for breakfast, a quest that took me to the legendary B&H Dairy Restaurant on Second Avenue. I perched on one of the stools at the counter, and found myself teetering, struggling to find balance on this very small circle. And that, dear reader, is what got me wondering about us’n and food.
You see, B&H Dairy hasn’t changed a whit since it opened in 1938, smack dab in the middle of the Great Depression. People were indeed starving to death at that time, people could always eat because they were always hungry. People fit nicely on a counter stool with a very small circumference. The four dollars that buys chips at the airport probably would have fed a family for a week, a small family given inflation.
Rather than make an argument for what we eat or how we eat or where or when we eat, I simply ask you not to tell me you’re starving to death. I know better.
image source: Arlen Hollis Kane
Arlen Hollis Kane
Arlen Hollis Kane is a Manhattan-based award-winning writer. Memos from Manhattan, her regular column for 50PlusToday, is reflective of her love affair with her hometown. Her focus is on writing about the ever astonishing people, places and events that inspire the phrase “only in New York.”
After reaching 50, she fulfilled a childhood passion by enrolling in the Fashion Institute of Technology. She designs and hand makes scarves, handbags and jewelry. Her abstract acrylics and photographs have been featured in a one-woman show in the Gallery of the Borough President of Manhattan, and in juried shows, including at the National Arts Gallery.
Arlen volunteers for Dorot, an organization that helps seniors stay engaged and socialized, and Big Apple Greeter, which gives visitors the experience of seeing New York with a local.