In the 1800’s, due to political upheaval, dire economic circumstances, or in the case of my people, a lack of potatoes, Ellis Island saw droves of dead-broke immigrants arriving with little but a ratty hat and a dream. The destination for many was New York City, a sprawling city of opportunity. Thought America possessed little history and less tradition, it was known by that ideal, the promise that anyone can make it, despite whatever gnarly circumstance preceded you. It’s in the Declaration of Independence, that everyone is granted the rights of truth, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Sure, it’s never that simple, and often riddled with contradiction and setback and all sorts of bullshit, but living in New York, I have never seen these ideals shine so brightly, nor lived in a city so rich with opportunity.
This revelation occurred to me this last March when, among my other adventures, three things of note transpired. See if you can spot the common theme.
1.) On a Saturday night, I was bamboozled into assisting a friend and her father construct an IKEA furniture bundle. Given the confines of her minuscule Manhattan-closet-renovated-into-a-bedroom, I assumed it to be a small project. Only three pieces needed assembling: a nightstand, a bed, and a dresser. After taking fifteen minutes to construct the nightstand, it looked as thought I would be done in time for second dinner. Seven painstaking hours later, drenched in sweat and reeking of wine, we inserted the final drawer into the hell-spawned Swedish creation. I cursed Ingvar Kamprad under my breath and swore vengeance for my Saturday night gone.
2.) Over the last six months, my body has been generally displeased with my diet. Switching from an antioxidant-rich Korean diet of kimchi to an artery-clogging American diet of sandwiches has caused some bizarre intestinal issues in my tender system. This led me to seek the advice of a Park Avenue Gastroenterologist, who in turn convinced me to undergo a colonoscopy and an endoscopy in the same week to determine the cause of my symptoms. For those of you who don’t understand the subtleties of colonoscopy preparation, it’s basically spring cleaning for your bowels. The day leading up to the procedure was disturbing, painful, and sweaty, but not quite as bad as lying on the operating table, bracing for the doctor to shove a camera up my rectum. In that moment, I cursed my American diet under my breath and swore vengeance for my intestinal integrity gone.
3.) Rarely do I take part in the monumentally expensive and pointless exercise known as “shopping,” but with limited foot gear and a fancy gala slated for work, I was forced to purchase a pair of slick black dress shoes during my lunch break. Exiting my building, I encountered a tiny Filipina woman caught in the torrential downpours plaguing midtown that day. Armed with only an umbrella and chivalry, I escorted the lovely sub-five foot stranger to her destination: the bank. Along the way, we got to discussing life, Asia, and sandwiches. As a higher ranking fashionista than myself, she decided to thank me for my umbrella by escorting me on my shoe shopping adventure, leading me into the elaborate Bloomingdales basement. There, she and a Nigerian salesman talked me into purchasing a pair of Georgio-somethings that was triple my budget. I cursed the miniature woman under my breath and swore vengeance for the green paper in my wallet gone.
Aside from my excessive cursing, do you know what these three stories had in common for this tall, gullible, wannabe New Yorker?
Opportunity. In each of these scenarios, despite how incompetent, probing, or financially obtuse, I was given a true New York opportunity. Allow me to explain.
1.) Amidst constructing that god-awful furniture, I bonded with the man I was working with: the father of my friend. We cursed and laughed and bled over the frustrating manual labor and, in the end of it, he told me to contact him. As it turns out, he is the CEO of a major pharmaceutical corporation’s international division, and might be able to put in a good word in for at their HR division.
2.) The doctor, pausing to make small talk before sending a camera into my nether regions, asked me what it was I did for work. I told him I was a freelance writer. He paused, anal camera in hand, and asked me if I knew how to build a website. I told him I did, which was a dirty, filthy lie, and now he’s commissioned me to produce his website.
3.) This fast-talking Filipina, being many years my senior (though looking many years my junior), decided to take me under her experienced New York wing as an older sister. And, as we are both currently on the hunt for a new apartment, I may have just discovered a new roommate.
None of these strange circumstances have produced anything certain as of yet, but that is the essence of opportunity: a mere chance at something better. But only in New York could such serendipitous potential buzz around the street, like an opportunistic bee, looking to lodge its pointy rear into one of this city’s hungry denizens.
Week 13: Kati Roll
As we gain experience and maturity, many lines in life become blurred, many pillars crumble and we are left to adapt, and find higher truths. Sandwiches, as an entity, are not devoid of this principle. We begin with a textbook perception of what constitutes a sandwich: two pieces of bread and some stuff between them (usually of the deli meat variety). There is something simple and pure about such a mental image, but it is ultimately limiting and not conducive to sandwich evening. That is why I have embraced the sandwich visions of my friends, who have led me all around the city on my sandwich journey.
This week, my Indian connection took the reigns and opened my mental doors to the growing phenomenon: Kati Roll, the Indian sandwich. Although it currently has four locations, we explored the origin from way back in 2002, located in Greenwich Village. No, this is not your typical sandwich, but it is heavenly, affordable, vegetarian-friendly. Ideal for the departure of a night out on the town, or the arrival of your drunken ass after you totally crashed and burned with that chick, bro.
Their shop is a hole-in-the-wall joint, but not unpopular; when we arrived at seven, there was a line fully out the door. The interior is brick, the atmosphere trendy without being needy, and the menu simple: just a laundry list of Kati Rolls, small and large organic salads, and assorted beverages. And yes, to answer your next question, they do have Indian beer.
Utilizing a single piece of warm, Indian flatbread known as a paratha, they begin. Paratha, which is soft, flavorful, and flaky, could be likened to a crispy pita bread or an Indian tortilla. While it begins to cross the line into taco or wrap territory, at the Sandwich Project, we’re here to break down barriers, not build distinctions, so keep an open mind, won’t you?
What’s inside? Depends on what you get down on. For the carnivore, how about an Unda Shami Roll? A paratha featuring minced-lamb and lentil croquette with herbs, spices, and a layer of beaten eggs. For the health nut, how about the Mixed Veggie Roll? A paratha stuffed with beets and assorted vegetable croquette, with peanuts and raisons? And if you’re just a weirdo, get down with the Archari Paneer Roll: grilled Indian farmer’s cheese cubes marinated in a spicy pickle, wrapped in a paratha.
They’re damn good. The meat is marinated and not over-done, the spices sharp without being obtrusive, the paratha like a warm blanket you wish you could crawl into and sleep forever. Best of all, they’re small, so multiple Kati Rolls is a necessity. One is a dirty snack, two is a satisfying meal, and three is gluttonous. Always go three.
It is certainly a departure from that which we might define as a sandwich, but hell, for me sandwiches are my opportunity right now. So I embrace them, all of them, and usually the results are oh, so satisfying.