New York was recently ranked the most unhappy major city in the United States. Holy shit, that's depressing. With some of the most sought-after, lucrative jobs, fantastic beaches and mountains only an hour away, top restaurants, city-parks, and music events, and featuring unequivocally the most beautiful women in the world (at least in this humble author's opinion), you have to ask yourself: "Why?" Why is it that these dwellers of the Big Apple, with everything at their disposal, can't conjure up even a little happy juice? Why is it that, in Manhattan, where you have 25,000 people per square mile, you have the loneliest people in the United States? Why is it, with so many delicious sandwiches, people don't live in constant elation?
While I'm not a sociologist, I do like pretend I know everything. As such, I have a few theories as to why this may be:
1.) Insane amounts of competition: You will never be the best. You will never be the best. You will never be the best. I was reminded of this phenomenon three times on the walk to the subway this morning. As NYC is an international business and cultural epicenter, whether your game be cuisine or finance, fashion or ornithology, there is always going to be someone, lurking in this urban expanse, who does it faster, sharper, and more popularly than you did. And, if you are reading this and you actually do happen to be the best at whatever it is you do in this city, I don't want to know what you had to do to get there. Because that must have been some dark ass shit.
2.) What's my job again?: I had a job interview at a tech gig the other day, and the girl interviewing me asked if I had any questions. I asked her what her role was. She responded: "Well, what I do, is I process the numbers coming from the supply side, well, they're not really so much the supply side's numbers as they come from this algorithm that determines...well, I don't know exactly how or what it does, but the numbers are projections, but not really projection-" and it went on like that. It wasn't that I didn't understand what the hell she was talking about (though I didn't), but she revealed at the end that, while she understood her tasks, the fundamental elements of her job baffled her. Being able to say: I'm a doctor, an architect, a gigolo, you are able to understand a direct connection to your craft. But I believe people become disillusioned, spending 50 hours a week or more working on something they don't actually understand or believe in.
3.) Focus on money: Living in New York has made me worry about my salary for the first time in my life. No where else in the world would you be able to charge $13 dollars for a lackluster sandwich and get away with it. The city is a financial battlefield, and it can seem like you never have enough of that dirty green.
4.) What the hell is New York?: We all say we love New York, but most New Yorkers are borough rats, i.e. they never really leave their neighborhood. Murray Hill bros bro-out in Murray Hill bro-establishments and Greenpoint "artists" fester and rot in Greenpoint. A city so grand, with so much diversity of food and people and culture, and all you want to do is lurk with the people you're most similar to. People don't expand their horizons, venture out, shatter those lines of socio-economics and race and culture and venture deep into the Bronx or Queens or Manhattan, even if it's just for some dope grub and and an adventure.
5.) Why?: One of my roommates mentioned this basic question the other day. For all the education and ambition of New Yorkers, how many of them truly understand happiness? All of the United States happiest cities were in the South, where things like family, spiritual life, and community ranked above all other values. Perhaps this city of over eight million (and twice as many rats, no joke) could learn something from our Southern brothers and sisters.
Sandwich 32: Eataly
I had a revelation the other day. While my goal is to slowly sculpt myself into the drunken master of international sandwiches, I realized my efforts are somewhat futile. Authentic cuisine, from any culture, is a struggle to find outside of that locale. On paper, it shouldn't be an issue. If you go to Chinatown, you have Chinese denizens producing Chinese fare with Chinese ingredients. But it's not the same, damn it. Ask any Korean person living in Manhattan and they'll tell you Korea does it better. And they're right, even a waegukin like me can tell the difference. Same goes for Italian, Brazilian, German, Ethiopian, Venezuelan - odds are, we've screwed up their sustenance somehow.
Going by that logic, a fear swept over me. Had I been consuming bastardized versions of international sandwiches all this time? Needless to say, the thought scared the shit out of me. What if this whole blog has been a lie? What if all those hungover Friday mornings - the times spent slamming down keys in between booting into a bucket - what if all those were but me whistling Dixie?
There was only one thing to do. Go to Eataly and crush one of their legendary steak prime rib sandwiches. I mean, it's gotta be authentic; the name implies you are physically eating Italy.
What is Eataly? I would describe it as a "food emporium," a "cuisine depo," a "dope-ass multifaceted Italian grub shack." It is restaurant meets deli meets ice cream shop (a.k.a. gelato) meets bakery meets cheese shop meets dessert factory. Squid-ink pasta, fiery organic pasta sauce, the most decadent cannolis, and bread baked so fresh the smell will consume your sanity. It's all here, but I couldn't get distracted. I was on a mission.
The American versions of Italian sandwiches often feature a slew of thinnly sliced, cured meats and about a half-gallon of vinegar with some provolone. But Eataly was not like that. This was perhaps the simplest sandwich seen yet on the Project, but the outcome was one of the most stupendous.
Starting with their fresh baked baguette, crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside, it was a gooey dough embrace I wanted never to let go. Then the meat - oh baby, the meat - steak-grade prime rib, so fatty and moist and flavorful that you could cut it with a butter knife and serve it on a piece of Wonderbread and it probably wouldn't make a damn bit of difference. Finally, they top it with imported olive oil, sea salt, and crushed black pepper. Then they call it a day.
No cheese. No complicated sauces. No vegetables (thank God). There is only meat and bread and something so authentic that it could have only been conceived in Italia. But as I chowed down on that glorious cow meat, I couldn't help think: even if this wasn't authentic, I really wouldn't give a damn.
Knockoff or not, my job is to eat fat, delicious, awe-inspiring sandwiches. And that, my friends, is the only reality I need.