Week 31: Freeganim and Goat Neck Sandwiches

Coming back from a lamb neck feast with my roommate the other night, I encountered a cloister of homeless men and women ransacking the garbage of a shopkeep in the East Village. As this is New York City, I thought absolutely nothing of it and went on discussing the topic at hand, most likely my disdain for pants. But as I grew closer, I noticed these homeless men and women were my age. Then I realized one of them had a more expensive cell phone than I. Simultaneously, my roommate and I turned to one another and uttered a single word:

“Freegans."

Freegans, the cultural outliers who practice Freeganism, fall somewhere in the spectrum between hyper-idealists and disease-infested-parasites, depending on where you draw your lines in the sand. Their cause is indeed a noble one; Mother Earth is super polluted, let’s cut down on how much we trash her sacred grounds. But their methodology basically boils down to them digging through the trash for scraps of food that’s been thrown away.

“Free” (not paying) + “Vegan” (hyper-focused with the earth) = "Freegan." Get it?

As a man who always subscribes to the "clean plate club" mentality, I was intrigued. A minimal amount of research on http://freegan.info/ later, I found myself conflicted, hungry, and a little dirty. Freegans do make a valid point: we throw away a lot of perfectly edible food. And that is a shame, something should surely be done about this wastefulness. But instead of changing public policy or starting campaigns for restaurants and shops to offer “expiration date deals,” they dumpster dive, scavenge through the trash, dig thorough garbage to make full use of that which others disposed. My only issue is their steadfast claim it's "safe." How the hell do you know? That semi-stale scone might have just been sitting in the display case too long, sure. It also could have been the one they accidentally made with soap.

I tried to keep an open mind, but then I dug deeper, learning about the "Pillars of Freeganism" and realized that a lot of these Freegan folk are just moochers. For example, to avoid reliance on oil, Freegans “use other methods of transportation including trainhopping, hitchhiking, walking, skating, and biking. “ The justification for trainhopping and hitchhiking that the fascist oil will be wasted anyways, so you might as well hop aboard. And in a twisted way, that makes sense, until you consider the fact it’s kind of like saying “well, I’m totally cool with hitching a ride in an evil automobile, so long as I’m not paying for it.”

It makes me wonder how many do this because it’s trendy or they’re unbelievably cheap. However, perhaps I’m being too harsh. Perhaps Freegans are the prophets of our time, forerunners to a great movement that will change the way we view sustainability and ethics.

But seriously – trainhopping? You’re so edgy. You're so dangerous.  Just take a bus, you crazy nutjob.

Sandwich 31: Ducks Eatery

Much like Freegans, Ducks Eatery fills me with a multitude of conflicted thoughts.

I like to believe the sandwich is the pinnacle of food, as it combines so many of the best ingredients and then puts them between bread so you don’t have to use silverware (you savage, you). And, I like to believe that any true chef will take a sandwich with the utmost seriousness and deliciousness.

Enter Ducks Eatery, a new American restaurant in the East Village, famous for the oh-so-sought-after Tuesday night, a.k.a. brisket night. Yes, they have a brisket sandwich, and, yes, it's impressive. Hence, the confliction.

While most brisket destinations insist on seasoning their fare into oblivion or rely on buckets of sauce to hide any inadequacies, Ducks Eatery just focuses on slow-cooking the hell out of the uber-high quality meat, to the point that it epitomizes tender (which takes eighteen hours, to be exact). They top off the fine smoked beef with a combination of smoked ricotta and red cabbage and wedge it between two English corn muffins. And yes, in the picture, that is a piece of okra on top – because why not? Everybody likes okra.

The sandwich is delicious, balanced, and takes chances. In that sense, it does everything right. But then we ordered their smoked whole goat neck and that ruined everything.

You know when you eat food that’s so good, like so mind-explodingly good, you wonder why all food doesn’t taste that good? That was this neck. The ambrosial meat was so transcendentally succulent, the sauce so impossibly savory and sweet, no one could speak until we had broken apart the neck bones and sucked out every last inch of marrow.

And, then, the sandwich seemed lesser somehow. It's kinda like when you think your city has beautiful women, and then you move to New York. Your hometown girls are still lovely, but New York women? Damn.

So, if the Sandwich Project could make a suggestion to the wizards at Ducks Eatery: goat’s neck sandwich. Just…just think about it. Just once. For me.