Monday, March 4, 2024

In Praise Of Street Meat

You meet friends for drinks after work on a Tuesday night. You haven’t seen them in a few months. It feels like a party. So you start with whiskey. You know you shouldn’t start with whiskey—or, perhaps, have any whiskey at all that night—but you do, anyway. Then one friend buys a round. More whiskey. Another friend buys you a beer. Tuesday night has just begun.

The next morning, you feel surprisingly good. You check and find that all your limbs are still working. So good, in fact, you decide to go for your usual run in the park. No one would’ve given you shit for skipping it this morning, but you feel pretty good, so you run. It’s not terrible. Early fall in New York City, and the park is beautiful. You see actual leaves fall to the actual ground. Fall. A melancholy in a good way feeling floods your insides. You think about cozy sweaters. And fireplaces. Nico songs. Your children at the pumpkin patch. End-of-year movies. In that order.

You get to work and start working. It’s going fine, but around 10:30 in the morning you can feel your brain fading. You pound glasses of water. Take a couple Advils. That helps for an hour. Then your stomach gets very angry with you. Like, pissed. Why would you do that to me, it grumbles. And what are you going to do to fix this?

You look around the office. A line of faces, shiny from laptop screens. Not one of those other people is currently eating lunch, you notice. Forget those suckers, your stomach snaps. Get up and walk, bub. You wonder why your stomach talks like a gangster in a 1940s Hollywood noir, but you do what it says.

Outside, the clouds in your head are swirling. It’s getting hazy behind your eyes. Food. Where is the food, you wonder. You speed-walk up the block, anxiously scanning the urban horizon. And then you remember: street meat. Street. Meat. It might just work! On the corner, near where you take the subway. Once you have this thought, you are powerless to its sick, savory charms. Chicken over rice, lots of white sauce, a splash of hot sauce. This is from a kitchen cart on wheels, not one of them fancy food trucks.

You have no idea what the white sauce is made of and, at that moment, you don’t care. (Later, you will Google it.) You find the closest park bench and break the styrofoam box opening the top. You eat. Fast. Shoveling the sinewy meat in a manner that brings to mind the way Woody Allen’s character scarfs rice in Play It Again, Sam.

Before you toss the tiny, plastic fork onto the now empty styrofoam, the clouds have started to lift. You realize you are going to make it. The street meat has worked.

You aren’t proud—your kids, after all, have gone vegetarian, as have all the children of Brooklyn, and you told them it was a good idea, that you were proud of them. You know all about the health, environmental, and ethical benefits of not eating meat. You love The Smiths.

But this had to happen. You had to do this. There are other hangover cures, of course, but on this day they were not for you. You had to let the street meat save you. And it did. And it was good. And there was light.


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