Thursday, January 03, 2008

Free Will, Thai Food, and The Powers That Be - Part I

I like to think that I'm rather talented at exercising my free will in the province of eating. When I was a young girl, I decided that I could not bear to eat anything brown because it looked like dirt, and you better believe that not one piece of pumpernickel passed my lips, not one meat ball shared the plate with my spaghetti, and not one brown M&M did I consume - the latter clearly benefiting my closest friends. Once I had come to the conclusion that my childhood phobia was not only silly, but also restricting, I simply began eating brown food as though I had been eating them all along.

As an adult I have taken my powerful resolve and used it to overcome other food aversions such as squid, sushi, and tomatoes (yes I used to hate tomatoes). All of these foods I now like and partake in on a regular basis. It brings me great joy to know that it was my iron will that was responsible for my current culinary liberty. This is exactly why I found my experience the other night so completely disturbing.

It all began Sunday afternoon when I was suddenly struck with a craving for Thai Red Curry. Not knowing of any good Thai Food Restaurants in my neck of the woods, I called a fellow dining companion of mine Andrew Anderson and made plans to meet him at Pongsri on Baxter Street. " Don't be late" I told him. Of course I was 15 minutes late myself and when I got off the train was not at all surprised to see that he had left me a message - this is were it all heads south - In his message he informed me that Pongsri had a line-up out the door and that he would be waiting for me at Thai Son, a Vietnamese Restaurant down the block. Now, I don't mean to sound ungrateful, but I had my heart set on Thai Curry. My craving was so strong that it drew me from the comforts of my Brooklyn apartment into the rainy, windy, and cold Manhattan night. I was not ready to give up just like that so, after some deliberation, I convinced Andrew to give up our table and take a cab the other Pongsri on 18th street and 2ave.

As the cab slowed to a stop in front of the restaurant, there was no mistaking it, it was closed. My heart began to sink when Andrew interjected, “Wait! I have an idea. Don’t stop the meter.” He had the cab driver take us to East Village Thai on 7th street, a hole in the wall place that happens to make some of the best Thai Food in NYC. The cab let us out on the corner and I was scared to glance down the block to see if it was opened. Andrew wasn't. “All I’m gonna say is that we had a table at Thai Son,” I looked at Andrew now drenched and shivering in the rain, “were it was warm. And dry!” I understood why he was upset, but how could I have ever known what was in store? How was I to guess that some higher power, some outer force would be governing the events of my evening and cutting off my efforts at every turn? It was hard to understand. “Alright then, screw Thai Food. What about Oysters?” as I said this Andrews eyes began to glimmer and the corners of his mouth turned up as if attempting a smile.

Hungry and cold, we walked the three blocks to The Mermaid Inn, each of us swimming in our own thoughts. When we arrived, we glanced inside at all the people eating, and drinking in the soft glowing lights. Through the rain streaked window, the dinning room appeared to radiate with laughter and warmth which only further corroborated the bitterness of our current circumstances. Andrew and I looked at one another and nodded, it may have been a long journey, but we were now standing at the threshold of a comforting meal.

It was 10pm, two hours after our original meeting time, and I felt as though I had learned an important lesson: your will, no matter how strong, can only take you so far when you happen to be the ping pong ball in a table tennis match between the powers that be. Little did I know, this table tennis match was about to go into overtime...

To be continued.

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