Before we started Polka Dot Socks, I used to write about food and other unrelated ramblings on Tumblr. While I'll continue to post there, this seems like a more apropos place for posts of this nature. This, then, is a re-post of the original. —Premshree
It challenges the most zen of people. There is no art to look at, there is no escape for the distracted gaze. Discomfort will set in, and there is only one resolution -- to confront it. To ask yourself deep questions. You consider if you have been running away from yourself all your life, too uncomfortable to know who you really are, too afraid to find out, happily deluding yourself into believing you are what you do. You naturally start thinking about what you do. You go to bed late because you like watching cats on the Internet, you wake up dazed because you were watching cats on the Internet, you have to hurriedly get ready for work now, and on the way to work you grab a muffin and a coffee to go, eating and drinking while you fast-walk to the subway, and eventually make it to work, scuttling to your 9am meeting. You did it, you pat yourself on your back, and you no longer remember what you ate, or the cute cats of the Internet. You, you find out, are constantly doing. You, you realize, don’t know who you are. A chill runs through your body, numbing your senses momentarily, making you feel dazed and unfeeling.
Your phone buzzes, and you immediately feel more relaxed. This, you are more familiar with. In that moment of reality you stop contemplating, forget about you, and feel more alive from the dopamine rush you have unconsciously gotten so addicted to. Meanwhile the waitress puts down a rustic plate of fried maitakes in a sanshō and soy based sauce. The crispy maitake reveals its earthy flavor in layers, while the sanshō gets to work electrifying your palate.
Luckily for you, before you had any chance to be uneasy, from not having anything to eat, look at, or talk about, your next course arrives. The luxuriant simplicity of the wagyu donburi, luscious with simply cooked Miyazaki beef, made even richer by a soft-boiled egg with the yolk a jelly-like consistency (156F for 36 minutes, if you must know) and very thinly sliced scallion greens only someone highly skilled with knives can have the chops to do, informs you what food can be like when individual ingredients are elevated to their fullest potential with a helping hand from human ingenuity; what food can be like if we didn’t trade nature's sensuality for mediocrity and bounty. The perfectly cooked short-grain rice, stripped of all modesty, has a proud moment. Flashes of the swill you are used to from your neighborhood Chinese take-out cross your mind. You almost shed a tear.
Momentarily your bourgeois armchair aspirations for an equitable civilization are reduced to pure, unadulterated hedonistic pleasure. Is this what life should be about, you contemplate. How were those cucumbers, daikon, and plum transformed into their essence, you wonder. Magical pickling, you think to yourself.
Your otherworldly romance is interrupted by the offensively loud conversation from the table next to you, just two friends hanging out, unashamedly participating in passive one-upmanship, each one rattling out their achievements for the day, week and months as assurance to the other that their life indeed is going well, and hence happy; they also talk about future plans that ostensibly assure happiness. You are incredulous, and then your own pedestrian life comes into sharper relief, self-righteousness melting away.
Check settled, content but melancholic, you walk out on East 39th, abuzz with soullessness, snapping you right back into its muted embrace. Well-being has a price and it doesn’t have to be that way, you walk to the subway shaking your head.