Fine food is not exactly a virtue on the East Coast. They've got more pressing things to deal with, which is to say big coats, long nights, and generally making the world spin. Usually the quality is bad but the heart is good, and there is little more to ask for. You cannot think about food here, you must imagine it. There is no point to comparing the coasts. The bottom line is that there are things which are thrilling to taste and touch in New York, and they are usually filmy, fatty, and full of cornstarch. According to location, fantasies appropriate, shape-shift, and sometimes you are struck with visions of the perfect lobster roll.
Even the sound of it is surreal. The pliability of a doughy roll and the red armor of that wild crustacean, together on a bed of coleslaw. Lily came to visit last week for a couple of days. It was grey, and the air was heavy, wet, but not very cold. She wore a hat because she shaved her head again, but I went without stockings. We walked from Bed-Stuy to Red Hook, and then all around the south leg of Brooklyn. I told her I'd been thinking about lobster rolls again, though I'd never had one -- that creamy meat on a creepy shore seemed just right. She said she'd give up being vegan for a weekend just to dine with me. As we entered Red Hook it began to rain, and we walked slowly. We smoked about one cigarette an hour until we reached the waterfront where the old trolleys are parked and rusting. The ocean was chalky and flat. I bought a lobster roll from the counter at Fairway and we sat in the protected plastic awning, side by side. From our bench we could see the Statue of Liberty, the soft rain, Hoboken. Lily's perfectly culled digestive tract about to give up everything for a moment of charity and sisterhood with me.
It was no more than a Wonderbread hotdog bun. A pile of pink lobster meat mixed with paprika, mayo, who knows what. Underneath it was thick, crunchy cole slaw, a whole heap, and with lots of fennel. Then potato chips. Our feet were damp. We traded off, one bite at a time. It was delicious, the best thing. The meat was so creamy and sweet, and the cabbage was real -- scooped up with the dark orange chips. We both kept looking at each other with shared gastronomical peace. Outside it could've been the Oregon Coast, except for Lady Liberty, who was closer to us there than any other point in the five boroughs.
There are only two ways to get to Red Hook: in on Van Brunt St, and out on Smith. The BQE really made a world out of it when Robert Moses engineered that last leg of the expressway which snips off the neighborhood perfectly. Trying to find our way out later, we ducked into a sandwich shop and asked directions of two cops standing in line.
The cop looked at me blankly. "Oh, I don't know. We're not from around here -- we're from Brooklyn."
"Wait, no, I mean, we're in Brooklyn," the second cop said. "But we're from the other part of Brooklyn, you know?"
"You got dat right," said another man with a phlegmy, gravelly laugh. "It's a different universe ova' heah!"
Everyone laughed except for the cops.