Eating has always been a deeply spiritual and profound experience for me. Which is the fake-philosophical way of saying that I’ve always been a big, fat pig.
I’ve seen God in a slice of Ray’s Pizza (the Original on W. 11th Street, and okay, okay, I was high at the time, but still), in a still-hot everything bagel from H&H at dawn, in the sublime pork buns at Ippudo (it’s in the East Village and you’ll have to wait at least an hour for a table and it’s so worth it), in the middle of the night at Wo-Hop in Chinatown (order the spare ribs and Chicken Kew) and innumerable other times. If Jesus really wanted to save my ass, all he’d have to do is hand me a Nathan’s hot dog with mustard.
For a lot of us, food is right up there with sex as one of life’s most sublime pleasures (and if you’ve never combined the two, you’re really missing out). A wonderful bite can truly be transformative. If you close your eyes, the real world fades away and you’re lost inside of a dream, and yes, I’m talking about food here, so get your mind out of the gutter for a minute. The better something tastes, the better it makes you feel. It warms your heart and feeds your soul and nourishes things inside of you that you didn’t even know needed sustenance, and if that’s not a type of religion, I don’t know what is.
Food, like most of the best things in life, is best savored when shared. I used to make the Ray’s run with my old pal Steve, had that everything bagel with my ex-wife before we were married, go to Ippudo religiously with my best friend Tony and would visit Wo-Hop (and sometimes Nathan’s) in the middle of the night with my brother Mike. And I’m positive that none of it would’ve tasted nearly as transcendent if these people I love weren’t there stuffing their fat faces right alongside of me.
Of course, love is what food is really about. And speaking of the L word, you can pretty much tell everything you need to know about somebody just by the way they eat. My younger son Zach and I were out to dinner a few weeks ago and he was telling me how he hates eating with the girls at school because all they do is play Tetris with the food on their plate and hardly ever take a single bite.
“Dude, are you kidding me? It’s all about appetite!” I said, so quick to dispense this important fatherly advice. “If a woman digs in and truly loves to eat … do I really need to draw you a picture?”
“I never really thought about it that way,” said the dumbass.
“But all bets are off,” I said, “if she’s eating vegetables.”