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My Scholarship entry - Understanding a Culture through Food

WORLDWIDE | Monday, 23 April 2012 | Views [97] | Scholarship Entry

Everything is massive in New York. Everything has an overwhelming pace. Every car is a juggernaut, every signboard tries to overpower the other and every person seems to be intent on moving as fast as they can. The American culture is all about being bigger and better. I was caught up in a place governed by hyperbole.

New York food reflects this culture. The first restaurant I ate at was New York’s famous Carnegie Deli, a place promising American food, the New York way. Heralded by a red neon sign, the deli is easy to find in Times Square.

A rosy-cheeked, cumbersome waiter approached me as I walked in the door and started talking, somehow getting me to sit down and forcing a menu under my nose. His voice was commanding and the words rolled off his tongue, “Welcome, welcome. Have a seat! How about a drink while you think, coffee? Ice tea? We got it all!”

I felt rushed, pushed into making a decision. “Try our famous cheesecake! Our burgers are good, but they take a while to make.” His manner was aggressive and fast. I barely had a chance to look around; the walls of the deli were lined with photos of celebrities and the sitting area made me feel claustrophobic.

After a couple of split-second decisions, I ordered the “famous” Parma ham sandwich and a slice of cheese cake. Suddenly before me arrived a steaming tower of meat, merely separated by two thin slivers of rye bread. This gratuitous serving of protein still gives me the shivers. However once I had done my best and with quite a lot of leftover Parma ham, my next test of endurance arrived. A creamy mound of cheesecake was placed in front of me. The waiter smiled at me almost menacingly as I began to work my way through the trial of appetite.

In and out in thirty minutes. A fast, overwhelming meal was squatting in my stomach. As I lumbered through the streets, with the vast concrete buildings dominating my view, I could only wonder at the way everyone was so full yet so fast.

Tags: Travel Writing Scholarship 2012

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