The office I worked at in Manhattan was in a gastronomic wasteland near Penn Station. The lunch choices on our block didn’t go much beyond Subway, Fresco Tortilla, and the place we called Dirty Deli. Ramón, then, was a great addition to the staff: our Chief Scientist cared about food. We waited for his emails proposing an expedition to some little Peruvian place that sold good ceviche, to the roti shop, or to a soul food restaurant ten blocks away. If we were meeting Ramón at the elevator at 12.30, chances were we’d eat well that day. I was happy to hear from him when he stumbled across this site last week:
Your mention of banana pancakes made me smile. How did they become the official comfort food of the budget traveler? You can always tell a backpacker mecca by the concentration of places that serve those things. Yangshuo is a good example, a small Chinese town with at least five cafes prominently featuring banana pancakes (with chocolate sauce!). But try ordering some otherwise common steamed buns at one of those places and you’re out of luck. I blame it on Lonely Planet, indispensable for logistics but awful for food recommendations.
Noting my frequent posts about food, he added a favorite quote:
“People ask me: Why do you write about food, and eating and drinking?
Why don’t you write about the struggle for power and security, and about
love, the way others do? They ask it accusingly, as if I were somehow
gross, unfaithful to the honor of my craft.
The easiest answer is to say that, like most humans, I am hungry. But
there is more than that. It seems to me that our three basic needs, for
food and security and love are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we
cannot straightly think of one without the others. So it happens that
when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger
for it, and warmth and the love of it and the hunger for it.”
M. F. K. Fisher, The Gastronomical Me (1943)