My family came to the city this past weekend. My mother and her boyfriend Charley, my brother Ben and his girlfriend Ashley, and Matt and I went to Annisa, an American-eclectic eatery in Manhattan’s West Village.
I’ve spent the last six months or so writing about Anita Lo, the chef there, for my Master’s thesis on gender in the professional kitchen. It was odd to sit in the chic cushioned booth of her restaurant, surrounded by the chatter of family and clink of silverware. I was suddenly an intimate part of a scene I had recently spent late nights pondering over a Word document and my laptop.
And the food took on a different persona when placed delicately down in front of me on a wide white plate instead of just a bite, quickly handed over on a battered spoon in a corner of the sweaty kitchen. The elegance of the dining room was charming, but I missed the character that came when eating with the heat and gurgle of a deep fryer half a foot away.
But out at the table, everyone agreed, the soup dumplings topped with foie gras were especially magnificent. The line cooks, I remembered, threw them frozen with a hunk of butter into a steamer to create their delicate liquid center. The goat cheesecake was soft and rich, with a perfect sour twang. The thin slices of candied beets served underneath had entranced me since February, when I helped plate desserts one evening, my reporters notebook tucked in my back pocket.
Mainly, though, it felt nice to have my family together. I recently accepted a job in California, to write for a weekly paper near San Francisco. I’ll be away from the East Coast for at least a year; it will be a while before we are all together again.
I’m going to miss New York, with its nooks and crannys, faces and melodies, perfumes and stenches. But there’s a lot going for the change. Without a doubt, I’ll have more time to write.