Barring a last-minute change of heart featuring a mad dash from the altar and into the backseat of a fast car bound westward, by the time you read this column I’ll be wed.
"About time," I’m sure my mother is whispering under her breath. Of her three children, I’m the first to get hitched. She’s waited 33 long, patient years to celebrate an offspring’s nuptials or a grandchild. Since no baby Bernsteins are coming down the chute in 2011, I’m sure she savored our wedding like sweet nectar from a ripe summertime peach.
The food simile is apt, if a wee bit forced, given grub’s importance in my life. For me, I awake each morning excited about what new foodstuffs and beverages will cross my maw that day. The quest for novel flavors guides my waking hours. It leads me to far-flung lands like Flushing to devour Fu Run’s Muslim lamb chop, a plate-dwarfing slab of ribs that’s marinated, braised, fried crisp and encased in cumin seeds, crushed chilies and black and white sesame seeds. Or I’m off to the Lower East Side’s New Beer Distributors, where I spend hours rooting around shelves to unearth gems such as Lagunitas’ A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’, a wheat-y ale bursting with juicy, bitter hops. One bite, one sip and my faith in mankind is rekindled.
My wife—it’ll take many moons to acclimate myself to typing that fourletter word—understands how food is tied to my happiness. It’s one of many reasons we’re marrying, though her affinity for my Kardashian-like rear end also ranks high. Thus, for our wedding we wanted a memorable meal. "How much do they want to charge?" I kept remarking as we perused Brooklyn catering companies’ estimates. To them, $100 a person was a steal. Look, I love my friends, family and newly minted family, but I’m a penny-scrounging journalist; I can’t recall when I last dropped a C-note for dining. And now we’d have to spend that much for 120 people? The mere thought gave me the shakes, sending me scurrying for my bottle of cheap, calming Evan Williams bourbon—my best friend during wedding planning.
"How about we look outside Brooklyn?" my wife suggested. "We could do the wedding in Portland, Maine." I’d been so focused on Kings County that I never considered leaving our great, expensive metropolis. We spent a day researching the coastal city, finding an idyllic spot overlooking the scenic Casco Bay. I called Portland’s parks department to inquire about rental. "Sure!" a friendly bureaucrat named Vicki brightly replied. "I’ll send over the paperwork and it’s all yours!"
That’s all it took? NYC bureaucracy has so hardened me that I’ve forgotten how pleasant government officials can be outside the byzantine Big Apple. My wife and I signed the paperwork, then turned our attention to the party venue: Bubba’s Sulky Lounge. Outfitted with two lightup dance floors, a Wild West saloon, a lunchbox collection, taxidermied critters and rooms decorated like a barbershop, post office and a soda fountain, Bubba’s is like a drunken flea market come to life. It’s one of my favorite bars ever. "I can’t think of anywhere else I’d like to spend the night with you," my wife said, winning me over again.
I called Bubba’s. "We’d love to have you!" the manager replied. "You can have the bar all night." Really? I do love New York, but a man could get accustomed to transactions being simple. Space secured, my wife and I moved on to the meal. This was a potential minefield. She’s a salad-eating vegetarian who occasionally dabbles in seafood. I like my fiery ethnic eats and tons of meat. But we find a common culinary ground in New Orleans. During our annual pilgrimages to Louisiana, we devour po’ boys with impunity, drain Bloody Marys finished with spicy pickled green beans and chomp endless bags of Zapp’s crunchy potato chips.
As luck would have it—and there’s always a little luck in love—the N’awlinsstyle Po’ Boys & Pickles eatery had recently opened. We traveled north to try the fare. It brought back memories of biking through the Big Easy, of hot nights, cold Abita beer, afternoons spent slurping oysters and hungover mornings gnawing leftover muffalettas. The food was perfect. So was its cost. We discussed a menu. I wanted fried pickles. And red beans and rice. And hot biscuits. She desired a salad, one with beets and goat cheese.
"Whatever you want, hon," I said, utilizing the phrase that will hopefully keep us contented for the greater part of the next half-century.