When I squirmed from my mama’s belly, I was about as Jewish as a Christmas tree topped with honey-baked ham. Dad was a Yid, with grandparents driven from Russian shtetls. Mom was Catholic, right down to Easter-egg hunts and rapped-knuckles education. Since the mother’s religion dictates her child’s Hebrew-rating, I was a certified circumcised gentile.
We both converted. She learned to make potato latkes. I learned (then forgot) the Hebrew language, celebrated a bar mitzvah and honed my peculiar blend of Jewish neuroses and Catholic guilt, two great quirks that keep psychiatrists gainfully employed.
Food-wise I turned out fine. Like a good Heeb, I hanker for knishes, kugel and matzo-ball soup. However, my religiousness is diet only: I avoid synagogue and the mobile-home Mitzvah Tanks in favor of shacking with a shiksa, eating cheese steaks and totally blowing off Passover.
For eight days, Passover proscribes eating leavened bread. That means no pancakes, PB&Js or dumplings. Sweet jelly beans, I possess less restraint than Augustus Gloop lapping up Willy Wonka’s chocolate river. Instead of curtailing my unbearable bread urges, I embraced the illicit eats. My sacrilegious behavior started at Paris Sandwich (113 Mott St. betw. Canal & Hester Sts., 212-226-7221). This Chinatown bánh mì shop is classier than jammed-in-a-jewelry store Bánh Mì Saigon (138 Mott St., betw. Grand & Hester Sts.). Paris bakes its baguettes (including cinnamon and garlic-onion) and sweets, such as cream puffs and the heretical pork-roll cake. Color photos depicted a dozen sandwiches, including sardines, meatballs and fake chicken (all about $4). Indecision iced me over.
“What do you want?” the counter girl inquired.
“What’s good?” I asked.
“Whatever you want.”
“In that case, give me grilled pork.”
I despise permanence so much that I typically change my socks twice daily. Still, I’m seriously considering acquiring an indelible forehead tattoo reading, in blocky black script: i’m not ethnic but i like it spicy. My cleaved-in-two sandwich was gobble-gobble good. The generous porcine bits were as shellacked as a Porsche’s factory-fresh paint job, while the pickled carrots and daikon radish softened the bread’s crusty crunch. Nonetheless, the sandwich was innocuous enough for an infant: not a single jalapeño pepper.
My carbohydrate rebellion continued days later when I biked to Radegast Hall & Biergarten (113 N. Third St. at Berry St., 718-963-3973, B’klyn). The sprawling suds emporium’s ceiling panels have opened, ushering in clouds, sun, sky—which is the limit for beer cost: $13 buys a liter of dark, wheaty Weihenstephaner Dunkel Weisse.
“But it’ll make you drunk and, as a by-product, happy,” my co-drinker said, clinking glasses large enough to lobotomize a man via blunt force.
“Yesh, yesh,” I mumbled, feeling wobbly and newborn weak. “I need food.”
I needed Endless Summer (N. Seventh St., at Bedford Ave.). ’Tis a taco truck co-owned by a member of hard-rockers Bad Wizard. Big whoop: Are the tacos Roosevelt Avenue amazing? I queued behind twentysomethings with ratty jeans and natty manners. “Hurry up and order, dude, ’cause I’m hungry,” one guy grumbled.
My 10-minute wait netted me a pork carnitas and a pollo taco ($2.50 apiece), served as lukewarm as a heat-lamp Whopper. My first drunken bite created cottonmouth: The fillings were kindling. I reached for a spoonful of green salsa, only to find dregs.
“Please?” I whispered to the truck girl, handing her the empty bowl.
The cilantro-y salsa was little salve as I choked down the faux-ican food. Finished, I marveled at Endless’ line, now stretching a dozen deep. Imagine the line’s length if the taco truck actually got its south-of-the-border act in order. As I pedaled home, my hunger returned. Its cure glowed bright, like a bad-idea beacon: White Castle, selling burgers pygmy in price and size.
“Four burgerzzzzz,” I ordered from a woman with a splendidly flamboyant Afro. Note to self: grow a Jew-fro next winter.
I exchanged $2.59 for four burgers the width and thickness of Post-It notes. They were sodden and oniony, but my alcohol-addled brain perceived, Yum. More. I shoved in one, two, three and then dropped four on the blackened-footprint floor. I looked around my Castle. The counter lady looked at me. Then I grabbed the ground burger and inserted it into my eating hole.
“Three-second rule,” I mumbled, gnashing my teeth on bun and meat like a rabid animal. Though gobbling bread’s a Passover sin, an even bigger crime is wasting a single crumb.