The nations of the world are colors on a palette, and New York is the canvas. In our city, home of the United Nations, each country builds a hundred temples to its food, music, and culture. On every corner lives a microcosm of a distant land, a journey of food and flavor, an embodiment of the passion, power, and pulchritude of a culture served on a plate.
When wanderlust captures you, and you long for parts distant and unknown, the MTA can take you there. The flavors and smells of all the world is a subway ride away.
I am prone to fits of wanderlust, and one of my episodes carried me a short distance to Elmhurst, Queens,to a Venezuelan sandwich shop called “Patacon Pisao” (the name roughly translates into “smushed fried plantain pancake”) serves up, not sandwiches, but the resultant offspring of a sandwich if it were mated with a god.
Imagine a sandwich before you. This sandwich of the mind contains, if it is like most of its kind, some meat, cheese, and bread. Perhaps you have added some lettuce and tomato,
along with a condiment such as mayonnaise. Hold this image of a lesser sandwich in your mind, and behold as I transform this vision into a Patacon Pisao sandwich. First, replace the meat with juicy, shredded beef, roasted pork, or any number of delicious proteins. Replace the cheese with fried queso blanco. In lieu of mayonnaise, a mysterious sauce filled with flavors I cannot begin to name or comprehend.
How does it sound so far? Exquisite, perhaps? I have not even begun.
Rid yourself of that tired staple of the sandwich, bread. Breads rain over
the sandwich has worn out its welcome. Instead of bread you have your choice of a deep fried smushed plantain pancake (patron), a corn cake (arepa), or, my favorite, a sweet corn cake (cachapa)–that perfect fusion of sweet and savory of spicy that defines a perfect moment of food.
Wash it down with tamarind or cherry juice, and you will have had an $8 meal to rival the finest of your dreams. And in this dream of food, what flavors will come to haunt you–to smell, to taste, to travel to a hundred paces, to have your tongue speak to you of nations distant and strange and filled with possibility. You will know that to experience the world you do not need frequent flyer miles–you need only a knife and a fork and a metrocard.