Big Trouble in Little Poland


On Food, Our Daily Correspondent


Conspiracy lurks in every bite. Photo: Edsel L., via Flickr.

It is pierogi weather. Here in New York, that means going to Greenpoint, or one of the Polish or Ukrainian coffee shops in the East Village, or maybe one of the two warring dairy luncheonettes nearby. Fried or boiled is a matter of heritage and personal inclination; ditto sour cream and fried onions. I will not tell another person how to live his or her life. This is America. But here is what I will tell you:

I was walking down First Avenue, hell-bent on pierogis, when my way was blocked by a very short lady in a very voluminous house dress and a fur coat. Her manner was urgent, her gaze intense.

“There is something you need to know,” she said, with the air of a fellow undercover operative making contact.

We moved toward the curb so as not to block foot traffic, and she delivered her message.

She had, she told me, been eating stuffed cabbage at the Little Poland restaurant “for almost thirty years.” And yet, on this day, they had refused to serve her! “They said they didn’t have any,” she said, furious. “I know they were lying. I saw people eating it.”

And that is not all. Following this outrage, she had made her way three blocks south, to Veselka, because sometimes you need stuffed cabbage, and no one will argue with that.

“But,” she continued ominously, “do you know what?” I did not. She leaned in close and lowered her voice conspiratorially. “The exact same thing happened!

I agreed that this was terrible, and would have been on my way, but she had yet to impart the most important piece of information. 

“You know who they were serving?” she demanded. There was a moment of charged silence.

“Who?” I finally asked.

“Attractive gay men!”

She looked at me with an air of knowing triumph.

“I wanted to tell you especially,” she explained, “so the same thing didn’t happen to you.” And then, “Thank you for your time.”

I think we can agree that the gratitude was all mine. I did not attempt to order stuffed cabbage, because, really, life is hard enough.