Illustration: Maanvi Kapour
Since 2007, Jeremiah Moss has been following the evolution of our city in his blog, The disappearance of Jeremiah in New York; in his 2018 book, endangered new york; and this year in wild city. Moss is the pen name of Griffin Hansbury, a day psychoanalyst who lives in the East Village. He says he started writing under a pseudonym because he liked the freedom of that voice, but he calls wild city a hybrid book, one that mixes Moss with Hansbury. That doesn’t mean he’s entirely comfortable with the vanity of this column, though. “I approach the mission with trepidation,” he says of his food diary, explaining that he’s never been a fan of discussing food or sharing it. “When I was a child, my mother took me to lunch at Friendly’s or Brigham’s, where she slid fries on my plate and watched me implode,” he continues. “In chimpanzees, studies show that food sharing increases both donor and recipient oxytocin, a hormone that facilitates social bonding. For me, it makes me cringe.
Wednesday, November 9
For breakfast, I have a bowl of cereal with half a banana. The cereal I eat for breakfast (Nature’s Path Flax Plus Raisin Bran) is very mature – brown, hard and somewhat tasteless. My favorite cereal when I was a kid was Apple Jacks. My mom bought it for me, and my dad ranted about it because he went crazy after he quit drinking. His relationship to food revolved around dominance and superiority. He started stir-frying in a wok, a micro-trend for white people in the early 80s, stocked the kitchen cupboards with vitamins and took me to macrobiotic restaurants where everyone wore natural fibers and smelled patchouli oil. He claimed to be pure in body, but when he died and I cleaned out his refrigerator, I found nothing pure, not a single vegetable, no soba noodles – all he had were piles of candy bars, a half-eaten chocolate cake and a crisper full of Duracell batteries. Seeing this made me feel both sad and triumphant.
During my lunch break, I get a chai latte from Mud and drink it while strolling through Tompkins Square Park, where a woman says, “I hate squirrels, they’re so scary.” At the Avenue A magazine store, I get a New Yorker see a review of my book: “ruminative, provocative and moving.” I take the magazine for Ray’s candy store for a festive egg custard. When I wish Ray a happy birthday – he’s 90 – he says, “I never thought I’d get this far”, and I feel something similar to the idea of getting a review in The New Yorker. At home, I make myself a sandwich: wheat bread, turkey, Swiss, mustard. Nothing in particular.
Every Wednesday night in Washington Square Park, the Black Trans Liberation Kitchen distributes delicious meals to all who are hungry. People dance to DeBarge (“I Like It”), I get a hug from organizer Qween Jean and say hello to the comrades I cycled with during the Stonewall marches of the 2020 uprising. I appreciate a generous plate of salad, honey barbecue ribs, roast chicken and summer squash. I donate and chat with another mate who says the food is so good because it’s made with love, and I know they’re right.
Thursday November 10
Breakfast is cereal again. I have nothing against this cereal. It’s professional; It does the job.
Just before lunchtime, I hop on my bike and fly to Times Square, a place that regained its soul during the pandemic lockdown and has since slipped back into an over-policed, over-touristy zombie zone. . However, there is still a strange life left and after saying hello to my friend Barbie, a homeless street performer who dresses in glitter and screams at the sky, I head to Margon on 46th Street for a hearty lunch of rice and beans, tender chicken and plantains, washed down with morir soñando, a sweet mixture of milk and orange juice that translates to “to die dreaming”.
Dinner comes from The Bucket, my private name for the bulk meal I make on Sundays, then put in Tupperware to eat all week. This time it’s chicken sausage, pearl couscous and pesto asparagus. I heat it in a frying pan and eat it in front of the television. American Horror Story: NYC.
My evening snack is Skinny Pop. My dad used to make popcorn at night in a pot on the stove, and the sound of the pop-pop-pop would wake me up. For the peculiarity of this treat, I was allowed to get out of bed and have a bowl. Since time immemorial, popcorn has been imbued with positive sentiment. I eat too much.
Friday November 11
Breakfast is cereal again. Lunch is the bucket – eaten cold, straight from the bucket itself – standing in my kitchen because I forgot to eat lunch and suddenly got hungry.
Usually my Friday dinner is with Washington Square Park Mutual Aid — we meet every Friday from 5 to 9 p.m. in the circle west of the fountain — but tonight it’s pouring rain, and I’m not as fearless as I would like.
Every week people bring in homemade food for everyone – baked ziti, roast chicken, macaroni and cheese, empanadas and pizza, lots of pizza. If I was there, I might hand out slices and eat them too. “Caring” means being a part of it, breaking bread with friends and people from other walks of life, but tonight I’m home watching Netflix and eating sushi, wishing I missed Wash.
Saturday November 12
I’m going to have lunch Bus stop cafe on Hudson Street, where the waitress knows me and recites my usual order from memory: banana-nut pancakes, a side of berries, scrambled eggs and cooked bacon “chicharrón,” as she puts it, charred to a crisp.
The breakfast is generous enough to allow me to spend a day walking in the village. After entering Three lives and company sign copies of wild city, I pass a restaurant where a private security guard watches outdoor brunchers, making sure their meal is not interrupted by beggars. It’s a disturbing, vaguely dystopian spectacle. Do brunchers feel uncomfortable being guarded like this, or is protection expected, another perk of being them?
I skip lunch. For dinner I would like to go to by Arthur on Houston Street, an old school favorite spot for pizza and cocktails, but it’s not open yet and I’m starting to get hungry. So I end up eating somewhere I don’t prefer, just because it’s there: bareburger in Plaza de la Guardia. I have a turkey burger with garlic aioli and sweet potato fries. Afterwards, I go to Wash and come across my friend Ulu selling drinks from a cooler designed to look like a pirate treasure chest. I take a juice special, talk for a while, then do a few loops, walking around the fountain to see who’s there and what’s going on, happy to be in the music and clouds of smoke from grass and sage.
sunday november 13
I wake up, make a cup of Lipton tea, and scroll through Instagram, which takes me to Michelle Tea’s New Sub-Pile. I read an essay about Ali Liebegott’s art and how being queer can be depressing and you might end up identifying with shitty food – “an identity with a loser who’s a province art and queer thinking” – because being queer is dangerous and “it’s risky to want things. It can be a good strategy to have humble desires, to fetishize the humble, to celebrate them. Like bacon and eggs, like food that’s not good for you, because being queer is not good for you, and those of us who came of age in the 20th century associate our homosexuality to illness, violence, alienation. This is why I find it difficult to eat in “nice” places. That and growing up in the lower class, so I feel like I’m betraying myself when I eat good food.
At Bareburger, a candle dad had told how the meat was “grass-fed.” He had to tell his children ten times, who didn’t care how the cows they fed were fed. “Grass-fed,” the father kept repeating. “It is really good.” He was talking about purity. When I walked past, he gave me a look, a scared and angry dad look, his eyes flickering from my trans-flag pin to my Black Lives Matter pin to the slogan stitched on my baseball cap: “New York Fuckin’ City”. I felt like a problem, a threat to her children and all her grass-fed desires.
For Sunday breakfast, it’s another bowl of cereal and bananas, then I go shopping at Key Food on Avenue A, where I select a bag of Brussels sprouts. I try to buy things that are more pleasing to me, healthier things with more variety. Vegetables have always been a challenge for me. My mom wasn’t Faye Dunaway playing Joan Crawford in Dear Mumbut she sat me down at the kitchen table long after the other plates had been cleared because I had refused to eat my vegetables because vegetables made me gag, and I had to sit there watching them chill while my parents lay in the living room watching TV until my mother finally got up and said, “Clear your plate and go to bed.
Most people, it seems, only want to have good feelings about food. They want warm family feelings, romantic couple feelings, loving mom feelings, happy feelings with friends. It’s not like I don’t have any; I just find them Hallmark-ish, too easy. The food is tough. People should admit it more often. I am a psychoanalyst and almost everyone talks to me about the harshness of food. The food becomes the body, and the body is a hard place to live. It’s too fat or too thin, the wrong shape, the wrong gender. Food is power, class and gender, race and ethnicity, belonging and not belonging. There are too few, or too many, or maybe it’s not the right type.
I skip lunch again. For dinner, I get my usual Sunday: chicken pad thai delivered from Makiinny on 7th street. I remember many years ago the first time I took a taxi to 7th Street. I said “East 7th”, and the driver said, “You must be new in town. you don’t say East 7th because there is no West 7th. You just say 7th. He was right on all counts.
I eat half of the pad thai and put the rest in the fridge. I used to call a meal like this an “investment” because you could get two dinners for the price of one. It reveals a lack of economic understanding, but I still think the word — investment — as I close the fridge. My nighttime snack is popcorn, and it tastes like home, steamed in oil and salt.