Living in Maine, I feel like Henry Hill at the end of Goodfellas. All I want is some good matzoh ball soup but I can't even find Chanukkah candles for our menorah. There's not a single good bagel let alone a decent bagel store in the entire state. Pizzas are made at gas stations with crusty bread and ketchup. Sometimes, they're made with a new-age, soy cheese, hydroponic spice that leaves your palette with more questions than answers. Mainers, lend me your ears: basil does NOT belong in bagels! And while we're at it, hamburger meat on pizza is only a small step away from a dried out, open-faced sloppy Joe.
When we moved up from Queens, my wife and I left the land of the plentiful ethnic food in favor of a quieter lifestyle. We said good-bye to gyros and reubens, to moo shu pork and cannolis, to Korean food, to Jamaican food, to Indian food, good-bye to all in search of a calmer quality of life. We moved "down east" and every local knew where to get the "best" bagels or the "best" pizza. "Deah," they said, "have you tried Abbey's* bagels? Those are A1." First off, bagels should never be described by a steak sauce. Secondly, I'm not buying it! Everyone's told me they know of a good bagel place and every time I walk away unsatisfied and violent. People, rolled dough does not qualify as a bagel!
Now, don't get me wrong: Jewish cuisine is not exactly savory. Gefilte fish tastes like poop. But, an occasional brisket sandwich would be nice. I'd like the option of an Italian restaurant whose chef actually uses real tomatoes for sauce, not the generic canned puree. As it is, the nearest Olive Garden is over an hour away. Were it closer, I might consider that an improvement -mind you, my father emphasized in no uncertain terms that we, as Italians, do not eat at Olive Garden. I used to be able to get a slice a foot across by a foot and a half long for a buck twenty-five. The "pizza" up here is a piddly seven inches long, at best. The vendor should pay the customer to eat it. Pete's Pizza* only sounds good because of alliteration and should be fined for false advertisement.
I saw Goodfellas when I was twelve and promptly found two other kids with Italian names to start my family. Fairfield County had a new godfather. I used to rewind the scene in jail as Henry described Paulie's method of using a razor to slice the garlic. Just to make myself feel more Italian, I began cooking some sort of slop that I called Italian food because I sliced the garlic paper-thin. I felt more Italian but the food tasted Canadian -sorry, Canada. Eventually, I grew older and began taking an interest in my family history and before she died, I asked Grandma to teach me how to make her meatballs. They were definitely not her meatballs. People up here think it's the best Italian food they ever ate because an Italian made it. They even consider my matzohball soup** authentic Jewish cuisine but it's as authentic as the box it came in. People of Maine: zeppoles are not gigantic blimps in the air! Matzoh is not a creepy TV program of mimes from the seventies!
Somebody, please, send me a real bagel! I'm dying up here.
*Names have been changed to protect the identities of these exceptionally overrated food vendors.
**In the interest of full disclosure, I've made matzoh ball soup once in my life, had to look up the spelling for zeppoles on Google, and would consider upgrading the status of gefilte fish's taste to mud if people take offense.