Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sunday Memories - Fine Dining At Chez PS 134

PS 134 on East Broadway between Grand and Montgomery/Pitt

The spartan diet of Florence's limited but very healthy cooking took its toll early in my life and in need to something interesting to eat I would, against the rules, often visit friends' homes to ogle their tuna fish casseroles with potato chips on top, or their peanut butter and jelly sandwich (a forbidden delicacy in our home) or the obviously gourmet macaroni and cheese dishes. I didn't partake of any of it, the imposing on other people's limited food supply and strained budgets a cardinal sin, but I did lustfully leer at those dishes.

And then one summer, once again enrolled in the city-run day camp program in the park across the street, I was told that because I was a camper I was eligible for the summer lunch program at PS 134. I almost died and went to heaven. And for several weeks I indulged in plates of all the starch and gravy and meat loaf and macaroni they'd pile on my plastic tray.

Years later, I found out that PS 134 had a lunch-time program for the senior citizens in the neighborhood. For $1 you could get lunch. Florence, barely still cooking for herself or occasionally going to the Luncheonette with me (our version of eating out), swung by, perhaps motivated by the same curiosity that drove me to meander around friends' dinner tables. The fare, this time low sodium and low fat, was just as exotic to her as those summer meals years ago had been for me. I was thrilled, thinking a steady source of food would help balance the nutritional swings between her diet of national chain fast foods she saw on TV and the tasteless salt free organic stews she made for herself.

But soon she stopped. "I don't feel right," was her explanation. She worried that taking her $1 meal when she had a little bit more than nothing in her bank account was taking away a $1 meal from someone who didn't have anything in their bank account.