It's not the apocalypse. I'm not locked in a panic room. I'm simply perusing the Fairway Market on 74th and Broadway at midnight. The panting? I'm in the cheese section.
If you commit the egregious oversight of likening Fairway to some other market, don't worry. Millions of strategically placed neon placards will remind you that you're shopping at a site like no other. And it's true: there's something patently other about Fairway. In my assessment, they stock every foodstuff ever conceived by the human mind and sell it cheap. For the Morton-Williams-weary, a trip to Fairway is like coming home.
Fairway's fromagerie is awesome in scope and smell. Even if you're just some bum who likes Cheetos, you're bound to appreciate the vast display, arranged as if to evoke the august grandeur of a pharaoh's tomb. Rounds, slabs, and blocks of cheese are stacked like majestic bullion. The effect is so pronounced that I feel as though if I were to touch a piece of cheese, an evil spirit would slither out of the ether and condemn me to three countless eons of soul-abasing servitude unless I agreed to be its concubine and dance nude for its friends at parties. Fondling some aged Manchego, I notice that it doesn't happen, so I continue to squeeze cheese through plastic wrap. I handle some baked ricotta with lemon. Nice consistency.
Then there's the meat department, where you can ogle plastinated thighs and breasts with abandon. If taxidermy's more your thing, soak up the stuffed rooster nailed to a log on the counter of the meat display case. And for New York's small but demanding Jewish-Native American population, Glatt Kosher bison is always on hand. Turkey meatballs, turkey necks, beef rump roast, and rabbit festoon the shelves in varying degrees of pink. Little D'Artagnon are clarified by the parenthetical aside (Young Chicken). It's as if the Fairway Big Brother is explaining: "No, not that dashing Musketeer. Chicken!" Amazingly, clarification is necessary. It's not altogether inconceivable that Fairway would serve Musketeer, if that's what her customers desired. New Yorkers are, after all, a discriminating bunch. Fairway bends to meet the whims of her patrons with the professional commitment of a lithe geisha.
I didn't make that up; they really do aim to please in the profoundest way. Exclamatory placards above the meat display case reassure me of this fact: "Our counter guys cook. They also bend over backwards to make you happy. You want us to braise that chicky? Done. You want that crown roast frenched? Done." In terse, no-nonsense colloquialisms, Fairway lets us know that she would go to lengths for us, that she wants us to be happy, well-fed, and choosy. Like a loud, Semitic grandparent, Fairway yells at us to pick out the best and enjoy it.
Late Wednesday night, just before closing at 1 a.m., is a fine time to do just that. Free from the quizzical gaze of reasonable people, I have the leisure to fondle as much brie as I please.
Jen Spyra is a senior English major in the College. Barnard College, that is. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.