Sean and I are at Madison Diner and he has ordered a pastrami sandwich on rye. It is his first. He doesn’t like mustard and I told him he’d be stoned if he requested mayonnaise so he’s ordered it plain, just meat and bread. The sandwich arrives, easily 7 inches thick; layers upon layers of pink deli meat piled upon toasted slices of rye.
“Are they kidding?” he asks in horror. “I can’t eat this. What do they think I am?” It’s a question he’s asked several times a day since arriving in America, confronted with one massive restaurant serving after another.
“I know,” I reply, as I’ve done each time he’s gazed in shock at his plate. “We eat too much.”
Sean has learned how to eat sandwiches in America; he opens the bread and spoons out some of the filling onto his plate, which he then eats with a knife and fork before attempting to eat the rest of the sandwich as the cook intended. Today, he’s decided that while the pastrami is “lovely” it’s a bit dry so he’s reached for the ketchup and is busily slathering it on the hot pastrami before cutting it into manageable slices. Then, he reassembles the sandwich and picks it up. He eats one half, groans, and starts on the other. He pauses to remove some more of the filling.
“I can’t eat this,” he says. “Help me.” I pick up my fork and reach for the meat without ketchup. We chew silently and I sense Sean struggling. Finally, he yields, with a quarter of his sandwich left.
“I hate to waste food,” he says angrily. “Ye get two choices here, don’t ye? Waste perfectly good food or get fat.”
He’s forgotten doggy bags but in general, he’s right. And it’s a grim choice.