Do you feel like New Yorkers treat your town like it’s a small village even though six million people reside in your city’s metro area?
Do all of your kosher restaurants close before nine pm?
Do you have to drive 3 hours to get just the right type of kosher food? Is your town’s only “kosher” restaurant open on Shabbos?
Do you feel like an alien every time you talk to a New Yorker?
Fear not my out of town brethren – we are united (oy, I feel like a Marxist) and I intend to dispel the rumors that out-of-towners are going hungry and irreligious from lack of food and access to up-with-the-times head coverings.
When asked “What do you do?” by a New Yorker, you are not merely being asked about your occupation or whether or not you can support their son in Kollel – the question is actually a general question of rhetorical geocentricism; these folks from “in=town” seek to make everyone from any city beyond that of Rockland County appear as if they dropped off the moon. “What do you do?” is a question that latches onto the entire gamut of the frum experience, and can be defined in a myriad of ways, depending on both the particular asker and askee.
As a 27 year old single make, the four word query can be typified in one of two ways when directed at me: Sometimes it might be delivered with the intonation that the Founding Fathers used upon asking the Natives of New England during the height of winter “What do you eat?”, which means to say that the in-towner wants to know what I do…for food. I always answer with the obvious, I EAT, but that is never good enough for these geocentric New Yorkers intent on messing with me, the poor out-of-towner. It is followed up by the same exact “What do you do?” repeated verbatim, this time with more attention placed on pronouncing each of the words really clearly, as though I might be severely learning disabled. This time they mean to ask “I didn’t know they have kosher food there, are you sure it’s really kosher?” I answer this as if I were an OU representative visiting a prospective client, “did you know that 1/3 of the products sold in the US are certified kosher?” This is not enough for them either, so they cobble together a new question out of their limited oral lexicon: “But, do you have kosher restaurants?” When I lived in Rochester and Albany, NY I would answer no, and enjoy the looks of astonishment on these people’s faces, while they would gasp in horror with the thought that I would eat treife, although all I was actually implying was that there are single men who actually do cook for themselves. To acknowledge that single frum men cook for themselves is too progressive for many people, they simply cannot believe why anyone in their right mind would settle in a place devoid of kosher restaurants.
I never really thought much of the 3 hour drive to Toronto for some kosher pizza when I lived Rochester, as the drive itself was made into a pleasant trek with all sorts of interesting stops along the way. The capstone highlight at the conclusion of our journey was being able to eat out in a kosher restaurant. I used to love eating out, it was such a treat, something I relished and never took for granted – I came to realize over time that New Yorkers are just spoiled. Besides, cooking for yourself looks great on the skills portion of your shidduch resume – and talking recipes with women always gets you invitations to try some of their food.