There I was, minding my own business, walking with my husband to a restaurant to celebrate our 19th anniversary, and the next thing I knew, I had pigeon poop in my hair.
We were out the night before our anniversary, because, on our actual anniversary, my husband took our son, his best friend, and two other guys to Six Flags for the day.
As many of our friends and family members already know, this is not the least romantic thing my husband has done on our anniversary. That would be the year he planned to go to Mets game with 10 guys from church, found out the game was on the day of our anniversary, then bought the tickets anyway.
They got rained on though, so I feel like karma was on my side.
This year, the kids jaunted off to Shake Shack with their godparents, and my husband and I drove to Jackson Heights, an area of Queens that makes understatements of the terms “urban density” and “diversity.” We parked and walked several blocks towards a small second-floor restaurant that serves Thai hotpot – all you can eat within ninety minutes (there are overage charges). It was while we were standing at a corner under the elevated 7 line tracks, waiting for a light to change, that a pigeon left me a present.
I can’t remember the last time I was pooped on. By a bird, anyway. I remember loads of times (pun intended) I was pooped on by a kid. Mostly by my own, although just last week the neighbors’ newborn leaked all over me.
I’m not really sure why, of all days, a pigeon singled me out on my 19th anniversary, but I am hopeful that was not a portent of things to come. Although, didn’t getting pooped on by birds get Diane Lane her own villa in Under the Tuscan Sun?
Please, can I have my own villa?
No villa materialized, but we did have a great evening together, once I scraped and washed everything out of my hair and hands in the restaurant bathroom, then dolloped on some hand sanitizer for good measure.
The restaurant we chose, Jaew Hon NY, was eclectically and colorfully decorated with light fixtures made of umbrellas and colanders and a painting of the recently deceased, beloved Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
It was a family-friendly spot, with several families with babies and young children crowded into the narrow space. (As the night progressed, the crowd shifted to adults.) Many of the babies and toddlers were vociferously not enjoying themselves, and no one seemed to mind. They were also sitting mystifyingly close to the in-table heating elements.
The heating elements turned out to be (mostly) child-safe inductive heating surfaces that stayed cool while keeping the broth inside the hotpots boiling at a consistent 390 degrees. From what my humanities-tilting brain can tell from a quick perusal of some diagrams on Google, induction heating works through magnets and, um . . . magic?
Regardless, I came away wanting an inductive cooker for our apartment, because turning on a stove during an NYC heat wave is akin to using a blowtorch in hell.
If you’re not familiar with hotpot, it’s found in many Asian cultures. In Japan, it’s called shabu shabu, a name that Wikipedia informs me may be an onomatopoetic representation of the sounds made by cooking and stirring. It consists a variety of vegetables, meats, fish, dumplings, tofu products, and noodles that you cook in boiling broth right at your table. According to the Thai friend who recommended this restaurant, Thai hotpot is distinguished from Chinese hotpot by its dipping sauces and broths, all made with Thai spices like Thai basil (spicier than the Italian variety), lemongrass, and galangal (related to ginger).
For our hotpot, we ordered marinated beef, thin-sliced beef, squid, and shrimp, then chose items from the fresh bar: several kinds of mushrooms, bok choy, Thai basil, squash slices, eggs, tofu, tofu skin, pork and shrimp dumplings.
The shrimp came with heads intact. I made my husband deal with them. I don’t like it when my food stares at me with its bulgy, beady, pleading eyes. Or with any eyes, for that matter.
We finished off the evening in Astoria Park, looking out at the Manhattan skyline through the lattice of the 59th Street Bridge and eating Talenti Almond Coconut Chocolate Gelato with plastic spoons.
For a night that started with getting pooped on, it wasn’t all that bad. I’d spend another 19 years like this.