Heroes with Knives

Food for Thought @ Broa Cafe

This Portuguese restaurant came highly recommended by none other than Mr. Nata, @joeybatsnyc. I’ve now come to crave the rich and distinct Portuguese flavors that I first experienced from Joey’s mom, Isabel. Since Broa has an open kitchen, you can see the chef Michael Casalinho in action as you dine. Every dish was deeply satisfying. Go check them out; it’s just a train ride away from Manhattan.

Nilka, Ed, and their son Everett, who live near the restaurant, joined us for our BYOB dinner. (A large beer/wine store is only a few blocks away.) Everett impressed us by eating every dish we ordered, including sardine and octopus. I think he is on track to be a chef like his dad. Ed had his restaurant called Ox not far from Broa but had to close a decade ago because corrupt city inspectors forced him to rack up a massive amount of debt from which the business was never able to recover.

If it’s about money, there are much easier ways than opening a restaurant. So, the chefs who risk it all for their passion for food deserve all the respect. The industrialization eliminated much of the craftsmanship we used to appreciate and enjoy. There are very few things today we can create by hand to make a living.

Most of us survive by selling our time. Because of it, we have become slaves to efficiency. The only way to get ahead is to become more efficient than others, which forces us to use every tool of efficiency available to us, like Amazon.com. And, this, in turn, kills local businesses. What we are left with are big-box retailers who are ultimately concerned only about their bottom lines.

Local restaurants have survived so far because their products have an extremely short shelf life, and because we need places where we can enjoy the company of each other. But what makes me sad is the decimation of craftsmanship. In this increasingly digital world, cooking seems like the last one standing. We are getting severed from everything that feels real to us. In this sense, chefs are the heroes of our time who keep fighting, against all odds, to keep us connected to the real.