He arrives with a polite knock, scattering the cats to various nooks and crannies about the house. I am masked up of course, as is he, but I can see the twinkle in his eyes even though I am sure he’s weary. From the bag I am hit with the pungent, sexy smell of butter chicken, mutton masala, saag paneer. Salivating I thank him profusely and he mentions that we should have dinner when this all blows over.
When this all blows over.
I feel like we have been living in “Shaun of the Dead” except the safest place is actually not the local pub. I could carry on a whole dissertation about how it never was but I digress. I know all of this is old hat to those of you who have been enjoying Uber Eats and the like for ages but for me the concept of food being delivered to my door still gives me a little happy satisfaction and delight.
When I was growing up, in the days of yore, my little Arizona hometown had some really great restaurants but about the only thing you could have delivered was a pizza. I remember when I practically LIVED at my friend Helen’s house in Junior High and how we would scandalously “do our faces” and dress up waiting to “seduce” the pizza boy. We were rarely supervised little nonsense creatures and my mind reels thinking of all the bad things that could have happened to us, but they didn’t. Mostly we embarrassed the hell out of a pimply face high school kid and thought we were absolutely daring and grown up. I mean, didn’t those of us who grew up in the 90s have that rare autonomy of basically being able to do whatever you wanted to whilst still remaining almost inconceivably innocent? Pizza at Helen’s embodied all of that and more. You see we NEVER got delivery pizza in my family. I was practically raised in restaurants by a mother who had no clue how to boil an egg. Or at least never was interested in doing so. So for Helen and I to invite a bunch of people (equally nonsensical and naive…you know who you are) to her house and be in control of what we wanted to eat and drink, when we wanted to do so, AND pay for it ourselves? Well there you are. My arrested development is on full display.
Of course later in my life, when I moved to London and New York City, I could get anything I wanted. My friend Cameron and I had a deep an meaningful relationship with the woman who answered the phone at Yummy Taco. I can still remember my usual order. Black bean tacos, a chicken fajita, sour cream, salsa, and loads of chips. I think what was so amazingly New York about Yummy Taco is that it was owned and run by a Korean family and yet for two gals from Arizona it was still really good Mexican food. And it had the LOCAL thing. The lady would laugh nearly every time we ordered because I ordered the same thing. “You KNOW what you like!” She would giggle. But then there was HER MOTHER. She was not friendly at all and we tried not to need tacos on the days she worked. Tried and usually failed.
Again, though, it didn’t matter what day it was, we could ALWAYS get someone to ferry some fajitas into our greedy little paws pretty much whenever we wanted. In someways that made it taste even better, to me at least. I was spoiled rotten on delivery in those cities. Happen to be watching a film about Thailand? Order some Thai food. Have a hankering for Ethiopian? Sure thing. I know my husband misses the Chinese food from the states the most. Those greasy boxes stuffed to bursting. Not great for the gut but comfort food for any New Yorker.
And yes you did run the risk of being in serious intestinal anguish when you tried something new, but that was also the fun about it. If you were sad, the delivery person brought comfort, but if you were feeling adventurous you could just pick a restaurant at random and be surprised.
When I moved to Okinawa I was over the moon about all the amazing restaurants, varied cuisines and new, exciting flavors at my fingertips. Alas they weren’t QUITE at my fingertips. For some reason there was a disconnect in Okinawa about the concept of delivery. A local told me once it was because in Japan there isn’t a huge culture of eating at home. That Japanese people prefer to eat out or just pick up a bento to take home and eat in the microwave. That makes sense to me on some level as I have seen the size of Japanese kitchens. Still, one would think delivery would suit that perfectly. Also, I know things are different when it comes to mainland Japan. The Soba Noodle Cyclists and bento delivery to offices seems to have been a thing for decades. I am still impressed when I see those old photos of men carrying noodles on their heads and shoulders. I am sure there is more of it than was obvious, but language and cultural barriers being what they are, things like that were just too much of a hassle to deal with gaijins.
Whatever it was, I readjusted my life, thinking it was probably better on my waistline in the end anyway.
And then Covid hit and suddenly necessity was, as per the saying, the mother of invention. Or at least a demand for a massive overhaul in thinking. Restaurants were closed, as they were in many places. Our Okinawan tourist industry, which sizes up a hefty amount of the island’s income, was shot and with it all of the food spots that people travel to this tropical paradise to visit. The restaurant industry had to get with the times. And they did.
Suddenly we were hearing about new delivery options which we all squealed over as if this kind of concept hasn’t been around for ages. It took a year but they have ironed out a lot of the wrinkles and that is where I am sitting tonight, with Indian food in front of me and no obligation to put on pants. Yes, I guess this sounds so annoying and boring to anyone from the states or elsewhere that has been pantless for the last year, but let me ask you this: what would you have done without your beloved deliveries? Without Amazon and Uber and whatever other awesome things you have access to? I’m not gonna get sanctimonious about it, but maybe you should just do a little happy dance of gratitude for all of the delivery drivers who have put their health at risk to feed your face.
Also, don’t forget to tip. A lot.