This morning, as I read about the popularity of the vada pav in Mumbai (Bombay), my mind returned to the place I’ve been advised by so many to avoid: a busy street corner or tiny strip center where I would work to satisfy the hunger of adventurous eaters. Just the other evening, I heard a woman speak of her desire to open a restaurant, a desire her husband (and several others around the table) quickly warned against. Though I understand the danger and the risk and the potential for burnout such an endeavor might involve, I felt my pulse quicken at her comment. I felt a commonality with the woman because I, too, have that desire. And when I read about street food, regardless of its country of origin, that desire bubbles up and surrounds me with a pungent flavor that only time can wash from my tongue.
The idea that an aging man who’s still in the early stages of dealing with lung cancer treatment would be so attracted to an off-the-wall idea like operating a street-food cart is madness. And I’m not so enamored of operating it; I just want to create the processses by which the food is prepared (including the recipes, etc.) and turn the hard work over to someone younger and who possesses more stamina than I, but who is passionate about ethnic street food. I’ve written so many times about my passions for ethnic foods that it feels almost old and boring to write about them again. But not quite. I’m still enamored of creating foods that blend the best flavors and textures and ingredients from multiple cultures, resulting in unique dishes that have the potential of appealing to adventurous eaters. I’ve even gone so far as to begin to seek names for my little food cart or dive diner or whatever it might ultimately be: Synthesis. Alloy. Amalgam. Blend.
And then I wake up, out of my daydream. I realize it’s pointless. It’s a young man’s dream. It’s something I should have acted on twenty or thirty years ago when I first wanted to do it (or maybe even earlier, when the dreams first began to simmer). I should have done that at the same time I should have bought my acreage and purchased a tractor and pursued yet another dream I let wither. It’s not dead, but it’s crippled and near the grave, starving from malnutrition and dying of thirst. I’m unable to pursue any of those dreams now. They are shreds of history that I might as well discard and let them float away in a dust storm. I can’t begin to express how utterly depressed and sad I feel when I realize I’m no longer able to take the risks I never took. I’m stuck circling a drain.