A sleek black phone sits idly on the coffee table, window blinds closed tightly to seal out the daylight while I sit silently in the dark with my eyes burning from staring at it, just waiting for the phone to let me know they still care about me. When will the next message from them come? Will it be today, tomorrow, the next day, or never again? Should I cancel all of my plans for the next few days in case the message comes and the product is being sold sometime soon. I am frozen stiff in place with anxiety and do not want to move this way I can be assured if the message does come through, I will be able to get my next fix of it as soon as possible.
What am I supposed to do? I am breaking out in chills, palms warm and sweaty, pupils large, eyes red, teeth grinding, and unsure if I will ever have it again. Why does life have to be this way?
The phone finally chimes and a personalized encoded cryptic message comes through. I rub my eyes to sooth the red puffiness that has overcome them and remove the crust surrounding them to beable to see my phone in the dark. It reads “today jerk and curry chicken available and red snapper made to order all with rice and beans, cabbage and plantains, $xx.xx per platter, meet at such and such parking lot, only between 4:30pm-5:30pm, thanks for your support”. I quickly get myself together, and frantically send out my message to others letting them know I received notice and let me know if they would like me to do business for them. A total of nine orders are what I will set out to pick up undercover to have a party get started again.
I arrive at the destination with a few unfamiliar cars surrounding me and a police patrol vehicle parked nearby. Do the authorities know of my underground food dealings? Is this an undercover sting operation? Have I been setup the entire time, with news reporters and cameramen hiding in the bushes coming to flash bright lights in my face exposing my addiction to Jamaican food. Will this be my last meal as a free man? Should I flee while I still have the chance, and deal with my terrible withdraw symptoms? I feel like screaming! Thankfully, all of these thoughts passed by in only 3 seconds, and within a minute, I hear the crank of the engine, headlights flash on, and our fine protector of the peace depart the parking lot as well as the other unknown vehicles. I now sit calmly waiting for the transaction to be happen.
A familiar face pulls into the parking lot. I walk over, we exchange pleasantries, ask how the family is doing, and anything else on the top of our minds. The food is sitting on the floor of the passenger side of the vehicle, packaged up and ready to go. The money is exchanged for the product I came for, and back home I go to start the cycle all over again of wondering if and when this will ever happen again, and wishing my friend good luck in his culinary endeavors.
This underground food exchange is nothing new for me, and surprisingly happens quite frequently. The one I just described isa former restaurant owner, who tried their hand in the culinary world by opening two different restaurants, both of which did not survive and left the restaurant business for good. We became friends, years have since passed and out of the blue a call came through saying that they needed to raise some money here and there and that they were going to dabble in the food business again, but only cooking things at home for friends and family when time permitted and sending out a random text when that day and time would be and where to meet. Then there was the time I met aprofessional foodie rebel, who I met making the most delicious
lobster rolls I have ever tasted in his basement in Brooklyn during a under the radar weekend culinary tour of all five of New York City’s boroughs. He also, will remain unnamed, but he has appeared on the Food Network, even alongside famous Chef Bobby Flay so it goes to show that the underground food market is not just for some at home cooks or people down on their luck looking to get money anyway possible. During the visit you had to stay completely silent during your meal because his neighbors had become tired of the amount of visitors and noise coming from his basement apartment.
The two dealings I just mentioned are illegal. Technically the law is being broken and I am supporting criminal behavior. As much as Uncle Sam may hate it, I am sleeping soundly at night, and I will continue to join in on such illicit affairs. I am not endorsing this type of lifestyle, I just am highlighting that such a thing exists.
Now you may be asking yourself was the jerk chicken shown in the picture any good? The answer is yes and I will eat it again and again given the opportunity is there and I am available that day to pick it up. I will say thought that it was not as good as what they used to serve at their now defunct restaurants, but I do not think they are interested in that lifestyle again.
I am not giving stars on the food as each experience is different and not able to be duplicated or available to the general public. What I can tell you, is live life a little bit, ask around to find some underground foodie speakeasy or events near you even if they are serving horse meat. Get over your fears of food. Trust me, even if the food is not the best you have ever had, the experience alone will give you something to talk about for quite some time.