Desperate for Desserts, Jackson Heights Style

Tonight, I am frustrated, sucrosically frustrated.

All I want in the world at this very moment is simply some good dessert. But somewhere between “good” and “dessert,” I am lost … as to what exactly it is that I want for tonight’s dessert. While I am aware that this is literally a sweet predicament to be in, any kind of unfulfilled need can get very frustrating as I am sure many of you can relate to.

Gael Greene once said that “Great food is like great sex. The more you have, the more you want.” Well, let me tell you. When you want sex, and I mean when you are really desperate for sex, you know exactly what you want and you can just go for it.  But at the end of the day, unlike desserts, the climax, the pleasure can be quite monochromatic.  Single toned, you know?

Dessert is different.

Do I want an ice-cream cone?  Or a sundae?  Would I rather have a cake?  And if so, what texture and what flavor? Might I prefer a New York style cheesecake or a tiramisu?  Should I walk to a Thai restaurant two stations away for sticky rice with mangoes?  Or some basen ladoo from a neighborhood Indian sweet shop?  Maybe I’d better go to the Korean grocer’s to see if she has any green tea ice-cream left.  Oh what about kulfi?  The list goes on.

Living in Jackson Heights – reportedly the most diverse spot in the nation –  compounds my confectionery problems.  I knew that at least I wanted something sweet, something milky and creamy and something small.

Not knowing what I wanted, I left my apartment on Broadway and marched toward 37th Avenue, determined to check out before I move out of the city a little neighborhood cafe called Carollo Bakery despite its unfavorable Yelp reviews. Even if I didn’t end up with something that truly fulfilled me, I thought that I would be satisfied to settle upon any dessert there and check this place out of my list, especially considering how affordable their pastries are.  Unfortunately for me, the bakery was closed.

Undeterred, I continued to Espresso 77, wavering near the coffee shop glass windows and introspecting whether or not I truly wanted anything from there.  Their ginger chai is quite soothing and I wouldn’t mind a glass of Riesling.  They tend to have cookies, brownies, chocolate croissants and the like.  But I discovered that I wasn’t craving for anything chocolate and definitely not in the mood for a hard texture.  No crunchy cookies for me please.

Growing a little frustrated, I wandered into the Little India, which is along 74th Street between 37th and Roosevelt Avenue, stopping at nearly every single Indian dessert shop I found along the way.  I was not a big Indian confectionery fan to start with, and considering that Indian desserts tend to either have a solid, firm texture or get soaked up in a  syrup, I couldn’t find anything I wanted.

That is until I stumbled upon kulfi!  It is soft. It’s sweet. It’s cold and it’s creamy. It sounds like it is everything I wanted. However, just as I thought I was going to settle for kulfi, the man by the counter turned to me from chatting with the store owner and asked out of nowhere: “Are you Nepali? Where are you from? Tibet?”

Arr…Let’s just say, “North Carolina..?” Anywhere really that he wouldn’t know much about.

It is one thing to strike up a conversation with a neighbor and act friendly, but another thing to barge in with an intrusive question without any warning!  Nepali and Tibetan women I know are friendly, warm and pretty, but I do not appreciate that in an ethnic neighborhood, the number #1 identifier is which ethnic group you belong to, not who you are.  Next time, I am going to say I am from Quito and see if it works.

So I didn’t end up getting kulfi.  Reverting to the Latin American theme, I walked back down to Roosevelt Avenue to see if there was anything that caught my attention.  Panaderia Coatzingo? Hmmm, no.  Then, something happened.  It dawned on me that the whole time, I was really craving for mochi!  The sweet, colorful and perfectly round dessert rice cakes. They are soft, sweet, creamy, milky and small.  That was truly the answer for my bodily desires and the cause for hunger all evening!

The only place I know that sells mochi in Jackson Heights is Chong Hap Market, but they only sell the packaged ones, which I didn’t want at all.  Ideally, I would love some mochi from Maxin’s Bakery in Flushing but it was getting late and the bakery was most likely already closed.  Argh.  Why is life so hard?

Defeated, I eventually settled on something creamy and milky but in a liquid form – Vietnamese Iced Tea with condensed milk from Thai Son. The route I took for a cup of iced tea looks something like this:


But the point is…the point is to be patient with us, you and myself.

Call us Generation Entitle, Millenials or the YOLO Generation, which for those that don’t know stands for “You Only Live Once.” New York Times op-ed writers like to call us “Generation Go-Nowhere,” (and they kinda suck honestly. Yes you, Bellafante). TV shows poke fun of our lives with unlike-able characters, e.g. HBO Girls.

My search for dessert for the night may only be matched by my same kind of hunger to answer the question, “What is it that I love to do in life? For a living?”

I want to work on a little bit of gender equality but a little bit of business too.  Add some environmental conservation, maybe something related to food or eco-tourism?  Or writing?  While I’m at it, why not just go to a law school and become a politician? If desired, I can also try to break into consulting since a lot of my friends seem to be doing that, right? Hey what about some SOCIAL ENTERPRISE, the latest trend?

Opportunities are endless, the same way my dessert options are vast in Jackson Heights neighborhood.

It’s true that my grandparents cannot comprehend how I could say no to medical college or tiramisu and instead walk around in a maze for some intangible ideals.  But that doesn’t mean we are going no where.  I didn’t end up with the mochi I wanted tonight but now I know what I want and I know how to get there, conceptually at least.

Similarly, I may not arrive at a dream job right out of college, no one does, but I know I am on the right track even if the journey can get frustrating at times.  The most the adults (or my Asian relatives) can do is guide us and be morally supportive of our decisions, instead of complaining about how our choices do not make sense to them.  While I feel solidarity from my peers, most of whom are smart, high-achievers with lofty goals, I am sick of adult whiners.

It’s not solely that my generation is feeling over-entitled – a few of us maybe – but some of us are also working hard and trying to learn how to live.  Is it so wrong that we don’t want a career to just happen?  After all, as Julia Child said, it would have been “a shame to be caught up in something that does not absolutely make you tremble with joy.”

And most importantly because, “Life itself is the proper binge.”

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