Looking for Doctor; Will Settle for Turkey Sandwich


By Tina Barry

Published September 24, 2004, issue of September 24, 2004.
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There are no single men in New York, and everyone knows that. Everyone except my mother. To her, the city is filled with men waiting to make me their wife. I just needed a creative plan for finding them.

“If you want to meet a doctor, eat in a hospital,” she advised.

Any objections I voiced she waved away. “Look,” she said, “who do they see all day? A bunch of sick schleppers in hospital gowns. You’ll put on a little lipstick and blusher, a nice dress — they’ll be beating each other with their stethoscopes to get your number.”

Ridiculous as my mother’s scheme sounded, loneliness is a great motivator. On went the dress, the makeup and the heels. I even carried a small bouquet of lilacs for “my Aunt Gloria, who was recovering at Mount Sinai from gallbladder surgery and needed cheering up.”

In one hospital cafeteria, Josh, the sleepy-eyed internist on line, suggested the special $6 herbed chicken with two sides. When I joined him for dinner and recited the story of poor Gloria, he nodded in sympathy. “She’s lucky to have you. Call me if you need to talk,” he said, handing me his card.

A few nights later, I returned to the hospital. I bumped my tray along the counter behind a throng of giggling nurses’ aides. There was no Josh (who never returned my call anyway), and no David or Mark, either. I lingered over my chicken — roasted with garlic and lemon instead of herbs — until I finally realized that a date for Saturday evening wasn’t going to materialize.

Undeterred, I headed to a downtown hospital, where my luck improved. Aaron, a lovable pediatric surgeon with curly brown hair, swiped a french fry from my plate. Taking a tiny bite and savoring it dramatically, he said: “Not exactly Le Cirque, but it’ll do.” Before I could think of a witty comeback, he took his tray and settled at a table not far from mine. I finished my fries and a great hot turkey sandwich, scribbled my number on a napkin and dropped it in his lap on the way out.

I returned to the same cafeteria a few days later with two goals: to order the turkey sandwich again (all white meat, rich gravy), and to have enough time to enjoy it before seeing Aaron. I found myself torn between the evening’s entrée — fresh bluefish Provencal with lots of garlic and tomatoes — and the turkey sandwich. I forfeited the turkey. The fish was perfect — moist with just a hint of basil.

Aaron never showed up.

“So?” was my mother’s cryptic request for an update. I mentioned the delectable bluefish; the wonderful smorgasbord of samosas, stir-fries and country pâté served on “International Day” in an Upper East Side hospital. I suggested we meet for dinner in a Greenwich Village hospital, where the chef displayed a light hand at vegetarian fare.

There was a long silence. “‘So?’ means ‘are you meeting doctors?’” she said, “not what are you eating for dinner.”

If I told her that her advice resulted in a date with a horny ears-nose-and-throat doc, or that Aaron eventually did materialize — with baby-talk messages on my phone machine (“Ari want Teeena to plaaay”) — she’d say that her scheme failed. But I’d disagree.

At an uptown hospital’s cafeteria recently, I met Bob, who was visiting his dyspeptic Uncle Louie. He’s an artist, not a doctor. And the spinach pie was divine.

Tina Barry is a food and style writer who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.

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