"If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast." – Ernest Hemingway.
I will forever be addicted to the electricity of urban life – the pulse, the noise, the energy that elevates me to excitement even on the dreariest of days. Yet perhaps the most thrilling aspect of cities is the sensations felt when hunger strikes. Running on empty amidst the sights of endless menus plastered on restaurant walls, the smells of fresh bread rising from bakeries, and the sounds of restaurant-goers clinking glasses outside of café windows makes the anticipation of cities’ wealth of diverse cuisines deliciously unbearable. In Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, he lauds this urban hunger as discipline for starving artists. His Parisian poverty enabled him to understand the true splendor his scene, as evidenced by his statement, “…you could always go into the Luxembourg museum and all the paintings were heightened and clearer and more beautiful if you were belly-empty, hollow-hungry. I learned to understand Cézanne much better and to see truly how he made landscapes when I was hungry.”
The other day as I wandered through the streets of Vienna, I was chewing on Hemingway’s words, when suddenly my own hunger hit hard. I was passing through the hipster district, and suddenly my light homemade lunch was a century ago and dinner after my yoga class would be two eternities away. The smell of a vegan pizzeria began to strangle me, and I knew full well that I had reached my breaking point. I caved to my crying belly, and quickly ordered a slice of vegan Caprese without thinking twice. My broken German somehow must have been lost in translation before hitting the Italian pizza-maker’s ear because he delivered me not a slice, but an entire family size of piping hot plant-based pizza, delicately topped with fresh basil leaves.
Much to our mutual disappointment, after taking a few sweet bites of his rich creation of melting cashew cheese, I explained in English to the grinning pizza man that I could not possibly eat all of this before a yoga class. He looked slightly wounded as he handed me a to-go box, murmuring slowly, “You don’t like?”
“No, no, I love! It’s not you, it’s me. The timing isn’t right,” and with a wave to the perplexed Italian man, I ran off, late to yoga class.
I arrived breathless and satiated to the yoga studio, sprinted up four flights of stairs, and paused as I reached the classroom doors, stopped in my tracks as I realized the hilarity of my American appearance. I was about to walk into this sacred space of mind-body connection winded, heavy-hearted, and nonchalantly carrying a pizza box. Should I hide my scarlet letter that marked my sinful acquiescence to hunger? Should I avert the hot stares as I quietly try to stuff my brimming hot pizza box into my miniscule cubby? Yogi footsteps were becoming louder behind me so I had to think fast.
I took one last pronounced giggle as I flung open the door, knowing that there was no use in hiding. Conformity to organized Austrian social norms remains eons away. I am foreign and proud, forever victim to the unfamiliar buzzing temptations of Viennese cuisine and in constant chase of my next moveable feast.