The Korean BBQ sandwich piled high with slaw and crispy French onions weighs heavily on my plate. I think about my 7thgrade science class when I first learned about forces. My plate seems to be pressing down heavily on the table. Ergo, the table is exerting tireless upward force to support my BBQ burden. I greedily dig in.
I’m eating lunch on the second floor of Teaism in DuPont Circle. I come here on occasion when I miss Krakow. Something about the creaky oak steps leading to the stuffy second floor reminds me of the hideaway room past the service corridor at Nowa Prowincja on ul. Bracka. My go-to order there was the ribbon-thick hot chocolate and szarlotka cake with crème anglaise. My go-to at Teaism is Korean BBQ.
Though the food is a world apart, the lighting is the same. Diffuse rays filter through old glass-paned windows and bathe the tables in a warm, yellow glow. The steam from patrons’ hot drinks curls and spirals like candle smoke. And if you leave your napkin in the sunny spotlight on your placemat, you feel the warmth when you wipe your greasy fingers (a creature comfort which shouldn’t go unnoticed when you’ve come in from the chilly outdoors).
At Teaism, and in the hours after my lunch break, I daydream of Poland. I remember the bureaucracy needed for everyday tasks, like laundry and accessing the internet. I couldn’t stand the air pollution from coal which blanketed the valley for months at a time and launched me into weeks-long coughing fits. And I think of my apartment, the ex-Nazi Hitler Youth dorm that hadn’t seen new bed sheets since WWII.
But I mostly recall other vignettes. The families gathered for outdoor Chopin concerts each Sunday at noon in the royal gardens of Łazienki. The pink neon gorące pączki sign on ul. Szewska. My 10pm nightly strolls around the Planty listening to Mrozu and Kaen. The plush red velvet seats in Kino Pod Baranami, where you could catch the latest moody Polish film from Jan Jakub Kolski. The trumpeter proudly strutting to his late-night shift atop St. Mary’s. My senses have never been better attuned to the sights and sounds around me as they were in Poland.
Who would’ve guessed that Korean BBQ could bring it all back?