“Everybody needs a place to rest; everybody wants to have a home. Don’t make no difference what nobody says, ain’t nobody like to be alone. Everybody got a hungry heart.“ We may not have all been born to run, but The Boss eloquently expresses our appetite for love and belonging, with a rousing sing-along chorus. It’s the knots in your stomach, the jolt that wakes you in the night, the sob trapped in your chest. Cud for poets, musicians and writers to chew, and the guts of Maslow’s hierarchy; as unfathomable as existence and inherent as eating.
In LA with the one whose company and heart is my home, we visit Canter’s Delicatessen before flying back across the Pacific. On Fairfax since 1931, the cavernous diner is visited by the ghosts of hungry hearts past; newly weds, couples courting, the cruelly widowed, grandparents and their progeny, the anxious escaping, the lonely searching, and Guns ‘n’ Roses. In tan vinyl crescent-moon booths, under atomic pendant lights they retreat from the heat and haze of LA to sit and eat and belong. Knocking out food your mum would make, food she can prepare with her eyes closed and that tastes better for the motherly instinct she stirs in, Canter’s offers comfort to lovers and the lovelorn alike, 24 hours a day. Soups, salads and sandwiches are served off plates and bowls you’d see chipped and spilling from cupboards at home and the staff are the kind who’ll recommend, and remember.
My pastrami reuben sandwich with Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Russian dressing on grilled rye ($14.50, with chips and pickles) resembles a tasty bisected planet. Crusty toast forms the outer surface, with striations of buttery beef, mellow melting cheese and sharp sauerkraut at its core, flowing with magma dressing. It’s the sambo to replace Pluto. His Matzo ball soup ($6.75) minus the Matzo mountain and plus shredded chicken and rice eases the fatigue of twelve days stateside; fragrant, golden chicken broth the cure-all it claims. We sit quietly, because we can. It’s a moment of contentment, of love and belonging, that I will forever try to recreate.
My hungry ticker will always lead me back to Canter’s, for the galactic Reuben, or the pickles, or just to rest awhile and remember that last time I left with a full belly and a full heart.