Lunchtime Atop a Curb

In Pittsburgh on July 31, 2009 at 7:34 pm

Random Pittsburgh 009

Around noon, downtown Pittsburgh is a harried place: Office buildings bleed workers into the street. Delis absorb long lines. Panhandlers frantically shake their Styrofoam cups. As the sidewalks fill with hungry pedestrians, cabs and buses gush through the intersections, and the city vibrates with pandemonium.

The Pittsburgh Culinary Institute is an oft-overlooked institution. From what I’ve heard (from instructors and students), people at PCI are serious about their craft, and there’s a unique comraderie among these future chefs. After all, kitchens a stressful, sloppy, sweaty places, and only the strong can survive behind the burners. Even in bakeries, which are often perceived as quaint and relaxing businesses, pastry-makers must wake in the dark and knead their dough before the break of dawn. Having worked in many restaurants, I can only say that the bonding in a kitchen is unlike any other.

As I passed the PCI students on their break, I was heartened by a line of lunchers and smokers — between classes, even the curb of an alley provides comfort and companionship. It reminded me of Charles C. Ebbets’ 1932 photograph, Lunchtime Atop a Skyscraper, now regarded as one of the most famous images of all time.


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