I have gotten into the habit of stopping in the mornings, by a new deli that’s opened up just near my daughter’s elementary school. It’s called, “Mile End” (named after a location of the same name in Montreal, Canada). On their menu, they happily brag their food is, “…made slowly, with respect for the past and care for the future,” adding, “nearly everything is prepared on premises–cured, smoked, steamed and sliced…”
I admit, I’ve grown fond of their bagels to help start my day. Unfortunately, their “St. Viateur” bagels are not prepared on the premises. They’re actually not prepared in Brooklyn. Not prepared in New York. No, these bagels (smaller, denser, par-boiled in honey-infused water and baked in a wood-burning oven and doused in sesame seeds,) are transported overnight, care of the Mile End Montreal bagel express.
My husband, and other family members as well as New York friends, are appalled that I am growing addicted to a bagel that is, well, imported. Flown in overnight as part of a bagel flock. Delivered to a city known for its very own bagels. But I’m not the only one.
Customers are lining up to the point that some days, it would appear the name Mile End refers to the length of the take-out line.
But I’m convinced there’s more to the customers flocking here than the bagels and cured meats.
On a recent morning, I’d stopped by with my daughter in tow and as we stood waiting for our order, we heard a series of bird cries coming from right by the restaurant. The sound was tranquil, and for a moment, all we heard was the bird call. It was unlike any city pigeon we’d ever heard. It overtook the sounds of oncoming traffic.
We began looking for the source of the bird song, as did a few other customers waiting with us. What we discovered was a modern nest. Well actually, it was a loudspeaker.
It turns out, there were no actual birds, rather, an outdoor speaker was playing, “the sounds of some of the bygone and displaced birds of Brooklyn.”
It’s part of an art exhibit by artist Jenna Spevack–with the goal of beautifying Brooklyn’s “aural landscape” by bringing the sounds of these endangered and sometimes extinct birds,, back to the area.
From Eastern Screech Owls, to Ring-necked Pheasants, to Grasshopper Sparrows, more than twenty different types of bird recordings can be heard from daylight to early evening.
According to the artist’s website birdsofbrooklyn.org, the project aims to raise awareness about declining bird populations in urban environments.
I don’t know if it’s working at the other “host” locations, but here, it sure had us chirping. And even though we were a bit sad thinking about the birds that may have been here at one time but are now gone, it made us hopeful, thinking perhaps some displaced bird might somehow make it back home to Brooklyn.
Maybe they’d make it to Mile End in Brooklyn, where they’d find us humans flocked together, willing to share sesame seed covered bagels.
When not mortifying her New York friends and family by eating out-of-town bagels, Eden Pontz is Executive Producer at CNN’s New York Bureau.