The movable guerrilla feast was adorned with the holiday essentials, and old and new friends gathered around turkey, greens, cider and stuffing, set atop white tablecloths – eager for dollops of yams before the conductor arrived at their stop.
Subway riders raised their nonalcohol bubbly for a prayer on the L Train to Brooklyn on Sunday evening. “Dear heavenly father, thank you for bringing us all together on this Thanksgiving Day,” one man said, holding a champagne flute that sloshed with the moving train.
Predictably, the full Thanksgiving spread the length of a crowded New York subway car went viral. Videos of the holiday meal show delighted onlookers gulping down sides, earning the bewilderment of germaphobes and a soft admonishment from the subway transportation authority.
The idea was sparked by the dreary L Train construction delays that have paralyzed Brooklyn commuters, comedian Jodell “Joe Show” Lewis told the Washington Post.
“People are really unhappy waiting to ride this train,” he said Tuesday. “So we said, ‘Let’s bring joy and feed New Yorkers at the same time.’ ”
The plan was hatched over the summer by Lewis and his friend Christopher Dupree, a Brooklyn rapper and model who goes by Dupree God. It would be before Thanksgiving, but not on a heavy commuting day, they agreed, and have enough flair and communal spirit to avoid any official entanglements.
“It was about embracing New York City,” Dupree said.
The pair brought in Brandi “Chef Bea” Baxter to whip up a black Caribbean-inspired meal complete with smoked turkey necks in collard greens, mashed potatoes and more.
“I was all for it from the jump,” Baxter, owner of Briellegance Catering Services, said Tuesday.
Baxter lugged the food into the Union Square stop in a rolling bag and suitcase, she said, and then a fleet of friends took over their roles. Some set out gold-colored plates. Others staged the electric candles. One person was assigned trash detail.
About 40 people were served on the train, Baxter said, across eight stops.
Flannery Foster was one of them. She got on the train at Union Square to see the setup. Then she was handed a plate.
Her favorite was the macaroni and cheese.
“It was unusual. It was sweet. Everyone seemed to have a warm response,” said Foster, who owns the Goodyoga studio in Brooklyn. “It was all very safely executed. They were very conscious and welcoming.”
Others were not so pleased at the idea. “The things I’ve seen on the subway? You hate to see it,” Leslie Mac wrote.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority will return temporarily to a full running schedule to accommodate holiday travelers, but it said in a statement that this is not what it had anticipated.
“It’s always nice to see people enjoying the subway, but remember our employees work hard to keep the system clean and get riders on and off of trains quickly,” said Shams Tarek, a spokesman for the agency.
MTA workers saw the meal being set up in the Union Square station, Baxter said, but they did not intervene. Some of them remarked about the good smell – not something that can be said about many New York subway cars.
The intersection of food and the New York subway has been tense this month after police were filmed arresting a popular churro vendor in a Brooklyn subway stop, sparking fierce backlash and criticism that police have used vast resources to target food sellers and fare evaders.
“We were fortunate enough not to run into NYPD,” Baxter said.
Instead, riders laughed at the spectacle and joined in, passing around plates and complimenting the chefs on their offerings.
“It’s a pretty morose train,” Foster said. “It’s awful. So everyone was happy to have something pleasant to enjoy.”
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