And lo, my story takes me over the churning waters of the East River to an island shaped in such a unique manner the Dutch named the island after its shape. On Long Island is a hamlet by the name of Brooklyn.

Other business, and not the Yellow-brick Road of Dumpling, brought me to that fanciful enclave of urban greenery that is Prospect Park. But through providence and the pleasantries of Google Maps, I found a convenient way to grab a dumpling during an interim.

The East Wind Snack Shop is a small, pleasant restaurant. I sat at the bar, in the corner, by a few flyers and a stack of advertisement cards for the Museum of Food and Drink (MOFAD).

The Dumpling of Legend? An Aged Beef Potsticker. I don’t know what aged beef is. This is not naïve beef, clearly. But how does a beef become aged?

I imagine the beef stays in isolation for a time with controlled temperature, humidity, and light level. Things may change on a chemical level. But what does the beef learn?

In that manufactured cave the beef lies in wait. At first, the beef does not realize that it is a beef. That realization is the first step in aging. This begins as passive as we know our own heartbeat. The beef does not even realize it has noticed, it only perceives. It notices the temperature, humidity, and light level. The beef does not know what temperature, humidity, and light level are.

Until one day the beef realizes something. This is the first time it realizes. The beef realizes that it has realized. This confuses the beef, and it plunges into a deep sense of unease. As the proverbial mind of the beef clears through the brush and bristle of self-actualization, it calms. This is the second step of aging.

Now aware of its awareness, the beef yearns for both an intellectual and a spiritual answer of why the beef is aware. For an intellectual answer, the beef wonders long and hard, attempting to categorize everything it knows and sort it into a taxonomy. When the beef does not want to wonder anymore, it relaxes into a spiritual calm which carries it as a stick floating on a river.

One day, the beef reached the third and final step of aging: it abandons the yearn for an answer and becomes content with not having one. The beef settles into being beef and does not need answers to the questions of temperature, humidity, and light level. The beef just lives these things as they are. Though this, the beef realizes it has found the answers. The beef is content.

The dumplings are crisp and flaky little disks. Browned on the top and bottom, they arrived into my life in a paper dish. I drizzled in the sauce that had been waiting for its moment to shine in the magical Rube Goldberg machine that is eating.

In those dumplings, one can taste the stages of the beef cycle. The flavor is unique to that meat, representing the first stage. The sourness is caused by the anxiety of self-realization. The richness is caused by the search for intellectual and spiritual answers. The fulfillment is caused by the relaxation into itself and final acceptance of what the beef is.

The dumpling, accompanied by a cup of tea, was perfect. I am not sure what else to say. Unlike the beef, I don’t have the answers to my search for meaning amongst the wrapped foods quite yet.

New Dumpling Ranking:

  1. East Wind Snack Shop
  2. Grunauer Bistro
  3. Mimi Cheng’s

Conservationist, storyteller, semi-professional Ira Glass impressionist.