While match.com gently wept

So I was in Fairway the other day and actually heard the words “thank you” and “you’re very welcome.” A woman apologized when she saw her cart was in front of the cool sponges I was agonizing over. The cashier packed the reusable bag I pulled out of my purse to avoid his plastic and save(!) the planet. It was all beyond surreal, but it was, of course, not down at 74th and Broadway, where I rarely venture without getting bruised and battered, physically or/or psychologically. I was up at the unsettlingly mellow Harlem store, after helping to judge a firehouse grill-off. And that was a trip in itself. I agreed to do it without thinking it would entail a fate worse than salmonella — being relentlessly photographed — or that it would be so challenging. Four of us had to rate burgers, ribs and chicken thighs grilled by teams from four firehouses, and these were guys who are beyond passionate about cooking, given that any meal might be their last. And it wasn’t just about flipping off No. 1, 2, 3 and 4; the criteria included tenderness and creativity etc. It was tough, knowing how much the cooks had invested of their souls. It was also a lot of meat in a very short time, but mostly I came away thinking how rare it was. When was the last time you had restaurant food where you could taste how the kitchen had put 150 percent into every plate?