Predictably the full Thanksgiving spread, stretching 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.’ ”
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@iamjoeshow @chefbea6218 I couldn’t post captions before but Sunday we had a delightful time having Thanksgiving on the L train. We wanted to do something fun and creative while touching the people and enjoying the texture of nyc. I’m glad that the reception for this has been super positive. We hope to continue the holiday spirit by spreading cheer and joy. Thank you.
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 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.
Around 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 temporarily return 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 even remarked about the good fragrance — not something that can be said about many New York subway cars.
“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 the offerings.
“It’s a pretty morose train,” Foster said. “It’s awful. So everyone was happy to have something pleasant to enjoy.”