Guesses for the most sensory overload in Philly?

Stevie Black (ex-pat files)
Favorite Spot: Italian Market, but only by a little.
Neighborhood: South Philly
Address: 9th Street from Washington to Christian

I Am: A surface and textile designer on Boston’s Northshore (presently) who went to art school in Philly.
Years in Philly: 14
Current Home: Swampscott MA

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My Love Note

I grew up kind of a farm kid in the middle of the fields and woods of NH, but for where I’m from, that’s pretty typical. I got accepted to Philadelphia College of Art (the name then, now University of the Arts) and went to Philly in the Fall of 1980, coinciding with the fantastic Phillies stretch run of that season.

I’d been in town about four weeks when, exploring on foot, I stumbled into the Italian Market. There really is no such thing in New England, even in Boston’s North End, and it was transfixing. The sights, the sounds, the smells – I was instantly in sensory overload and loved it. The kernel moment for me was stopping in front of a pasta shop and bearing witness to a machine chugging away, spitting out, I couldn’t even guess what. So I went inside and asked the lovely young woman what it was the machine was making. She dryly said, “It’s pasta, fettuccini,” the dumbness of the question completely being transmitted back to the asker.

You see, I didn’t really come from a food culture; the everyday of food was boxed and delivered to a supermarket, this was not that. In that moment two doors opened through which I eagerly entered simultaneously. The first door opened onto a lifelong exploration and love of food; all kinds of food, but more so those lovingly and slowly cooked, with passion and grace, and experimentation, of my own and made by others. The second door opened onto a world of hidden urban treasures that can be only found when one searches a city; street by street, alley by alley, neighborhood by neighborhood and interacts with those who live there. I refer to this as “The Search For Sneaky Good,” and I have done this everywhere I have travelled and everywhere I’ve lived all these days of my life.

Both of these sustain me in ways that cannot be accurately expressed with words, but are primary, like elements – fire, water, earth, air. I found both of these loves in Philadelphia. And that is why I love Philly so much and why I always will, and why Philadelphia’s never far from my thoughts.

-Stevie Black

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