The first ethnic cuisine I had in New York City was Chinese, for a number of reasons, not the least of which was affordability as a student. It was no time at all before Chinatown became the restaurant destination of choice. I did not dabble long in the cuisine either. I soon found a few dishes that I liked, and in no time at all, experimentation gave way to the familiar - beansprouts with black bean sauce or chow mei fun noodle dishes.
As students, we indulged our new found freedom away from home, most of us for the first time. Yet ironically, the values and even the idea itself of routine and ritual that we rejected from our parent's generation were soon to be substituted with our own rituals, routines and values. We deceived ourselves to believe that we were completely free spirits - i.e. free of any structure or tradition. However, we had, in fact, established a new, well defined culture, with its codes of behavior, dress, relationships, foods, recreational drugs, hair styles, slang, activities, work ethic, music and sex. One tradition just replace another. Over time, we learned that many of the values, mores and traditions of previous generations were not as bad as we once imagined, like a good work ethic or relationship fidelity.
When it comes to food, no generation needs to be convinced of the merits of tradition in cuisine. This was and still is one of the greatest things about New York City - the plethora of restaurants and their ethnic diversity. However, when it comes time to eat and I am very hungry, I am not very inclined to experiment. I don't want any unpleasant surprises. This is the time where nature's call is best answered with a familiar voice.
New Yorkers are no different than anyone else. We look for the comfort in the familiar rituals - morning coffee, reading email, eating at a local favorite restaurant with friends and if you are inclined towards Chinese food, the look of a flat-bottomed soup spoon and the feel of a warm ceramic tea cup in your hand :)