Friday, April 5, 2013

What a good meal means to me

My friend, Gabi, in Arcata, California, teaching me how to make crepes on a stop at a friend's house during our bike trip.

   There is comfort for an introvert in coming home after a long day to a quiet kitchen. Most evenings I arrive back at my empty home while my roommate is still at work, I let the dogs tumble into the kitchen from her bedroom, and I mindlessly open the refrigerator and start pulling out produce and piling it onto the counter. I fill up a sauce pan with water. I choose a grain from a selection of grains in the pantry. I begin chopping meats, vegetables, boiling, sauteeing. There are familiar sputters of oil in the pan, and a hiss when the greens hit the heated metal and liquid. I pivet silently between the cutting board, the stove, and the sink. The radio plays in the background as an illusion of companionship. This is my true comfort at the end of the day. There is no one in sight to answer to, no one around to whom I have to defend this sad, boring concoction of a meal. Soon I will be eating, then I will feel full, then I will do my dishes and eventually mosey on to my futon mattress on the floor with a book and I will quickly and easily fall asleep.

   Day after most days, repeat this weeknight routine. It is comfortable, it is routine, and I adore this lonesome tradition all too much sometimes.

  Now let's talk about true friends. I don't believe everyone shares the same definition. You'll always be reading these quotes in odd places on the internet about what a true friend should do and what a true friend means. If I've learned anything in 26 years it has been that even though us humans have common threads in sharing the same species classification, we have varying social preferences and varying levels of dependency on others. Different folks need different things from the people in their lives. For me a true friend is someone who calls me out of the dark. Someone who will call more than once to try to get a dinner planned with me. A true friend is someone who fills up my comfortable quiet evening with chatter and laughter and claims their own workspace in my kitchen.

  Yesterday afternoon I came home from a race, and I was feeling good stretching out on my living room floor like a cat in the sunlight, enjoying being alone and acting like a weirdo. Gabi called me. She said she had a new cookbook and did I want to cook something out of it? And I told her I would wait to go to the grocery store until she arrived.

 Late afternoon Gabi arrived and we sat on the uncomfortable stools in my kitchen leafing through beautiful pictures and recipes from Jerusalem, a host of delicious-looking formulas for meals that I'd never heard of and fell in love with immediately.

  A trip to the grocery store. Gabi and I can't seem to navigate smoothly through Whole Foods in Sugar House. Where the hell is the tahini? Ohhh SEAWEED. You must see this seaweed recipe I cooked up the other night. Ice cream or gelato? Oh, wow, toasted almond gelato. Wait, we're doing this in the wrong order. We should grab the ice cream after we search for a pie pan. It is more fun to go grocery shopping with a friend, but it takes approximately 4 times longer than it would take me on my own. Wine store. Another grocery store to retrieve a forgotten item on the grocery list because we got distracted reminiscing over our bike tour down the Pacific Coast.

  Soon Gabi and I are cooking in my kitchen. I appoint myself her sous chef, so I get the spices prepared for the cardamom rice chicken, and julienne the chard for the greens with tahini yogurt and pine nights dish. We talk between measuring out amounts of oil, reading the cookbook, and transferring food from cutting boards to pans. Warm smells diffuse throughout the rest of the house, and as I go to open the living room window I notice the aroma of cloves, paprika and garlic. It occurs to me that this friend is breathing new life into my house and I smile cornily as I prop open the window with a bike multi tool.

  Soon Mel comes over, too. My roommate is home and preparing to go out for the night. The dogs are running laps around the perimeter of the house. The sounds of all kinds of voices, sometimes talking over one another. The food is turning out, being plated, and a pie is baking in the oven. We eat after nearly 3 hours of planning and preparation. We talk about how delicious this is. We state it over and over again, as if we're having an epiphany with every bite and amnesia over the previous bite.

   And even though we're full, we pull a bubbling golden berry pie out of the even and eat a couple pieces each with cool ice cream. The evening slows. The spoons scrape up the last of the ice cream. I try to keep Gabi around talking to me even though we're both tired, but then I let my friend go eventually. My house is suddenly quiet again but I feel different than I do most nights of the week. I feel a little friendlier inside.

   That's what a good meal means to me.





  1. Bravo! I love your blog. I want to have a long meal at your house.

  2. yay laura, you're back! you can use other people's photos if you credit/link to them. or photos in the creative commons. Flickr Commons has a bunch. Post again soon!

  3. This was one of our first encounters after adventuring! :) I remember this meal very fondly and wish to eat cardamon rice again!