Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Fatted Calf

I think of my visit to Baltimore later this month.  So many fathers are different.  I am afraid to see where I once lived.  I remember eating salad in the kitchen with you there.  Red cabbage, romaine, matchstick carrots, sunflower seeds, lemon juice, feta.  I make saffron rice in our kitchen now, pounding half the saffron in my mortar and pestle.  The rest I leave in its fiery strands, and let it steep in hot water for five minutes.  I add it in modest lugs to brown rice and chop sweet potatoes for the soup.  You come home for lunch and I ask you if it would be more entertaining to watch me cook naked.  I take my flannel shirt off and stand in the only functioning bra I have left, suddenly more aware of popping oil.  You eat leftover oatmeal I made you for breakfast and rush back to work.  We--two people who didn't know each other in June--have food routines, have a fairly regular hour at which we retire.  Some things have not budged, though.  We both love hot sauce and have a futon on the floor and no dresser.  When we first moved here, we let the temperature drop to 8 degrees before we turned the heat on.  At my new job, while stocking blood oranges, my supervisor tells me that the scary times are when the temperature gets so low that Fahrenheit becomes colder than Celsisus.  This is the kind of thing I had never heard of until moving to Wyoming.

I take a job a food co-op to supplement my hours at the coffee kiosk.  I have known for years how to steam milk for a latte and how a cappuccino.  Now I jump back into retail amid the only products that could have made it worth my while.  I clean up around almond butter grinders, drink kombucha on tap, and ring customers up for their bison meat.  The manager is pleased when, on my first day, I can tell him what both xantham gum and chia seeds are.  I used to be vegan, I say, realizing as I speak that it's not really an explanation.

Because it has been a very non-specific kind of cold since we arrived here, the holidays and my hair length are the only real indicators of time's passage.  On Thanksgiving, we hosted a bizarre mash of people at our house--four types of stuffing and perfect gravy.  Erin, Adrian's mother, told us about having to coax an adult at the theater to take her to see Alice's Restaurant when it first came out.  We ate appetizers of sweet potato fries and the dates I learned from Jesse how to make.  She brought them to my going-away potluck in Baltimore--they are stuffed with blue cheese and wrapped in bacon and one walks away with an incontrovertible taste of caramel.  As I left the potluck, I paused, tearing up, and John yelled, Don't act like you ain't gonna see us soon!  It's been six months.  One walks away knowing that it's how hot sweet things can get that's burned them.

Christmas was different; all our friends had left town.  We went to a dinner earlier that week, thrown by one of your co-workers.  It was populated mostly by cigarette-smoking middle-aged women and it had a "Tex-Mex"theme.  We brought tamale pie and listened to the women discuss all of their former incarcerations.  Christmas morning, we told each other about the gifts we'd planned.  I was going to get you a better pillow, since you always weaseled your way by morning onto mine.  You were going to get me a cassette player so I could listen to the tapes my father sent me--of me talking and singing at Christmas when I was two.  Neither of us bought each other anything.  It's like an even poorer-man's Gift of the Magi,  I said.

On New Year's, two of your friends visited and we went out for one of those dinners that is almost fancy, but the tablecloth is paper.  The woman still has one curler left in her hair when she leaves the house.  The salad was spicy and the beer was warm and there were pool tables in the back.  You used a Wal-Mart gift card to pay for whiskey and champagne and we started drinking so early that when the New Year unceremoniously began, we glanced at our phones and all thought it would behoove us to go to sleep.

We were both broke at Valentine's Day, so you brought me an ice cream flavor that I liked and you didn't, and Doritos, which seemed inexplicable to me until you said, I remember you telling me you liked them as a kid.  The next day, pay day, you brought me flowers, in a vase, since I had told you we didn't have one.  A few weeks later, when we had friends over for breakfast who were about to depart back to their respective cities, we used the vase to mix Bloody Marys in, since we didn't have a pitcher, either. 

St. Patrick's Day was uneventful, since it was a Sunday.  We drank Guiness with foam thick as a cake on top of it with friends, and returned home before the sun went down.  I bought a box of Lucky Charms, explaining that growing up, it was the only day of the year I knew for certain that I would be allowed sugar cereal.  Lucky Charms gives me diarrhea without exception, I said.  But I eat them anyway.

Now it's April Fool's Day.  We have had a rash of visitors lately.  We went out with all of them to the only restaurant in Laramie that can truly come highly recommended.  Burgers--topped with a brown sugar coffee rub, cheddar, and bacon.  Or feta and horseradish aioli.  Or half-burger meat, half-Italaian-sausage-meat, flecked with red pepper flakes and topped with basil, mozzarella, and tomato.  Yanara and I ventured to the same bar to pick up pizzas when the group had become too motley to go out to eat.  We returned to the house and beer and friends with pizza topped with olive oil, sausage, rosemary, and leeks.  She laughed more readily than I imagined--while we waited for the pies, I gave her a driving tour of Laramie--though the town is so small that you and I walk our rent over to our landlady's house instead of mailing it.

We both know the quiet we will come home to most days.  It is hard to live here.  I suspect it will be hard to leave here.  Though a native Wyoming friend said that, it's a hard landscape to love, it took no getting used to for me.  Prairie and treelessness and being landlocked are the set of conditions most unlike the environment in which we both grew up, in our various dots along the east coast.  For me this is no deterrent.  For me the land was the first part of this country that invited me.  Before employment or friends had found their way to me, when I was freshly come west, I made peace with what a massive sky does to me.  I have not stopped.  I plead with the expanses surrounding me not to call death too readily to mind, and mostly they oblige.  The incidental resemblance was not the author's intention, and cannot be helped.

I remember the time we read a Greek tragedy out loud at the table.  The voices our voices accommodated.  I ask you if we are asking too little of each other, I crave school but compulsively masturbate instead of requesting a set of my transcripts.  I rest easy, knowing I can get into any low-brow school in the country, and at least hold true to my resolution to read more.  I read about Harlem, I read about Fingerbone, I read every last heart-splitting page of Hugo's revolution and Kerouac's daughter's sex work.  I know it is too easy for love to make one either dumb or fat.  We are not very diligent in avoiding either, but we have the good grace of youth on our side.  I tell you about how my family just locked hands before dinner, lifting them and shouting, AMEN!  I tell you how when I had to say real prayers at daycare I pronounced them phonetically, Blesses-aw-lord.

In less than a month we will be back on the east coast.  I make a note of all the things I want to eat while in Baltimore: A crepe with turkey, cranberry chutney, avocado, and basil.  A lamb burger with cucumber, feta, and tzatziki.  A salad with peanut noodles, scallions, and fried tofu.  A bagel with homemade vegetable cream cheese.  My father's stuffed peppers.  My mother's hot milk cake.  Frozen yogurt with raspberries and shredded coconut and slivered almonds.  Seafood without fear.  You will come to celebrate my birthday, and then we will be apart for four days, which is two more than we've been separate since October.  I will miss you.  I will see my city with and without you.  I will bring you leftovers.

Monday, April 1, 2013

This excerpt was written over a year ago when I was still living in Baltimore.  Now, Adrian and I live 10 blocks from each other in southern Wyoming.  More on that change--and the meals that have gone with it--soon.

Dear Adrian,

This morning I wish so completely we were in Brooklyn, blearily traveling from both ends of town to meet for breakfast at Choice. The mandoline-thin pear slices on top of glazed tarts, the cafe au lait and sweet "country bread," almond croissants, creamy oatmeal with walnuts, chickpea-artichoke salad, silky goat cheese omelets, red bliss potatoes cooked with dill. The impatient cashier, the thick slices of banana bread in brown paper bags. Eating on the cold brown benches outside while the birds hop aimlessly around the general area and hip Brooklyn mamas roll their strollers into the store.

I would be remiss if I pretended all I've been eating has been homemade soup and a noon oatmeal breakfast. I have found a greater variety of greasy, bread, meat, and cheese-based foods in my hands recently than I had in some time. It's all about listening to your cravings, and about what's available to you at any given time: I have spent the last four months working at a burger bar that brags a host of exotic meats from which to choose, and I've systematically sampled most of them at half-price. Kangaroo was nothing to write home about, duck was too fatty for a cohesive burger, but wild boar tasted like some kind of naturally-occurring sausage, and was my favorite in spite of the fact that it must be cooked to medium temperatures (I was informed of this when I tried to order it mid-rare). I wondered if it could possibly carry any bacteria that I, (being born a woman and distressed) don't already have.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Lily Eats

The Patron Saint of Us

Clear as the meals are what I wore and the occasions for them. The first was for Noah, the occasion was Noah. I had on the long, brown, pseudo-tribal dress I would later wear to bid farewell to a man I had wanted to love, unable to properly find in my wardrobe a reflection of the peculiar mix I felt of high celebration and mourning. I had made a reservation, and the hostess whisked us almost immediately to a small, square table where the conversation flowed simply as it can only amidst siblings--young and acutely aware of each others' beauty, but free to converse unfettered by the phantom dinner guest of romance, possible even between two good friends who intend only to eat with each other.

They brought bread and sweet butter and we ordered soups—a sweet potato bisque and a hot, plain oyster stew—no potatoes or fanciful seasonings, just leeks and cream and fine, fat oysters. Noah was leaving to begin a new life and this was his goodbye—before flying three thousand miles, a wholly incomprehensible number to anyone, even if they’ve lapped back and forth across the country several times. He was taking with him the tent that was to be his home for the next six months, his pack, heavy bags of grains.

A whole sea bass came to us, stuffed with lemon wedges and sprigs of fresh mint. Noah ate the jaw-meat reverentially, and confessed, with the na├»ve eagerness I have only experienced from him two or three times in my life, that he had heard it was the best part of the fish. Then, with the gallantry I have experienced from him more than from any other man to date, he insisted I try it. Not out of obligation, but with his signature inborn sense that whatever he found to be the best must belong to me, too. That is how we have always walked around—absorbing things half by ourselves, and half by virtue of the joy we know they will bring to the other.

There was a platter of squash, faro, kale, wild mushrooms. “This will sustain me,” he said, “when I’ve run out of quinoa and am eating bricks of two-thousand-calorie emergency rations.” We both knew what he meant: This will sustain me when I am far from you. This giddiness, the shared secret that we are both still so able to be dazzled by the truly careful parts of life. The well-treated food, the family’s clammy hands reaching to pat each other across the table, handling each other as dearly as any meal. There was dessert, too, and we ate gratefully, but extraneously, like two people receiving a bouquet of flowers in the middle of a botanical garden.

The second was in New York. Adrian had called me to say she had big news, and after explaining that she and Sweeney had gotten engaged, I laughed and said I knew it was either a baby or a marriage. I congratulated her, from perhaps the deepest place I have ever been able to congratulate anyone. I could tell that I meant that their marriage would be a good thing to have in the world. As we spoke, veering into details on the phone, the knick-knacks of where and when, and the characteristically awkward proposal, thousands of old slides snapped through my mind. The fall that I had met Adrian, when we cooked breakfast barefoot together in our college dorm’s hall kitchen—oatmeal with cinnamon, salt, and butter, fried eggs on top. Sliding notes under each others’ doors with passages quoted about modern-day feasts, small proclamations of small love, an appreciation for bounty wherever we could find it in that interminably cement city.

Which was the same autumn I met Sweeney, a man sprawled drunkenly under a tree at eleven AM, full of opinions about a lecture we’d both attended on Gilgamesh. Which was the season when Adrian and Sweeney met, at a bi-weekly salon held at Sweeney’s apartment—they had a freezer full of various meats and I never saw anyone there eating at all. Just reading Proust and dedicating days to Rimbaud and when a shirtless Sweeney walked by, Adrian asked if she could pick at the blackheads on his back.

And they fell in together, as some people are blessed enough to do when they’re able to get in step with a city like New York. I spent eighteen months trying to love Brooklyn, but ultimately felt it was a foreign object of which my body was constantly trying to purge itself. I stayed for as long as I did for Adrian—which I told her at the time, but which I’m not sure she was able to believe. It seems rather a lot to me now, after so many yeas of unalterable friendship in different states—but at the time, I had no way of knowing that my exit from New York wouldn’t also be the end of my intimacy with the girl I loved more than any other I had known. I wanted to talk with her always—about flaxseeds, the process of distilling vinegar, Wallace Stevens, my fear that my housewife longings were un-artful. But she understood: We, as women, wanted a lot to do with writing and cooking and companionship, wanted a household wherever we went, and understood that the maintenance of such a life was not casual.

“He said, I’ve got your present, but I’m going to save it until after dinner,” she told me. Then, laughing, “But we never ate dinner, so at some point it just became, Well, I guess, now.” And of course it was a ring, too big, so she had to wear another on top of it until they could get it resized. I know now that some time had to lapse before I saw her—I had moved back to Baltimore, after all—but it seems to me that as soon as I got her phone call, I was off the bus in New York, climbing into Sweeney’s car for the drive back to their home. He was erratic, rolling cigarettes and sometimes even reading while he steered, and I remember telling him over and over that he should be a cab driver.

I have always been fundamentally unable to forget old lovers while in their presence—even to push the memories very far out of the foreground. So maybe that was it, or maybe it’s simply that being with the two of them has always felt like a kind of love affair to me. Whatever the case, I found my mind dutifully trudging back to their old room, how many different ways I had been their guest over the years, the fine gin-with-lemon-zest Adrian and I drank before crawling across so many borders to the man of her life. We were free to go anywhere. And remembering it, on the heels of their engagement, I felt not at all separate from the prospect of their wedding, but folded warmly in, as ultimately invited as I’ve often been with them.

But always she was the one extending. We always conversed first, she and I, with Sweeney to come later—tolerant of me, even admiring in some ways, but never so forthcoming. So the dinner was not really about him, but for Adrian, about us. Still, we prepared in front of him in their apartment, in a kind of spectacle and inclusion—both of us wearing her dresses, her stockings and shoes, layered under the necessary coats and scarves to travel to Manhattan by train in January. When we left, in a frenzy of embraces and kisses on the cheek, he was drinking juice from its carton and preparing to reheat some fried chicken he had stored in a plastic bag.

Even though I had called in advance to reserve a table, there was a wait when we reached the restaurant. It only lasted a few minutes, and we spent them marveling over the quiet lighting and loud diners, perusing the extensive wine list. When we sat, we ordered a white wine from Argentina, and I was grateful that the waiter poured the first taste into Adrian’s glass instead of mine. I would have been nervous, where she calmly took a sip and nodded her approval. The waiter, a young man who spoke so quietly that we didn’t hear a single thing he explained to us all evening, filled both of our glasses and left.

We glanced around us at what other people were eating—it was one of the only existing upscale raw-food restaurants. Things looked unrecognizable and good, and we were baffled over our menus until we saw a footnote—a prix fixe chef’s tasting menu. Five courses, and no hint as to what they would be. We both excitedly admitted we’d never ordered such a meal before, and I was reminded of all the times we had had such conversations—on the brink of doing something completely new next to each other. And it seemed perfect: To relinquish control and not haggle with ourselves, but give over to an inevitably long evening, able to look at each other and our plates with new eyes.

The waiter, too, was pleased, and in fact, our request seemed to stir up a kind of rallying in the restaurant. From then on, a new member of the staff came to our table each time, detailing the dishes to us in a common inaudible whisper before setting them down. The food was complex, and hard to remember now. A raw butternut squash soup with sage cream, corn tamales, oyster mushrooms prepared somehow reminiscent of actual oysters. A whole tray of different ice creams, displayed like petit-fours. And the wine was easier to drink than any I’d ever had—our cheeks flushing while we rehashed all of the “food dates” we’d had since we met, my quiet assertion that she was the most beautiful woman I’d ever known. What I meant was, there is no one else on this earth I’d rather share a three-hour meal with. No one would catch the light so consistently as you. No one has such love waiting for them at home, and such love sitting across from them at the table.

That was how it had been with her: We were able to laugh always, and always be heartened at my unflinching enamorment of her. It disturbed nothing but sat with us like the prophet Elijah, for whom the door was always open, a plate always left. I wondered at him as our bill was dropped off, then stopped wondering. He’s Sweeney, I thought, as we finished the last of the wine and paid. The good will guest, the absentee saint of this meal. How good to feel we have his blessing, and be able to bless him back.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Lily Eats

Pent House, they call it the Pent House

The household is being reconfigured: A week ago we sat down with the building's super to add up the collective incomes of the roommates who intend to stay for a new lease. "I can't even rent to this group," he said, referring to people who make as little money as we do. But since he knows we'd never missed the rent before, he decided he would do it anyway, sighed at the defense he would have to pitch for us to the absentee landlord. Told me that even though I'm not going to be on the lease, he'll still take my phone number for contact info and "in case I need a date to the prom." Signing on for another year here feels a lot like promising to carry a child to term--all of us feel a little bit like we are putting down collateral on a responsibility we are only half-certain of handling, worrying about money, planning art shows, apprehensively approaching bringing new people into our world.

When I moved in, I was unfamiliar with all but two or three of the seven roommates, and I only had a real, established intimacy with one. He immediately left town for several weeks upon my moving date, and I forced myself out of my room--to talk, to cook soup, to review and respond to invitations to potlucks at people's houses who I didn't know. The summer lasted forever, and then it was simply cold. Not to any particular degree, but just the kind of cold that made it necessary that one find a bed-mate or wear a sweater or fill a hot water bottle before going to sleep. We all drank coffee. We all drank tea. I traveled the short road to being halfway in love and then took the long, empty-bindled hike out, able still to share vanilla cookies and peanut butter with the object of my affection through it all. During the denouement of this affair, I bought a one-way plane ticket to California. Crazed with the idea of seeing my brother, eating the fresh lettuces he and his wife shake free of their garden, distancing myself from the meals I cooked one-handed while the other arm tried to embrace a receding man. I canceled the flight nearly as soon as I'd planned it and suddenly saw my full body back at the stove, toiling towards no one, checking temperatures, going next door to flip a switch when all the appliances revolted and threw off the yoke of their circuit.

Every morning, I wake up to at least an hour's worth of dishes compiled like careless found objects in the sink. I am supposed to mind this, but routine is the initial draw of any kitchen, and I find myself falling into them like a daily prayer. I brew a cup of coffee to drink as it grows cold between shifts of scrubbing. I wipe down four different flat surfaces with a reusable rag, I sweep the kitchen floor and sometimes empty the cat's litterbox, fill his food-dish. I read Diane di Prima's account of farm-life with three men:

"I would get up with Billy and go over to the kichen in the big house, where I would get the coffee going, fry a bunch of home-fries, and make eggs and oatmeal for the men. After they split for work I would slowly get dressed, clean up the house and our shack, weed the garden a little, read, write, walk, listen to Big Bill's short-wave radio. The time passed very quickly, and then it was time to boil the potatoes--each of them ate three potatoes at supper, and you had to boil another two apiece for home-fries the next morning."

Dishes dripping, I hearken back to this and think it sounds, for all its gendered qualities, like the ultimate high life. How I admire what every person in this house brings to the table: Adam's declaration that "I only like food that tastes bad"--an unwillingness to explore any worlds beyond pasta and oranges, tomato sauce and packaged hot chocolate. Brent's restaurant wisdom and appreciation of sharp knives, earned through a series of high-stress kitchen jobs. John and his girlfriend's frequent forays out into the late-night world for cartons of ice cream. Sal's stringent observance of cast-iron rules, concern over the regularity with which he consumes bacon. Amanda's tiny portions and fried lima beans and inexorable sweet tooth. Zach's morning egg sandwich that he offers to double and give one to Amanda, which she always refuses, and which she always then takes a bite of anyway. Dave's cheap cereal that tastes like honey graham crackers in a bowl, his pious observance of protein in the morning, earnest attempts at buying groceries which never stop him from usually eating out.

We've had "family dinners" that found Amanda sweating over her cookbooks, pizza parties, pan-seared scallops, surprise birthdays with two cakes, going away parties with peppercorn-infused vodka. Dinner at an expensive pasta restaurant--complete with wine--when Dave, John, and I felt we couldn't hack it anymore unless someone else brought us food unarguably hot and rich. Mornings brewing coffee in any one of a number of ingenious ways--through filters that are too big for their use and therefore folded, into a percolator which doesn't work and instead serves as a large urn, in a French Press that was the fourth one to shatter in the apartment. Guest visits from a fine-dining sous chef friend who plated each of us a desert comprised of concord grapes, homemade gelato, goat cheese and figs on toast points with a honeyed balsamic vinegar browned-butter sauce.

Prospective roommates keep emerging from the Baltimore woodwork: a filmmaker who none of us knows but whose videos we looked up and which made us certain that, as Danielle proclaimed with absolute authority, "He loves sushi." A fiction writer who I've only seen take beer by way of sustenance. The leader of a dance troupe who doesn't like that we smoke indoors but loves the space, as anyone with an inclination towards large movement would. A photographer with whom I once shared a wall, and who spent a semester in Italy ignoring men to write me letters detailing the juice of market pomegranates. None of us knows who will be here when spring opens its full doors. None of us can predict what we will be eating. I can only suspect that I will be in the usual realm of ritual-dining: For now it's been oatmeal with sunflower seed butter and thin raspberry jam that Val brought back for me from Spain. Pho broth that's been on sale for months at the natural food store with sweet potatoes, green peppers, garlic and ginger, crimini mushrooms, kale, pinto beans. It takes me a week to eat what I cook in one day. Sometimes a lamb burger wrapped in lettuce when I get off work at the bar--pickle slices and manchego and bacon layered lustrously on top of it.

Breakfast is never until at least noon, though I've often been awake since eight or before. First there is coffee, the dishes, the kitchen, at least two cigarettes at the table at the far end of the wide main space. Sometimes almonds or an apple to stay me while I go about my day pretending I have no early appetite, sometimes nothing. Then, as the house begins to wake up, people emerging blearily from the stage curtains that separate their rooms, we find at least two or three of us ready to eat at the same time. The kitchen is suddenly populated with the hunger of late-to-bed, late-to-risers, their truest cravings coming forth with their first light. If it must be bacon. If you must move out. If you don't have any coffee use some of mine.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Lily Eats

The Morning After:

Dear Age,

One thing we know is the slam of bodies, an unassuming basement in an unreasonably large house on Saturday night. No heat except the damp smoldering of a crowd, an unfurnished bathroom, a fire pit seemingly left to tend itself outside. Culls of smokers and music-makers, nostrils being filled with the black dust kicked up by a crowd alternating--depending on the band--between rocking on their neglected heels, and full-on slamming. A duo rapping. A short man with a guitar that he plays with a drumstick and the high, clear voice of an adolescent shepherd calling out to any living creature on the mountain.

Or maybe we've forgotten. Have grown accustomed to our music on a stage, our parents out of the picture, surprised to find that upstairs the 11 o'clock news is playing and the homeowner is more than willing to give you a much-needed glass of water. And if the night ends abruptly with the ugly vibe of a man yelling in presumed agony at his ex-girlfriend while she tries to play her guitar, help rush him out the door, get him into the car, tell him there's a beast in all of us. It's all the more reason to come home and sit in solidarity watching Seinfeld quietly in a group. It is much like surviving a collapse in the mines.

So try this: Waking with a head like a lighthouse trying to burst through a seemingly unending fog, thoroughly permeated with the smell of campfire, the recollection of songs you feel grateful to have heard, the late-night goodbye to someone who rewrote the course of your evening by grabbing your hand when their friends were leaving and so they had to walk away from you. Whose palm is this? you thought, that it can still inspire such heat in me?

To all those ends and more, mince one clove of garlic. Tear the last of the kale into bite-sized pieces and rinse them in the sink while your roommate tells you the only thing that will make him feel better about doing dishes with a hangover is "if I start to hear the sizzle of breakfast." Finely cube a sweet potato, which at least one man you trust gave to his son as a cure for madness, in hopes that what grows in the ground will keep the eater close to it. Let the garlic and sweet potatoes cook in the pan in too much olive oil, salt, pepper, curry powder, before adding the kale and letting the whole thing wilt under an all-purpose lid for a few moments. Fire up the burner next to it, and fry an egg silkily, slowly, before dumping everything in a clay bowl that gives new feeling to anything contained within.

Cover it, if you're like me, in hot sauce, and eat it slowly, over a book that's so familiar that it's less like reading and more like visiting a companion with whom you've kept touch over the years in spite of the sparse conversation between you. Don't rush your stomach or evade the spiciness of the food or worry about squandering your day. It will be waiting for you when you've cleared the last of the plates suspended above your head.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Lily Eats

What I've Been Eating

Kale sauteed with sesame oil and red pepper flakes, toast with olive taupenade and avocado, dal from a can when it’s last minute and I’ve been reading about Indian cooking all day in a novel. I am hungry for what the main character eats as he grieves for his father. Pad See Ew from a restaurant that—from the outside—looks too dark to be true. Shepherd’s pie with lentils instead of lamb, cooked in the long afternoon before a show in our apartment. I mashed the potatoes with a whisk and said, “You know, this is fitting, because wherever I’ve lived, I’ve made this for my favorite people.” I didn’t realize it until I said it but it’s true, it’s a total tribe food. One of the members of a band set to play that night quietly came up to me and told me it was a relief to eat something grounding, because they’d been on tour and one of the most disconcerting aspects was “eating garbage.” All my life I think this will be one of my favorite sights: people waking on futons and coming in from the cold and eating all at different times, standing around, something hot.

Polenta with butternut squash, fig compote, and caramelized onions with my father, talking about family or architecture or the divine coincidence that always seems to color his life. Lamb stew with him near the Inner Harbor, in a restaurant whose windows he once repaired. He got a Guinness which reminded me of Adrian referencing “the milkshake of beers,” which in turn, reminded me of the afternoon she, Sweeney, Lyndel and I split steaks and talked about what it means to be able to write a sentence. Drunk well before dark, practically able to watch the grass grow at Pratt, that spring was so lush.

Sal and I made “magic bars” one afternoon, modeled after the ones at a cafe down the street, layering coconut, smashed graham crackers, chocolate chips and evaporated milk. Talking about variations. Talking about food with unattractive names: Dump cake. Garbage soup. Later, I re-read parts of Dinners and Nightmares and cringed for the thousandth time at the name “menstrual pudding” applied to a tomato-potato dish. I ordered two raw oysters at the dark wooden bar where Dave tends bar and had my feelings about them confirmed—It’s not the taste of oysters I like, necessarily, with which I’m actually always somewhat repulsed. Rather, they give me a dizzy, elevated feeling in my stomach and my head. It’s like taking a big mouthful of the sea and falling in love at the same time and trying to hold it all in.

side note: What I Ate Where is now on tumblr! You can follow us at

Friday, November 25, 2011

Lily Eats

The year that I walked in on my love with another woman and I didn't want to taste a bit of turkey. In my hysterics I started to cook egg-in-a-hole, one for each of my friends, and I didn't stop until I could be calm again. They played Twister and watched a movie about Sparta while I cooked in Morgan's big, wooden kitchen, the kind perfect for wearing socks. The year that I left Baltimore and came back and made twiced-baked potatoes for everyone in Sam's living room, took Polaroids of pretty girls with a glass of whiskey in one hand and a glass of wine in the other. The years I got motion sickness just from seeing my family. It was supposed to be a potluck, so Ben cut up tiny cross-sections of a Snickers bar, impaling each one on a toothpick. Allie was already a vegetarian but brought homemade pigs-in-a-blanket. The year that I got bronchitis and stayed vegan and stayed home and didn't want to celebrate anyone's holiday. I invited my father over and I pulled my bed out to the living room because I couldn't stand staying in my own space any longer. "I just wonder what people did before antibiotics," I told him, trying to justify several months of relying on herbal remedies and eschewing conventional medicine. "They died a lot," he said, and within the week I'd gone to a doctor, gotten a prescription, and cleared up the lungs that had been wet for two months. Still I felt I had proven something to myself, perhaps just by virtue of being alive at the end of it.