Like most things, I blame being a Taurus. I absolutely am a Taurus, through and through. From never having enough of a good thing to fighting tooth and nail for something seemingly insignificant to shrugging my shoulders and making a g&t during something seemingly earth-shattering, I am a Taurus. Lots of people, Taurus and otherwise, fight change. So while I can't credit avoiding change with being a Taurus, I can credit the success with which I avoid change.
That is probably why I have always felt changes happen in me with the flip of a switch; because I've been too busy luxuriating on the sundeck to notice the groundswell in the sea.
For me, change seems to happen with the push of a button, and an implosion of glitter and so-so construction. Sort of like a
Las Vegas casino being demolished, but with
Years ago, I had one of those implosions. It was a symphony of hormones, bad choices, triumphs, growth--basically, a broken heart.
Part of starting my own business required a further licensure from the State Board of Cosmetology--that essentially means I've sworn to a notary I know acrylic nail powder is inedible and spreading Hepatitis is bad.
In those days, I had quite a lot of trouble sleeping. Diet pills, starvation, and the hormonal imbalance they create will do that to you. The night before my test, it was around 1:30AM my phone rang. It was, of course, my ex--or maybe not on that day, I don't remember--boyfriend. He misssssed me, he lovvvvved me clearly, he was stoned. He was the most agreeable man on the planet on the occasion that he would smoke pot. Well, I was in no mood. If you ever should need to broach a difficult subject with me, you'd better make sure I'm not hungry. At this point, we'd had one too many of these dreamland conversations. So I annihilated the poor guy. I could hear the growl in my voice and knew it wasn't going to be pretty. I pulled him right out of Strawberry Fields and into a Tennis Court Oath. He was looking for casual and easy and I was looking for monogrammed towels. And I had decided we were going to hammer it out one way or another. By 3:30AM, the tone of our conversation turned from contentious to resigned. He hung up on me sometime around 4, and my phone died when he called back fifteen minutes later. Though this wouldn't end up being our actual breakup, it certainly felt like it to me.
I took the stupid test and sat in the waiting room for the results. There was a woman sitting a chair away from me who kept looking up at me from her magazine. She had sculptured blonde hair, a lot of perfume, and was wearing a khaki colored blazer with expensive gold buttons. She was elegant and kept smiling at me. Happy for the distraction, I smiled at her and asked if she was waiting for the same thing I was. She moved a seat over, ignored my question, grasped my arm with her coral nails and said honey, why don't you tell me what's wrong? When I heard her speak, it was clear she was from
Kentucky. Kentuckians have the most wonderful
accent. It's almost as if it's extra
inflated, with the bass turned up, and the sharp corners cut out. A Kentucky
accent is its own, wonderful sound. I
poured my soul out to this total stranger, and she literally held my hand the
entire time. She said some lovely things
and gave me her business card. She said call it if I ever need a job in hospitality. I still have it. Not so much for a chance of employment, but a postcard of a stranger's kindness.
Amid all of this, I managed to forget my friend P was to be induced promptly at 9:30AM. Now after noon and about an hour of chatting with my new
Kentucky friend, I got a call from a friend
about the baby. I walked out to take the
call and delight in the good news of the healthy baby. When I came back in, my new friend was gone. Another hour or so passed, and the results
were brought out. I was still scanning
the room for her when I was walking out. She wasn't there.
I don't remember that day as awful at all. It felt awful; but looking back, it feels warm.
The following month was a bender of unbridled stupidity. I pushed harder to be thinner, market weight, and slid right off the rails. My friend K asked me if I could accompany her to work a bridal party in
It was a large group--seven bridesmaids, three maids of honor, and a few
odd and end members. Being a Catholic
wedding, hair had to be done early and quickly because the ceremony started at
11AM. The way to do a bridal party is to
do all the bridesmaids first, then the mother of the groom (surprisingly often
the most difficult member of the bunch), then the mother of the bride, then the
maid of honor, and lastly the bride. You
do not want the bride running around
spastically with her hair already done. I
do updos quickly, so I had 5/7 bridesmaids done within about two hours. When I asked K who I should style next, she
smirked and said the maid of honor. The
maid of honor was pissed. Pissed about
the whole damn thing. She had very curly
hair with significant frizz. She told me
her hair was gorgeous just the way it is
and I'd better not even think about using a curling iron. I tried to explain that the heat would help
the frizz and she turned around at me like I was screaming racial slurs. Ooookay. Listen, I take tremendous pride in my
work. But with my hands tied like this,
she ended up looking like a wind-whipped Irish milkmaid. She was livid. She felt it wasn't soft enough. She started
crying and screaming to her mother, who mouthed I'm--sor-ry to me while she was
consoling her daughter. K's sister, L, fixed the updo. She was now beaming and
thrilled to look like a wind-whipped rabbi.
I thought if that's right, I'm
glad to have been wrong.
We packed our stuff and headed home. K wanted to stop at an outlet mall. I could bear no more of the fluorescent light and faux python bags, so I left K to wander on my own. A window full of lime green pots caught my eye. Because I wasn't eating much at this time, I wasn't cooking much either. I studied the pots in the window, admired the gradient gloss, and decided to walk in. As outlets always are, they were having the 'best sale of the year' that day. A sales associate had her calculator out and kept trying to shave the price down by percentages to get me to buy one. I considered just going deep into overdraft and buying a few. Thankfully, my one shard of remaining sense won out and I didn't. I left and said I promise I'll come back when I can.
Standing in that store, feeling the grounding force of a 27 pound pot, admiring the substantial wooden spoons, something clicked. Change. This was what I wanted. Next door, there was a kitchen supply store with utensils, cutting boards, all types of accessories. I wandered around there and found a marble rolling pin. I loved its heft and thought it was much prettier and more practical than a wooden rolling pin. Le Creusets were not in my budget, but a $9.95 rolling pin was.
|I love a marble rolling pin for its ability to keep the dough cold. I keep mine|
in the freezer during "pie season".
|Forgive all the primitive BlackBerry photography in this post, please.|
I came home and started baking. I became obsessed with pies. Specifically, pie crust. Pies are wonderful to eat, but nowhere near as wonderful as they are to make. They are a satisfying push of skill and concentration, yet easy and mindless. I devoured every pie crust recipe I could find, and gleefully dreamed up combinations for filling. Baking a pie can be accomplished quickly, or fill a day when you need it to.
|Apple-Raspberry, Key Lime, and Blueberry|
My theory with pie crust is that one must make about 50 pies before he can make a pie predictably. In the first 50, there will be all sorts of mistakes and problems--soggy crust, concrete crust, shrunken crust, runny filling, glue-y filling--and then, the problems will stop. Suddenly, on pie 51, you know how to make pie. Making a pie is different in every kitchen and at any time of year--even day. Pies are in the moment. I think that is why they are a cook's joy.
By the time November rolled around, I was fat and relaxed. I had been fat many times before, but I don't know I had ever felt so at ease. And my pies were bankable works of art. My best friend was finally home from undergrad and in her first year of law school. She was stressed and nervous. We decided we were going to devote ourselves to Thanksgiving that year. We chatted and planned the whole month, beefed up our kitchen artillery, and on Monday before Thanksgiving, she arrived. I had loosely mapped out a plan for us. The first night, we worked until about 4AM. We laughed uncontrollably and were enjoying her college specialty--Grundle Punch. Grundle is a dangerous mix of bottom shelf gin, lemon-lime soda, and lots of citrus juice. M is a haphazard cook, but a fabulous bartender. No one makes a drink like she does.
|We were trying to be like Ina and have our herbs inside. We still had much to|
learn about kitchen styling. This looks rather unsettling.
I think in seven hours we accomplished what could have been done in 45 minutes. We made our brines, pie crusts, and cranberry relish. Grundle will slow you to
It was fabulous. The next
morning, I was up and chipper at 7AM.
She was on the couch moaning and groaning why the hell are you awake already?
I got to work on chopping vegetables and let her sleep. By 10AM, my veggies were all chopped and she
was still asleep. I was deep in focus
and she was hungover. I got her up and
reminded her she was hours behind schedule.
I let her sleep and went to get us coffees. I ordered hers with three extra espresso
shots. Well when I got home, she was still asleep and clearly needed a caring
SAJ push of okay, now you need to get the
fuck off the couch. I parked her at
the island while she drank her coffee and I chopped vegetables for
her. Once she had finished her coffee,
she got set up with a cutting board and her knife and took over her preps. My vegetables were all uniformly chopped and
organized. Hers looked like Helen Keller
had chopped them in a hurricane. The
pieces ranged from minced to tree trunks of carrots to slivers of onion. It
drove me insane. When I am annoyed but
trying to bite my tongue, I inhale and my eyes flare, and then smolder and
refocus while I exhale. It's one of
those quirks I had no idea I had until it was pointed out to me.
|Pumpkin pie with spiced whipped cream, I'll post my whipped cream recipe.|
We went on like this much of the day. She needed a nap, a break for lunch, a tv break, a snack. All while I kept working. She would look over from the couch at me and roll her eyes and say I thought this was going to be fun, I didn't know you were a fucking robot. To which we would both laugh, happy to be on the same page of hating each other.
|I will get in trouble for this.|
She is a night owl and I am a morning person. I was losing steam, having finished my tasks for the day. She was gearing up, ready to start hers. She made another batch of grundle, put on some music, and got back to chopping. I hadn't yet imbibed, so I ran to the grocery to grab a few odds and ends (mainly more orange-pineapple juice for the grundle). I stopped at Timmie's and got us both another coffee. I was gone for about 35 minutes.
I came home to a war zone. There was shit everywhere. A grimy handprint on my refrigerator door, drops of god knows what all over my cooktop, and apparently there had been a flood that left a trail down my cabinets. Oh, my eyes flared. WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED? She shrugged her shoulders and said uh, sorry. I'll get it. By this point, I was practically growling. I drank my coffee so I'd have enough energy to drink the grundle, and announced I would take over for now. After cleaning and finally finishing her vegetables, "we" had to cube the bread. I meticulously cubed mine, she got bored with the task and started tearing hers. Knowing what she chose to do for her stuffing didn't effect me in any way, I tried to not critique her careless inconsistency. I inhaled and flared my eyes. We worked, again, until about 3AM.
We then sat down to watch our favorite movie, The Birdcage, and finish our grundle. It ended with us calling a friend of hers from school and leaving a series of voicemails of us singing 'Colors of the Wind' from Pocahontas.
The next morning, I was exhausted enough to sleep in until 8:30. M was, of course, useless to the world for many more hours. I trained my dog, a big yellow lab, to jump up on the couch and wake M with licks on the face. It was a little wicked, but clearly we couldn't trust her to get up and moving left to her own devices.
M needed to go back to the grocery, so off we went. While we were shopping, dodging people we knew from school here and there, she mentioned she might need to take a nap when we got home. Another fucking nap?! We'll just get you another coffee, you're too far behind to sleep. Right there, in front of the carrots, we had it out. God damn it! Coffee doesn't replace sleep! I'm tired! Just because I'm not some fucking nazi doesn't mean I'm lazy! Don't look at me with those fucking Martha Stewart Dagger Eyes like that! I could not help but laugh and be flattered. Do you really think I'm like MARTHA? Oh my god, thank you.
The fight was over. The next morning, Thanksgiving, I loaded all her stuff into her trunk and sent her off for her family's meal. I sighed with relief and went about my preps. We took very different paths, but her meal went over just as well as mine. Somehow, even without Holiday Hitler over her shoulder, she pulls it off.
We carried this tradition on several more years. We both kind of hate it, but overwhelmingly love it in hindsight. Eventually, we struck a balance where it's more of her tending bar while I cook, and that's much better. I'm thankful to have a best friend who loves me enough to see through my Martha Stewart Dagger Eyes. And is never too mad at me to laugh with me.
Things are changing again, and it looks like this year she will not be making a feast of her own. Instead, she'll be a guest and bartender of honor at mine.