Sometimes I think beauty is overrated. Take, for example, the stunning Brazilian man who works one floor up from me. He is breathtaking. I know I’m not supposed to use this word to describe a man, but he really is beautiful. So beautiful, in fact, that he attracts both men and women, all of whom find themselves smitten with his dashing good looks. Almost a year ago, this Brazilian and I caught each other’s eye, and we went out on two dates. Unfortunately, despite the amazing physical attraction, conversationally, I found myself stumbling and saying silly things just so that we wouldn’t be sitting in awkward silence. I tried to make jokes using sarcasm, and the sarcasm was lost on my foreign companion. We try to be friends now, and we are friendly, but it’s a bit strained. I can’t help it; I had a crush on him and it crushed me.
If only his physical beauty hadn’t overwhelmed my good judgment! Even in my lusty confused state, I knew that I wanted my romance served with a side of friendship. But I think friendship requires a certain degree of comfort, a certain degree of letting-your-guard-down, and that was just too difficult to do with the Hot Brazilian. My enounters with him left a bitter taste in my mouth, an anger that made me want to label him as boring, lame, shallow, manipulative. None of those things are true, but it pains me to admit that it was just lust, nothing more and nothing less.
My past and present lovers have not overwhelmed me physically the way the Hot Brazilian did. With other men, my affection for them enabled my attraction such that eventually, I saw them as lovers and friends. The friendship, as my friend Matt described it, was “transformative.” I don’t know how this type of attraction compares to the universal sex appeal exuded by the Hot Brazilian; is it more or less flattering to become attractive as your personality is revealed? Does it not imply that you aren’t very attractive at first glance? Or even if it isn’t very flattering, isn’t it still better to have a relationship built on a friendship? Doesn’t friendship make romance that much sweeter, that much more fun, that much more enduring?
For our first date, the Brazilian and I went to dinner at a local sushi restaurant, Kansaku. Before our date, I asked him what he loved about sushi. He told me he loved the fresh flavors and the beautiful way in which sushi is served. He was right; it was delicious and beautiful, and having dinner with him made me feel beautiful.
But because I could never get comfortable with him (and to be fair, he seemed ambivalent at best about dating me), I can’t imagine snuggling with him on the couch, or playing a card game with him, or even cooking with him. I can’t imagine him propping his feet up on a chair in my kitchen, keeping me company while I make us dinner. I can’t imagine just being with him the way that I have been able to just be with all of my past loves. He remains, in my mind, untouchable, unknowable, desirable only in an abstract sense. He is a thing of beauty to be admired but not taken home.
Give me someone I can take home. Give me someone who isn’t afraid of me, in all my flaws and beauties and quirky habits. Give me someone who isn’t afraid of my moods, my tears, my anger, my sadness. Give me someone who isn’t afraid of the ugly parts of me and my life. Give me someone who isn’t afraid to love me and who isn’t afraid to be loved.
Give me someone who will gobble up Ugly Chili Fries with me and moan about how good and deliciously ugly they are.
For the past several weeks, the weather and my chaotic schedule have put a crimp on my frequent grocery shopping trips. My pantry is feeling the pinch, and I have called upon my creative juices so that I don’t have to eat leftovers indefinitely. An off-the-cuff miracle occurred on Monday night when hot and crispy roasted potatoes were paired with thinned Black Bean Dip and topped with thick slices of sharp cheddar cheese, cut straight off the cheese block. And oh, boy, is it ugly. To make the Black Bean Dip a bit more saucy, I thinned it with some water, which turns it a really unappetizing grey color. When it’s dolloped on top of the potatoes, it looks more like a third-grade art project than dinner. But trust me on this one, friends. These Ugly Chili Fries are not to be missed. Eat them alone, with gleeful pleasure, or share them with someone special, but do be sure that this person is worthy of your lovely company and your ugly food.
Ugly Chili Fries
4 medium red-skinned potatoes, scrubbed, rinsed, and dried, gnarly parts peeled off, and cut into large clumsy wedges
2 tbsp. of olive oil or garlic-infused olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 recipe’s worth of Black Bean Dip
Several chunky slices of cheddar cheese (to taste)
1) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
2) After the potatoes are prepped, toss them in a large bowl with the oil. Add salt and pepper to taste and toss again to distribute the seasonings.
3) Spread the potatoes in a single layer on a roasting pan. Roast the potatoes for 30-40 minutes until golden brown, crispy, and cooked thoroughly. Halfway through the cooking (~20 minutes, or whenever you think of it), use a pancake flipper to flip the potatoes so that both sides have a chance to brown nicely.
4) While the potatoes are cooking, heat up the Black Bean Dip in a small sauce pan. Add a bit of water to thin the dip into more of a saucelike consistency; you want to be able to spread the beans over the potatoes. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed.
5) When the potatoes are done, pull them out of the oven and divide them between two plates. Dollop the beans over the potatoes and lay a few slices of cheese over that. Serve immediately.