Hi, friends. Happy Hump Day! Or for the less provocative reader, happy Wednesday.
I’ve been in a contemplative mood since returning from Austin on Sunday. Usually contemplation means I’m itching to write, but after sharing a little bit about dinner with friends at Fino in Austin, I haven’t felt much like writing. Instead, I’ve been cooking, and cleaning my kitchen, and taking long bike rides. I haven’t even been walking much, but tonight, I felt like taking a walk. April is a really gorgeous month here in Texas; April and November are my favorite months in the Lone Star State. Although we’ve had a lot of wind, we’ve also had warm-but-mild temperatures and enough sun to keep me happy. It’s so easy to be outside at this time of year.
There was no sun this evening during my walk—the moon was already high in the dark velvety sky—and there was a touch of a breeze, just enough to keep the air moving. I wore my favorite comfortable shorts and a soft black t-shirt, purchased on a whim from the men’s department. And I walked, thinking about the same things that have been occupying me since leaving Austin: how very happy I am to have the friends I have. I don’t know if you know this, but there are a lot of annoying people out there. It can be tough to find people who are easy to get along with, smart, funny, kind, and generous. And on top of that, these people know me. They know me from the years we’ve spent together, in good times and in bad. I can still remember one evening spent with my oldest friend out of the three with whom I ate dinner. It was a summer evening in 2006; we’d gone to a Korean restaurant in her neighborhood for dinner. I ate chapchae with tofu, the glassy noodles slick with soy sauce and covered in sesame seeds. It was delicious. We were in Chicago, and we’d been spending a lot of time together and having fun. A few days before that dinner, I found out that my favorite professor from college was dying of cancer. They thought he would live just a few more days before passing; indeed, he passed within a week or two of my hearing the news. I found out by e-mail, one early Friday morning in the lab, and I sobbed at my desk for half an hour, with nobody else in the lab to hear my grief. I think it was a relief not to have anyone else there—it just felt too personal, too heart-wrenching to try to explain.
After dinner at the Korean restaurant, my friend and I wandered around her neighborhood, admiring the pretty houses and talking talking talking. We decided to get ice cream—this woman brings out the sweet tooth in my mouth; why does dessert taste better when I eat it with her?—and so we bought cones. I remember they came with little spoons, for some reason, and as we stood out on the street on that summer night, the city all around us, our conversation turned to my beloved professor. After all these years, I have forgotten what we said, and I don’t even remember whether he had passed away yet, but nevertheless, we both dipped our little spoons into our ice cream and shared a toast to Ned’s life. An ice cream toast! It was ridiculous, but somehow, it was just right. Ned would have loved it—the spontaneity, the quirkiness, and two friends happy to be in each other’s company on a beautiful summer night.
Seeing this friend again in Austin reminded me of how, for a short period of time, we were such good friends. And then she moved back to North Carolina, and we drifted apart. We share a lot of connections, professional and personal, but our daily lives do not intersect. Before this past weekend, it had been so long since I’d seen her—three years. I don’t want another three years to go by without sitting down to eat a meal with her. That would be a shame.
I thought about all of this on my walk tonight, and something unusual popped into my head: Attraversiamo. It’s terribly cheesy, I know, but I trust that you have all read Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert and remember that this phrase, Attraversiamo, means Let’s cross over in Italian. I thought of that phrase tonight, and I’m not sure what it means to me, right now. But it feels weighty to me, this thought, this feeling, like I’m about to cross over but into what?
Maybe into my future. Because bringing those three friends together at dinner felt like pieces of my past, my present, and my future fusing together into one marvelous evening. It’s hard for me to explain what I mean, because obviously they are all part of my present if I’m sitting there having dinner with them. What I mean is a little more complicated: if I looked at the me that existed in 2007, each of those people would exist in a particular timeframe of my life: my oldest friend part of my past, my newest friend part of my future, and the last person part of my present. But now, I feel like they are all my past, present, and future. I didn’t know that before this weekend.
My road trip friend, the one with whom I made the journey to Austin, said to me, “Next time, let’s go out to Lake Travis together and spend the day.” When she said the word let’s, short for let us, of course, I assume she means the four of us. That thought made me happy: the four of us and a next time. Let us cross over into the future together. Attraversiamo. Yes.
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PS I know, I know, I know: this blog is drifting far from its food-and—recipe focus. But I’m thinking of giving you a little cookbook reading list tomorrow—a list of the cookbooks I’ve got piled on my kitchen table right now because I keep flipping them open for inspiration. Would you enjoy such a list? Should I get back to posting recipes? I will, sooner or later, but for now, I’m heavy on the life and love part of this blog and a little lighter on the food. I hope you don’t mind.