life writing

Confessions (1)

10 August 2009


{Roasted tomatoes with lavender, for an npr story, August 2009.]

Here it is: I absolutely might consider breaking up/not even going out with someone if we didn’t agree on certain food … things. (I can hear my brother’s shout of disbelief all the way from Maine as he reads this — and then, Nicole, you are so difficult!*, but it’s true.) And Julia Moskin might agree with me — a recent essay she wrote for the Times mentions a break-up with a guy who made horrible salad dressings and, even though he knew she couldn’t bear to eat them, begged her to anyway (“Can’t you just eat a bad salad?” he’d ask. Her reply: “Reader, I dumped him.” Mine: Life is too short for a bad salad.).

But just as we tick off things we might like in a potential mate — non-smoking, non-toking, kind to animals (particularly Labradors) and small children, gainfully employed or at least motivated to get that way, a baseball fan, a native Californian or close enough, etc. — I wonder if we might also add the subject of food to the list.

I confess I certainly do.

OK so it’s true I’m a vegetarian but that doesn’t mean I’m opposed to those who eat meat — quite the contrary in fact. I have a (now not-so) secret wish to make a (local, grass-fed) steak for someone else because I’ve never done so before and I always like a challenge. I cook fish occasionally and I certainly eat at least my weight in cheese throughout the year. But if a potential mate had an aversion to chard? Or — gasp! — roasted cauliflower? Beets? It’s gotta be a dealbreaker. Call me crazy, prejudiced, what-have-you, but I’m deadly serious about my vegetables.

Me, I love food. I moon on (and on) about the perfect chard(/radishes/heirlooms/patty-pans/garlic/green beans/etc.) from my favorite farmer at the market so very sincerely, and it would be hard to spend lots of time with someone who didn’t see eye-to-eye on that. I bake at least twice a week, mostly using eggs from the market and local butter (oh, it’s so much better when it’s from around here I swear). I think about food about 85% of the time (the remaining 15% is divided like so: 5% running, how much time do I have for it this week; 2% writing and what I would like to write about next; 2% missing beloved friends not in San Francisco; 2% vacation, when?; 2% what cupcakes I will bake for sweet friends’ upcoming wedding; 1% gosh, I would like another cup of coffee; and 1% needing vacation desperately). Or, not to put too fine a point on it: if you don’t see the value in a strong, bitter, completely delicious americano I don’t think we’d have a future together.

If you don’t get it, you don’t get it.

Is that so wrong?

Anyway, I am not really closing myself off to anything. I’m just saying. You know, so you know.


[Roasted cauliflower and tomatoes, two of my favorite things, August 2009.]

Last night I made myself a cup of tea and while it brewed ate a small dish of mint chocolate chip ice cream (Straus, thanks). Then I stretched out on my futon couch with a book, my legs good and worked from my earlier run. I had Beethoven burbling out quietly from the stereo as I sipped, and my book (Jane Alison’s The Marriage of the Sea) I swear I wanted to devour whole it was so delicious. Right now, I thought. Right now I would not like to be anywhere else but right here in this moment. Could it last forever, this sense of ease, of peace? You know it: that feeling that all is right with the world just for this very moment.

Perhaps I had that sense of well-being because of something that happened thousands of miles away from where I was — in Maine — and which really is one of the most wonderful things ever to happen though I was sadly oblivious having left my phone in the other room (I did, however, get the first call, which …!!). My brother and one of the sweetest, funniest, smartest, loveliest, best cooks I know will get married next spring and I can’t even tell you how amazing that is. I am so very glad they have found home in each other and I can’t wait to see their lives together continue. I feel like I have always a little bit held his heart in mine for safe-keeping and while I will always do that she is the best person to take care of it and I am so glad she will. She will take care of it forever and he will take care of her (which is equally as best, for I love her so truly) and that is what is the most beautiful thing of all and how it must be always. I must confess of course I know it’s not about me but, dear brother mine, thank you so much for marrying this great girl! I can’t wait for us all to cook together again, and for years to come.

These two have a similar food sensibility. I’ve written about how they made more than do without a real kitchen for months on Spetses (and really, if you can survive three months together on a beautiful but hot Greek island you can survive anything together) and have eaten the food they’ve cooked together often. Which I think supports my earlier supposition: those who cook (or at least like similar food) together stay together.

They are a perfect illustration of this.

I must also confess I just love who I love: the true hearts, the sweet and kind and sarcastic too, the ones who see the beauty in the littlest things, the ones who hold your hand because you both need it, the ones who drive you to the airport an hour from home just because, the ones who say yes John Steinbeck, yes Yosemite, yes red wine, yes gin, yes roasted tomatoes, yes coconut cake, yes dogs, yes water, yes love, yes always.

So, please, give me the dish washers, the chard-lovers and lavender-appreciators, the beer swillers and apple pickers. Give me those who will sit on the other end of my couch on a Sunday eve and press feet against mine, who will smile secretly at the breeze coming in through the window in a great wave of sea and salt to push out the afternoon’s cooking smells — smiling as if to say, Yes. I know exactly how you feel.

(And if my particular person happens to lap up Brussels sprouts (and Talisker) as eagerly as I, well, I’ll be all the luckier for it.)

* he means this in a loving way. No, he really, really does.

  • lunch at 11:30 18 August 2009 at 6:06 pm

    ha! you are so funny and it is so *not* wrong! hey, we all have our “things.” and hell, life *is* too short for a bad salad! hearts!

  • Leslie 14 August 2009 at 7:30 pm

    Written again so very much from the heart, or from someplace even deeper, so that it resonates, resonates….

    Thanks!

    (and wishing you many more of those moments in which you love to reside–)

  • Christina 14 August 2009 at 6:49 am

    Hey Nicole-Really enjoyed this entry and I am so excited about Emily and Kurt getting married! You wrote the sweetest things about them! My mom loved the entry as well. I’m a big fan of your blog!
    CHD

  • Nancy 12 August 2009 at 12:54 am

    Wow Nicole!Do you talk about food as much as you think about it to friends and family? I read from your journalist website that you are a tidy person. Would you live with a messy unorganized person? You are also a feminist. What are the things that a man would say and would tick you off? From this confession I see that you are a woman with a strong personlity. Are a person who can find out about the real personality of an individual because you have a great sense of observation? Cheers,

  • Liz 11 August 2009 at 9:36 am

    MMMMMMMMMM…Straus creamery!!! How I long for their ice cream. Thanks for yet another lovely post, so many beautiful things to savor!

  • denise (chez danisse) 11 August 2009 at 7:53 am

    ps — I love your tomatoes with lavender photograph.

  • denise (chez danisse) 11 August 2009 at 7:49 am

    I get it. I once had a boyfriend who did not like carrots or mushrooms. For some reason his dislike of carrots and mushrooms really stands out strongly in my memory and still rubs me the wrong way, but he had many other food dislikes, and it really got in the way of my cooking. He used to say…the more expensive the salad the more it resembles weeds. I’ll admit to thinking the weed/salad comment was kind of cute, and although he had a long list of wonderful and charming traits (non-food), we are no longer together.

  • justrun 11 August 2009 at 5:48 am

    How could anyone not love roasted cauliflower? I just can’t understand that.

  • robin 11 August 2009 at 4:23 am

    Wow, Nicole, I’m so happy for you, your brother, and his great girl! What beautiful things you had to say for them.

    Happy for you, too, because you have your standards. I can’t imagine anything worse than settling for things and realizing years later that you wish you hadn’t. And food things are non-negotiable. ;)