Ensalada Rana? Tapas, steaks, sushi and more...
The ensalada rana reminds me of Caleb's story about the huge bug in his salad at a local fancy-pants (in their own estimation) restaurant. When he called it to the waiter's attention the response was a less-than-admirable, "Well, our greens are organic." I suppose that might be French-Cambodian for "unwashed." I'll have to check with my Khmer expert, Catherine.
By the way, I can think of a few organic things I would not want on my plate.
Feast for the soul
But seriously, I've just come off a mini-hiatus and wanted to catch up in case anyone was noticing my absence. Two of the best girlfriends one could ever hope for (Oprah's got nothing on me!) were in town on overlapping visits this week. These are the kind of friends who know you completely and love you anyway. You know the friends with whom you can be your un-edited self.
Of course, there was much eating and a little drinking involved. We're not kids anymore but we still indulge as if we have the metabolism of a 20 year old; even when Catherine reminds me: "we're double-legal now." I am translating "double-legal" as "illegal" which sounds much more risqué and fun. (You know, like a double negative, that makes a positive...oh, trust me, it sounded much more clever over martinis.)
Catherine who's been in Cambodia, has been deprived of human-grade (versus livestock-grade) corn and proper steaks. We had to visit Smith & Wollensky. And cocktails are de rigueur in a steak house. Her father was the Manhattan maker extraordinaire I've written of, and it's either a Manhattan or a martini before dinner at a steak house. Plus, she's wearing custom-made shoes, for crying out loud! You can't rush to the table without giving folks a chance to admire that kind of ensemble.
She shares photos of fabulous temple visits (Go Lorraine!), volunteers in rice paddies, gorgeous markets. And she almost failed to notice when an ancient Chinese woman stopped dead in her tracks on School Street to look me over and register her disapproval of my too-American pudgy mid-section. Aiyaa!! Catherine announced that some societies see such things as a sign of prosperity. Well, we'd only had one G&T with our onion rings (a must-try, those onion rings) at Ruths'Chris, so we didn't try to communicate the news flash.
Sujata and I laughed over stories of past parties, oysters on the half in a snowstorm, Paellas, and divas while munching on sushi one night and tapas another. I get to see Kiri's first trip to Italy. I share my fantasy of a rented house in Italy for the half-century mark. I get a crash course in using a blackberry. After winning an Ipod for an impromptu sculpture contest, she'll have to give me insights into that type of "third screen" too.
Since tapas tonight, I am now inspired to actually make that Paella I've been promising Caleb. I even have Bomba rice now, good saffron, a proper Paella pan, and Teresa Barrenechea's fabulous book, Cuisines of Spain. At least I've made a good batch of Gazpacho. I have Calphalon tapas pans so I may even try my hand at Gambas al Ajillo. (I'm sure your handmade Paella plate is in good hands, too sweetie!)
With both girls, I shopped (exchanging quick, efficient vetoes and approvals), walked, ate, drank, laughed and talked and talked. (Have I really been talking about perimenopause for ten years? Can't be.)
I've had a week of good food (Hei La Moon, Douzo, Tapeo, Smith & Wollensky) and good laughs. The guest cards for the gym are still in my drawer, but there was just too much Capogiro gelato to taste, cobbler to bake. And we walked the city.
Both these women cook - literally and figuratively. They have style, grace and wisdom. They take risks. They relish life. They inspire me. Catherine made the first crown roast I ever had, and I recall some gold-toned hydrangea nearby. It was the holidays, after all. Then there was the 80 foot tree in the loft. How about the film- fest fundraiser where the kid filmmaker told me I "looked good for my age." Remember that one?
Sujata effortlessly whips amazing things together out of whatever was best at the Saturday market or in the CSA box; then serves it to you under a chandelier picked up during the last Paris trip. Not even kidding. I will be feasting on the dinner party memories alone for a long time after they've returned home, the memories of this week will take over after that.
A gift of a week
The most satisfying thing is to be in the company of such amazing women. These are the kinds of friends that make you shake your head in wonder at your luck for finding.
One thing these two share, I found out, is their tendency to create little fictionalized vignettes embellishing on my qualities and accomplishments. Let me just say that their stories of my supposed strengths are simply stunning. You should ask them, go ahead. Don't forget to ask Catherine about my financial wizardry.
And remember: never let the truth get in the way of a good story.