Shop Talk

Shop Talk

One of the interesting aspects of the itinerate life I lead is that often will show up someplace where people know me and suddenly I’m throwing a party or catering someone’s birthday dinner. Pop-up’s ain’t got nothing on me.

My friend Amy’s mom has made a name for herself with her art studio, where you can, among other things, put together a photo board using her hand-painted designer magnets. So when I got Amy’s invitation to come to the opening of her mom’s new store, I asked if she needed help. I meant, did she need someone to pour wine. But when she wrote back and asked what kind of help I was offering, I threw off a quick menu of four things I thought I could manage to accomplish in the next 24 hours. As long as someone could provide serving platters (I don’t travel with those in my backpack) and transportation (I haven’t owned a car for twelve years). Those issues were immediately resolved.

I planned a few simple dishes and Amy picked me up, chef’s kit and breadboard in tow. I had been so focused on the food that I had sort of forgotten that it was a social occasion and that I would see her mother (duh), her father and her husband . When an old friend who didn’t know I was in town spotted me at the back table stuffing tomatoes, he walked back, “I thought that was you!”

In and out of community
The hardest thing about leaving a community, knowing it well, yet not being a part of its everyday life, is that everything changes while you’re gone. People have babies. They have near-death experiences. They fight cancer. They open clothing stores. They run marathons. And you, the interloper, have missed it all.

Today I walked across a footbridge near my sister’s house. People had carved things in the paint like “Jane hearts Tony” and “Class of 2001.” I ran my fingers over a fading sentence that read, “Homeless was here.” It was a sentiment I understood.

On a long run around Reed’s Lake this morning I thought about how my life would have been different if I’d stayed here. I probably would have met someone and settled down, and I’d have two or three kids just like my friends, and an old house in Eastown. I’d have a small business and raging cocktail parties every summer. It’s hard not to feel like I haven’t just missed out on my friends’ lives but that I’ve also missed out on a version of my own. But then I thought about my last few years, living on boats. I thought about my years in Sweden. Sometimes being rootless isn’t that glamorous, but if given the chance to do it all again, I would.

One woman at the event on Thursday night asked me what catering firm I was with. I thought about that for a moment and replied, “I’m kind of like an independent contractor.”

She said, “Now that’s the way to go.”

Several people asked for the recipe for my stuffed cherry tomatoes the other night. Here it is:

1 package cream cheese, room temperature
2 heaping spoonfuls labne (a Middle Eastern yoghurt-like product you can get at Sammy’s) or Greek yogurt I’m sure would work just fine
1 small jalapeno, seeded and diced
1/2 a shallot, diced
1 clove garlic, pressed
Salt and pepper to taste
Spritz of lemon juice

Get a bunch of really tasty cherry tomatoes. Slice the tops off and hollow them out. Save the innards for some other yummy purpose. Stuff a plastic bag with the filling and pipe into the tomatoes. Simple but addictive.