We met at a gallery opening on a Friday, I very soon learned he was due to move to Austin, TX the following Wednesday, but we clicked so I went home with him. We woke up the next morning in a fit of laughter and decided, “Why not? We have about four days. Let’s date!” It was, at best, an affair, albeit a very fun venture which we left sort of open-ended. Really though he was off to ‘find himself’, while I found myself cutting my losses and wishing him well. Not to mention, he was adorable and would no doubt ‘find himself’ waking up next to someone else. Or at least that’s what I would be doing. Either way, of late I’ve been happy being single, and was happy to see him go.
A couple weeks ago, he decided to pay me a visit on his way to see his family in Boston for Thanksgiving, and we planned to make a meal together. Once he arrived, however, it all went completely wrong. I became a barrel of nerves, and began second-guessing everything I thought I knew about our romance. As much as I wanted to be okay with him coming and going again, the Meg Ryan in me made me want more. I put on my Nora Ephron goggles and suddenly believed that he could be my Tom Hanks and we could email from half way across the country and make it work at the top of the Empire State Building, and then take walks in the park like Harry and Sally. In the kitchen, he could be my Eric Powell or Paul Child, and I his beloved Julie or Julia, as he cheered on my wild literary and culinary endeavors.
Instead, I switched my Ephron goggles with a different pair by kicking off the night with a nice strong cocktail, on an empty stomach. Ah yes, these goggles made me awesome. While he was chopping an onion, of all the basic stupid things, I reached to “show him how it’s done,” the knife slipped and I tried to catch it. Ouch. Not so awesome after all. It sliced into that piece of skin between my thumb and forefinger, you know, the one that makes your thumb opposable? Yup. I ended up with a monkey hand.
He was extremely sweet about helping me patch it up – it would have been a great shot, us making eye contact over my bleeding hand — and he followed my instructions on finishing the dish. In the meantime, I kept drinking, forgot to tell him to add salt, and we ended up with an extremely bland version of my grandmother’s rice and beans, a recipe that I’ve been practicing since the age of four. (At that rate I had shamed my grandma several times over.) At one point I thought I’d add a twist to the recipe and threw some acorn squash into the oven, which ended up forgotten on the counter. Though when I went to throw it away, he suggested I save it. I wanted to save nothing from this night, and once he left, I discarded the rice mess.
A couple days later, I woke up alone, with a craving for salty meats, ready to forget the un-romantic culinary disaster. Leaving my Ephron goggles on the nightstand, I googled “squash, pasta, pancetta.” Using the leftover squash, I followed a recipe on kitchn.com for penne with acorn squash, pancetta and sage with extra attention, using exact spoon measurements and watching both the clock and the ingredients with keen effort. The dish was magnificent, and a total 180 from the experience of the night before. My failure was completely redeemed with a delicious dish that I had made for no one but myself.
As if I hadn’t already had my just desserts, the day’s entry on kitchn.com’s blog was ‘Weekend Meditation: Confidence.’ In this entry, Dana Velden sang in complete accord with my ultimate dilemma for the weekend: “Confidence can diminish rather than stretch our abilities when we assume that we know it all, that we’ve got it figured out.” I was over-confident in pursuing a recipe I had over two decades of experience with, and had a lack of humility for the beauty of its legacy, not to mention I took for granted the essential simplicity of chopping an onion. I will always follow this particular recipe with the same balance of confidence and humility as I did the first time, and if I drop the knife, I’ll let it fall.