The Party Guest
This story may seem like nothing. But it’s not nothing. It’s a small thing, but it’s actually kind of important.
It’s about food.
It’s spring. Spring is my favorite time for food. Rhubarb and peas and strawberries smaller than golf balls. Salads composed of bits of green with tiny leaves.
That kind of thing.
When I was married I was a regular haunter of farmers’ markets. They were my favorite places to hang out. If I was on vacation I would make a point of going to the farmer’s market. I was always happy there. I always felt at home. My father is a gardener. My grandfather was a farmer. I felt as if I belonged.
When I was married I used to go to farmer’s markets and I used to cook. And then suddenly I was unmarried and I stopped eating, which is the way I deal with stress. I stop eating.
So I dropped, like, 20 pounds. Because I couldn’t even force food down my throat. I don’t know why that is, it’s just what I do. When I’m under stress, I don’t eat.
All well and good. As I have already said, I’m miserable, but hey, at least I’m thin. Small consolation, but consolation nonetheless.
I’m shallow that way.
The downside was that I began to walk around farmers’ markets like a ghost. All that lovely food, but I didn’t have anybody to cook for. I didn’t buy any food. I would walk around, but I didn’t buy anything. I didn’t feel as if I deserved it.
I didn’t cook. I was too busy being miserable and thin.
Last weekend I spent the day at one of my favorite places on earth, a secluded part of the Hudson River. The occasion was a birthday party and it was at the weekend home of some new friends. I’ve been to the house before, because it used to be owned by some old friends. They sold it to the new friends and in the fabulous way that often happens in New York, the new and old friends got on, and have cobbled together two sets of people who meet in the same place and do the same thing of a weekend.
But the interesting thing about this party was that I got to spend time with people my own age. And I realized that this is unusual for me. Almost all of my friends are lot younger than me. I don’t know why this is, but it happens to be so.
It was salutary to hang out with people my own age. And to talk. Because they have all been through what I’ve been through. They’re on the other side now. Re-coupled and feeling happy and grateful for that. But they’ve not forgotten what being where I am is like. And that’s why I liked them. They bear their scars with grace and they remember what it was like. They remember the pain.
And they have advice.
So I’m telling my story about not eating and having nobody to cook for. And my new friend corrects me, very gently. ‘You have somebody to cook for,” she says, “yourself.”
No, no, I demur. I can’t cook. I’ll get fat. I have to starve myself because I’m miserable and, besides, I like to be thin.
“No,” she says. “Cook healthy foods. You won’t get fat.”
No, no, I say, that’s not going to work.
“Yes it will,” she says, politely but firmly. “Cook for yourself. I did it.”
So it seems like a little thing, but it’s actually a big thing. Because after I had that conversation I went to the farmer’s market and bought fava beans.
Now, I love fava beans but they are, not to put too fine a point on it, a major pain in the backside. First, you have to take them out of their pods, and then you have to shell the little assholes. I mean, really. It takes for-fucking-ever.
My husband and I used to do it together. And it did take for-fucking-ever. But we didn’t mind. What, it’s like three weeks out of the year?
So I’m shelling fava beans on my own. And waiting for friends to come over, but that’s another story. Here I am, on my own, shelling fava beans. For a meal I am going to eat on my own.
The point is, I made my own food. I shelled those fucking pain-in-the-backside beans and made a clever sauce with olive oil and garlic and ricotta cheese.
Alright that last part is lie. To be honest, it wasn’t that great. No, it really wasn’t. I am really not a gifted cook. The whole thing needed something that I could not provide. And I couldn’t be bothered to follow a recipe so I just made shit up.
It wasn’t great. By no means.
But that wasn’t the point.
The point was I did it. I shelled fava beans. For myself.