Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Dinner for One

I don't think I ever realized that I was supposed to consider dining alone a reason for embarrassment or -- goodness! -- humiliation; I only found this out when I read women's magazines later, after I'd already inadvertently debased myself all over the world. It never occurred to me, to be honest, that going to a restaurant without a companion or eating in front of the TV away from my family was anything out of the ordinary, anything other than an inevitability for an adult human being. I would look at the articles advising me on how to avoid looking like a complete loser (bring a book! strike up a conversation with a couple at a neighboring table! sit at the bar!) and wonder who were these people who managed to have constant companionship at mealtimes, so much so that the thought of eating alone prompted panicked anxiety? Then again, maybe I was the outlier on this issue, because to be honest the idea of striking up a conversation with strangers has always struck me as far more terrifying than the idea of looking like I have no friends.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Translation, or Conversations in the Kitchen

Malthi, offering food as is her wont.
When I was twenty-one, I went with two friends, Dave and Katrina, on a backpacking trip through Europe. Armed with our Eurail passes and security belts (passports, travellers cheques, hostel membership card, plane tickets), our Sony Walkmans with a slew of mix cassette tapes, our ridiculous backpacks filled with mattress rolls, cot sheets, and an alarmingly small amount of clothing, and most importantly our Swiss Army knives, we traipsed around the continent for four months without any particular plan. Dave, who was maybe the most competitive person I've ever met, decided there were two rules: we would live on $40 CDN a day, and we would climb every possible flight of stairs we encountered, including those at the Eiffel Tower and a variety of Gothic church spires.

It may not surprise you to know that after a month or two of constant company, we all needed a break from each other. We had landed on the Greek island of Santorini -- perhaps the most picture-perfect place I've ever been -- and after a day or two Dave and Katrina decided to leave the island in separate directions, while I insisted on staying, in part because I was kind of digging the topless bathing on the black beaches (really, sun on one's chest is an experience women don't experience so often in Canada) and I had met a cute boy on the boat who I was hoping to bump into again. I would try to make this sound more sophisticated and intriguing -- a mysterious, handsome man with whom the sparks flew -- but really there was nothing sophisticated or intriguing about me at twenty-one, and the guy looked exactly like a younger Bill Murray.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Clichés

Since I started this project almost a year ago, I have talked about it with a sort of embarrassed self-consciousness, knowing that I am probably the eleventy thousandth forty-three year old divorcée who thinks she knows her way around a kitchen and an emotional landscape and who has, as a result, started a food blog à la eat pray love. Except without the hot subaltern lover. (Adding that to the "To Do" list now.) It's not that being a cliché stops me from doing it, just that it makes me feel slightly sheepish in the aftermath. Somehow, surrounded as I am by writers and artists who are uncompromising in their originality, I feel that I should know better. That I should abandon the pretension of thinking I had anything new to say and just admit that my story -- such that it is, without any great adventures or achievements, with no great tragedies or traumas (touch wood) -- is more or less like any one else's. Why say it if it's been said before?