sacred vessels

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I never thought I’d be divorced.

This is what I said, on the eve of this past week’s summer solstice.
I said it to my buddy Kyle, whose response was basic and clear as day:

Well, no one ever does, I guess.

I was a little frustrated that I said such a thing in the first place. I think I was in a weak spot. A little buzzed on a couple of strong pints, and sweating like a sunuva-gun on a warm Mississippi night.

We were watching a bat swoop in and out of the porch light — snatching moths and various light-drunk bugs.

The crickets were loud. This feels like home. We both agree, silently.

My story has certainly changed. I am left with an abundance of free time to think. Sometimes, too much. There is the hum and rumble of my wall unit, keeping me cool as the humidity leaks through the cracks of this old building.

I think a lot about where I live. It was built in 1945, for soldiers returning home from WWII. It has these beautiful floors and the kitchen is precious and tiny. (And hot as hell in the summertime, apparently.)

I also think about the people who have lived here. Including those soldiers coming home wounded, physically and in other ways. I wonder how well they healed here. I wonder about their ghosts, and I wonder about a space designed to house people in transition. This certainly isn’t a place to settle down and start a family. It’s a bit too cramped for more than one big presence, even for a person as dramatic (albeit quiet), as me.

But what to do with this freedom?

I guess I’m having to restart that process a bit. I believe I’m young and have a lot of space to change and grow, in a few different ways. I talk to people all the time who have had at least four different professions. I suppose I have a little time to really figure it out. But not just professions. There are loads of those nagging philosophical questions and the South, is truly a different state of mind.

For the most part, I think about how I like the adult I am becoming.

cloud_vessels_01

Yeah, I wish I had those perfect things we always want in on too. I am okay, though. I don’t need much.
I had figured, long ago, that this would be my time to travel and see the world. To experience what the other worlds had to offer. Sometimes you can do that.

I got a little ahead of myself, but that’s okay too.

The ebb and flow of starting over feels okay. I think building a community takes some time, and I gots plenty of it. I still have the urge to see so much. I don’t know what our world will look like tomorrow, and especially not twenty years from now. I just know that I love this place, and its people and I want to see as much of it as I can.

I find myself looking down my hallway from where I sit and write, and see my cookbooks line familiar shelves.

I see my wine glasses, many of them used for holding more than wine. They are used for exploring depths and laughing too much and getting to those quiet moments where we raise them and look into each others’ eyes. Sacred vessels, in my opinion.

This is my constant. 

The ability to connect.
Connecting, what I miss and crave the most.

Every day I discover little secrets about who I am. Why I have chosen food and drink as my medium to explore your depths. I think often, “Well, this is no surprise at all.”

So once again, I invite you to my table.
It is tiny, but substantial and we will eat and drink and sink deeper into each others stories.

Just give me a heads up though,

so I can put on the air conditioner,
open up the wine,
make a good soundtrack,
dish out somethin’ good,

and live into the truth that we are all sacred vessels,
poured into over and over again.
intoxicating,
and full of the stuff that gets better with time.

my table. (and what I love about food.)

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I want to say something about food.

Well, I want to say a lot of things.

And as always, I want to speak out of a place that recognizes my privilege. For one, to be able to sit in a comfy brown chair and write about it, and also, that I have the means to buy good ingredients, cook them, and feed myself and at times, others.

There is something to be said about sitting down at a table with plates with forks and maybe a few nice glasses. Maybe a cute napkin or some candles. Very similar to the picture at the top of this blog. It is a simple joy, that I can reproduce this from time to time. And really, it doesn’t take much.

But there’s something inside of me that gets excited when I know I am to be cooking for people I love and for friends I’ve yet to meet.

There is something strong, strong, strong in that.

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For me, especially. It is the way I reach out to people. I pull them in to my story, a bit. Sometimes alcohol helps, but of course, it isn’t necessary.

Though I think there is a valid place for wine at my table. It softens the edges. Helps conversation flow more freely. Its smell reminds me of being rich. Though I am far from it. Well, in the ways some of us want to be rich.

Making the switch into “professional” cooking, though I am not really a professional, there are a few things that shift. For one, when you cook all the time, you don’t feel like doing it as much when you’re home. And when someone cooks for you, there is no greater feeling in the world. And if it tastes good, that’s a bonus.

My table is full of souls who need warm things in their bellies.

We realize, when we share food together, that we are all more alike than we are different. That fried fish is always good and that eating things with your hands makes food taste better at times.

At the heart of what I do, and why I love doing it, is this simple feeling of contentment. The smile on one’s face after they take a bite, and let it sit. The sauce that is wiped up with a piece of crusty bread.

A top off of wine to end the meal, though you have a slight buzz and a warm face.

The expectation of a little something sweet.

Maybe a cup of hot tea, or strong coffee.

And even more importantly, the dear souls who do the dishes, and are grateful for the exchange.

My table is full of belly laughs and deep searching.

For God knows what, mostly just chit chat and a few childhood stories.

My table has made me strong.
Because it is there I get to show people who I am without needing anything in return.
I’ll even wash your dishes, because when the world is closing in on you, you don’t need anything else to do.

But to just sit and enjoy something good and simple.

That’s what I love.

And that’s what I love about food.

“SUCK THE HEAD!!”

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“Well…they can just go f*** themselves…” said one of the chefs. We all laughed appropriately, I guess you could say.

I’ve been working a few Plate & Pitchfork events this summer. Basically, P&P asks chefs from around the Portland area to cook for 100-120 people in the middle of farms in and around the Portland area. Generally it’s a farm, sometimes it’s a vineyard, but it’s always a little tricky. The beautiful part is that people get to see where their wine/food comes from. Right in the middle of it.

The dirt is right under your feet. You can taste it and smell it and feel its breeze on the back of your neck.

The past weekend I worked at Domaine Drouhin – a vineyard a few miles past Dundee, OR. Not only was it gorgeous, but it was hot! Well, Oregon hot (which is about 85-88). I know, right? As a Plate & Pitchfork server, you are asked to show up at 3pm and probably won’t be done cleaning up until 11:30pm. We are paid for this work, but it’s not the reason we do it. There are easier ways to make money, but what I’ve come to learn is that people WANT to do it.

It’s been good for me to see both sides of the business. There’s a big difference between BOH & FOH (Back/Front of House). In the Back of House are the cooks, dishwashers, etc. Front of House are the servers, Maitre d, bartender, greeter, etc. I’ve generally only worked in cafes. So, I’m always both, I reckon’. I’ve never been a server (professionally) in a restaurant and if possible, I’d like to keep it that way. For one, I’m incredibly introverted. Constant interaction is exhausting. But…behind the scenes, I’m a little more capable.

When we have friends over, I sometimes joke that my wife Hannah is FOH and I’m BOH — she can chat them up and I’ll cook for them. This doesn’t mean I’m a hermit, it just means I tire twice as quickly when faced with constant chit-chat/this-that. I love meetin’ and chattin’, I’d just rather be the one pushing out food.

Last night, one of the courses was a crawfish boil. The crawfish came from Timothy Lake, which is about an hour and a half southeast of Portland. They were HUGE! Way bigger than Louisiana crawfish. We were instructed (well, those who had never eaten crawfish) on the “how-to” of crawfish dismembering. “Squeeze the tail and the head. Twist. Take off the first couple ribs of shell, pinch the end of the tail and pull out. Suck the head, if you want!” Which let’s be honest, the best stuff is in the head.

“Table four hates me,” said Jordan, one of our fantastically hilarious servers. “…they said they didn’t know they were going to need to work for their food..

This is when the chef came over and asked what they had said and let out his perfectly placed F-Bomb that sums up most cooks’ disgust with people who either don’t like the food or who are extremely picky and leave most of it on the plate.

Then there are the servers — “Table six is hounding me for more wine and there’s no more left…” — “Why can’t they treat you like a human, HEY! HEY! HEY! YOU OVER THERE!”

Yes, we whine…but it helps. It gives you a bit more sanity in the midst of a difficult crowd.

In the middle of the cooks crackin’ up, the servers blowing off a little steam and the tables loud with satisfied humans who are full and all a bit tipsy, we sit back and know that they’re leaving happy.

We all shared in an important experience. To see where our food is grown and to appreciate it deep, deep down in our bellies.