It’s late, but I’m going to finish the other half of the pumpkin bread that I bought this morning at Starbucks. While I write this.
10am, downtown Madison, WI. Starbucks.
I hadn’t had any food or water or coffee and I’d been up since 7am so I ordered too-large a drink (*it was a grande, and I swear there’s never any need for more than a tall) and a dense-ass piece of pumpkin bread (*I only ate half because I know how highly caloric the bread is, and it really is so dense that you can feel your stomach expand after putting some in there, and while that feeling is technically satisfying, it’s also downright scary.)
I have lived in some pretty big fuckin cities. Milan, Chicago, San Francisco. In big fuckin cities, you can sit in a coffee shop and watch all kinds of people walk through. Super profresh people, super homeless people, young people, old people, assholes and angels. I love how all-access coffee is. Most everyone can afford it and everybody loves it. Anyway, I sat in this downtown Starbucks and thought about what a not-city Madison is. It’s more like a town. I mean, it’s a city, but…it feels so small to me sometimes. But still sufficient. But. Oh, who gives a fuck. What I’m trying to say is — that I hung out in Starbucks so that I could just people-watch people that had semi-nice clothes on for their grown-up jobs. I only stayed for 28 minutes (4 minutes over my paid parking slip said I could,) but it felt good. I saw a lot of nice wool coats and some very questionable boots-with-tights combos. How long will it take women to realize that black, heeled boots aren’t inherently beautiful? There are beautiful ones and un-beautiful ones, AS WITH ALL THINGS. You have to be picky about footwear. “It’s only like 1/4 of my outfit”, you want to say. And that is some unfortunate bullshit. Shoes are like 80% of an outfit. It’s not the way anyone said it had to be, it’s just the way it is.
Anywho — the truth is I don’t actually like the pumpkin bread from Starbucks that much. But when I worked at Starbucks (just a little over a year ago,) and I would take my mid-morning break, you had like 10 minutes to pee, eat, drink four shots of espresso, pee again, apply chapstick and get your headset back on. Enter: the pumpkin loaf. Slightly too spicy (think: nutmeg, cinnamon, clove (?) — but SOLID AS FUCK. And soft. You don’t even have to really use your teeth. A nice pair of gums would be able to crush that shit. I could push half a piece down my throat, followed by espresso-over-ice, and then be on my way. It was something I usually hate my food to be about but often very much need: Efficiency.
Lunch with Nic at this tiny Mexican restaurant on the west side of Madison where we went with Oliver once when we had just moved here and I was not working and Oliver was not enrolled in daycare and I was suicidal and Oliver was cute but I couldn’t-see-his-cuteness-through-the-damn-hardness-of-taking-care-of-him-full-time so sometimes we would meet Nic for lunch so that I could be sure to keep us all still alive. So we went to that place once or twice, (maybe just once) — but it imprinted on me. It was a saving grace. Despite the fact that they don’t have fountain soda. I mean, DO WE OR DO WE NOT ALL ONLY EAT OUT BECAUSE OF FOUNTAIN SODA?
ANSWER ME. I MEAN — AM I RIGHT?
Well, they have horchata and it’s homemade and so I work with that.
Now, I eat the same thing there that I first got there that day we went with Ollie. Enchiladas verdes con pollo. Am I mostly a vegetarian? Yes. Am I scared of commercial chicken? Yes. Am I scared of all chicken? Yes. Do I love the Enchiladas verdes con pollo at this restaurant and do I ever plan on ordering anything other than it? Yes. and no. Food memory, food memory, food memory. Memory is food and food is memory. I’m less scared of the chicken now than I was the first day I ordered it.
Scrambled eggs and sauteed zucchini with red wine.
This is one of my favorite meals of all time.
I wonder if the person who made it a meal-in-my-head knows she did. She could have made it once or a million times — if it was just the once, it imprinted on me the way that Mexican restaurant here in Madison did. Mostly, because I was open and ready to be imprinted upon. Seeking something outside of myself. Seeking something to believe in. In this case, sustenance and simplicity. And a hair of elegance. I happen to believe this is one of the most elegant meals I rotatingly eat. Scrambled eggs. Sauteed zucchini. Red wine. That’s it.
Nic made this meal tonight, at my behest/suggestion/command. He sautéed garlic in olive oil, added salt and pepper and quartered two tiny zucchini, and scrambled six eggs (I swear he and Ollie and 5 of them and left me the shoddy remains of one, but I’m not *mad* about it, because I was fed and I am grateful for that.) While Nic and Ollie ate, I was in Ollie’s room sitting on the rocking chair my mom bought us when we had Ollie. I was sitting on the rocking chair because it was in a quiet room, where I could call my older brother to tell him that our mom was given an estimated remaining time of life of four to six months, without chemo — and who-knows-how-much-longer-but-not-a-whole-bunch — with. I was sitting on the rocking chair telling my brother when my mother called me and so I hung up with him and talked to her while I sat atop the thing she bought me to feed my son when he was a baby, and she cried and said Ollie wasn’t even going to get to know her, and I sassed her and said ‘ARE YOU CRAZY!?; he knows you right now!’ but in the pit of my heart and my stomach, I thought the very same thing.
My mom heard Nic say my plate was in the oven, and she told me I was so lucky to have him and for the way he takes care of me and our son, and I told her I know, and then I got off the phone. I walked to the kitchen, pulled the burning hot plate out of the oven, sat down, felt no air of elegance, but immense gratitude for the sustenance, and I swallowed my meal in harried, giant gulps. I didn’t finish my wine.