And this poem.
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean–
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down–
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
(The Summer Day, Mary Oliver, 1990)
I am a bit of a food fiend.
I spent my childhood playing in an industrial kitchen (my parents are restaurant owners), and I have the burned finger-pads to prove it. I love to cook. I love to feed people. And I love to talk about food, and write and read about it, and watch cooking shows, and research food chemistry, and buy cookbooks and lust after Frank Bruni’s job (hey, a girl can dream).
As part of this, I have been obsessed with the mythology of elBulli and dining there since I’ve known of the restaurant. So much so, in fact, that I recently sat at Indigo Books with this in my lap, and read from cover to cover, all 632 pages. (With a small break, because a 632-page hardcover tome on my lap eventually made me lose all sensation in my thighs.) The book spells out with military precision a minute-by-minute story of a day in the restaurant’s operations. It’s fascinating, the typography is perfect, the photos immaculate, the layout thoughtful. A really great memoir, of sorts, only the protagonist is a restaurant.
elBulli is headed by one of the world’s few living geniuses, Chef Ferran Adrià, and sits on the Costa Brava in Catalonia, Spain. Adrià is lauded as a pioneer of ‘molecular gastronomy’, a frou-frou term that makes me cringe because it conveys a fussy, overly-wrought approach to cooking. Indeed, my heart is with simple techniques and good ingredients; a no-mess kind of style.
But I can’t help but be fascinated by Adrià’s intellectual approach to ingredients, from sourcing produce to plating his tiny edible masterpieces. He says that his food “demands psychological reflection”. I won’t do justice if I try here to delve into the 35-dish tasting menu each evening comprises, having only read about it. Lucky for me, Clotilde has done a great job documenting (and photographing!) the affair, having visited elBulli back in 2006, and sweetly recounts being “whisked away on a flying carpet driven by a mad scientist”.
And this is where I am torn. Part of elBulli’s mythology is that only 8000 spots a year are reserved from over 2 million reservation requests. It’s a lottery worth a shot, in my books. I want to send that email this October, that small chance at getting a table, and put some of my savings to good use in 2010.
At the same time, it’s a bit of a hard sell. I’ve tried it with some close friends: “Would you be up to flying to Spain at a moment’s-notice, all to experience a once-in-a-lifetime dinner, but it’s kind of a crap-shoot as to when it might happen, and the bill will be hefty?” It’s a no-brainer to me, but um, also a bit unreasonable, I guess.
All this to say: if you’re willing to be my gastronomical companion, throw caution to the wind, and take a stab in the dark at dining on a bluff in Catalonia in 2010, let me know sometime before October 15, 2009. I’ll make reservations.
Each morning I walk down a quiet side street to catch the streetcar to work. Wednesday mornings are garbage collection day in my neck of the woods.
I’ve lived in Toronto for half a year now, and without fail, each Wednesday, I’m greeted with a “Good morning, my dear!” from the collector. I wish him a good day and a smile, he tips his helmet, I walk to my streetcar with a grin from this small exchange.
This morning, as I near-skated down the street, still getting used to the first snow, I noticed an older lady about 5 houses up struggling with her giant Toronto garbage bin. My morning friend didn’t think twice when he saw her, rushed over, swiftly picked up the bin and carried it to the side of her home. She thanked him. As always, he wished me a good morning as I walked by, and I thanked him, too. In the midst of a job that can’t be too fun these winter mornings, he didn’t think twice about doing good.
I have a co-worker who makes a point of recognizing me. Just small messages of reassurance or a hello, but it’s those tiny gestures that make the day. I’m sure he takes the time to treat everyone with this same care; but it doesn’t make it any less meaningful, because really, we all just want to know that we matter.
My sister, in the midst of her crazy end-of-term, took an afternoon to decorate our apartment windows with tiny twinkle lights. I walk into our dark little home after work, and I’m greeted with light-bursts framing the sky. It makes the night a bit more magical, it feels like the season.
A lady in the elevator piqued up just this morning and blurted out: “You smell amazing.” I thanked her and shared my perfume, to which we had a laugh when she realized she wears the same scent, and I exited at floor 5.
All this to say: these small moments, these fleeting gestures, these nothing-reallys, with close friends and complete strangers alike, make the day. They make my day.