convos with strangers

conversations with strangers #18

i am talking to strangers

for my final breakfast of my holiday vacation, i made sure to order from the best bagel place in the world. it’s so good i rarely eat bagels anymore because this place (in the town where i went to high school) has spoiled me. i always make sure to get my fill of bagels when i’m at my folks’ house.

guy: is that your sister?

he pointed at baby mac.

me: no, that’s my niece. *points at sister J* that’s my sister.

guy: i’ve seen you both in here from time to time.

me: oh, yes, i’m here visiting for the holidays.

guy: yeah, you were here earlier this week.

me: i was. the bagels are so good here. i can’t resist them.

after just two visits in a week, i’m practically a regular. is it any wonder why i love this place? this never happens to me in boston.


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convos with strangers

conversations with strangers #15

strangers? talking to them? yes, sir.

i placed my to go order and headed over to the four available chairs to wait. there was a girl in one of the chairs, so i sat at the other end. this, however, placed me about 12 inches away from a couple eating their appetizers.

as easy as it would have been to join their conversation, that’s particularly rude and i don’t count that among my personality traits. i opened my magazine and commenced waiting.

*time passed*

girl employee to other girl employee: “is there an abby here?”

other girl employee to girl employee: “yes.”

i perked up and started to gather my things as they called out my name.

they handed me my dinner and there was a flurry of action behind the counter, but the girl made no move to ask me for money. before she questioned why i was lingering, i offered up my reason for doing so: “i never paid for this.”

girl: “oh wow, thanks for being so honest. most people would have just walked out without paying.”

me: “seriously?” i forked over my cash. “that’s insane.”

girl: “yeah, well. they would. they do. anyways, enjoy your food.”

me: “thanks. have a good night.”

i left pondering the possibility the girl had proposed. would most people really have left without paying? it never even occurred to me to do so, and in fact, i felt embarrassed the girl had to thank me for doing the right thing.

just then the steam from my meal rose up around me and my stomach growled. i stopped thinking and started walking faster because on a chilly winter night, a hot meal sure is better than a cold one.


writing in the kitchen

i’ve always heard that in order to be a complete athlete, you need to cross-train: ballet will help the football players’ footwork, yoga will improve the lacrosse players’ flexibility, swimming will increase the runners’ lung capacity, and so on and so forth and yet armed with that knowledge, i was surprised to find spending time in the kitchen benefited my writing skills.

let me clarify i was NOT the one cooking. adriana was and then my friend L’s hubby was which is why (a) the food tasted so good and (b) i was able to spectate and speculate.

watching adriana chop and saute and measure and stir and season a vast variety of raw ingredients which then turned into one of the most delicious stews i’ve ever eaten was a lesson in word play. as a writer, it’s my job to mix and whip and shape and pound and sift the words to combine them into the best image you’ve never thought of.

watching my friend L’s hubby present us with a chicken cacciatore dish served over polenta was a lesson in trial and error. that entree is usually served with pasta, but the thin sauce doesn’t work so well with the pasta he’d found out. he decided to try to pouring it over polenta, and what a good decision that was! the flavors and textures melded together and formed a plate of awesome. as a writer, i may think description is best right there when in fact, it’s a bit thin and if i was to use dialogue instead, the characters would mingle and clash and play off each other turning the scene into a page of awesome. it’s important to keep trying new scenes and perspectives and words because just like my taste buds, my brain will know when it’s a page of awesome.

now if only i could flip this lesson on its head and use my time in front of word document to turn myself into a master chef.


open to interpretation

even if i have the recipe right in front of me, my cooking skills are not top notch. sure, i can complete the most basic of dishes, but don’t expect me to prepare a full color oil painting type dish. it’s best if you only expect a stick figure meal from me.

sister J and i were tasked with completing christmas dinner while mom, dad, and sister E went out to spread the holiday cheer. this is a multi dish dinner and one we’ve helped mom make over the years. we were floating high with the christmas spirit and figured it’d be no big deal. what we didn’t account for was the absence of mom’s knowledgable eyes watching over us. our cooking efforts rapidly distintigrated.

J: should i err on the side of too many cashews or too few?

me: too many. everyone loves nuts. (TWSS)

meanwhile, me: *stirs vigorously* J, this chocolate sauce isn’t so much a sauce. it’s more of a tar. think i should add more water?

J: yes. no. I DON’T KNOW! help! this cashew butter is just a pile of cashews. it’s too salty.

me: *eyes pot* *tastes* *tongue shrivels from excess salt* i think you should have erred on the side of too few nuts.

our laughter boiled quicker than the sauces. eventually i got the chocolate sauce to thin (too much, of course) and J fixed the cashew butter and the dinner turned out almost as delicious as ever, though we did get a few “i’ve never seen it done this way before.” that’s what happens you leave a project open to someone else’s interpretation.

it’s like reading a book. when you sit down to read, you bring your own life experiences and information with you. when the author wrote that scene about a family dinner, he might have meant it to be a minor scene, one to show the dynamics of the family, but when i read that scene, i flashed back to that one time sister J and i had to take charge in the kitchen. neither of us suspected we’d have to call on all of our culinary knowledge and since said knowledge is rather limited, we laughed to cover the gaps because we were down in the trenches together, family style. i automatically think of family dinners as major scenes, not minor moments.

it’s just like my coworker said, “a book is never complete until it’s read.” and that’s because the author writes the story they intended, but i read the story as it relates to my life and you read the tale as it exists in relation to you and he reads it with his rose tinted glasses and she reads it with a cynical slant and on and on. the most successful stories make us all feel like the story was written exclusively about ourselves.

perhaps THIS is why i read. i’m looking for bits of myself. my definition of self is still evolving and so finding pieces of myself as i relate to the story, to the author, to my surroundings, to my family, to my life helps to solidify my view of me.

so in this post holiday haze, i declare we should all keep reading, keep cooking, keep learning, keep living. they’re all noble pursuits.


love letter*

*this post was inspired by this suggestion. and then by this post. and then by this unconventional entry.

dear YOU. oh you know who you are.

you have been there for me since i was a wee tot. and we’ve been together ever since. you are so steady and unwavering. so hot and delicious. there for me on cold winter nights. warming my insides. there for me on hot summer days. cool and calm.

you get along with all of my family members. and dare i say it? everyone likes you too. in fact, everyone wants a piece of you. but you don’t gloat or brag. you quietly offer yourself up to whomever needs you most. i am so proud to know you. and to call you my own.

our relationship never feels old or recycled, but rather consistently fresh and new. i’m always running into you around town. it adds a thrilling element to our relationship – this uncertainty of when i’ll see you next. and yet, when the situation demands it, you simply show up on my doorstep when i need you.

sometimes i think you know me better than i know myself. you are complex and thoughtful and i could spend every day with you. i have barely scratched the surface of all you have to offer, but i do have some insight into what makes you special: warm, simple, spicy, unselfish, complex, refined, and yet cheesy to name just a few of your more charming traits.

i am so excited that i have the rest of my life to get to know you. learn you. study you. taste you. be with you.

pizza, i love you.