I tried to win friends with sugar because I was sure that was the only way I could. Other kids were cooler, prettier, had fancier toys, but I figured out early on that if I could bake and make extra-strong Kool-Aid, they’d keep coming to my house. The good ones came back even when the pitcher ran dry and the pan was empty, but I always felt a little guilty for not having anything to feed them.
I suppose that meant something like friendship, and certainly community. Even as a kid, I knew my people when I saw them—the ones who got quiet for a minute while taking that first bite, maybe even closed their eyes to shrink their universe down to the tip of their tongue. And then, AND THEN, they’d want to talk about it.
E. did. Even though he’d been practically wedded to my best friend since before any of us could drive, when we all ate together, E. and I were tuned into a channel only the two of us could hear.
“Is that ginger? I think it’s fresh ginger.”
“I dunno, my mom only has it powdered in the spice cabinet, but I’m gonna find out.”
“I want to try this recipe, but it calls for…tamarind.? What the hell is that and where can we get it?”
“I guess I can go try Kroger?”
“Dude, that would be awesome. When I’m a chef and I open my own place, you’re totally my taster, right?”
And he totally did marry my friend and become a chef, but the restaurant—his restaurant—never happened because the drugs bled the dream out of him first. I don’t know, maybe this thing was coiled up inside him all along, and the heat of the kitchen made it wake, swell and strike. Maybe it slithered out from the grease trap and wound around him slowly, but either way, he was stuck. He stopped coming home to his wife, daughter and twins-to-be, preferring the company of the people in the half-shadows, like him. When he did show up at the kitchen table, sweaty and bloody-knuckled (a server’s ex had needed to be taught a lesson—and yes of course, he was screwing her), I could no longer tune into his frequency.
He’s a chef, my friend and I nodded. That’s just what happens to them. That’s what we had learned at 24.
Continue reading Feeding my beast