Hi! Welcome to "Excellent, Average & Terrible Things I've Recently Eaten," my cool new column on sfwhatevs where I write about excellent, average & terrible food I've recently eaten. I came up with this idea one night when I was walking around drunk listening to Bob Dylan on headphones and trying to figure out what would be the most honest possible context to frame where I'm at as a writer and human right now. I've spent a lot of time over the course of the past year wondering why I write, really- I guess I just wanted to make sure it wasn't pure ego.
I write because I think the world is magic. Like Marc Bolan said: "I think I am a child. Everything blows my mind." It seems like lately, when I'm writing about eating, I can connect with that the hardest. Eating is like stars and dirt; it's just there. I usually do it with people I love in places that don't look like offices. It helps me see what my life is now and it makes me remember how it used to be. Eating is funny and sexy and dull.
I used to write about music because music helped me write the truth but times have changed. I am twenty-eight years old and this is how I will love writing the chill and beautiful words I know I am here to write.
BY LAURA JANE/ ILLO BY JEN
I forget the name of the Izakaya we went to. My Internet is down so I can’t check it. I am so angry about my Internet being down. The guy who moved into my old bedroom has one of those AirPort things that plug into the wall and it breaks down every five seconds and it’s connected to my old modem in my old room, and it’s so frustrating that he’s just in there Internetting his little heart out on my fucking dollar (maybe the word “my” should always be italicized, I’m thinking, in an “I Me Mine” kind of way) while I’m (I’m) writing a blog post in a Microsoft Word document in the next room over.
The Izakaya Carly and I went to was on College Street. It is very big and looks like somebody, or a few somebodies- three guys wearing suits- pumped a lot of money into it. There are a lot of frills. I remember walls made of cork, or maybe barrels- whatever material barrels are made of- and a great deal of funky lamps. So many funky lamps. And mirrors! Hallways lined with funky lamps and funky mirrors arranged in checkerboard patterns. Black leather easy chairs and white latticed screens, like those accordion screens old-timey starlets or Dick Whitman’s childhood memories of whores used to change behind, mirrored ceilings and mirrored walls and mirrored barrels and mirrored funky lamps.
Mirrored funky lamps. I wrote those words, just now.
Carly and I sat on the sidewalk patio. (Real Life Update: I just wrote my roommate a sassy Facebook message about the Internet and switched from tequila to gin: gin and Campari in an iceless glassful of lemon Perrier, human history’s most pathetic Negroni.) I remember drinking weird Izakaya margaritas, which must have involved egg whites. I was thinking, “There are obviously egg whites involved in these margaritas,” but I didn’t say anything, because egg whites in your margarita just seem like they could maybe be a buzzkill. You just want some lime juice, and then you get eggs. Carly was presented with a margarita that was nearly one-third egg white head. She didn’t mind. We also had some other cocktail, with yuzu. Mine tasted like mild grape water. And I had a mojito, possibly.
We ordered the peanut tofu, which is not actually tofu- “it is juice squeezed from peanuts (!), which is combined with an emulsifier to create that weird texture happen.”
That’s a quote from a Facebook message Carly sent me last Wednesday, which I am reading, right now, on my phone because I don’t have the Internet because life is stupid and the Universe doesn’t inherently care about my wanting to write this post on the blogger website or whatever. The next message Carly sent me read, simply, “create that weird texture happen,” just that sentence, her realizing it, and then a little frowny face, little yellow face, the classic emoji guy. But I think that “create that weird texture happen” should a full-on smiley! I love “create that weird texture happen”-
Weirdly, I keep typo-ing “create” as “creature.” Like I’m just sitting around writing about creatures all the time. It’s so natural for me.
The peanut tofu definitely had, to be crass, a boogery vibe to it. I feel like over the course of the past couple years, as salted caramel has risen to glory and become the Beatles of our day, people (you know, people- the same ones who think everything is "random") have started getting really weirdly vocal about loving “sweet/savory,” which is fine- I like pineapple in Thai food as much as the next guy. It would be really easy to describe the weird texture thing happen fermented peanut juice Carly & I ate as “sweet/savory,” but really it was neither sweet nor savory nor sweet/savory. It was probably what aliens eat. If aliens came down to earth in a spaceship and fed me their food and it was that, I’d be 0% surprised. I’d be like “Yup, bored, next”- next spoonful of alien food. We were both into it.
At one point there were just a few bites left in the dish and as the runner was placing newer, more exciting dishes on the table, Carly and I both eyed the tofu, then each other. We were both like, “Let’s just deal with this,” “Get this out of the way,” and ate the end of it really fast so the guy could clear the plate and we wouldn’t have to think about it anymore, and in that moment I knew that Carly and I were truly compatible eaters. So many people would never think to shove several spoonfuls of peanut gunk into their mouths really fast just so they wouldn’t have to “deal” with having it around to “distract” them. Some people eat at my restaurant and sit around for hours with so much food on the table in front of them, and then they just NEVER EAT IT.
We shared a bowl of bitter melon mixed up with some egg and some other shit that I deleted the picture of because the flash was on and it looked ugly, and then a bowl of fried mashed potato balls topped with mayonnaise and, again: some other shit. The general concensus was that either of us would be more than thrilled to bum around and eat a vat of them stoned, ideally in a basement on a couch wearing pyjama shorts in the middle of summer. Let’s get super-creative with the bongs we’re imagining us smoking out of here.
And we had this tuna tartare. It was supposed to be beef tartare, but they were out of beef. There was this one night, at my work- it was Father’s Day! That was the most gorgeous part of everything, that it was Father’s Day- and we ran out of beef. Fuck! Dads love beef! The kitchen realized we were out the night before, and I was, on some level, pissed off when we came up with a solution (it was: “go to the grocery store and buy beef”). I’d sort of wanted us to have no beef. I thought it was funny and weird. I wanted to see what it would like to have to get through Father’s Day without having any beef at all to serve to anyone. I wanted to find out what would happen, but I never will, because we’re grown, and life is serious. Money is on the line, and we must placate people: these fathers, these strangers- you just walk across the street to the store and you buy them their beef. It’s easy and it’s boring and they eat it.
I’ll go to France one day, you know, and I’ll eat the beef tartare that MFK Fisher talks about: “a dependable reviver for those who can cope with its surprising powers”- I can! I can cope! I am one of them! And it’ll be that day one day, the day I eat beef tartare for the first time, and my eyes will sparkle so hard they’ll erupt like flying fireworks out of my head, or maybe they won’t at all. Maybe I’ll shrug and be unimpressed, and move onto the next thing. Be so jazzed to have my mind blown by, like… horse-face. “Oh it’ll be so fucking beautiful when I eat a horse’s face…”
So it couldn’t have been as good as it could’ve been, because it was tuna, which I taste all the time. I remember when I first tasted good-ish tuna, I guess it was mildly revelatory-
There used to be this sushi restaurant by the movie theatre near my old house I grew up in, in Oakville, a bland town even I no longer have to care about- I’d eat there in the middle of the day, with my mother after a movie, and I never thought about breakfast or lunch or dinner then; there was just eating- this abstract, useless thing, and I don’t use the word useless absently here; I was, truly, severely distanced from its use. It’s sweet, now, to think: eating is very useful!
I don’t know what it was to me then, I don’t care. Just another dumb thing I was wrong about because I hadn’t lived the ten years I’ve lived since I was wrong about it. I just remember this salad I'd get there: iceberg lettuce, most likely some shredded carrot, dressed in the same tangy, brownish vinaigrette as most salads of the “soup and salad that come free with your Bento box” fame, topped with, I don’t know, some tuna I guess. Some rare pink seared tuna, and I learned the word Ahi, and I talked about it, bragged about it: I wanted everybody I knew to know that I knew the word Ahi and ate raw tuna and loved a salad with the word Ahi in the name. I brought my boyfriend to this place and I watched him watch me eat it and in my head he knew: she is very cosmopolitan. And we had scallops! We ate scallops; he was lucky. He was seventeen. He had scallops and a girlfriend.
At work I feel like all the sushi-grade tuna we have on our menu is a little bit 1996 but it’s summer so I sell it. And it’s expensive so that’s cool because I make a bit of money. I wouldn’t say I’m in the restaurant industry for the honor of it, but I’m not in anything for the money- I’m in everything for my future self’s house in the south of France with so much beef tartare than I can’t remember how wanting to know what beef tartare tasted like was ever even a thing, a couple thousand vats of Chablis, gardenful of lavender, couple pan bagnats to create that weird texture happen, 3 novels, no children, and a dog named George. A few stray cats loping around and not annoying me. Skin like an Australian person’s.
I remember medallions of charred baguette cutting up the inside of my mouth, liking the chive, egg yolk drizzling and imagining where the taste of the beef would have been but being okay with where it wasn’t. I remember talking to Carly or listening to her and sometimes looking across the street to notice the drugstore attached to the grocery store, the shoe-repair booth in the middle of the parking lot and the coffee shop attached to the bank, my fifth summer of that boring-looking vista and my eleventh of sushi-grade tuna being a thing I have heard of, and for the first time in eleven or five years or summers or whatever, I chill-ly did not give even 0% of a shit whether or not I ever saw any of it again and I did not wonder what my life might maybe be without it, not then or not then or not now. After dinner we walked home to my apartment and drank the bottle of Chablis my dad gave me as a housewarming gift. Emily called to complain about work and my phone sweated up half my face. We listened to the song “Song of a Baker” by the Small Faces so Steve Marriott could sing the words “While I’m thinking of love, love is thinking for me" fifty years ago and we'd have our minds blown, swoon, and agree with him.