Sunday, January 01, 2006

at the end of the day

When the bell tolls I would like to be at a table eating and drinking and laughing. Some (my mother?) may find this to be a superficial and sketchy approach to things, but there you have it. I am what I am. When the work is done and the sun has set, I want the sensual pleasure of a meal, prepared by someone who appreciates the need for the fresh and the honest.

[And yes, I have to come to this table with tired hands, hands that have done their work, hands that have wiped tables and helped frail little ones, hands that have buttered bread for others, hands that have carried bags across the boundaries and borders, hands that have held pens, scribbling endless words until the ink runs out.]

And now, these hands want to hold knives forks and spoons, to raise glasses, toasting life, toasting stories told by others, toasting the end of the day, the end of the year, all endings sad and beautiful, finished with a sip of good wine.

To this table I should come adorned because adornments are a precious statement that we are not animals, we preen ourselves and our environments to provide joy and some minimal levels of beauty. Behold! That is you and me, clean, fresh, glittery, colorful, dramatic.

On New Year’s Eve, minutes before the small stores of Lincoln Park close their doors to the old year, I am rifling through racks of camisoles, ones that show off lacy patterns and silky textures from behind my low-cut sweater, itself outlined in glittery beads.

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in the dressing room: which one?

Finally, adorned and festively attired, we make our way to the Chef’s Station (the papers proclaim it to be the best meal in town for those who care about their bank accounts).

A gratifying sight: the table is set for serious eating. No glitter here, just good, sturdy cutlery, at least six pieces deep, announcing at least 6 dishes ahead. The chef will be on display tonight, this proudest night for any cook. You don’t hold back on talent or ingredients now. You let it all out. And he does: pate with sour cherry chutney and balsamic, rutabaga and carrot bisque with cardamom cream, cedar planked salmon with a winter terrine and a lobster-saffron sauce, black cherry sorbet, tenderloin with lobster mushroom and chervil soufflĂ© in a red wine reduction and white truffle oil, pistachio crusted goat cheese on baby greens with roasted strawberry dressing and the best of the best: warm dark chocolate cake with milk chocolate and lavender ice cream in a raspberry coulis.

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set for serious eating

At midnight the hats and horns come out. I nudge a not too shy fellow diner to start his song. He has been wanting to sing to his Scottish heritage even as his date keeps telling the world that this is a huge mistake – the lad cannot carry a tune.

No matter, he’s drowned out by the merrymakers who make it their own song.

Two more food presentations and we are done.

The last lick and slurp, the last gulp, the year has ended. 2006 begins.

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the end, presented at the beginning of 2006