Food Musings: Memorial Day, New Friendships

Since the beginning of 2016, I’ve been working with my friend Ann, sending her a photo of food every week, so that she can write a poem about it that celebrates peace and send it off to her subscribers. I’ve decided to write a companion piece to the photos I send, musing about the way that food plays into our lives.

Standard party spread. Extraordinary party company.

Standard party spread. Extraordinary party company.

Last week, George and I were invited to a backyard party thrown by one of the regular attendees in a Zumba class I’ve started teaching. I knew that some of the other regulars from the class would be there, so I would have a cushion of people to talk to, but the only person George would know there was…me. Which can be daunting, both for the don’t-know-anyone partygoer and for the invitee. Should he stick by my side the entire time? Will the other kids play nice with him? Could I leave him to his own devices after a few minutes? Since I’m fairly confident that George is a likable kind of guy and that the people at the party weren’t going to hit him with sticks, we took a deep breath and went to a party full of new people.

It was wonderful.

These people, who I only knew in a limited capacity (sweaty, shaking their moneymakers in my Zumba class) until the party, were warm and welcoming and funny. It took George and I thirty seconds–maybe less–to feel settled. And the ritual was the same. There was the greeting, the acclimation to the surroundings, waving hello and party-wide, informal introductions, and the piling high of plates filled with familiar picnic food. We broke bread and got to know each other. We made our way through heaps of beans and macaroni and chips and dips and crudites and fruit salad, all straightforward and comforting, like the people at the party.

And I’ve seen the same layout in New Jersey, in Texas, in Boston. Maybe some of the regional specialties were different, but the overall gist is the same. And it’s good. It’s a way to connect, to build community, to take part in something that is greater than the sum of its parts. For that day, in those few gentle, funny, happy, warm hours, we were all connected in a way that made the world a slightly better place than if we had eaten the same food separately, in our own houses. And that is the point of our being social creatures, isn’t it? To be greater together than we are apart?

Read Ann’s original poem here!

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Advice: Non-Wedding Bell Blues

Dear Bartender and Priestess,

I was supposed to be getting married in less than a month. Instead, my ex-fiance and I have called it off and completely broken up. Now, I feel like I’m left to my own devices. I am overwhelmed by my sense of loss and pain, and am already seeing a therapist to process everything. I am heart-sick, and can’t even put everything to the side because I have to de-plan everything we’d planned. I never knew I could feel this exhausted.

But still. I am left wondering…just what in the heck am I supposed to do on what would have been my wedding day? I was supposed to be a bride, it was supposed to be the start of my new life. I’ve been told I should try something I’ve never done before, but I don’t really know what I would want to do. I don’t have the energy to plan anything. I understand that I am grieving and eventually this will pass, but that doesn’t change the amount of pain I’m in right now, and I stare at my calendar and the approaching non-wedding day with dread. What can I do to get through this?

–Signed, Never A Bride

P: I’m so sorry. What a painful, horrible thing. Your poor heart. Of course you’re grieving. No matter the reasons for the break-up, this was someone you’d planned to spend your life with and you had dreams together. Those dreams are now shattered. It may be that grieving is exactly what you need to do. And if you don’t feel up to planning something fabulously memorable, wait until you’re healed.

B: I know roughly where you’re coming from. I remember hating the calendar after my ex- and I split, wondering what on Earth I was going to do when our now-pointless anniversary date rolled around. I spent twelve years celebrating that date. And…now what? I remember the weight settling in my chest, the short, panicked breathing when I thought about what to do. It’s not fun. Yes indeed, your poor heart.

P: If doing something is something you want, where are your bridesmaids? They’re the women you wanted to stand by you in your happiness, are they ready to stand with you in your grief? If you want something fun, will they help? If you want to go out and build houses for habitat for humanity, will they go? Will they go out on a canoe trip? Or a museum weekend? If you want people to mourn with you, will they dress in black and come to the funeral? (more about this later.)

And are they willing to help you unplan? Have you asked them? Because they surely don’t know what to do to help.

B: Help. Yes. Ask for it. I’m a big fan of calling in your tribe. Like Ann said, talk to your bridesmaids. Your family. Recruit them, because you shouldn’t have to do everything alone. Most of the time, friends want to be there but don’t know how. They don’t want to intrude, or seem like they know best. So tell them what will work for you. You asked a community of people to stand with you and support you at your wedding. You should, hopefully, be able to call on those same people to support you during these more difficult times. We form social units for a reason, so circle the wagons around you. There is hardly more reason to call for support than when one undergoes heartbreak like this.

P: Just as a starter thought, and I’m sure your therapist has already brought this up, but what ever you do, stay away from the alcohol. Your body is already processing this shock to your heart. Alcohol often lowers your inhibitions so now you’re a hot drunken mess (usually in public, eek). And you don’t want to wind up having a fling or a rebound relationship with someone that you entered via alcohol.

Lots of us have done this. And you don’t need anything else to extricate yourself from!

B: Believe me: these are the customers that bartenders dread. Don’t be the drunk weepy girl at the bar. You may come in to my place but once; those stories live on forever.

That better be a Shirley Temple in that glass, young lady.

That better be a Shirley Temple in that glass, young lady.

P: The ritualist in me has two thoughts here. One is something private that might help. I had a lover “ghost” me, just disappear from my life a long while back. It was dreadful. Someone taught me this ritual and it worked really well. It worked particularly well because I did it in another state… It’s a ritual of release. It takes a week, so you may want to start beforehand and release on the day of.

You need Paper, Pen, matches, salt.

Draw a line down the middle of a piece of paper ¾ of the way down. Then draw a line at the bottom of your line. Under that line write: I release this relationship and my sadness in the unrealized dreams. (or whatever mission for this ritual makes sense to you.)

Then to the left of the line, right all the things you’d hoped for, all the things you’d liked about your relationship and this partner.

On the right, jot down every big problem and every petty annoyance that you had in the relationship and with the partner. Hated her hair? Write it down. Chewed with his mouth open. On the list. Wasn’t trustworthy? Write that. Write until you’re done. Take a couple days.

Then make a small circle of salt on some land or in a parking lot, or, or, or… I left my boyfriend by a fishing pond in Colorado. He liked to fish, I hated it, and I was never going back there.

Read your mission statement aloud. Read the good qualities. Put that aside. Then read the bad qualities aloud, adding anything else that occurs to you. Then set the list on fire and place it inside the circle. When it’s burnt, add some more salt to the ashes. I had to go back to that circle a couple days to add a few more “and another things.”

Then every day for the rest of the week, read your mission and the good things list. Because there were good things. You didn’t just make bad choices. At the end of the week, read your mission; read your list.  Then say I am done with this relationship and I release it to the world. Burn it and the mission, not inside the circle, and scatter the ashes. Walk away.

I was greatly relieved by the time I was done. Honestly, I did pieces of it again, because I was heartbroken. And I always felt as if I were taking a step in the direction of my own well-being and self-esteem.

B: You’re such a priestess. But I think you’ve hit what’s most important for the letter writer right now, which is rebuilding her self-esteem. We tend to define ourselves and our well-being by our significant others, which creates such problems in the aftermath of an ended relationship. We have to understand who we are, anew, without this other person beside us. The important thing is that you do reconnect with yourself. Figure out who you are and what you stand for. Figure out what you really like. You’re in therapy, and I’m sure there’s a lot of discussion with your therapist regarding your former relationship and its demise. But you are still here, with or without the fiancé, and you need to merit your attention too.

I say you should do what you want to do, on your not-wedding day. I don’t mean that you need to do something new and wild—you don’t need to hang glide, or travel to Tahiti, or spend the day building a better mousetrap. But you should spend the day honoring who you are. IF (and only if) that means spending the day alone, in your pajamas, watching Steel Magnolias and eating ice cream, then do so.

P: Seriously. You don’t have to overlook the possibility of a stack of sad love stories or movies and a huge box of tissues. You’ll need popcorn and chocolate. Your jammies. Eat bad things. Go to bed and cry yourself to sleep. Get up and remember, you may have sad memories, but no date is ever going to be that bad again.

B: The catch, though, to a day in bed with movies and tissues: you need to be moving toward something. You’re not allowed to dig out the foundations of a new rut to wallow in. Be in the moment as you cry and pound your fists and honor your pain. And then release it. Emotional pain should not be your closest companion. Honor and acknowledge it, because if you don’t, pain has a sneaky way of hanging around. Oddly, I’ve found that once I’ve said, yes, I hurt, yes, this sucks, yes, I deserve the cry of my life, yes, I feel miserable and all I want to do is shake my fist at the sky, the pain becomes less antagonistic. People often try to get their loved ones to turn away from the pain, because they don’t want to see them hurting. I say, embrace it, because you are human and your pain is real. What you’re going through sucks. Unfortunately, to get to the other side of something, you need to be in it, you can’t get through it from the outside. How’s that quote go? When you’re going through hell…just keep going.

P: And if you’re really feeling awful and want closure…

B: I hate the word “closure”. I think it’s overrated. Can’t she commemorate and move on?

P: Yes, sure. Whatever. Gather your friends, ask them to dress in black, and have a funeral for your relationship. There are three things you’ll want to pay attention to: Talk honestly about why this relationship ended, what killed it. Talk about the things you loved about it and the things that weren’t so great. And then talk about what kind of life you will now have, incorporating the wisdom you’ve gained or will have gained at some point when your heart stops hearting. Don’t hesitate to burn a picture and scatter the ashes. Or cut the ex out of a picture and burn that half.

B: It’s funny how burning pictures can help. Just be careful, of course. No errant flames, no injuries.

P: And then go out to a lovely lunch with your besties spending some of the money you get back from all your deposits, etc. Charge the cost of that to whatever (if any) money you’re splitting with your ex. Should she/he complain, point out that you’re doing the settling up of accounts and that it’s the cost of doing business.

B: My answer to my anniversary quandary was to have an anti-versary party. I gathered my friends and family around me. Like I said, I’m a big fan of circling wagons. It was a great way to remind myself, even though my life had gone so not how I had planned, I was still loved. And I know that can be difficult to remember, right now, but it’s true. You might not have the romantic love you’d envisioned, right now. But you have people who love you, and want the best for you.

P: Again. I’m so sorry for your broken heart and your dreams.

To sum up: be good to yourself.

To sum up: be good to yourself.

Thanks to Deb Slade for her Phabulous Photos!

Thanks to the Lewisburg Hotel for location, location, location!

Want to know more about The Bartender and The Priestess? Go here!

If you would like to ask us a question, email us at bartender priestess (at) gmail (dot) com; human non-spambots, remove spaces, insert appropriate punctuation.

Thank you for reading!

 

Merry Christmas!

I am an unapologetic Christmas junkie.  The lights, the colors, the sparkly decorations…they all totally appeal to my inner four-year-old’s desire to fly rocket ships through star fields of strung lights and roll around in an orgiastic riot of crinkly paper.

Full disclosure: I do that in my head most of the time, anyway.

So.  Here are some of my favorite photos of Christmas good tidings.  Enjoy!  And if Christmas isn’t your thing, then bear in mind that I wish you nothing but peace and good will, every day of the year.

Brookgreen Gardens, Nights of 1000 Candles, December 2013.

Brookgreen Gardens, Nights of 1000 Candles, December 2013.

A window diorama, Lewisburg PA, December 2013.

A window diorama, Lewisburg PA, December 2013.

This was one of my grandmother's ornaments.  December, 2013.

This was one of my grandmother’s ornaments. December, 2011.

Christmaxplosion!  Clifton, NJ, December 2013.

Christmaxplosion! Clifton, NJ, December 2013.

This is why I have a gym membership.  December 2013.

This is why I have a gym membership. December 2013.

Where at all began as a wee Paisley.  December, about a thousand years ago.

Where at all began as a wee Paisley. December, about a thousand years ago.

My Workout Tonight

I did a core workout tonight.  Mind you, I’ve done core workouts before.  Plenty.  But this was all new material.  New songs, new moves.

New ways to punish me for the sins of my (apparently dreadful, terrible, awful) past lives.

First it felt like this…

…and then it was like…

…and my instructor started going…

…and then my will to live surfaced and I got all…

...even though, deep in my heart, I know I actually was more like…

napoleon-dynamite_l

Skills.
Photo from newnostalgia.wordpress.com

And all in the space of 30 minutes.

Brutal.

Vote for Pedro!

Meanwhile, At the Restaurant: How to Get the Bartender’s Attention

Having spent an unreasonable amount of time in food service, in several different states in the US, I generally think that I’ve seen most of what can be seen (though I do realize that claiming I’ve seen it all does a grave disservice to “it all”.  But really, people.  I don’t need to know).  Despite the quasi-iconic public concept of the surly bartender who hides in the corner and has to be coaxed out like they’re a mouse and you’ve got a pocket full of cheese, most bartenders do want to offer their customers timely and friendly service in a welcoming atmosphere.  In a tips-based economy, it’s the smartest way to make money.  And in my time in restaurants and bars, I’ve encountered a vast and often confusing array of ways customers deem acceptable to get a bartender’s attention.  In the interest of public service and to help out my bar brethren across this great land, I give you the do’s and don’ts of:

Ta da!

Ta da!

THE DON’TS

The Tapper

mwatr01

The Tapper thinks the most effective way to get his drink refilled is to tap his empty glass repeatedly on the bar as though he’s tapping out distress signals in Morse code.  Unless you’re warning me about icebergs dead ahead, this is an inappropriate way to communicate.  I can let you tap all day.  Plus, if you’re that anxious that you need to bang your glass on the bar until you get another drink, then you don’t need another drink, and I would recommend trying some yoga, or perhaps taking up meditation.

The Barker

mwatr02

The Barker thinks that raising his voice above the din of a bar is a surefire way to entice a bartender over.  The Barker doesn’t seem to realize that he is the human equivalent of WRITING IN ALL CAPS and as quickly as I will delete the email written in that manner, so will I dismiss the person who behaves in this manner.  He may express himself in a way that seems callous (Hey, you!) or try to sound charming and/or endearing (Hey, honey, sugarplum, dollface!).  But no matter how you phrase it, he’s still the obnoxious drunk yelling at you from across the bar.  Avoid whenever possible.

The Whistler

mwatr03

Very closely related to The Barker, The Whistler shares the sentiment that making loud noises to attract the bartender is effective.  The problem is, The Whistler chooses the same manner in which he calls his dog in for dinner.  The Whistler doesn’t always necessarily whistle, per se, but he will clear his throat repeatedly or make “Pssst!” sounds.  One memorable time, the owner of the bar I worked in was on duty when a customer tried to attract his attention by making that repeated “psst psst psst” sound you make while trying to convince a cat to come near you.  The owner turned around and, without missing a beat said, “You’d better have some Friskies in your pocket if you’re calling to me that way.”  At least that once, the errant customer grew momentarily embarrassed enough to stammer out an apology before asking for a refill.

The Grabber

mwatr04

If I’m ever back behind the bar, do not–and I mean DO NOT–ever reach all the way across the bar and touch me.  I will wreck you.

And so we come to the end of my general guidelines for DON’T bar behavior.  This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s a good place to start.  Do note that the “DON’T” behaviors are generally demeaning and/or hostile and/or aggressive.  Use that as your measuring stick for what not to do, and you should be off to a good start.

THE DO’S

The Cash Presenter

mwatr05

Most bartenders, you see, are fairly bright, and understand that being attentive to the people standing or sitting at the bar impacts their tips.  If someone stands at the bar with money in their hands, bartenders will generally investigate such an event because people don’t randomly walk around holding money.  In a bar, it’s a specific signal that means, “I want something and I’m ready to pay.”  Yes, it’s true.  Money talks.

The Discreet Signaler

mwatr0501

You can gesture to your bartender, so long as you’re chill about it.  If your bartender looks like he’s in the middle of a conversation and isn’t likely to end it any time soon, you can gesture.  If you want to get drinks ASAP for yourself and that fine individual you’re successfully chatting up, you can gesture.  Or if you realize you need to leave, you can do the universal “I’m pretending to sign my name” gesture.  Gesturing does, for the most part, imply necessity so don’t go overboard pointing and waving at will!  Then you become the barfly who cried wolf, and your gesturing just becomes a silent extension of The Tapper and nobody needs to cross into hybrid signals because then everyone is unhappy.

The Empty Glass Bearer

mwatr0502

The Empty Glass Bearer is the mellowest of all patrons and has an inherent understanding that a bartender intends to do his job to the best of his abilities.  A bartender who’s even half-paying attention knows that an empty glass requires some sort of attention.  Empty Glass Bearers tend to be easy customers for bartenders to deal with–they’re not overly demanding, they don’t need babysitting, and their lack of aggressive behavior towards the bartender generally means the bartender will like them.  Bars are a great place to have a high-fivin’, belly-bumpin’ good time, but not necessarily with the bartender, who has five or fifteen or sixty other people to manage simultaneously.  Have faith that the bartender will get to you.  While people may think the squeaky wheel gets the grease, when you’re in a bar it’s the quiet glass bearer who gets the best consistent service.

It’s true.

I’d love to hear about other bartender-approach behaviors that I might have forgotten or have blocked from my memory.  Feel free to comment!

Meanwhile, at the Restaurant: Easter Edition

About a thousand years ago, I worked in a very small coffee shop in a very small town.  Every week, at least once a week, a quartet of ladies would come in after spending the morning together at the gym.  All but one had those stylie (she said facetiously) nylon track suits and all would be suspiciously un-gnarly after what they claimed was a “killer” workout.

When I’m done with a killer workout?  I’m not pretty enough to go anywhere, particularly not in the gym clothes I’ve just released five gallons of sweat into.  Funktastic?  Nope.  Just funk.

Anyway.  These ladies would come in and absolutely swoon over the dessert case, and then *tee hee* behind their hands about whether or not they should get cake (and they always did) and how “bad” that made them.  For these ladies, I always felt like they did think it was a breach of moral conscience to have some goddamned cake if they wanted it.  But who was I to judge?

Oh, right.  I was the surly employee.  That’s what we do.  Plus, I could go on about how deciding to have a piece of cake or not does not in any way indicate an assault on your own morality or standing as a member of the community, but that’s a different rant for a different day.

I don’t think the following incident took place on Good Friday but I know it happened during Easter week.  And quite frankly, it taught me the meaning of self-sacrifice and self-reflection in ways I’d never contemplated before.  Just bear in mind…I’m not saying they’re good ways.

Meanwhile, at the Restaurant: Easter Edition

I feel the presence of the divine already.

I feel the presence of the divine already.

I just report what I see, people.

Peace out, y’all!

Travel Theme: International Women’s Day

Ailsa’s travel theme this week at Where’s My Backpack? focuses on International Women’s Day.  Awesome.

When I finally decided to get my butt back into school, I had the very good fortune to go to Wellesley College.  Yes, it’s a women’s college.  Wellesley is academically top-notch, I got to study a subject that I loved, it opened up whole new fields of interests for me that I didn’t know I had until I got there, and I was surrounded by amazingly intelligent, funny, interesting women of all ages and backgrounds and orientations and histories, who never seem to want to stop learning and growing.

The school is still a source of mental strength for me.  I go back and visit when I can; it’s an astonishingly beautiful campus.  And the lessons I learned while I was there are with me to this day.  Going there wasn’t “easy” in the traditional sense of the word–I lost a ton of sleep to late-night cram sessions and smoked five times as many cigarettes as I should have–but it was one of the best things I have ever done for myself.

The Carillon.

The Carillon.

The academic quad.

The academic quad.

The library seen through the rhododendrons.

The library seen through the rhododendrons.

Down we go!

Down we go!

My old dorm! That porch was the setting for most of my late-night smoking.

My old dorm! That porch was the setting for most of my late-night smoking.

Me, rowing crew on Lake Waban.  (OK, so I didn't take this picture.)

Me, rowing crew on Lake Waban. (OK, so I didn’t take this picture.)

Reunion weekend!  So glad to be back around fierce women of all ages.

Reunion weekend! So glad to be back around fierce women of all ages.

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