Cooking with Pat

Julia child versus Rachael Ray. Compromise with Mark Bittman. I am enjoying dinner parties once again, just as I did when I was a wife and mother, But back then the meal took all day to prepare–thank you, Julia–and I spent my time in the kitchen, while my husband passed out drinks to our friends in the living room.  Now the party is IN the kitchen, and in the place of those old friends I have my bed and breakfast guests. One brings the salad, the other a bottle of wine. My life has not been so social in years.  Patricia is paying me for her good company.

Patricia has been staying with me a couple nights a week since February.  She makes quiches from “must-goes,” which is what her mother used to call the small bits of leftovers abandoned in the bowels of the refrigerator.  When I invited Christyne from DC to join us for dinner, she put on an apron and started cooking. “I didn’t bring anything,” Christyne said.  “Cooking is my contribution.”  I was her sou-chef–delivering the pasta, tomatoes from the garden, mushrooms, roasted red peppers, broccoli.  Patricia set the table and poured out the wine, while Christyne took some scissors from the utensil drawer and went outside to snip parsley and oregano and chives.

One night Alice came to stay. Her profile told me that she was a stage designer, and as she was bringing her daughter to the Bat Mitzva of a friend, I thought she might be free for the evening, so I invited her to go and see a play with me, “The Rainmaker.” When I found her in her room eating snacks, I invited her to have dinner with me, and then we went off to see the play.  Only later did I learn that she wasn’t that kind of stage manager, although she once had been so, but rather she was a corporate stage manager for the likes of Toyota and Chrysler and IBM, and behind the curtain was not a spinster from the 1930’s but the latest Chrysler model. I hadn’t ever even thought about such a profession. My guests amaze me.

But when they leave, when there is no one coming that night, I fall apart, like the kitchen, with the dishes piling up and the floor needing sweeping.  It happens every time.  My spirit becomes disorderly. When I don’t have guests I stay up too late watching movies and come down in the morning to be greeted by my messy kitchen.  Patricia doesn’t realize how her cheerful arrivals, week after week, hold me together.

Is this blog about writing or about my guests?

I’ve got blog phobia.  I want more than anything to write a blog about my airbnb guests, but I watch myself not doing it.  I regale my friends with stories about my guests. Even my Airbnb guests love hearing about my other Airbnb guests.  You should write a blog, my friends say.  Don’t keep all these stories to yourself.  I tell myself the same thing.  All the time.  But whenever I take up the task in earnest, that pesky editor pops up on my shoulder and starts nagging, so I never get anywhere.

I’ve taken private notes about some of my guests, but I’ve neglected others, and I want to remember them all.  Writing a blog would enable me to do that.  I need to plunge in and put those notes on-line. A writer-friend of mine, encouraging me to take to plunge, wonders what I am worried about. “A blog is a great place to cure yourself of writer’s block,” she says.  “Nobody is even going to know about it, unless you spread the word.

One thing I worry about is the privacy issue, as all non-fiction writers do, but I’m not going to let that bother me anymore.  And wouldn’t William Loizeaux, who stayed with me last night, love for people to know about his new novel, The Tumble Inn?  I would actually be performing a service!

Bill came from Boston with his wife to do a reading at RiverRead Books.  It was fun to have a writer staying here.  “You’ve got books on your shelf that I teach,” he said in surprise.  I told him how I had gotten an MFA in creative nonfiction at Stonecoast and dreamed about having a writing life, but how my community work, another passion, had gotten in the way.  So then we started talking about the work I do in the neighborhood, which often happens.  It is a fascinating subject in this changing world of ours.  It’s another subject I’d like to write about.  Perhaps this blog will lead the way.

But for now I am going to curl up on the couch on this dull, chilly day, Einstein at my feet, and get started on The Tumble Inn, a copy of which Bill generously left for me.  I love Airbnb.