Apr 15, 2010

Bridget Foy's + First Person Arts = Home Away from Home

I'm still thinking about Sunday night at Bridget Foy's, the food writers I met, the homey dinner we had, the stories.

In the beginning of April, I had submitted a super short 250-word essay along with a recipe to First Person Arts for a competition. When I was in Denver at the AWP convention (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) I got email saying I was invited to read it at Sunday night's Edible World dinner. The timing was such that I ended up taking a cab directly from the airport to the dinner. Having deprived myself of overpriced soggy airplane sandwiches, I was ready to eat and relax.

I had the pleasure of getting my reading over with first, which makes sense since it was about cocktails and appetizers. Juliet Whelan followed with a childhood story about whipping cream with an egg beater for the first time. When Juliet isn't regaling people with stories about whipping, she is an architect of spare modern spaces. I myself live in cluttered old cramped spaces, but admire that clean aesthetic nevertheless. Anyway, the three of us perched on barstools at a head table like bridesmaids who had lost their groomsmen. Instead of identical dresses, we wore (almost) identical eyeglasses.

Dinner, based on recipes from Suzan Colon's Cherries in Winter, was luscious. We started with split pea soup, then moved on to meat loaf (with bacon, do you even have to ask?), mashed potatoes, asparagus, and finally apple cake. Why haven't I been here before? Bridget Foy's has been at Second and South Streets for thirty years, even longer than Hats in the Belfry across the street, which is saying something, but what? I've never bought a hat there, either. The real Bridget Foy herself, who was only a tot when her parents named the place named after her, came in to say hello. It had never occurred to me that Bridget Foy is a real person, although why wouldn't she be? Why assume fictionality? She is now a mother, so I wonder if she's fixing to open another restaurant soon for her baby, to continue the tradition.

Round about apple cake time, Suzan Colon gave a reading from Cherries in Winter. When she was laid off from her job as editor at O, she had to save money by cooking in her Nana's frugal style instead of shopping at "Whole Paycheck Foods." From what Suzan read that evening, it sounds like a good-humored little memoir that affirms the nurturing instinct. I like when she includes a real recipe from her Nana and then her own semi-botched but-basically-OK version. Apparently her friends scoffed at her newfound domesticity. Making muffins for the husband? I can see the gimlet-eyed stares now. I've noticed that women seem to make these comments more often than they used to. Some kind of anti-foodie feminist backlash? But I digress. Cherries in Winter. It might be a nice Mother's Day gift. At the very least it may inspire you to test your own grandmother's or mother's recipes.

The other diners were a very receptive mixed-age crowd, not without their own stories. What was that about making pork sausage matzo balls? And one lady volunteered to read--cold-- the essay of a missing presenter from Houston (yes, Houston). One thing I love about First Person Arts is that it attracts people from their early twenties on up, especially at the Story Slams because they don't cost much. It is easy to talk in front of this diverse and always warm audience. Whether you are a hipster, oldster, or in-betweenster, or someone who eschews the suffix "ster" altogether, you should give their Story Slam, Salon, or Edible World a try some day. Of course, you need not speak a word. Oh--pictures here, courtesy of Erika Vonie.

The Tiny World of Cocktails

As a little girl, I loved cocktail paraphernalia; especially the vessels shaped precisely for the drink: lowball, highball, martini, old-fashioned, sour, and the rarely used liqueur glasses, each one tinted a different color. I used to read our tallest tumbler, where, on the side, in red letters like Jesus' words in my New Testament, were directions for making a "Tom Collins." For the parties that my parents gave or attended, we children were scrubbed clean and made presentable, me in my pink smocked dress and Mary Janes, and David and Dan in their gray flannel shorts, white shirts, and clip-on ties.

In compensation for such torture we got to use the Lilliputian props of the cocktail ritual: jaunty little napkins and swizzle sticks with teeny tiny umbrellas. We used the swizzle sticks as weapons, to spear the great juicy prey floating in our Shirley Temples, the maraschino cherries. Swizzle sticks were also deployed to vanquish Olives in Blankets, and Small Objects Wrapped in Bacon.

Decades later, I began to realize how much work those cocktail parties must have been--all those little things to assemble and serve hot, all those drinks to refresh, egos to soothe, and names to remember. And glasses upon glasses to wash afterwards, and you hadn't even had dinner yet. Here is a simple recipe from my grandmother that must have been a godsend--she wrote “Delicious” beneath the title. I have turned it into a found poem. The text is from my grandmother but the line breaks are mine. (Loyal blog readers, you've seen this recipe before.)

Cheese Bites, Broiled

Cut tiny rounds of

Pepperidge Farm bread. Place

paper-thin small white onions on top of

each round.

Mix equal parts of

mayonnaise and grated Parmesan,

spread on top, and

broil until brown.