Sunday, 26 November 2006

Cooking With the Wakefield Twins

Tonight – at dinner at friends I consider my big brother and sister in London – we discussed questions that would make you question whether you should show up for dinner at all. (Or show up with a pizza instead of a bottle of wine.)

This came from my telling my friends – we’ll call them J and L – about the time I was having people over for dinner, panicked, and nearly called J beforehand to ask him if a clove was just one little nub of the garlic, or the whole thing. The only reason I didn’t call him: Because he and L were the ones coming over for dinner. (For the record, I figured out the correct portion of garlic. Why does one’s brain occasionally misfile such information, and how does it get refiled?)

J – who, while we’re setting the record straight, admitted that he sometimes struggles with the garlic issue – offered the following to the list of questions that would make one fear dinner: “I left the milk out and I don’t think it’s been 24 hours and anyway I’m cooking it so it should be OK, right?”

“How about, ‘I’ve spent the past hour prying the mussels open,’” I suggested. J – a comedy writer -- laughed.

“Growing up in a kosher-style home I don’t know if I’d know that one,” said L. “But I read it in a Sweet Valley High book.”

I looked at her and started to giggle. The only reason I knew myself was because in one of the books closed mussels are how Jessica Wakefield gives her family food poisoning. I bet it’s the only useful thing I learned from the entire series.

Roman Holiday

Back from Rome last night after a yummy, crazy Thanksgiving dinner at a wine editor’s house and a chance meeting in front of the Vittorio Emanuel monument with two friends from DC. Oh yeah, and a ridiculous assignment where I spent so much time (legitimately) sitting in one fancy schmancy hotel bar I fear deep vein thrombosis – and where I got about two hours of sleep a night.

I am slowly making my way through e-mails and obligations and dreading the return to the office tomorrow. I’m also dreading a lunch I have cancelled at least six times, with the (world’s skinniest Russian) wife of a celebrity jeweler*. After a week and a half of pasta, I do not want to find something to wear. Nor do I want to spent two hours making polite conversation – plus an hour travel time -- when I’d rather be hiding in my office in jeans and communist chic sneakers, getting actual work done so that I don’t have to stay in the office until midnight.

Sigh. As my mother would say, things are rough all over.


Must. Find. New. Job.

(Hello, so not going to happen in December.)

*though last time I got to try on Christina Aguilera's actual engagement ring -- she had sent it back for repairs. I know, I know -- not that thrilling. Trying to psych myself into this.

* * *

The friends I bumped into in Rome I saw when I was in DC, but this couple has been peripheral friends – part of the same circle, but never the sort of people I had any independent relationship with. In fact, I was surprised a couple of years ago when they turned up to my book signing and insisted on each buying their own copy of my book for support (no small thing, since the male half of this couple is notoriously cheap), and even more surprised when I once got a long-ish, thoughtful email from male half in response to a quick one I’d sent.

I knew they’d be in Rome – they were taking a week’s vacation in Italy – but they were arriving the night before I was scheduled to leave, and they wouldn’t have a phone or blackberry (yes, I know people organized their social schedules long before the invention of either). Plus I didn’t want to be the gooseberry on their romantic vacation. But there they were, standing in front of the Vittorio Emanuel memorial when I finally got out of bed after a Thanksgiving dinner that ended at six in the morning.

We hit the Pantheon – I had been already, but they hadn’t -- then had a tartufo in the Piazza Navona. (Male half of couple: “If we have these to go it will cost half as much.”) We walked across the river to see St. Peter’s at sunset, then got dinner in Trastavere, laughing and gossiping and just hanging out. And of course, commenting on how surreal it was to bump into each other in Rome, and how it wouldn’t have worked out that well if we planned it. In another year or so I would likely have lost touch with them – another casualty of the expat life, where friendships without enough of a history (or a short but significant history) eventually become history, sometimes even despite one’s best efforts. Thanks to about 12 hours in Rome, I’m sure this one won’t.

Wednesday, 15 November 2006

The Brain Trust

I was back in the office for less than an hour today – not even in the office, actually, but at lunch – before job-loathing set in again.

A senior editor arrived from New York, calling for help from us because she couldn’t get in a cab because “I don’t have any Euros.” She said this repeatedly, apparently unaware that the UK has not joined the Euro. Other things she is unaware of: Who we are, how we report (she asked me how our bureau planned to report the Tom and Katie wedding because she had no idea how we did it), and who the band Keane is (apparently I’m not the only one who doesn’t read the very magazine I help produce).

And this particular senior editor has most favored nation status in New York.

Get me out of here, pronto.

Tuesday, 14 November 2006

My Country, 'Tis of Thee

How do you sum up two and a half weeks in the U.S – the most time you (well, I) have spent there on vacation (as opposed to the three weeks I spent there when my mother was dying) since I moved here?

I can’t, except to say: My friends are great, and – I never thought I’d say this – America is great. It’s not perfect, but sometimes it is great.

I love that people are friendly, and frankly, after surly English salespeople, I don’t even care if it’s faux I-want-to-sell-you-something friendly. I love that you can send a blueberry muffin back at Cosi just because you think it tastes like cardboard, which is exactly what I did to prove to a Scottish friend (she was visiting) that it could be done. I love that it can be freezing and miserable in Boston and then you can hop on a plane for $89 and three hours later be in Miami, no passport required. I love (even though I shouldn’t) that it cost me $30 to fill my tank with gas, as opposed to the $100 it costs in London. I love that I can buy contact lens solution at 1 a.m. -- and on a Sunday, no less -- if that's when I realize I need some.

I just got off the plane in London a couple of hours ago, and the thought of summing up my sister’s wedding (though it seems like an eon ago), further career angst brought about by Washington Post interview, the guy I bumped into who I haven’t seen in nine years who remembered what felt like every word I ever said, and the up-until-4-a.m. conversation I had with my grandmother seems too daunting for now. Besides, I didn’t turn my blackberry on the whole time I was away, so I’ve got mega e-mail to catch up on. Oh – and I’m off to Rome tomorrow for the wedding of you-know-who. (And if you don’t know who, I envy you.)