Monday, April 14, 2014

Eating (a burrata and prosciutto sandwich) Alone

I am living alone next semester. In a beautiful apartment with hard wood floors, lots of windows, and minimal parking. I have never lived alone before.

I have spent the better part of three months thinking about the pros and cons of living by myself verses living with other people and both choices pull me strongly either way. To have roommates is to have company - and I believe it is something that we as humans must have. Not only by want but by need. Occasions have occurred where I have found myself alone in my current house, which I share with five others, and have felt torn by the silence and the grand auroa of aloneness. Peace is a gift - especially when I think about the future and how rare the opportunity may be sit and hear myself just simply exist. But then as evening sets in, and the house becomes darker, the neighborhood quieter, and the night deeper, I begin to miss the noise that I am accustomed to. Blasting but muffled songs echoing out of the bathroom as a roommate showers, a daring endeavor by one to use the popcorn maker or the blender, the outburst of laughter or frustration as someone tries to pry a baked good from a cake pan - they are sounds of life and sounds of company.

Aside from the change in the dynamic of sound, I have also brooded much over the thought of what it may be like to eat alone.

Growing up with a family that always ate at-home meals together, it feels only natural to eat in the company of others. One of the pillars as to why I love cooking is for the experience and satisfaction I feel when someone is enjoying what I am enjoying. Sharing the experience of eating is so much richer than eating alone. It is like when I try to describe to a friend what it is like swimming in the Adriatic ocean. They were not there, they did not feel the coolness of the water in contrast with the warm summer sun. They did not hear the low hum of cicadas or the children jumping from the dock yelling about in a language that was foreign music to my ears. When you share a meal with someone you are sharing an experience. And when the food is simply delicious, the experience unfolds into a memory that kisses each of our senses. And being lucky enough to live with my boyfriend this year, I have been able to carry on this enjoyment of sharing a meal with someone - even if it is mainly dinner.

We have spent the year exploring the offerings of cheese boards while sitting cross-legged on the carpet in his bedroom, eating melting Ben & Jerry's ice cream straight from the container by the spoonful, and wondering why we ever tried to kiss each other while eating okra. Mistake. Eating together has been as much of a part of our relationship as holding hands. It is simply another link.

I am guilty of trying to be 'productive' when I do eat alone. I make my dinner, sit down at my desk, or dining room table, and work on my laptop as I eat. Or rather, I eat as I work on my laptop. My mind is  occupied constantly and generally I am frowning at a glowing screen of technology. I forget to give thanks for the meal, and I forget to appreciate.

I have made the change.

Tonight I ate dinner sitting on my knees in the dining room looking out our huge window. It is not much of a view. There are some unkempt plants, a wood fence, some trees that are beginning to wither from the beautiful wave of sping flowers we had a few weeks ago. There is the occasional swoosh of one way traffic that lies just beyond. It is a non-static world.

My dinner this evening began with roasting some skinny and fat spears of asparagus. I broiled slices of an open faced french baguette until crisp and golden, and tenderly spread milky hunks of burrata cheese on its soft crust. I layered on delicate shavings of salty prosciutto, and small handfuls of arugula. As always, spicy Bariani olive oil then went over everything, and pooled like deep sunlight on my plate.

Eating this was joy.

And it was hands on. I reached for the open faced sandwiches one at a time, eating my way around to save the most ideal bite for last. Specifically one with plenty of sweet milky burrata. I couldn't stop smiling as I felt the fat from the olive oil on my lips, or when I watched the occasional drop run down my finger - which was already flecked with cracked pepper. I picked up stray pieces of arugula, and fallen strips of prosciutto. I picked up each spear of asparagus and started in at the crisp, slightly gnarled tip. I couldn't help but appreciate how delightfully sweet the fresh roasted asparagus was. Each bite as pleasing as the last.

I alternated between asparagus and sandwich, watched the world outside, and thought about exactly what I am saying in this post. I was not purposely focused on my meal, but rather the food was so lovely and the flavors so married that I could really think about nothing, or desired to think, about nothing else. I finished feeling not stuffed or lacking, but satisfied and nourished; happy and alive. And thankful. So thankful for it all.

There will be many occasions next year where I will not have the luxury of sitting and just eating. I know mornings of eating toast while standing in the kitchen happen, just as evenings where cold cereal constitutes as dinner happen as well. Despite its simplicity, burrata and procuitto sandwiches cannot always be the norm. This is college after all.

Although I am diving somewhat blindly into this new chapter of my life that constitutes living alone, I am very much looking forward to a new kind of silence and space. I hope to live in such a way that I do not feel that there is a pressing absence, but rather live in connection with an open continuum where I can step back, experience, and offer gratitude to things of which I share space.

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