Eating with my extended family is a noisy, messy, colorful and delicious affair. There are no pretty place settings and crystal decanters of water. There are no flowers and there are few utensils.
There are plates laden with homemade Indian food, there are hands (or hand, rather — the left one being considered too dirty to use) moving morsel to mouth, there is vociferous conversation (read: yelling because God forbid we use our indoor voices) and there are a multitude of pickles – lemons, jalapenos, mangoes, bitter melon, ginger and carrots. And they’re all really damn good (except the ginger. That’s just gross. What, Mom? It is).
That being the case, dining solo has never appealed to me. It’s weird – you can’t talk to anyone (unless you’re talking to yourself and then, you just look crazy) and whose plate do you reach from when you want to try something you didn’t order? The person next to you? They’d stab you with their fork and would be totally justified in doing so.
But one of my 29 Before 29 goals this year was to put on my big girl pants and eat lunch all by myself. Like adults do from time to time.
So, I grabbed a book (more on that in a bit), headed over to one of my favorite sandwich places, grabbed an egg salad on rye and sat in the sunshine solo for an hour.
It was….different. Not necessarily bad, but quiet. One of the things I disliked the most was the fact that I couldn’t share my delicious meal with anyone. I’m a big advocate of shoving food into people’s faces while saying, “Sweet Jesus! This is amazing! Eat this now!” and the fact that no-one was there to appreciate the house-made potato chips kinda bummed me out a little.
I guess I wasn’t all alone, though. I had Hemingway to keep me company. I’ve never really been a big Hemingway fan. The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber is a great story, but Papa doesn’t speak to me in the way my boy Fitz does.
However, I’m on a mission to read three American classics and since he’s authored his fair share (The Sun Also Rises, The Old Man and the Sea, For Whom The Bell Tolls, A Moveable Feast), I figured I’d give him another shot.
As of this moment, I’m 70 pages into A Farewell to Arms and so far, so good. Tenente and Catherine have just met (“I did not love Catherine Barkley nor had any idea of loving her. This was a game, like bridge, in which you said things instead of playing cards. Like bridge you had to pretend you were playing for money or playing for some stakes. Nobody had mentioned what the stakes were.”) and Hemingway has made some pretty spot-on comments about the nature of war (“There is a class that controls a country that is stupid and does not realize anything and never can. That is why we have this war.” “Also they make money out of it.” “Most of them don’t. They are too stupid. They do it for nothing. For stupidity.”).
The language is sparse but evocative and it’s easy to imagine the dusty, dusky Italian countryside in which the novel takes place.
I’m not enamored with it like I am with Gatsby, but it’s holding my attention and I want to know what happens next. Can’t see myself ever wanting to indelibly ink any Hemingway lines on my flesh, but if nothing else – it will open my mind to the wide, wild and wonderful world of American literature. And anything one can do to encourage more reading is a good thing (unless you’re reading Twilight – a series so banal and ass-achingly atrocious that it makes me fervently pray that Stephanie Meyer gets her period in shark-infested waters. And the sharks are megalodons. With rabies. And frickin’ laser beams attached to their heads).
While I enjoyed the relative peace of a meal in solitude, it was a little too monastic for my tastes. Birds chirping and quiet conversation is all fine and good, but this girl would much rather chow down amidst the cacophonous medley of Bollywood songs, clanking cutlery and a family who has no idea what the hell an indoor voice is.
Seven down (sort of), 22 to go (ish).