The reason I started this blog is because I got tired of doing something as a means to an end.
Writing things that had to be relevant, profitable, timely. Struggling to find the progress in the passion took out the joy.
And if the past ten years have proven anything, it's that I know damn well how "to push". This past year however, the wavering red promise of success has stopped triggering this bull to charge; and what has been illuminated is that while I can, I mustn't.
I refuse to continuously push my body and feelings around because that break "is right around the corner". And while I rationally understand that hedonism isn't the answer either, it seemed like an interesting place to start.
Now, let's talk pasta.
On October 16th, I dined at the historic, Victor Cafe in south Philly.
As I stepped into this 1950s nook, the caramel lighting, low ceilings and black and white portraits of operatic stars, quickly enveloped me in its novelty. The space had initially started as a gramophone shop.
Here, founder John Distefano, invited friends and neighbors to enjoy an espresso and spumoni while they listened to newly recorded operatic arias, symphonies and popular music of the day. I had worn my yiayias golden lace glove, for that extra touch of story-line, which upon siting at my table, slowly glided off my fingers using the tips of my teeth. (cuz if not now, when, friends.)
Scents of sea salt infused voyages and old worlds had already toying with my palette, when a tiny bell rang and what seemed to be a server, belted his way into a impressionable solo! Yes, the pasta priestess was about to embark on her second rendez-vous with her beloved, pasta gods, at the “Music Lover’s Rendezvous", as it's called.
The dish that chose me was called: "Pasta Caruso", and it consisted of chicken livers sautéed in marsala with onions, mushrooms and fresh tomatoes over linguine.
As nothing is a ever a pure coincidence, I later discovered that Enrico Caruso was a Sicilian operatic tenor in the 1800s. He had been described as having a "manly and powerful, yet sweet and lyrical" voice. He grew up poor and due to experiencing ridicule in his hometown of Napoli, vowed to return "only to eat spaghetti". I immediately identified with his dramatic gusto and priorities. You tell them, Enrico.
A petite round plate of mint green pesto was placed in front of me. My order was in, and now it was time to take in into the visuals and sounds of my surroundings. I sank the bread shamelessly into said green olive oil pond and began tasting the moment.
Its a delightful thing to wait for something good (when you're certain it's on the way, that is).
Yes, knowing how to wait, is a keen art, whether at a restaurant or the kitchen of life. Not only does it prolong and add to the mystery, but it also places you in a luscious state of vigilance.
I was sat smack in the middle, again. And this time instead of cringing, I reveled in it.
Nearby a young boy was telling his mom that there is simply no reason to remember things anymore, since you can look it up. "But that's everything!" she cried. Well, "not everything", I thought. To my right, a foreign couple patiently de-boned two whole fish entrees, and to my left, another couple who seemed plenty full but continued to stuff in it ploughed ahead--- happy Friday, to you!
Half a basket of bread later, my chicken liver linguine was here.
From the top, there was no pasta in sight; it was fully covered in a mountain of red wine and liver juice. My mouth watered at its very distinct aroma, one I had known well from my Mediterranean years.
In many dishes, every bite might taste different, but not this one. The thick, bloody, texture of liver is the same from beginning to end, leaving you no room to escape it. There are no co-stars when it comes to this ingredient, and I say that prudently, as a pasta devotee.
As expected, I was quickly overtaken by its intensity.
It felt like an aria would taste, if a mouth were an opera house.
It was bold and felt no need to apologize for it, either. As a matter of fact, the liver as an organ, has a very important job to do, as the lead bouncer at the most prestigious club, the Body; it is the filter we rely upon to keep our blood out of rowdy intruders.
I wouldn't want anyone shy doing that job, would you?
As I took in the gamey messages, it was becoming more and more obvious that the entire set up was a proud affront to moderation.
Here, extreme emotions, rich dishes, and brazen musical interruptions were celebrated. While I was busy munching on internal filters, the concept of #nofilter occurred to me; you know, the way we as a society tend to drool over individuals who lead their lives shooting from the hip, gracing us all with the unfiltered value of their "authenticity". (see, Cheeto in Chief).
And If leaky "verbal filters" are one thing, clogged up "emotional filters" are another. Fearing the feels, as I call it.
Degrading the intelligence of emotion to a temporal state that is threatening to the dignity of reason. Deferring to intellect, what at times, is only up to the realm of the body to discern.
Opera lends its allure from exactly that; the irresistible and tragic truth of emotion. Those brave enough to fill their cups of such substance know well that clean and tidy does always lead to a full heart.
And are we not all hungry for a fuller heart.
Distefano arrived in this country in 1908. It took him a little less than a hundred years to establish and grow his business. Do you think he obsessed about, gee why can't I do this faster?
I can't know for sure, but it doesn't feel like he did.
Everything in this place ooozed peace with the passing of time. A mastering of letting the righteous things in and the petty things out. It was soothing to the part of me that worries about the whens and hows of my blurry #goals.
I take a few weeks to compose my post dinner write up because my founding ideals that I promised you were ease, slowness and heightened digestion of feelings and impressions.
And I was rewarded for sticking to that promise.
Seeing that I was not rushing this, the pasta gods graced me with a sacred visual; A boiling pot of water, as the dissolver of hard, uncooked pasta.
I invite you to use this image in your meditation next time you are facing a question or emotion you find unsolvable. Close your eyes, give your issue dimension, and imagine placing it a hot pot of bubbling water.
Watch it sink to the bottom, and slowly soften up... until it’s fully soft and opened up.
Stop over-trying, breathe luxuriously,
and let the gentle wisdom of water cook you up the right answer.
*to a plate of our own*
your pasta priestess