Besides dinner, I think my favourite time of the day is my bike ride to work. It’s only 30 minutes long but in that time I manage to solve all of life’s problems. Or at least I think I do until, oh, until bedtime–when I break out into a cold sweat and start fretting about all of life’s problems again.
For example, I write blog posts in my head. I write chapters of my pending autobiography (working titles include: Last Time I Checked, Green Means GO!: The Jessica Allen Story. Or, Coming in Third Place: The Story of Jessica Allen. ) I also practice speaking in other languages. I speak about 40 words of Italian, 30 in German, and 15 or so in French. So, sometimes I make up sentences in those languages while I bike. I also practice my mediocre Australian accent, a Cockney accent, and a reasonable Scottish one too. And I’m usually laughing because when you’re as funny as I am, you’re always laughing over something funny you just thought of. Plenty of commuters pass me and look over their shoulder as if to say, What’s wrong with you?
Ich liebe dich an der himmel ist blau, ich glaube! That roughly translates to “I love you and the sky is blue, I think!” And sometimes, when too many people pass me, a competitive streak passes over me and I think, Oh yeah buddy? You think passing a a 35 year-old lady on a bike who’s talking to herself is some kind of feat? Well fuck you buddy! And I haul ass and pass that jerk, who’s usually a 12-year-old kid. How do you like me now?! HA! And sometimes, I play out revenge fantasies while I ride my bike. Those are the best. You know when you’ve been in a situation, usually at work, and you only think of a good comeback after the fact? Or you think of things you’d say if you weren’t so polite and nice? Like, the next time somebody tells me Jess, the fax machine is out of paper, I’ll say, “Oh is it Tim? Let me just open up this drawer RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU AND GRAB SOME PAPER AND FILL IT.” Or, Jess, the toilet in the ladies’ washroom is clogged. And I’ll say “Oh dear! Is it Joan? Would you like me to call Facilities, that 4-digit number that’s available to all of us, sort of like 911, and report it on your behalf? Because I’ve got time to make that call. I know you don’t. That’s like, a ten second call. I got myself all the time in the world Joan!” I never call Facilities though. You know what I do? (Because I can’t bare the thought of calling facilities and having a little old lady who doesn’t speak English coming up to our washroom only to flush a toilet,) I go into the washroom and flush the toilet. It works every time.
In short, I’m usually speaking in tongues, making scary revenge faces and laughing like a maniac while I ride my bike.
Last week, after a particularly trying day at work, and riding my bike all over the city looking like a maniac, I told the Beast that I was taking him out for dinner. ”Meet me at OddFellows,” I said. He’s never been there, but I’ve had the pleasure of eating there two or three times now. There are some really rich dishes on their menu, and I figured it would be right up his alley.
I got there first. I said hello to a couple of lovely kids who were sitting on the little patio, and who work at the restaurant where I work, and then made my way inside where Erinn, who manages OddFellows, warmly welcomed me. Not only did she look like a dreamy apparition in her summer dress and braids, but she made me a delightful cocktail made with orange vodka, vanilla syrup and soda.
This creamsicle-inspired delight washed away all the day’s woes. And completing my mood enhancement was the sight of the Beast strolling into the restaurant wearing his new off-white linen blazer that he picked out all on his very own from Winners.
Foodie: Well look at you!
Beast: Do you like it?
Foodie: You look like a real gentleman…who’s carrying a purse.
Beast: My dad is with you on that one.
Foodie: What do you mean?
Beast: He saw my Fendi and and asked why I was wearing a woman’s purse and what was wrong with the man bag I was using before. And I said, Why can’t a man have more than one purse?
Foodie: Good point. Do you trust me to order appetizers?
Foodie: What do you think you’ll have for your main?
Beast: I think I’ll have the steak frites.
Foodie: You know what I’m going to have? I’m having the spaghetti! I know you’re probably shocked because why would I order spaghetti when we eat spaghetti all the time, but this spaghetti just sounds so fresh and summery with those roasted tomatoes and rapini. It’s exactly what I want right now.
I chose the the pork belly and kimchi (Mom, that’s Korean spicy pickled cabbage) and the house-smoked trout for our appetizers.
Foodie: I want to try to make kimchi. I love kimchi! I want to put it on everything! Don’t you love it?
Beast: It’s okay. It’s really spicy.
Foodie: But it cuts the fattiness and richness of the pork belly so nicely! I love it.
The Beast ate most of the pork belly and I ate most of the kimchi. We were equally responsible for devouring the smoked trout on thinly sliced grilled bread.
Erinn, concerned that our drinks needed replenishing, suggested a bottle of Malbec for us to share with our mains.
It was just lovely on its own, and perfect with our main courses.
Foodie: Mmn! This is so good! You know, when I first looked at the spaghetti, I thought it looked pretty average–like something I’d make at home. But there’s so much more depth to this than anything I’d make! I wouldn’t roast tomatoes for example. And I probably wouldn’t add white wine to the sauce because I would have drunk it all by the time I got to making dinner. Do you want to try some?
Beast: I’m okay.
Foodie: How’s your steak?
Beast: It’s good but I shouldn’t have ordered it rare.
Foodie: When are you going to learn?
Beast: I know, I know.
(Mom, the cuts of meat used in steak frites, a sort of classic bistro, or brasserie dish, are usually ones that are very tasty, cheap, and aren’t necessarily too tender, like a flat iron or hanger steak. So you don’t want to order steak in steak frites too rare because it will be difficult to eat. But the Beast always orders it rare and regrets it.)
Foodie: What’s that stuff on top?
Beast: I’m not sure. It’s good though. Maybe onions?
We both cleaned our plates and sipped our wine, which just got spicier and bolder as our lovely night out went along. And then we talked with Erinn about her pending pickling party in September where all the guests will bring twelve jars of any sort of preserve–from pickles to jams to chutneys–and a food dish that ‘ll showcase their preserve and we all eat and drink and then go home with eleven jars of different preserves! She’s been busy making jelly using the blackberries in her backyard. I made little yellow Ontario plum jam with a hint of star anise and cardamom. I still don’t know what food dish I’ll bring to show off the jam though.
And then Erinn convinced us to have dessert: A banana split with homemade ice cream. She also brought the Beast a Scotch and me a Calvados to sip on.
It was the best banana split I’ve ever had. When we looked up after cleaning that plate, we realized that we were the only ones left sitting at the OddFellows communal table.
Foodie: I am so full. What do you think they put in that whipped cream to make it taste so good? It tastes like the ideal whip cream. Like a Platonic whipped cream.
Beast: You’re drunk.
Foodie: Did you have a nice dinner?
Beast: It was lovely. I’m not sure about the communal table though.
Foodie: Oh come on! It didn’t affect our meal at all!
Beast: It might have if somebody sat right beside you. Plus, everybody is so cool here.
Foodie: What does that mean? We’re cool too man.
Just then, I looked over to the bar where real beautiful, cool people had gathered on this late August night to have a drink. They were all smiling, chatting and laughing.
It was almost like Erinn sensed my self-doubt because she came right over and the three of us ended up talking about our summer book lists, the East coast, and finally, our favourite Julia Roberts movies, like Notting Hill, My Best Friend’s Wedding, and Mystic Pizza. We all learned a little about each other that we probably didn’t need to know. For example, Erinn saw Runaway Bride three times in the theatre and the Beast bawled like a baby during Step Mom. And me? Well, the first time I asked the Beast out on a date, I suggested we see the movie Mona Lisa Smile. I think it was a test on my part to see if he really liked me because if he didn’t, he would have politely declined my invitation. He said yes.