As usual Chup and I were really late. And I was nervous about that fact.
It was a balmy evening and we were out gathering needs for our upcoming trip. When we walked into the restaurant we identified many of our neighbors sitting at the brown and black tables among modern decor, talking and adding to the steam fogging up the windows.
"Sorry we are late." I said to Simy, our friend and restaurant owner.
"You are right on time. The food is just now coming out."
We took seats next to Andrew and Milli who call Accra, Ghana home, but are graciously accepting of our comparatively scaled-down town. Across from us, on the cozy communal table were Andy's parents, proud that their son and daughter-in-law were able to create a restaurant, a menu, an atmosphere and community centered around taste and flavor.
And here it was, the rehearsal dinner, one night before the grand opening.
First they brought out dumplings--vegetarian ones with slaw on the side, we sat like lobsters, our chopsticks ready to clinch. We experimented with dips, ginger, oil, pepper while talking about how we had fasted for this moment.
Then the beef dumplings--the smell of which coaxed me out of vegetarianism. By the end of the night, I had converted to a carefree carnivore. The sweet beef, the soft ribs, spicy pork in each dish ate me, instead. When the ginger chicken was delivered I partook, and could not help but partake again. Chup fed me bites as I sat in a stupor. I was drunk from flavor, conversation and swashing of tepid water.
It was warm in the restaurant. As more dishes were presented--nests of noodles, steamy rice, shrimp dumplings--the higher the inside temperature became. Our glasses dripped with wet, our words became more familiar, I felt my insecurity vanish inside of me. The food made me spellbound and I could not help but want express my adoration to everyone in the dinning room.
And I did, at least I think I did. I got up and moved from friend-to-friend telling them my inner most thoughts about how much I admired them, for their goodness and bravery. Something in the entrees made me do it, and I was glad. My soul felt soft and comfortable.
When Simy brought out her divine lava cake and whipped topping I was bordering consciousness.
"I can't do it." I leaned on Chup, sweating and tipsy.
"One bite." He coaxed me with his deep voice, he too was inebriated from the same.
But it was too much. The explosion of dark, thick chocolate inside a thin layer of cake took my spirit and carried away with it. I was no longer my own, my will was handed over to the gods of food and wine. Although, wine was not necessary, because I was buzzing without percent.
"I need to go home." I whispered to my husband, wanting to crawl in bed and dream of the evening.
But before we could go, I looked at Simy and Andy standing next to each other, watching the crowd before them grovel at their substance. All of their patrons were under their influence of love and spice. Simy was glowing and Andy was smiling. At that moment--in my borderline hallucinogenic state--I thought there were not two more beautiful people on this planet.
When I had hugged the last of friends and strangers alike ("Thanks for sitting by us, I love you, no I really love you like to infinity. And beyond!"), Chup pulled me out the door and we stumbled out to the windy night.
In bed I reclined paralyzed thinking about the effects of the evening. I was a virgin of sorts, having had my first experience with a true gastronomic intoxication. Ambiance, aroma and affection--it was all there.
I fell asleep thinking about everyone I had ever known from--birth til now--how much I loved that person, wished I could tell them.
And woke up with a hang over.
Thanks Simy and Andy,
You make the most interesting neighbors.