Tuesday, October 14, 2008

cilantro and strawberries

Last night, I got off late from the clinic, past 10pm. I was craving fried chicken. This seemed to be an easy craving to satisfy, as there is a KFC, Church's Chicken, Long John Silvers, and Wendy's all in a little cluster right next to our clinic. Unfortunately, KFC already had their lights off, and I drove up to Church's and Long John's and discovered that they were closed also. Wendy's was probably still open, but I wanted real fried chicken still on the bone, and Wendy's doesn't sell that. Plus they just went up on the Frosty prices, and that ain't kosher.

Instead, I just drove home and decided that maybe I just wasn't supposed to have my fried chicken tonight after all. When I got home, I decided to fix myself a salad. From fried chicken, to a salad? But I was determined that it would be a good one. I started by boiling a few eggs, except that I dropped the first two eggs into the pot and they cracked, so I cooked them on the stove with some milk, cilantro, and havarti cheese and put that aside for breakfast the next day. I tore up some Romaine lettuce leaves that I had washed a couple of days prior. Since I already had the cilantro out for the eggs, I added that to my bowl of Romaine. I finally managed to boil an egg without breaking it first, so I added the egg slices. I pulled out my feta and discovered blue mold, tossed it in the trash, and added the havarti cheese instead. Searching my fridge for something else to add, I discovered strawberries I had brought to my friend's UT-OU game watching party, so I sliced up the biggest one and added it. Had I remembered that I had already added cilantro, I would not have added the strawberries, but at this point, I was just adding ingredients, and the cilantro was camouflaged against the lettuce. I picked a sweet poppyseed dressing to go with the strawberries.

Then, I sat down to eat my romaine-cilantro-egg-havarti-strawberry-poppyseed dressing salad. It was really tasty, in an odd way. The pleasantly pungent taste of cilantro was a sharp contrast to the sweet tartness of the strawberry, but the more I ate, the more I liked these strange taste combinations. Sweet and savory flavors entered my mouth, and managed to stay distinct from one another, and rarely have I had a mouthful like that. I finished the salad with taste buds and stomach satisfied.

In some ways I feel like my life, and especially my friendships, are like that quirky, eclectic little salad. I stay busy, and the things I do are connected to one another, but sometimes it all feels so randomly throw together, but in an unexpectedly tasty, glorious fashion. I work, I go to class, I study, I meet with professors, I see my clinic clients, I see my older clients in the nursing home, I test kids, I test adults, I score tests, I go to church, I go to comgroup, I hang out with church friends, I hang out with classmates, I hang out with my roommates, I go home, I go to weddings, I go to concerts, I do laundry, I ride my bike, I listen to music, I read books, I blog, I read webcomics, I drink coffee, I drink wine, I drink shakers, I eat ice cream, I eat salads, I play with my cat, and on and on and on. I feel a sort of rhythm in all of this, kind of a routine, but when I really look at it, there's nothing routine or ordinary about the things that I do.

There's even less of a routine to the people that I hang out with. I rarely know who I'll be spending the weekend with until it's upon me. This past weekend, I ate Puerto Rican food and drank wine at a dinner party some 3rd year School Psychology students hosted, ate a muffin and drank coffee with some women from my church comgroup, ate homemade ribs and drank beer at a UT-OU party hosted by a 1st year in my program and her family, went a wedding of a friend from church and ate with mothers from my previous comgroup and danced with my church friends, most of them single girls my age, but also my worship pastor and his wife danced with us, then went with my roommate and her boyfriend to the home of someone in their comgroup to play Settlers of Catan. Cilantro. Boiled egg. Havarti. Strawberry.

I know many people, and I have many friends or acquaintances, but I don't really have a set, standard group of friends, and not many close, deep friendships. One night, while eating Chipotle with some of the biker crowd from my church (ie one girl and one guy have dreadlocks), most of whom I'd never hung out with before and several of them I'd just met that night, my friend Nathan turned to me, "You're such a gangster." "What?" "I mean, I've been at this church for 5 years, and you know just about as many people as I do." "Oh, ok, cool. I really like meeting people!" And in that way, I guess I am gangster. I am known by many and can easily move among social groups and do fine with almost any group of people.

But I really crave that fried chicken. Those close Christian female friendships that look like my friendships with my TCU friends. That great boyfriend who maybe someday possibly could become a husband. Good, savory, deep, satisfying relationships. Instead, I've been given some different ingredients. A close classmate who, aside from our religious differences, is remarkably similar to me. Other classmates who like to have fun and study and work on projects together. Their friends from back home, their families, their boyfriends. Students from other program in our department. Church friends, young married couples and singles all my age, younger college girls, grad students, families, women slightly older than me who I see as mentors. Roommates who are full of life and energy and in spite of the fact that I still feel a bit like an outsider around them, I benefit tremendously from their presence, and I hope that they benefit from mine. My roommate's boyfriends. Close friends from back home who I still talk to on the phone and visit when I go home. Friends living in other states that I talk to. Friends living in other countries that I blog, chat, and email with. Coffee shop employees. My family.

I still crave the chicken, but more and more, I'm finding satisfaction with the ingredients that I have been given. Maybe not as much by themselves, but tossed together, these relationships are surprisingly delicious and fulfilling. Even cilantro and strawberries.


The Pensive Poet said...

Great metaphor! Life will never give you fried chicken all the time. You can either sit around and cry about it, or create something different than you first imagined, but perhaps just as good. Looks like you're doing the latter well! : )

Ben said...

I would totally eat that salad. Man, what if you put strips of fried chicken breast on top of it? Om nom nom.

Don't mind me. I just had a danish for breakfast and I'm kind of craving something savory to balance out the sweetness.

It is a lovely little parable, though. My group of contacts - nice German church people and American/Canadian missionaries - seems a little overly homogeneous in comparison, but then I factor in Miro the Bulgarian Law Professor, Mildly Retarded Lars, my CELTA pals... you know, there's more than a little unexpected cilantro over here, too.

Now if only they'd put some cilantro in the daggum Mexican food...

heather hub said...

hey kelly! so every time i see your blog comments i think, oh i need to subscribe to her blog and start reading...but then i forget. so now i'm finally reading your stuff. this post is particularly awesome! not only the subject matter, but the way you presented it. very enjoyable. and yeah, i'd totally eat that salad.

Cara said...

This is great, Kelly. I'm still praying for the fried chicken for you, but it makes me so happy to know that you're finding satisfaction with that weird salad that you've been given.

Now I'm hungry...