Thursday, March 3, 2011

On (Not) Going to Restaurants

Somebody remarked some time ago that maybe Brooke would like to be going out more, for example, to restaurants.  We’ve liked going to restaurants in the past, though usually in other more elegant cities or in exotic foreign places.  We’ve always loved long, talkative meals, good food (at any social level, from street food to fancy establishments), and of course good company.

But we can’t realistically go to restaurants at the moment. Can you imagine not just the enormous gaze-attracting wheelchair rolling into a restaurant with someone who needs to be fed by hand, who may aspirate at any moment and require that the very noisy suction machine be turned on, who has to recline the wheelchair every twenty minutes, and for whom—let’s be realistic—the consternation of the maitre d’ not to mention the other diners would be enormous.  At the very least, we’d be seated in the back somewhere, out of the way, where we wouldn’t disturb anything.   We know this.  Brooke says he’s thought about it a hundred times.

But, fortunately, we can get restaurants to come to us.  Or better.  We can get takeout--for instance, from our local Thai place, pretty good, and there are plenty of others. 

We cook stuff at home:  Peggy operates the hands now, but Brooke is the director.  In all our lives together, Brooke’s been the principal cook.  A really pretty good cook.  Peggy’s been the sous-chef or maybe sometimes just the lucky person on whose plate this fabulous meal would appear.  Brooke cooked Italian food, wonderful pastas (though never French food--too hard to do right); he cooked Indian food; and he went through a several-year-long phase of cooking Chinese food: he started by following trustworthy recipes extremely assiduously, and then only after a couple of years of self-training did he begin to improvise in the matter of Chinese food.  Marvelous.  He knew what he was doing.  He cooked Mexican; he cooked risottos; he cooked pork loin in milk sauce from Marcella Hasan’s great Italian cookbook.

            But he can’t do the physical part of cooking now.  But the physical part isn’t the only part.  He can drive his wheelchair into the kitchen (that’s why we had it remodeled this way) and supervise while Peggy does the cooking.  Tonight, it’s scallops with pasta and a spinach-and mushroom sauté.  But it’s clear that this is going to be a long haul and that Brooke’s expertise is perhaps more needed than ever.  Fortunately, some of our twelve-person staff are pretty good cooks, and like to do it, so we eat well (and nutritiously) all the time.

            But that’s the home cooking.  Getting restaurants to make take-out stuff for you is one thing; having really wonderful cooking come to you is even better, better than even the best commercial establishments can do.  A couple of nights ago, for example, some Iranian friends brought Persian food (cooked by the husband, it’s important to note!)—spectacular food, something we’d never had before--and, recognizing that Brooke was having a bit of a hard time, they didn’t even stay to eat it with us, though we ate it later with enthusiasm.   Then the next night some friends brought German pork loin, the tenderest imaginable, and like the previous night also good company.  We’d had a delectable salmon a few nights before, with a truly amazing conversation.  It would be impossible to chronicle the remarkable meals people have brought over the last few years, both at South Davis and now at home, but even more impossible to chronicle what it’s like to have people do this for us. 

            It’s really about a new way of life.  Restaurants?  Who needs them.  We’re having better food and far deeper conversations, because it’s a private space without a lot of waiters bustling around and other diners gawking at you; we’re beginning to recognize it as a new stage in our social lives, the only thing that’s really possible right now.  We wouldn’t wish the reason for this on anyone, but now that Brooke is home and we’re discovering what’s possible (and what isn’t) in our so-called new lives, we want to recognize what’s good.   Dinners with friends (and family) are good, especially when they do the cooking.

            And if everybody else is phoning ahead for reservations and studying the menu and figuring out which wine to order while they talk about what a good restaurant they’re in, well, that’s okay with us.  We’re just not ready for that quite yet and may never need to be. 



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