The Spice in the Sauce
I traveled alone to a place that oozes another time. Wet cotton on the river front prevented Sherman from burning it to the ground, reclaimed architectural ladies with rounded, ghost preventing porticos loom over orderly French squares and giant, ancient oaks drip with moss. Dawn of the Dead helped me discover a cemetery with old and new Savannans, including confederate soldiers permanently facing South, Savannah’s favorite son singing Jeepers Creepers from six feet under and a place where the doomed celebratory lyric of plantation party goers still lingers two hundred years later. My guide told me that even a house consuming fire did not (and does not) stop the party in Savannah! A friend, whom I am convinced I met because the universe is aligned in ways unexplainable, for a short time, so many years ago, was there too, for his son and a celebration. A celebration, a friendship and an adventure that provoked a Monday morning text reminding me the right spice makes life’s sauce very tasty.
Last night we got religious. The conversation was loud at times, we didn’t agree, it became very personal and we could have probably talked for hours, but didn’t. Matzo and charoset, dates and grapes, bottles of red and white were on the table, in a nod to Passover. The group was only half, the living room cozy and personalities and opinions alive. Our conversation traveled to Amsterdam, the Middle East, Nazi Germany, Italy, visited St. Joan, St. John, St. Thomas, mulled divorce, annulment, men and women. It was personal and not protected and took on a more serious air, mostly due to the subject of our book but also because of our lives right now. As it always happens these nights, we move from the book, into life, to catch up and because our time and frequency is limited, the catch up is about the big things. Love, kids, work, the highlights, and low ones, the biggies that keep us connected. These women are The Swillers and technically we are a book club but really we are members of a life club.
They came to me in brightly colored cellophane bags and don’t resemble prawns at all, though that is what the squiggles on the package say they are. They actually look like sawdust but with a potent smell that gives away their true selves. They are new to me, from a friend I know on Facebook, who, like me, shares a continuous commentary of her life, in that very public space. I don’t really know her in person, though that doesn’t limit our engagement. Because of Facebook, she knows I cook, she knows I explore, I know a lot about her and she of me. She also knows the surplus of shrimp sawdust seemed like something I would play with in my kitchen, something I probably hadn’t played with before. Carrots, lime, cilantro, chili, salty roasted peanuts, fish sauce, fried shallots and the shrimp dust merged in my striped ceramic bowl to create something I can imagine eating on the street in Mandalay and the book she sent to accompany the shrimp cements the fact that I will gladly be visiting Burma again. A joyous afternoon in my kitchen because of a very personal Facebook friendship. That may sound like an odd thing to say, though I am pretty sure that without that connection those dried shrimp would have never found their way to my kitchen.