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Sunday Night

Posted by Cecilia Leger on 8:09 AM
I had the pan-seared, almond crusted salmon, presented prettily on a bed of rice and sautéed vegetables, zucchini and broccoli mostly. The chef had not overcooked the vegetables, as so many places do, and they still held their shape and crispness—this alone made me overlook the fact that they were a bit salty. The almonds made the salmon crunchy on the outside, but the inside was flaky and well done. The whole thing was drizzled with a decadent blueberry sauce (yes, blueberry), a surprising complement to the other flavors.

The meal was remarkable not just because I was eating seafood.

I remember once when I watched a friend prepare the coffee he’d ordered after our meal. Into the steaming cup went the contents of about 20 little containers of cream and an equal amount of packets of sugar. After watching him prepare this concoction I asked him if he’d ever considered that maybe he didn’t really like the taste of coffee.

So this is my problem with seafood: it tastes like fish.

Balanced with the sweet blueberry sauce and the tangy vegetables, this particular salmon was actually just “fishy” enough. Which was pleasant, but not remarkable.

What makes this meal noteworthy is that it is the first time I have ever enjoyed eating out alone. I’m not sure when or how the transformation took place since I’m pretty sure this was no gradual thing. The last time I had to eat in public solitude I’d been too uncomfortable to enjoy the food, and I’d sought safety behind the pages of a novel I’d bought for just such a cowardly act. I had not anticipated that this time would be any different, so I had come prepared with my book in tow. A sturdy hardback nearly 500 pages strong to shield me from curious onlookers and my own fearfulness.

I didn’t give myself any sort of pep talk before going into the restaurant; but I did begin to grow suspicious when the usual nervous butterflies didn’t follow me to the table the hostess led me to. Per my usual ritual I opened the book almost immediately after being seated. However, when the waitress came to take the order for my drink, I found myself looking around in interest instead of rushing back to the shelter of the written word.

The Chili Pepper is not a restaurant that is going to wind up on the pages of The New York Times food section. The bar was five steps from the front door and the dining room consisted of no more than small 15 tables (some of them pushed together). The walls had murals painted with bright colors depicting scenes of some decorator’s idea of the idyllic Mexican countryside and people.

I returned to my book out of a genuine desire to deepen the relationship I’d started with the author. When the food came, I politely asked P. W. Singer to wait while I ate…no, actually, savored the fare that the waitress had brought. I can’t say that I thought about anything in particular, just the same sort of stream of consciousness prattle that’s usually in my head and amusement over my newfound confidence.

I know this doesn’t sound like much, but there’s a whole new set of experiences that awaits me now that I find I can enjoy a meal alone. The jazz café on the top floor of the Kennedy Center and the mystery dinner theatre where guests can help solve the murder, these are now open to me!

I told Frank all about it when I got in the car on the way back to my hotel. But he was too busy singing about asking Joe for “one [drink] for my baby and one more for the road” to pay much attention to me.

That’s why I’m telling you.


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