When I attend group events it reminds me why I avoid them. I would like to say it is because I fell judged or bullied and maybe once that was true. Over the years as I age and bitter, I realize it’s me. The awkward girl that rambles and says the wrong thing repeatedly and often, she is still there. She just realized it’s no longer her discomfort but your’s thats at risk here. I think it is a deadly combination of being Southern (so I am louder by nature) and my overactive brain that refuse to tell me where the off switch is located.
Put me in the Dollar Store in flour covered yoga pants and I am more comfortable than a PawPaw in a duck blind. Now, put me in a nice room with cocktails and mini appetizers, surrounded by well dressed people in slightly over priced shoes and I am lost. Polite, casual talk is not in my bag of tricks. When I try to small talk I feel like a coked up hamster stuck on a wheel with one leg awkwardly stuck between the spokes. I know they can see the situation and hear the gentle thumping as my leg bashes against the cage with every turn. As it gets worse I try to pretend its not happening by talking faster and then the wheel (my brain) goes completely berserk and spins off its axis. Which in reality looks like me abruptly shutting my mouth and turning on my heels, dragging my mangled limb and wheel behind me. Nothing left but a trail of blood and confused faces.
This is why I usually end up in the corner cutting up with servers and bartenders. I am pretty sure that is not what networking events are all about but most people leave with business cards and I leave with a purse full of napkin wrapped chicken and cheese. Who’s the winner I ask you?!
I missed that part in life that teaches the skill of polite conversation. I went straight from my very loud, very casual family, to teenage years on my own, to being a bawdy bartender. Almost every state of my life allowed me to avoid having to think about what I was saying or having discussions about the weather. Text messages - now that is my life line. All the snarky remarks and observations are immediately sent to my girlfriends back home and I am allowed to stand in my “no-no corner” not making everyone I encounter uncomfortable. I believe the way I think is mainly to blame. I can’t help it. I notice everything around me. The sounds, smells, people’s facial expressions, the way they stand, the way they talk. It is a gift and a curse. Things that most people don’t even notice I can’t stop seeing. Even conversations I want to listen to I have a hard time with in a crowded room. It goes something like this-
“Oh, you are trying to re-create old Germanic dishes, thats amazing” and I mean it - I do find that fascinating.As they try to tell me about their process I tell myself, “Focus Jolie, you want to know this.” Before I know it, I am looking past her to the table of cheese and the thoughts start flooding in.
“Look at all that cheese. I hope they don’t waste it. Can I ask for the leftovers? The girls love cheese. I hate that sauce but love those almonds. They look like decorations. Do you think they will notice if I just take a handful of almonds? You can’t just take almonds. Jolie, control yourself. These ladies are so nice. Do you think they are really that happy to be here or they just put on a good show for all the fancy folk asking them ridiculous questions about cheese? Why is that lady wearing heels with coveralls? Is that a new look? Why do people always end up in a tight bunch in the center of a large room? Is it some sort of herd mentality or does it make them feel more secure? Shit, she’s still talking and I missed it all. Something about Bratwurst? Damn it Jolie, you love sausage. Why can’t you focus for 10 minutes? Now you can’t ask her to repeat it your in too deep. I should walk away before I say something ridiculous.”
At this point I walk away leaving some poor unsuspecting soul in mid sentence talking to an empty space where I used to be. Now I have to avoid her because how do I explain that insane behavior?
I tried really hard at the Saveur awards. I really did. Of course, I did realize that my insane need to not accost people with my overbearing and abrasive personality now turned me into standing in a corner, looking like the teacher at recess, just waiting to reprimand the next kid that slipped up. I would venture to guess that isn’t the most approachable stance I could take. Even during the awards ceremony Lucius made fun of me. Throughout the night I managed to be friend the bartenders, cheese ladies, the band and a nice homeless man. He enjoyed pointing out that I had a longer conversation with the man asking me for food than any blogger in the room. First of all, if I am a “Food Blogger“ (oh there will be a whole post about why that is now in quotations) doesn’t it make sense I would want to feed people? Honestly, I have more in common with this hungry Southern gentleman than people who can make Instagram look like art. Maybe I should want to learn how to make my photos pop and how to make passive income. (Okay, I really should - this blog thing is a lot of work for no pay.) I can’t help it though. I really want to hear the stories from people. I want that boisterous laughter between tears. True conversation that leaves you feeling like you walk away really meeting someone and that maybe for just a few minutes you helped each other and left something that wasn’t there before. I think that is how we survive, showing our real selves. Letting people know they are not alone that we all have some humor with our sadness.
I always describe these situations with a quote from a friend who has passed on but to this day I will always remember him for this one line.
I asked Bucky once how he enjoyed living in Uptown New Orleans. I really wish I could write his voice because it was very distinctive so y’all just make a voice that you find endearing.
“So Bucky how do you like Uptown?”
“ It’s alright I guess, it’s cleaner and there is more stores.”
“What’s wrong then?”
“Well its like I am a squid in a fruit salad there.”
A “squid in a fruit salad” is the best description that has ever been uttered for someone in a place where they know they don’t belong and everyone else knows it too.
In the end we met a man from a large Italian family so I could finally let my Cajun out and be as loud and say all the ridiculous ramblings I had gathered over the days. That is when I realized you need to find you fellow squids. The next time you are in a large group of people, look for the tentacles peeking up over the grapes and mandarin wedges. Look for your fellow squids. There is bound to be another one out there.
So my fellow squids, if you see squirming in a fruit salad come and save me because if a pair of squids are in a fruit salad it may just start to look like they belong there.
*What does this have to do with this recipe. I met a man from a large Italian family which made me think about Italians in Louisiana. Which made me think of my bolognese I make with our ingredients and how the rural Italian population is not really recognized often. There was a large settling of Italians and Sicilians in Tangipahoa Parish and they represent a part of our Louisiana culture. I for one gladly celebrate them. The more loud, boisterous people obsessed with cooking we can get here the better!