Mallory posted a great blog on Facebook today,
I'm reposting it
as inspiration.I'm going to just number the things I'm thankful for in the essay below:
One of the joys of a small town is cheap food. (1)Which means Mexican meals are a great date: chips, authentic cilantro salsa (2), tostadas, negro modelo and a (3) dirt cheap glass of wine can be under fifteen bucks for my husband and me. We can't eat that cheap at Panera or Moes. So, date night is often grocery shopping and dinner at Rancho Bravo, which means I practice Spanish with the waiters (4), who grin at my silly accent. Music in the background is crapshoot of anything from Juarez, though the assistant manager of the restaurant has played black metal in local bands. My uncle called it a dive once, and when the restaurant first opened, folks loved to talk about the health department dropping in. In truth, I don't read the reports. I don't eat the meat, and I don't think it is any more a dive than the Noble Romans that used to be there.
We go there because it employs people who are still pariahs in some areas of this town. The owner Martin Bravo works hard, he comes by our table every time (5). I like this about small towns. The owners work at their businesses and give a darn if it's working (6).
"Bien?" He always asks. He holds his thumbs up. His kids were my students years ago. Smart as whips and good, but they hated homework. I hated calling Mr. Bravo and in stumbling Spanish, having to say, "Martin Jr. and Polly, they have deeper ideas than most of my students, but they don't write anything down and turn it in. I'm the Language Arts teacher. I have to assess that." Martin and Polly turned out great. They are the nicest young adults, they go to college, they manage the joint with the rest of the family too. The place is an exemplar of good business. It employs a cadre of workers who learn English on the job(7), while I learn Spanish from them. I like getting to know them.
Occasionally, we go somewhere else for dinner. There isn't much here for dedicated vegetarians. The favorite place is The Beef House. Even the less gratuitously titled have everything flavored with meat. I order a salad, Gluten and Cheese Free. I forget to say hold the bacon bits.
"Oh, um..." I say to the receding back of a waiter. So I stick to the few, the proud, the bean and rice based. Chinese takeout is good. Or, nowadays knock-off sushi at the China Garden. I love me some sushi (8), but this isn't the highest of the art. It'll do in a pinch, like when I don't feel like rolling at home, when I've run out of Nori, or because I need a dinner looking into my husband's eyes and not being interrupted by my wonderful but chatty eleven-year old.
We started our date from a difficult spot. My son traded some used books for poster for a violent video game, which he tacked it on his door. I reacted like I had a mouth rash, spewing about finding the middle ground between boyhood love of backyard violence and our cultural veneration, if not adoration of it. It's been a week of gun control WASPishness and, folks unfriending each other. I was feeling a bit sensitive.
"Do you think we're feeling touchy because we Americans know something went wrong? We know have to tighten our belts?" asked my husband.
Confucius says, He who will not economize must agonize. Maybe we are meaner these days while we learn to economize. Maybe a lot of us all took out too much: too much restaurant, too many five dollar coffees, too much credit. Now we are learning, one belt loop at a time, to suck it up and in.
Our waitress came to the table. She had long brown bangs like me, self-cut. Dark hair. She looked younger than me, and people say I look young. She took our order- two harvest vegetable rolls, without cream cheese. One roll of sweet potato and one spicy sauce, asparagus and cream cheese roll. Miso soup, extra spicy mayo, extra siracha and chili oil. She carded us for the drinks. She noticed I'm a mere year older than her.
In a few minutes, she delivered syrupy plum wine for my husband, my sake, warmed to the heat of my thumb, two waters and thankfully she omitted the ice as requested. Sake should only be heated, I read recently, if the sake is older, or cheaper. All sake in Indiana is cheap or old. Soon she brought me miso soup, the kind I buy in a packet from Walmart and reconstitute in a hotel room on a business trip.
"The chef ran to the store to get some avocados." She explained, sliding the soup in front of me. Did we want anything while we waited? This meant he ran to the tienda across the street.
"We're fine." Eating out is a budget thing. I didn't want to order more.
We talked about our friends, the Fowlers, starting a CSA on their land. He works for a local organic meat plant owned by folks we know. We led youth group with them, over a dozen years ago. The Fowlers, like us, are admirers of Wendell Berry. We bought goods from John, former CSA farmer turned Holy Cross Seminarian (9). We all stick together with a kind of economizing ethos. Around here, people try to grow and put up some of their own fruits and veggies. Knowing the soil and source of food makes it taste better (10). We are country and city chicken farmers (11). Eggs from hens who eat scraps, not ruminate, taste better. We like to make our own laundry soap. Most of them prefer the local meat. They would rather eat less meat, raised to be better and tastier and supporting local workers, than eat all the burgers they want.
We talked about ways to buy an extra part of share so we can donate for the hungry around town. There are hungry and homeless people here. Stand near the rail tracks, and men or young boys and girls, are walking along, finding their way out of secret sleeping places. They need food.
Our sushi was so-so but the sake, the plum wine, the kind waitress, and all the depths of my husband's craggy face washed off my grousy-ness (12). I love an evening like that.
I love being around people who pick an area- goat dairy, horse refuge, CSA's, bee-raising, church gardening, knitting caps and socks for kids in other countries, driving vets to the hospital, volunteering at the animal shelter or the women's resource center, turning coffee hour into feed the neighbors time, gathering groceries for FISH or the men's homeless shelter, or working for places that don't open on Sunday. This is what I'm thankful for. People who brew Kombucha. Ladies who sew my husband's vestments. Guys who call their guitars "axes" and "weapons" and play God's music. I think that cover 13+.