A belly full of humble pie

Albert Einstein once theorized that “the only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once”. Perhaps that's true – who am I to argue with so-called genius – but that hypothesis insists on time as linear. And on Saturday night, as I pulled up my stockings and braved the freezing-cold weather in a wool pencil skirt for a dear friend's fiftieth birthday celebration, time did anything but stand still.
"This seat is so cold my thighs might fall off," I whined as I scooted into the front seat of the car.
"That's what sucks about being a lady," the Bostonian answers.
"No, that's what sucks about being a man. If my legs fall off, you're carrying me. Or he’s carrying me,” I said, glancing over at my uncle, grinning wide.
Arriving at the house, I’m greeted first and foremost, as always, by a big, slobbery Golden Retriever who kisses my face excitedly and never lets me go without a fight. “Is that Sarah?” I hear, faintly, from upstairs. I hand R. his birthday present – a bottle of unwrapped vodka – and soon enough we are sipping cocktails, the Golden Retriever resting at my feet.

Over a wooden platter of aged white cheddar and St. André and a couple signature caramel apple martinis, I meet Olive. She's well-dressed in her high-collared white shirt and elegant necklace, her hair cropped perfectly around her dainty ears. I learn that she’s from England, has never married and faithfully, unfailingly, mails birthday cards to friends and family every year. She was so distressed to find the post office closed this year while in Florida; instead, she has brought his card to him in person.
I meet the Bostonian, my uncle's friend whom he met while on vacation, who tells me I must visit Provincetown; his arguments -- bargain outlet shopping, fabulous seafood and fine New England scenery – have me convinced. And then there is R.'s business partner, a lovely lady decked out in a shiny, sequin-studded cardigan with an affinity for Apple products; R.'s sweet mother; and his step-father, who enjoys discussing Two and a Half Men and mortgage rates. There is more kick to this group than a package of cinnamon hearts.

I must have been around twenty when R. and I first met, which, as they say, feels like a million years ago. My family spent Thanksgiving weekend in Toronto, back when my uncle lived with a ridiculously impractical set-up. The kitchen was on the second floor and the dining area was on the third or fourth, I can't remember, and we each brought platters of food up. It was your typical fare: turkey, broccoli, squash, corn, stuffing. And then Robin set bowls down in front of us of bright, silky carrot soup, garnished with a modest swirl of sour cream and a snipping of fresh dill. I think we listened to jazz.

Though I generally try to contain it in name of the big Debbie Downer, social propriety, my sassy self emerged one late summer night. I credit my feisty spirit to my great-aunt Louise, my namesake, who, legend has it, was an indominatable spitfire up until the day she died.
As R. prepped the BBQ and began to grill the steaks, I loudly piped up, "Are you going to ask us how we would like our steaks cooked or are you going to cook them all to the same doneness?" That's not what I’d wanted to say at all. Immediately I turned beat red and tried to re-trace my steps to no avail. But to my surprise he laughed, and then I laughed, and we finished our gin martinis in jovial spirits. I like to think of that occasion as one of those tremendous growth opportunities – one where everyone eats steak and I dig my fork into yet another piece of humble pie.

Once when I was up at my uncle's cottage, we were both up obscenely early. I prefer to rise early when I’m there anyway to take advantage of the day, but I couldn’t sleep this time. I read on the pull-out couch as the sun rose, sipped a cup of very strong coffee. He came over and handed his MP3 player. I listened ironically to Adele's "Turning Tables," ironic only because collectively we’ve spent far too many years working in the hospitality industry. And between caramel apple martinis and dirty gin martinis and various other concoctions, he helped me – albeit unconsciously, I’m sure – to make sense of myself that summer when I couldn't make sense of myself; through my uncle's guidance and R.’s compassion, I dug out a place for myself in this city.

As I stood there among a hundred guests -- Olive, his mother, his step-father, my uncle, the Bostonian, family friends -- to celebrate his life of achievements – from a hockey player with wacky hair to a self-made Broadway star to a successful professional, I smiled. All of the hours collided in that moment, a merger between the past and the present and bits of the future. And when he came over to our group, I looked at him and said in my favourite of tones, "It took you long enough."

Find the recipe for Roasted Carrot Soup over here at Food52.


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