Meeting and spending time with people for about 40 hours, and knowing them better than 99% of the people that you spend 40 hours a week with for a year and a half, is a disarming phenomenon. I have talked to these new acquaintances more than people parked ten feet away from me. They know my thoughts, motivations and personality almost as well as my cats do. What they learned this morning, on the fast track to bffdom, was my love of baking.
No, I didn't bring along my flour, baking soda, raw eggs and Ina-approved "good" vanilla. I brought a box of frozen Whole Foods scones, my biggest splurge at the store (aside from the $15 steak, $7 of which was leftover and is certainly now rotting in our fridge). I stuck them in the oven on my griddle-slick stone, and the aroma was utterly seductive. Buttery, sweet, crisping at the edges and bubbling in the center. My muscles and bones and follicles were screaming at me to come back to bed, but the personification of morning kicked me back out.
Paired with a ragtag salad of collective berries and bananas, it was the best breakfast in recent memory. It actually tasted homemade, and definitely the closest you're going to get to it on a ten-day residency in a dorm room. If only I'd had an oven in Elizabeth Hall... well, maybe things would have turned out differently. But what fun would that be?
On the whole "academia" front, today was a bit bumpier than yesterday's euphoria. It was our first residency workshop, my first workshop of this experience, and I was on the chopping block first. The result? A lot of things I knew but hoped weren't true, which basically means that if I'm going to write this book, I have to do it differently. And that is hard to hear. Yes, it's what you need to hear. We shouldn't be here to be coddled, blah blah blah. But I'm not great with criticism, even the genuinely friendly/constructive kind.
So when my roommates wanted to go out for dinner, I didn't protest too much. I needed to unwind, and a good release of laughter. We started for Maggie's Buns to quell widespread coffee cravings, but finding the place closed, we had to search the limited streets of Forest Grove for alternatives.
At that moment, pivoting around the corners, a sign caught my eye. "What about that place?" I said, pointing across the corner. "They have Coffee and Cake. Cake," I reiterated, in case anyone was unclear. As we drew closer, the words Middle Eastern Cuisine appeared on the window. God damn it. Now I'll never be able to eat that frozen food. Just like Aladdin's at Concordia, a jewel of the east has crept across campus.
We were ushered into an oasis of dark woods, sumptuous reds, minimal lighting and exotic condiment bowls. Have you ever thought of franchising into Hubbard? The menu was particularly interesting; it was peppered with German influences, including Schnitzel Shwarma. Our waiter's accent was tinted with German, so there's definitely some notes of fusion going on here.
We started off with drinks and the obligatory hummus platter. I've never had mint tea before (can't tell you why, because there is no reason), and I was instantly enchanted. With the rabid mint plant in the front yard that survived the frigid winter and angsty spring, I'll have to bring this simple delight home. The silky-smooth, velvety hummus was served with unique accompaniments including a cabbage salad, a corn relish, a spiced carrot salad (delicious) and, the very best part, a spicy herb condiment. Marbled into the homemade hummus on oven-fresh pita bread, the peppers and cilantro were a match made in heaven.
Back on campus: lively readings and loving book signs from Bonnie Jo Campbell and Pete Fromm. Tomorrow, we move on to someone else's piece (thank god!!) and take a trip to a local winery. Now, I'm going to try and reward my body with a smidge of sleep.