“I made Coneys last night,” CJ announced over dinner.
CJ, her friend Bill and I were sitting down to family dinner. I’ve been coming home for dinner, lately. Back to my apartment to meet friends. We’ve been cooking and drinking wine, and maybe bringing a little work home, in efforts to be more communal and frugal, and to maybe even re-center a little.
“What on earth are coneys?” Bill and I both asked in unison.
“Sloppy joes,” I said, mouth full of the pork loin I’d contributed to the dinner, “Are like the ill-begotten love child of chili and barbeque sauce.”
“It’s like ketchup and chili had a drunken one night stand,” Bill continued.
“It’s more like the mutuant by-product of a wild condiment orgy,” I said, waving my fork.
CJ looked on in horror. “Chili is not a condiment,” she countered, indignantly.
“In some circles, it is,” I muttered under my breath, “Anyway, sloppy joes are really horrible,” I continued.
“I like them,” she said, “And I made them with ground turkey.”
“Oh, so they were healthier,” Bill said, re-setting the conversation to one about food instead of condiment orgies. He’s a nice boy, from rural New Jersey. He grew up fishing and living on a lake, and doing all those normal things to which I absolutely cannot relate. He talks about his completely un-messed-up childhood and I blink blankly as if to wait for the punch line. As if seeing someone in the wild who is not in desperate need of therapy is a rare and precious thing, indeed.
CJ and I have finally met someone who can sit at the table with us and actually live up to the claim of being the most normal person in the room.
CJ, for her part, used to make that claim of being the most “normal” of our friends. But the girl has an uncle whose Christian name is Fudd, with a glass eye.
And that’s just the beginning.
“Yes,” CJ said, “Ground turkey. Instead of beef. They were super healthy.”
“What else do you make them with? What do you make that sauce with?” I asked, politely.
“Ketchup and sugar.”
“Nothing about that sounds appetizing except for the ground turkey,” I smiled.
She laughed at me. “I know. I know you would have hated them.”
We laughed, the three of us, sitting around our meal of pork loin and salad and mashed potatoes.
The potatoes, of course, were Bill’s contribution. He had, for a previous dinner, promised to make us his Special Butternut Squash Soup, but instead we’d had Bill Showed Up Without a Squash Arroz con Pollo made by me. Last night we had Bill’s Special How Many Goddamned Pots and Pans Does it Take One Man to Make Mashed Potatoes Mashed Potatoes.
Regardless, they were excellent.
I’m learning, little by little, and without always being fully conscious of it, to let other people into my life without feeling smothered. To eat around a table and talk about my marriage and my budget without breaking out into a cold sweat. To take the best, to leave the rest; to know that people will forgive me and allow me to have my lingering weird food moments.
To accept support and help and forgiveness and to remember that I, we are not in this alone.
Except for where sloppy joes are concerned. CJ is absolutely flying solo if she wants to whip up another batch of those monsters.