Friday, February 18, 2011

Dining In Literature.

November 5th 2002, I remember bits and pieces of that day clearly.  It was an election day.  When I got my coffee that morning I stopped on the street to chit chat with a co-worker about voting.  I think that was back in the day when people had Obama signs for Senate in their lawn.  That afternoon I headed off to work at Trio in Evanston a bit early because my motorcycle had broken down on the way to work the day before and I was meeting with a tow truck.  I was waiting by my motorcycle eating a yogurt covered granola bar.  It was chilly.  I was tired.  A couple nights before I had gone to a post Halloween party with Michael Carlson from Schwa who worked with me at Trio at the time and a couple friends from work and I still really hadn't recovered yet.  The tow truck came and picked up the bike and I headed to work.  We really hadn't started to get too much into service that evening.  That was back in the day when Chef Achatz was just beginning, you know, I loved working with him so much because I loved the passion and creativity he applied to his work.  I think it was the first time I really worked with someone who was doing what they were absolutely destined to do.  He is and was very inspiring.  So anyways not too much later my manager came up to me and told me I had a phone call.  Immediately I knew something was wrong.  I didn't have a cell phone yet so of course they would call my work but my friends and family knew not to call me there unless it was an emergency.  Well it was, my oldest sister who was 39 at the time passed away.  I supposed I remember all those minute details of the day cause as time went on I tried to time what was happening with her that day as I was passing through mine and the actual not knowing that simultaneously someone I loved so much was transitioning.  It's eerie.  Well, at the time I had just changed majors in school from Chemical Engineering to Fiction Writing.  It was quite a change but I was unhappy with engineering and I think it was my time at Trio, seeing people do what they're meant to do which made me realize I should do something I believe in.  I always loved reading and writing and I actually got into Chemical Engineering from having read Jitterbug Perfume, a book my oldest sister lent me when I was 12.  Well, anyways, grief stricken I plowed into the writing.  As an assignment for class, I don't know what the assignment actually was but I know what I did...I turned the entire dinner scene in To The Lighthouse into play format.  My professor at the time loved it.  This was the beginning of dining in literature for me.  I've always loved writing and the restaurant industry but didn't see restaurant writing or criticism as an option for me considering I liked fiction.  And however it's tough to become a fiction novelist.  I tried a myriad of things after college to support myself while writing, from continuing to work front of the house positions at upscale restaurants like Alinea, etc, to even real estate. But I always ended up back in the restaurants, always having a dream of someday owning my own restaurant and being a writer.  I remember the day Henry Adaniya of Trio interviewed me.  He asked me why I was in this business of restaurants, 22 at the time, having been in restaurants since I was 15, a single young independent lady with a small voice probably sounded funny saying, I want to be a chef and writer and have a restaurant someday but I think that's what got me the job.  He had this knack of seeing the potential in people.  Anyways, I transitioned to the back of the house when I knew getting my novels published would still be ways away and I couldn't afford going to grad school to teach writing so that is when I began my business, One Sister.  The duality of the name: one based on sustainability-that I started a garden and wanted to incorporate everything I grew or foraged myself into my foods while also obtaining as much as possible locally and organically so that I could respect our earth as I think it respects us-call it hippie-ish or whatever (it's true).  And two: One Sister-for my sister, who beyond the grave has basically guided my life.  That's what sometimes grief does to us, makes us who we are.  And I just got into all that to explain a fun dining adventure I'd like to do beginning in May, after I take my week off of work, traveling and camping the woods for morels, is to have once a month a dinner that is extracted from a piece of literature.  So often I'm reading thinking, yummm, sounds delish!  Well.  It'll be an abstraction and sometimes a dead on recreation of the meal.  The first one will be To The Lighthouse since I'm so familiar.  It's a great meal and a fun location so I think I can do a lot with it and so on.  This is just for fun, no pretension, blah blah blah.  Hope to have some of you.


  1. I have two classes left to get my degree in Literature, (would have graduated this Spring, but had a baby instead, so either this summer or Fall). Anyway, this sounds great to me...

  2. So funny, jion! Yeah. This is going to be really fun. Its going to be once a month on a Sunday afternoon. Just a small gathering really, book club-ish. Very casual and relaxed. Just for fun, you know. I'd love some collaboration and suggestions on great meals in literature if you have any to add... And I really hope you can make one.