Since I embarked upon life abroad (and back), goodbyes, unfortunately have become a regular fixture in the landscape of my life. Them's just the squeaks, UGH. When I said my first goodbye to my family, friends, and all that I've ever known, it hadn't occurred to me that that would be the first in what now seems like a never ending series of goodbyes. Some three years after that first farewell, I found myself, 3 weeks ago, on the opposite end of a farewell phone call with someone I didn't even know existed, according to Facebook, until March 2012. A friend in my head and on my timeline for over a year, whom I didn't actually meet in the flesh until September of 2013, and now in present day I can't believe I lived a lifetime, or ate a fine meal without him. I'm talking about my one and only paramour in all things food, Sean.
How, exactly, does one eat goodbye? What, exactly, is a foodie paramour? Sean and I have discussed the latter question at length; we've conversed about food while eating everything from bacon macaroni & cheese and sliders, to uni and the last white truffles of the season. We've clinked countless cocktails in the best bar in Madrid (and others), explored as many desserts as our blood sugar could handle in one day, twice, and drank wine and judged others in the spirit of Mean Girls without being mean spirited, while being judged for being some of the youngest (and poorest) people in the room. From the streets of Madrid, to the seaside of Gijón, to a Michelin-starred restaurant in Asturias, and the urban sprawl of Los Angeles, Sean and I have explored our love of food, wine, and all things Spanish, in ways that have created some of my fondest memories of Spain and in life.
That's kind of a big f*cking deal.
Don't get me wrong. It's not that the adventures I've had with my friends (new and old), my sisters, my cousins, and even all on my own, aren't just as special to me as my memories with Sean. But what does make our time together different, is that our focus was always unanimously set upon what we were going to eat, our grandiose desires of where we would like to eat, our visions of spectacular dinner parties with elaborate menus, and (of course) our aspirations to do all of these eatings while dressed so fly that even the most pijo of old Spanish money would be compelled to grant us the courtesy of "usted" should they be able to pick their jaws up off the floor to speak the standard Spanish phrase of approval, "que guapos son".
It started off small... When Sean and I finally met in the real world within in my second week in Madrid, and sat down to American brunch complete with mimosas and gotdambed French toast, it was love at first bite. Then it grew... Thanks to his friendship with a local expat restaurateur, we were the first official customers at the soft opening of her new restaurant. Then it blossomed...
"I won a free weekend stay at a B&B in Asturias, and I'm taking you with me." -Sean. October, 2013.
While we lived just 6 blocks from each other, finding time to eat together was still a challenge, because life (and my 50 hour work week). But one late winter day, we had a Friday holiday with no travel plans, and decided to make a day of it. We took to the city on foot, and ate our way 'round the town. Our first stop was a century old bakery where we ate multiple Spanish pastries I never knew existed, with reckless abandon. We perused an uppity cheese shop and shamelessly smelled all the cheese, yet purchased nothing (no samples, no sale!). You haven't really experienced Madrid until you've eaten at the world famous Mercado San Miguel. After oohing and ogling the food oasis before us and a quick sherry tasting, we settled on a stall at which to eat. Like true Madrileños, we wedged ourselves into a corner at a high counter, where tradition and logistics dictate that you stand while stuffing your face with fried goodies like tortillitas de camarones and pimientos de padrón, before making our way to a dessert stall for more sugary pastries and café con leche. You haven't seen Madrid until you've stolen a view (to a kill). By stealing a view, I mean, walking into a hotel on Gran Vía like you belong there, stepping into the elevator, riding up to the roof top terrace, and marveling at beautiful silence of a forty-story view of one of the busiest streets in one of the most vibrant cities in the world.
There are vacations where you plan to see the sights, buy the goods, and eat well somewhere in between. Then there are vacations where you make reservations at three of the best restaurants in the autonomous region (state) weeks before your arrive, and the hardest choice you have to make is which of the three will make the cut for an epic Saturday night dining experience. In May of 2014, another three day weekend was upon us, and we packed up our fancy clothes and headed north to Gijón in the region of Asturias. Upon our arrival, we unloaded our bags at our gorgeous B&B, and promptly headed towards the city center for lunch. But we didn't even make it to the bus stop. On our walk through what seemed like the middle of nowhere, we came across a small restaurant that was bustling with locals. The obvious choice was to lunch there, and the obvious joke was that our otherness was even more conspicuous than in Madrid. As one fabulous, Nigerian-American Jersey girl, and one 6'3", Danish-American Los Angeleno, we turned a few heads in that entirely homogeneous room of Spaniards. But once we ordered several of the region's most traditional dishes like fabada and hake, our novelty seemed to dissipate, and everyone's attention, including ours, turned back to their plates. Our trip revolved entirely around where we would have our next meal, which sounds exceedingly greedy, but was a refreshing turn of course after my preceding trips which, while were amazing, were also at times stressful, as I scrambled to see at least half of it all and attempted to eat well along the way. My favorite part of this trip was our simple Spanish picnic of cheese, membrillo, chorizo, and wine, while sitting in the grass overlooking the Cantabrian Sea. The purest of joys are often the simplest.
After our perfect Saturday by the sea, we got ready for the highlight of the trip. Everything that there is to be said about getting all dressed up and having somewhere to go is true. Watching the fiery sunset from the balcony of your room, with one of your best friends, while dressed to the nines barely needs words. Stepping out of the cab in literally the middle of nowhere, and walking into the 1-Michelin starred Casa Gerardo can't be described by my words. What happened next was a turning point in our friendship: twenty courses, indulgence, apprehension, expedition, joy, laughter, and evolution.
"Did they bring us the whole bottle?!" -Me
"Sean, I'm food drunk." -Me
"OMG, my button popped!" -Sean
Then we were us, together, again.
Sean and I both made the difficult choice to leave Madrid and return to our respective homes in the summer of 2014. Eating our first goodbye on June 22nd, hit me harder than I was expecting. From our opposite coasts, Sean and I constantly waxed poetic about food, Spain, me coming to visit him in LA, etc. As fate favored us one day, a random re-assignment at work put me on the trail for dozens of flight itineraries. Naturally, I decided to add my personal itinerary to the search matrix, and before I knew what was happening, I was verifying dates with Sean on whatsapp, and buying my tickets to LAX for New Years with my foodie paramour. There's honestly too much to tell with words, I wouldn't even know where to start. Actually, I do: Sunshine and 60+ degrees in mothereffing January! In-N-Out. Watts Towers. Santa Monica. Pasadena. The TESLA! NYE at The Edison. Mariscos Jalisco. Venice Beach. Muscle Beach. The Venice Canals. Our mini Spain Reunion with our friend, Neil. Rodeo Drive. Our homemade Spanish dinner. La Guelaguetza. Grand Central Market. Another twenty course dinner at two-Michelin starred, Providence. The Speakeasy. The Hollywood Hills. So much food. Excessive booze. Laughter. Judgement. Jokes. Shade. Sequins. Happiness. Frands forever.
"I want my damn white truffle." -Sean
"I've never been called a vanilla bean before" -Guess who
"We might be horrible people, but we're better than them." -Us
"I'm 30 and I'm DRUNK!" -Yours truly
Me + Sean = Foodie Paramours
Eating goodbye is saying a goodbye that you both know won't stick. It's saying farewell, and not having any idea of when or where you'll see each other next, but knowing you will in fact be seeing each other. It's stalking discount fares and hoarding your PTO so you can pick up and go visit your other half when your soul tells you to. That, my friends, is how you eat goodbye. And I've eaten so many goodbyes, I've gained a solid ten pounds since I got back to the States. I've been told it looks good on me, so to all the friends who've contributed to my growth, I'm gonna gratefully roll with it. Three weeksago, Sean did what he vowed (and I still vow) to do. He left Los Angeles and returned back home to Spain. One day in the foreseeable future, I will do the same. We've eaten goodbye three times now, and we both know one day, and one day soon, we'll eat together again <3