Monday, July 27, 2009

Noting a Life: Dinner Notebooks

When the group from First Congregational Church of Berkeley and I arrived in Spain from Morocco, our first stop was Marbella. I knew the name immediately from Chicken Marbella which is one of my favorite dishes, originally from the famous Silver Palate Cookbook. You’ll find the recipe below. But I had always called it Chicken Marbella—like Mar-bel-la. To my surprise the city’s name was pronounced Mar-bay-a. So now I know, Chicken Mar-bay-a.

We spent one night. I didn’t eat Chicken Marbella—in fact it wasn’t on the menu. But I can tell you exactly what I did eat at Bar California: salad with carrot, tunafish, tomatoes, iceberg lettuce, and onions and poured my own oil and vinegar. Then I had Shrimp Pil-Pil which is shrimp in boiling hot olive oil and garlic served in a small casserole. A Barbarillos (white?) and a Rioja (red) to drink. Then we went off to a bar and I ate Cuarent Tres, which means 43, almonds from Catalonia, and Poncho Cabineros, a spicy liquor, which I loved. Please correct my Spanish.

The reason that I know exactly what I ate is that since 2004 I have been writing down my dinners (and on trips all three meals) along with important information like where, with whom, what and the cookbooks I used, wine, etc. I put the information in little 4 x 6-inch notebooks which are easy to take along on a trip and to restaurants if I think a meal may be worth recording in detail.

At the end of each month, I put this information on a spreadsheet, clearly a throw-back to my 16 years as an administrator at Duke University. Then at the end of the year I tally it up. Here’s what it looked like the first year 2004 and the most recent year 2008: Cooked dinner for guests 46/38, Cooked dinner for myself or myself and Katherine 80/84, Ate leftovers 84.5/63, Take-out 0/4, Out at restaurants 50/57, Out at friends 23/17, Out shared (mostly holidays) 3/6, Catering 4/0, Traveling (mostly restaurants) 75/97. They each add up to 366; I don't know why. But close enough.

There is no real reason for recording my dinners in this way. I think originally it seemed like a fun project—and I love projects. I do occasionally go back, as I did above, and check out what I ate on a particular date, like Saturday, March 20, 2004.

Sometimes I think that I am providing a future graduate student with a masters thesis on what a white, middle-aged, middle class, woman ate between 2004 and whenever I decide to stop.

But mostly I like to keep track of my life. I call the bookshelf that holds all these notebooks and others you will hear about at another time Noting A Life.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

if only you represented the white middle class!