The Last Meal

Life is about to change – in a big, big way.

There is a little narrator inside my brain…and I don’t mean the one who forms the constellation of my day-to-day thoughts. That one knows all of my secrets and feels like an intimate friend. She can be pretty chatty, but I like her a lot.

This voice is more detached. It must come from inside one of those big black holes. She’s pretty quiet most of the time, but when she does speak…she knows how to make a big bang.

Her voice states the obvious a nanosecond after the fact, and somehow makes the present feel infinitely more real. Her voice often makes me feel like I’ve just had a cold bucket of water poured over my head. You see, there’s a reason why we aren’t close.

Her voice sounds like a friend of a friend I’ve only met a few times. It was her voice I heard when I opened the [alarmingly small] envelope that contained my college acceptance letter, not all that long ago. It was her voice I heard this past April when I found out I’d been hired as a 2013-2014 teaching assistant in France. And it was her voice I heard a few days ago, when my inbox pinged with an e-mail from an editor at Food52.

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Backdrop to this story: I’ve spent this last year sending various versions of resumes and cover letters off into the ether. I can count on one hand the number of times I got a response, and it was always of the thanks-but-no-thanks variety. It got to the point where I started to wear my failure – you could see it in the corners of my eyes, in the slump of my shoulders, in the curve of my back. I wore it everywhere, even to bed. The bed in question was the hand-me-down queen-size from my childhood bedroom, which was hauled up to Maine when we left Boston behind. It was also the bed where I was doomed to sleep forever.

I knew I had the upcoming opportunity in France as a cushion, but I felt like a total fraud. I didn’t really want to teach English to a room full of French kids; I wanted to figure out how to make an authentic cassoulet in an oven that more closely resembled a toaster oven. I wanted to buy as many ingredients as I could from a nearby market and bake it in a beautiful dish and take pictures of it and tell a story about it. I wanted to write, and I wanted to write about food.

Re-enter the game changing e-mail, which came exactly one year to the day since I graduated. The bulletin: an immediate and unlisted opening for a summer-internship-and-then-we’ll-see in New York City at Food52. Would I be interested in meeting the team and hearing more about their latest project?

My gut did all of the speaking this time. The next day, I watched old old ex-boyfriends’ neighborhoods go by from a train track snaking through fewer and fewer trees.

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Post-interview 24 hours later, I stood in total shade on a street sandwiched between two buildings so tall that the sunlight couldn’t reach the ground. Life as you know it is about to change.

And it is! I’ll be starting at Food52 as soon as I can find the walk-in closet of my dreams, in a neighborhood that probably won’t be deemed desirable even in its best light. I’m so excited I can hardly sleep.

I’m nervous, too. This isn’t just going to be a financial risk for me. I’ll be striking out on my own for the first time – without a boyfriend or a brother to hold my hand [or to show me how to sidestep a mountain of trash to hail a cab]. I’m going to do it in NYC…a really, really big step for a girl who considered college in upstate New York to be something of a stretch. I found my short stay in downtown Manhattan as exhausting as it was invigorating. Still, there’s no denying it: I was completely dazzled, and often surprisingly charmed.

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I know this adjustment period is going to wreak havoc on my diet and my exercise routine, at least in the beginning, and this makes me more nervous than I can tell you. I know that I probably won’t be able to ramble on here as often either, and I’m really bummed about that.

But for now, I’ll leave you with the last meal that I ate before my immediate future did a 180:

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You have from now until the next time you hear from me to make these spicy fish tacos. The recipe comes from Cooking Light. I didn’t change much, although I did use haddock instead of tilapia and I did add grilled peppers and onions to each tortilla before serving. And oh – the shredded purple cabbage may have been a slight deviation too. Deviations from the plan are good.

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