The purpose of the question was to get ideas for appetizers that K could cook in the future. But in order to answer it, we had to recall each and every time we got together to eat (which is, of course, each and every time we got together.) What then followed was a trip down memory lane that no one could have predicted would launch a roller coaster of emotions and essentially serve as a summary of four years of friendship.
It’s because we started with paella. Not a dish one would ordinarily make for a Saturday afternoon with friends, I don’t think. And the activity itself, in my experience, is not a usual Saturday-afternoon-with-friends kind of activity. I mean, shouldn’t we have gone to the mall or to the pub or to a bowling alley? We could’ve gone anywhere and done anything, but instead we chose to hang around in one of our kitchens with one of us attempting to cook a dish he’d never cooked before, and the rest of us playing food critics.
I’d invited many of my friends over to my house before that day, but it was the first time any of them ever stepped foot in our kitchen, let alone actually cook there, or… hang out. I think it set a strange precedent for all our future get-togethers. It didn’t help that the paella was such a success that afterwards, nothing but the dishes K cooked for us was ever good enough.
More or less.
I mean, of course we ate at restaurants and bought food from different establishments occasionally, but for the most part, all our events revolved around the food we were going to eat. We chose resorts we went to in the summer based on the kitchens they had and how close they were to the market. We met up at grocery stores and sent text messages about the number of eggs we had in our refrigerators. We scheduled dinners really late to allot at least 2 hours for food preparation. And we hung out in the different parts of my house, practically according to a food-related schedule–we’d start in the kitchen where K would be cooking, then we’d transfer to the dining room where we’d be eating, then the living room where we’d be consuming the rest of the alcohol, and then from time to time, we’d be at the porch, where most everyone would step out to smoke.
By the time our review finally reached January 2016, we had reminisced about four years of dishes, drinks, and events that made us feel happy, satisfied, full, and occasionally wanting. We were all somewhat incredulous that it had been several years since that day when we magically convinced K to cook us paella, a difficult dish he’d never cooked before, and then somehow, even more magically, convinced him to cook us, basically the rest of our meals afterwards.
“What are we going to eat now?” I asked. Because by the way, the reason we were even talking about these things was because in a week, K would be moving back to his hometown, essentially leaving myself alone in the company we all used to work in.
“You’ll figure something out,” K answered, although none of us were completely convinced.
I am quite sure that we will figure something out. But things will never be the same. Not that it’s only K’s departure that changes things. But considering how much most of the things we did revolved around the dishes he would cook, his disappearance from our everyday lives will certainly make a huge impact on our next activities, if there even are going to be next activities. With only myself left in the place where we all met and used to work and all the boys living in cities you have to take a plane to get to from Manila, I’m sure finding a time and a place where we can all meet again will be everything but easy.
Perhaps the universe thought we’d had it too comfortable too long and this is its way of forcing us to exit our comfort zones and make something more of ourselves. Am I supposed to read recipes and spend time on my own in our kitchen now?
(left to right; top to bottom)
Paella valenciana and butter cake with fruit toppings for M’s despedida
Creamy garlic potatoes, steak with mushrooms and asparagus, New Zealand cheese and crackers for my Welcome Home from NZ dinner
Bacon and cheese macaroni salad, liempo, stuffed chicken and creamy garlic potatoes (Take 2!) for K’s despedida
Salad with some kind of meat, poached eggs, vinaigrette dresssing and pepper for a Saturday evening
Fish and chips, roast chicken and rice for my birthday
Couscous with lamb, zucchini, carrots, apricots and pork for R’s birthday