You'll have to get used to giving everything away: your food, your wine, your time, and your love. Your friends will come over. They'll mill around. They'll bring wine, maybe. They'll stand there waiting. They'll feel anxious. You'll feel anxious. Put out some strawberry avocado salsa.
Give your friends small tasks to perform.
Say to your friends: Fold this napkin exactly like this; pinch this string bean exactly like this; good, now pinch every string bean exactly like that.
Don't be so anal-retentive.
Never, for example, use the word "exactly".
Your friends will get nervous. String beans are a casual affair, after all, and so is your little get-together. On the other hand, positively do not let your friend fuck up your string beans. Choose the right friend for this task. The best is your Mom. If she's not around, try Henry.
Let your other friends perform small tasks. Sure, Cogan's terrible at string beans, but he's a master conversationalist. He's an epic wine-drinker too. Put him on the couch. Set a bottle of wine and two glasses in front of him. He'll fill the first glass. Soon Someone Else will come along. Surely Someone Else will sit down and fill the second glass. The two will get along marvelously, Cogan and this Someone Else. Someday, maybe, they'll get married, and have a beautiful baby girl. They'll always remember that one time, your little get-together, when they met on the couch, over a bottle of wine. To thank you for this memory they'll name the baby girl after you.
They'll say: I'd like you to meet our new baby girl, Seth.
By the way, if you expect this sort of honor, you're going at it all wrong. This night is not about you and your weird, fanatical obsession with having your friends name their babies after you. This night is about your friends. So when you sit down to eat, and everyone's still a little anxious, and that initial great, quiet hum of people eating joyfully is finally interrupted by Jackson, who, it just so happens, loves the string beans, you'll know exactly what to say.
Oh, you'll say, Henry made the string beans.
And everyone will applaud.
But what if the string beans, actually, suck?
Oh, you'll say, My bad.
Next time, you'll do better.
And then give Henry a wink. Make it so the wink says: Good job, man. They'll never know we actually wanted the string beans to suck.
But what if you really didn't want the string beans to suck? What if you really fucked them up, just like you fucked up the chicken that one time, and everyone moaned and complained: This chicken is raw.
Remember: Wine helps.
Say: Fuck, this food sucks! But life is short. Let's toast life!
Order take-out. Promise you'll do better next time. Luckily, happily, there will always be a next time. You'll discover that it's the only way to stay afloat. You must have your friends over. You must continue to give everything. You'll discover that, weirdly, the more you give the more you receive. Sure, you spent three laborious hours in the kitchen, but notice how the next day you wake at 10:00 am only to discover it's 7:00 am. The day spreads out before you like an enormous canvas! Paint it blue, with your hang-over.
Also, random checks will appear in your mailbox. The government will send you an official letter.
Sorry, we forgot, the letter will say, but we owe you $10,000.
If you expect this, though, you're going at it all wrong. This night is not about giving and receiving. It's about your friends. And besides, that massive account-book of give and take between you and your friends will always remain balanced, because Karen was there for you when you almost died, and because Brad tried to fight that entire house of people because they called you that bad name, and because Pyle made you laugh so hard you remembered that you actually did like being alive, and because Charlie offered to help you pick up that log in the middle of that terrible rainstorm, and because Henry always pinches the string-beans just right, and because JJ loves you so much you always feel adored, and because Cogan is some sort of mythical idea of a perfect friend, except for his girlfriends, and because Princey, although he doesn't come over much anymore, would jump off a roof to save your life.
So, really, what's a chicken?
And anyway, soon enough you'll become a Magician at this sort of thing. Your friends will continue to come over and mill around anxiously. But notice how the strawberry avocado salsa calms them. Then, notice, how, at the table, magically, the anxious feeling dissolves. Suddenly, everyone is cozy, the wine bottles are overflowing with air, and the conversation has become one long riff on possibility--the possible excursions you'll share, the possible trips you might take together, the long days at the beach, the possibility of summer cookouts, and the strong, vibrantly drunk possibility that everything will be getting better and better from this moment onward.
And it will get better, actually. This meal will heal you, a little. It will bring you closer to the people you love the most in the world, and since those people actually live in your heart, your heart will grow, a little.
Soon, things will start to change for you.
Cleaning-up, you'll realize, is incredibly fun.
You'll put your I-Pod on shuffle. You'll enlist one of the drunker friends to help. You'll get down on your hands and knees and scrub the floor. And while you're down there, you'll thank life for this opportunity you didn't squander, the time you could have spent alone, wallowing in what you've been able to hold onto, but instead you spent with your friends, the time you let everything go: your food, your wine, your time, and your love. And what is all that stuff even good for, if it can't be given away?
Strawberry Avocado Salsa
I've already published this recipe on-line, elsewhere. That recipe is good, but I'm changing it a bit, below, in an attempt to "reclaim" the recipe for FoodVibe. Consider this recipe below the definitive Strawberry Avocado Salsa recipe, straight from the source. This recipe is about gentle, exquisite preparation. I suggest taking your time, following the recipe precisely...
1 pound strawberries (local, of course, is best)
1 jalapeño pepper, minced
1/4 cup scallion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
1 lime, quartered
1/4 teaspoon sugar, optional
2 firm-ripe avocados
Remove the green stems from the strawberries. Gently chop the strawberries, using clean, swift knife strokes so that each chopped piece is only touched briefly by the knife. (If you do not have the patience to cleanly chop the strawberries please do not make the recipe.)
In small bowl, gently, very gently, toss the strawberries with the jalapeño, scallion, and cilantro. Squeeze a quarter of lime onto the strawberry salsa and season with sugar, if desired, and sea salt.
Half the avocados, remove the pit and the skin. Finely, and very smoothly and carefully, dice the avocados and place into a small bowl. Squeeze two quarters lime juice onto the avocado and gently toss.
Pour strawberry salsa in the bowl with the avocados. Gently toss. Season with additional salt and lime juice, if desired. Serve...