arrectores pilorum.

the first time i met her, slightly over six years ago, we went to an all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant in manhattan that was recommend to her by devin ratray, buzz mccallister from the home alone movies. during dinner she threw a piece of nigiri at me, which landed in a little dish of soy sauce, splattering on my arm and clothes.

now we were sitting across from each other, at woodfire grill in atlanta, working through the three-course chef’s tasting with wine pairings accompanying each course. many things had changed since that first meal, the most welcome change being her use of conversation rather than thrown food to fill silences. before the meal, our sommelier, whom we wanted to take home with us so he could pair everything in our lives, told us he had opened a lot of great bottles and he was going to have fun with us. he was knowledgeable and beautifully verbose: describing an area in spain, for instance, he rambled about how the soil couldn’t really be considered soil, it was more like rock, grapes grown from rocks. the wine produced there, which was served to us with a wild arctic char tartare, was reminiscent of mineral water, bubbly and sort of gritty. he gave us a stubby bottle of beer with a smoked bacon, wild mushroom, and onion ragout with cornmeal fried okra and a cayenne pepper sauce. this was him, he repeated, having fun with us, as the beer paired well with the saltiness of the dish. rose wine was poured to accompany a taste of figs and goat cheese, drizzled with balsamic vinegar. the main course, a wood-grilled pork-leg filet, was accompanied by a wine with a strong buttery finish. it was served with bubble and squeak (cabbage and potatoes, fried together) and squash puree. we were told by our server that the dessert, sweet potato panna cotta with candied walnuts and marshmallow sauce, was poised to win an award for best dessert. there was a newspaper food critic dining near us.

one always expects something like lobster to taste wonderful, but it’s fascinating when something as simple as, say, squash puree can completely change the way you think about, well, squash puree. there’s another atlanta restaurant, watershed, that has altered the way i think about chicken salad sandwiches, and, quite possibly, the world. their recipe contains golden raisins, pignolias (we’ve been over this before), and white truffle oil.

it’s also nice when this happens with people. obviously, i understand, before going out with the smartest person in the world (not this guy), my intelligence will be matched, and when i meet up with the most beautiful person in the world (regardless of people magazine’s views, definitely not this girl), i know i’ll be greeted by my equal in the looks department. yes, i realize, i am about to compare a girl with whom i had a wonderful dinner to squash puree in human form, but i think that’s fitting. later that night, via text message, i tell a friend who has been depressed and contemplating suicide that this is why we push against the sometimes debilitating sadness, because maybe wading through life is worth it when you’re confronted by one of its surprises. maybe you even find something, some food or some person, that continually surprises you. these you try to keep near you.

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