Sunday, November 2, 2014

November Writing Challenge (NWC)

I'm participating in a daily writing challenge for the month of November (which I am conveniently starting a day late). It's modeled after NaNoWriMo, except I'll only be writing nonfiction. When I try to write fiction, baby Jesus cries.

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Prompt #1: Interview someone about their best moment of their year. Share what you heard.

I decided to interview my mom. As soon as I asked her if she was available, however, I thought the interview was over. She decried the question with responses like "I've always have trouble with superlatives like that" and "A lot of people grade their lives as they go" (which, WHOA, food for thought there). But then she launched into a story about chili peppers.

Last spring, Mom had a conversation with one of her longtime friends, Julia, about a farmers' market vendor who specializes in different varieties of chili peppers. Julia was ready to go immediately, but they decided to schedule a visit for another day. Julia has an unending energy that baffles me (but also makes me a bit envious). She could probably go for a 15-mile hike and come home to weed the garden before grouting the bathroom tile. Translation: More tasks than I accomplish in a month.

Months went by and Mom eventually put their conversation on the back burner. Yesterday morning, out of the blue, Julia called Mom and said she was at the farmers' market. She'd found the vendor and was picking up some peppers. She invited Mom to stop by and pick them up whenever she wanted. Mom was really touched because Julia had remembered their conversation. And now there are peppers waiting for Mom at her friend's house.

Mom said that wasn't her best moment, but it was a good one. And then we started talking about drying peppers, which led to a discussion of ristras in Santa Fe (where I grew up), and that became a story about a couple Mom used to know who had designed and built their own house in Santa Fe, down to forming their own adobe bricks.

At some point, the conversation segued to my parents' travels. My folks recently returned from a month-long stay in Portugal, during which time I got lots of emails about good food, good beer, and crazy traffic. Mom relayed a story of a wonderful lunch they'd had in √Čvora. One afternoon, they ducked into a small restaurant when it started to rain. There were only four or five tables, so Mom could hear the owner and chef walking around and talking to the patrons. He could speak several languages and she heard him talking to folks in German, French, and, of course, Portuguese. Mom saw a salad that one of the French guys was eating -- a delectable assortment of salad greens, veggies, figs, and sardines.

I made a strangled noise, mostly because I don't like figs and have only had canned sardines. It was hard to imagine the combination would be any good, but of course it's unfair to discount a meal I've never even tried.

Mom acknowledged my noise but soldiered on. She explained that the salad was made from fresh figs wrapped around fresh sardines. The chef sprinkled the combo in olive oil, broiled them, and then set them atop the salad that was served with a tasty dressing. As Mom described the pinky-orange color of the figs, I could hear the smile in her voice and suddenly I was in Portugal. I was in this small cafe eating a meal I'd never encountered in the States. I could hear it drizzling outside. I could see my love of 44 years sitting across the table, trying something equally new to his palate. "It looked beautiful and tasted even better," Mom said of the meal. She said the chef was pleased to see them enjoying his culinary creation. "It was a delightful meal and he was a delightful guy. We were there 90 minutes and then it stopped raining and we left."

I'm saving that story as a postcard in my memory. My romantic comedy fantasies tell me they zipped away on a Vespa, Mom's teal trench coat flapping in the wind. Laughing, they navigated cobblestone and agitated cab drivers, speeding up a mountain on the way to their next adventure.

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