. . . just your average Caribbean American New Englander

Burrata Wisdom #52essays2017 Week 8

Posted on Mar 6, 2017 | 0 comments

Burrata-1024x680[1]Grief is a jealous bitch.

She takes your free time, of which you have so little, and clogs it up with horrendous sadness. She does not take lightly to other suitors, like your job or your health. She won’t even let you drive your car one stupid mile without making you forget where you are going.

Like most jealous bitches, grief comes in a huff and leaves without warning.

Just as grief exits the stage, in her place comes mourning. She’s the quiet, older auntie who sits in the corner. Don’t mind me. Keep doing what you’re doing. I’ll sit here a while.

And so she does.

I grieved Linda’s passing when she was alive. Every time she was hospitalized, I grieved. When she was not deemed sick enough for a liver transplant, a hymn would rise in me. And when she was taken off the transplant list because of other compounding illnesses, I started to grieve all the more.

Our last phone call felt like church. Crying in an aching sort of way, the kind that makes your heart crease. Thanking God for his goodness and mercy, saying I love you, assuring each other that it—this life and the one after—would be all right.  Yes, indeedy, it was church. His eye is on the sparrow and He watches over me. My lord…

A church is where I planned to be on March 4, the day set aside for her memorial at the historic San Fernando Mission Church in Los Angeles, California. My plan was to find a Catholic church as lovely as the Mission Church so that I could say my goodbyes in God’s house.

The things is, I’m not Catholic. I was going to go to the church around the corner but it has all the charm of a 7-Eleven. My next plan was to stop in at the largest Catholic church in Hartford. It’s gorgeous and Linda would have liked it. But churches don’t stay open all day like they used to and all I wanted to do was to spend a few quiet minutes in prayer, maybe light a candle, most certainly cry in peace. 

Instead of the sanctity of a Catholic church, I went to the next best church that I know Linda would have loved: Ulta.

Beauty geeks know that if you need to get your makeup fix, you go to Sephora or Ulta. Sephora can be moody with all the black lacquer and techno music. Ulta has the bright lights and mixture of high end and drugstore brands.

The best part of going to the church of Ulta was that Kim was with me. She knew that the day would not be easy for me and said that she would do whatever I wanted. Earlier in the week, she asked if I wanted to go the casino; totally her thing and not mine. One of the casinos has a Sephora in their adjoining mall but casinos depress me. Too many old people spending money they don’t have on the chance of striking it rich. I wasn’t about to spend March 4 dodging old people with walkers and oxygen tanks trying to beat me to a slot machine.

Ulta was the perfect choice. I found the Tarte mascara and the concealer I’ve been waiting to try( Shape Tape is everything!). If you’re into brows, you have to check out Anastasia. I mean, anything Anastasia. I went for the brow gel in chocolate. Since I already have enough lipstick to last the next few years, I didn’t buy any but if I was going to buy a lipstick it would have been Lipstick Queen’s Frog Prince. Trust me, it is your color.  Kim sampled everything I did, although she didn’t buy anything.

Kim, however, was not content to let the day end. She took me and mom out to dinner at a gastropub in town. Stepping through the door, I caught my breath at the loudness of the restaurant. So many people laughing and talking, as if grief and mourning had never visited their homes.

We took seats at the cook’s bar and watched skilled hands prepare everything from pizza to steak tartare. Kim ordered Prosecco for all of us, a sparkling Italian wine. Linda was Italian, Sicilian to be exact. We often talked about the many iterations of Italian Americans. She hated the New Jersey stereotype of the big haired, loud talking Italian women. The east coast did not have the exclusive rights to Italian heritage. Linda was born and raised in Los Angeles and would fight anyone who claimed that she was not a daughter of Sicily.  

Salute! To Linda, we said as we clinked glasses. The Prosecco danced on my tongue, as bright as was Linda. The seat next to me was empty but it was occupied by Auntie Mourning. I managed to avoid her most of the day but she followed me to that damn restaurant. Don’t mind me, I’m just sitting here.  I did my best to ignore Auntie Mourning and even thought to force a tear or two so that she would go away. Mourning doesn’t give in that easy. I let her have her seat.

Since Kim was treating us to dinner, I was going to have my usual: Caesar salad and fish and chips. Kim hates my pedestrian taste in food, which I would rather call traditional. Besides, my stomach is sensitive on very good days. Still, I decided that I would try something new.

I began with the burrata and figs with serrano ham. This surprised Kim because she knows how I feel about cheese. I can do American, aged cheddar, gruyere, anything that’s fairly dry. Soft cheeses are out.  When I read the menu I couldn’t recall exactly what kind of cheese burrata was and nearly sank in disappoint when the server set my plate down. I saw that is was a softer cheese. I will say that the presentation was gorgeous: Armagnac glazed figs wrapped in delicate slices of serrano ham and set atop the clouds of burrata, with a sweet reduction of balsamic vinegar and topped with just enough arugula and basil.

The first taste almost made me cry. Linda was burrata: traditional but ultimately unexpected, joyous, delightful.

On the outside, burrata is mozzarella, firm and milky white. But the inside is filled with cream and strings of mozzarella that would otherwise have been discarded. If the outside is classic, the inside is surprisingly sweet and luscious.

I took another sip of Prosecco and returned to my figs and burrata. Laughter from a nearby table mixed with the line cooks chopping and slicing. Bluesy music and the clink of plates added to the night air. Mourning left. Not sure where she went but I knew she’d back. For now, I had Kim, mom, my figs and burrata and a very fine glass of Prosecco.

Salute, Linda, e Dio vi benedica.  



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