Last night my friend Mike M. invited me and Jen, who is staying with me for the holidays to go see The Can Kickers play in Allston.
"I love music with a washboard," I exclaimed to Jen who, typically, was not as excited about punk rooted Appalachian jam bands as I am. In just a few hours we found ourselves crammed into a house party with about fifty other people, hopping up and down to the folk based, punk tinged, drum backed sound of the band. I danced small in the front row. I ran into two former students of mine in the impossibly tight crowd, and made friends with a girl who let me stand in front of her because "you're so short, you should go up close!"
"It's a perk," Jen commented to Mike.
"I don't take up a lot of space," I explained to our newest friends, "but I do bring two normal sized people with me wherever I go."
After the set, we inched our way out the door through the clouds of smoke and between bottles Two Buck Chuck being passed from hand to hand.
Later the evening found us in Boston's South End toasting a dear friend for his birthday. We found Quinn drinking at Aquitaine but he soon hustled us one street over to Boston's newest trattoria, Coppa.
"I can't believe we went from that to this," whispered Jen as Quinn ordered us a bottle of champagne and we browsed a menu of dishes such as fried risotto balls and chicken livers.
Inside the cozy restaurant people chatted quietly. There were no amps, no smoke, and certainly no PBRs to be found.
Our waitress was attentive and thrilled to find out that our plan as a table was to eat the most exotic things we could find. We let Quinn order, in honor of his birthday.
He chose an octopus salad with onions, a pizza topped with oxtail and bone marrow, sea urchin carbonara, and calves' brains ravioli.
"Those are baby cow brains."
"Think of it as using the whole animal."
"Thank you, Pocahontas."
WARNING: If you do not like strange and exotic foods you may want to skip the descriptions that follow.
I'm no stranger to octopus or to sea urchin and Mike seemed especially excited about the brain ravioli so I reported I was game. I was nervous about the bone marrow, due to some fairly unique personal experience in the OR.
The octopus came out first, and was impressively tender for how cold it was. I'm guessing it was pre-grilled, which explains that.
Next came the brain ravioli. I was able to fake myself out by not looking at the ravioli as I cut into it. The texture was similar to cheese ravioli. It was one of the saltiest things I have ever eaten, but I wasn't a huge fan of it overall. I'd rather try to make cheese ravioli with a beef sauce than put something so rich in my stomach again.
Then came the pizza. I regarded the pizza coolly, trying to figure out which part was the marrow. As I took my first bite, my stomach shifted. It was salty, earthy tasting. Not bad. But it also managed to taste just a little too much the way human bone marrow smells.
After getting it down I sipped champagne frantically trying to keep my composure.
"Not bad, right?"
"No, not at all," I smoothed my napkin, anxiously. I had come out with an empty stomach ready for pasta or a cheeseburger. Bone marrow was anything but filling, and we had one dish left to try.
The waitress took a second round of drink orders (water for me, thanks), and set the sea urchin carbonara on the table. We divided it up and went to work.
But as soon as the pasta hit my mouth I felt that I could go no further. Something about the eggs, cheese and butter immediately disagreed with me. I politely put my fork down.
"Are you going to finish that?" Mike was looking at my plate, and I gladly handed it over to him.
I continued to sip on water as the night came to a close.
Later I returned to my apartment with Jen and with Brennan, another friend and house guest for the week. As we prepared to turn in for the night, the tiny creatures in my stomach began to fight.
Embarrassed, I got into the bathroom and proceeded to free all the animals*.
Jen and Brennan were very gracious about their sick hostess, convincing me to put on my pajamas, call out of work and go to bed.
As we were falling asleep Jen whispered, "I'm still in disbelief of tonight's events."
"You mean how we went from listening to a folk band play music in a hippie commune to eating - (I gagged a little bit thinking about what we had been eating) in the South End?"
"It figures, though."
"Yeah. It figures."
* puke my (literal) brains out