I moved to the Twin Cities 10 years ago from Seattle, and while I was initially skeptical about the restaurant scene here, my husband, who is from these parts, is now leaving me. For a two-bit, skanky whore.
I will thus be spending my first Easter alone--ever. What do you recommend? (Travel is not an option.) How can I get him back?
--Miserable & Mired in Minneapolis
I am glad you wrote. As anyone who regularly consults these pages can tell you, the clear response to any of life's events--be they birthdays, quiet Sundays, or paralyzing, coal-black heartbreaks--is to go out to dinner. Or, more rarely, to get takeout.
Of course, in your case, I can see that this response is clearly inadequate. And so I present to you, for you, Dear Dara's menu for surviving heartbreak. Time-tested, critic-approved.
To Eat, on Easter Sunday:
Create your own rituals. It is important to start building a new life for yourself, with new holiday traditions that you can look back on in the future, if not with joy, then with new emotions that are not related to your painful relationship. For Easter, for example, many of our more prestigious supermarkets, such as Lunds, Byerly's, and Kowalski's, will be offering delicious, rich, pink hams. Purchase one (spare no expense! Be nice to yourself!) and serve it to yourself on a platter elaborately decorated with sprigs of fresh herbs.
If, during this meal, thoughts of your beloved and your betrayal spring to mind, then the answer is to simply, easily rinse your fingers in the new-sprung tears of your heartbreak. Then, carefully but forcefully, jam them into any nearby electrical outlet. Soon enough you will lose your taste for ham.
Many have noted the appropriateness of Champagne for both victory and for defeat, as well as for those awkward in-between days of weeping on the phone to the Qwest lady while you get his name off the phone bill.
Strangely, and especially when considering true Champagne from the Champagne region of France, fewer have noted that with Champagne, much of the genius is in the packaging: Champagne bottles are far thicker than common wine bottles, to better withstand the enormous pressures within. Sound familiar?
Yet, this quirk of bottling comes in particularly handy on those days when you can't stop looking at the telephone, and wondering why it won't ring with heartfelt apologies. Or barring that, at least some cheering news from the state coroner.
Here's how: Buy a case of Champagne. Grand Cru if you can afford it! If you don't know your Champagnes, there are many wonderful bottlings available in this market, at every price point. Egly-Ouriet Vieilles Vignes is one, a $40-something bottle with a scent that's a bit biscuity and a bit like apricots, yet is wrapped around an evocative and ghostly spirit that brings to mind nothing so much as heaven and paradise and will make you feel like a shooting star. Haton Rosé, at $25 or so, is the brilliant, bright sunset color the French evocatively refer to as "eye of partridge," has the subtle scents of rose petals and almonds, and makes you feel like a movie star. On more of a budget, at around $9, crisp and zingy Kriter, a true French bubbly with gorgeous clarity and an appealing bit of lemon on the nose, can't be beat.
Once your bubbly is secured, chill it, set out your best glassware, and polish off two bottles. Now, holding one bottle firmly in each hand by the neck, smash them together in front of you with all your strength. Chill and repeat. Chill and repeat! Finally, fall forward upon the thick, glassy shards screaming. Who's watching the phone now? Another victory!
This is not a time to skip dessert! In times of trouble, many locals swear by B.T. McElrath's artisanal chocolates, made with a chef's sensibility. Did you know he recently debuted his spring trio, in which the main piece is basically a Thai chocolate, the dark ganache center flavored with coconut milk and kaffir lime leaves, the whole of it like a tropical night dance, an unforgettable thing? Find them locally at Lunds, Byerly's, and other locations. The weekend after Easter McElrath will have a table at the Minneapolis Farmers' market, and will start selling his chocolates, as well as the most unbelievable chili-spiced nut brittle I've ever tasted--an absolute carnival of sweet and dusk and profundity.
And yet, you cannot have it until May. Before then, most agree that in times of strife, cake cannot be beat. Especially the wedding cakes of complete strangers. Reception halls today have notoriously lax security, and can be easily invaded by nearly anyone in formalwear. That's a clear invitation! If discovered face-down trembling in someone else's fondant fantasy, shout, "But he said he loved me, he said it last night! This wedding is a sham!" This will flummox and panic all but the most creepily touchy-feely families, providing an easy escape.
Setting the Table:
When living alone, the temptation is large to eat without ceremony, in front of the television for instance, or under a fresh-dug carpet of sod. Do not do this! Set a festive and original table, because you are worth it. Perhaps family heirloom centerpieces will bring up unpleasant memories for you now. If so, be creative!
One idea is to find a local elementary school. Something that lots of adults today forget is that today's youth are almost invariably born quite short, and even puny. Consequently, they can be easily overpowered, and the cheery, decorative cartoon-theme lunchboxes they carry may be repurposed into festive centerpieces for today's single.
As an added bonus, careful shoppers will notice that today's children come in such small sizes that you often find one to rob even if you are openly sobbing. In fact, sometimes in this situation they will start crying too. Finally, a little sympathy!
Proper etiquette never goes out of style. Even in trying times, such as those you are undergoing. When friends and neighbors call, don't try to conceal your inner state. Instead, let them in. For instance, when you see one of your beloved's close friends walking by the house, open the door and advise them of such important points as, "I'll throw every single stick of furniture out this window before I'll give it to him! Crazy? No, you are!" Rest assured, your neighbors want to know what is going on with you, and appreciate your forthright expressions.
Of course, no one ever said divorce would be easy, or it would be called something that rolled with more melody off the tongue, something like holly-jolly, leprosy, or Donald Rumsfeld.
But, dear Miserable & Mired in Minneapolis, you are not the only person to be disgusted and destroyed by human behavior, you are not the only person to be wrecked by the very vessel where you thought you had safely stowed your hopes and dreams.
Sometimes, it is unfortunate but true, sometimes we are all of us let down by the Twin Cities food scene. Sometimes it does seem that even all the coffee éclairs of Patrick's French Bakery, all the fried chickens of Lucille's Kitchen, all the Chateauneuf-du-Papes of all the Haskell's in all the world, not even all of that even taken together is enough to mend a broken heart.
And yet, I have learned a lot in my years as a food and wine writer hereabouts. And perhaps the most important thing I have picked up has been about the primacy of good ingredients. Truly, there is nothing more important. You cannot make good wine with bad grapes. You cannot make good salads with bad greens. You cannot make good marriages with bad
people. No matter how you plead or reason or bully, the ingredients are what they are. And if it wasn't so, psychologists would make the finest wine, not farmers. Also, you'd be able to hunker down on Easter and convince your bottle of Sprite to be the Champagne you thought it was. But you can't. It's a tragedy. My heart goes out to you.
That is the utter mystery of it all. Mother Nature saw fit to make us top predators. Human beings can eat any creature on earth, and we do. Sometimes all day long. Then, puzzlingly, we then choose to set our bed pillows beside the only creature on earth capable of devouring us whole. Fair? Hardly. As you consider all this and change the locks and get therapy, my advice is that whatever you do, in this season of hope and renewal, in this season of rebirth and new growth, whatever you do, under no circumstances should you restrict your diet to nothing but Champagne, marshmallow Peeps, and bile, because appealing as that seems, I can truly report that not only does that diet get old, it will also tend to really irritate even the most understanding local dentists.
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