Jamie And Friends
Updated: May 21
I was once invited to a dinner party by a friend of a friend, somewhere in Neukölln. Everyone at the table was speaking German - except me, I was just saying "yuuumm, lecker" and continued eating. I honestly didn’t care that I understood almost 20% of the conversation - Melanie cooked so many delicious meals, that by the end of the night I wanted to move in with her. It didn’t happen ("it" being me moving in), but she told me that if I want to learn German, I should by a cookbook.
"But Melanie, I don’t cook."
"Maybe you will someday, and it’s great to have something in the house when the inspiration comes." She took out her cooking book and showed me all these simple recipes: "look, I made this and this and this."
The more she explained, the more curious I became, and for a split second, I wanted to find the joy in cooking. "Maybe one day, Melanie. Maybe one day." I smiled and thanked her for her wonderful invitation, and went home being surprised that there are Germans who really know how to cook, and they expand their imagination beyond the borders.
A couple of months later, I went on a date with an Italian guy. We had lemonade and tiramisu in an Italian coffee shop somewhere in Mitte, and after the date, I wanted to buy food for the following days. I glanced at these books and suddenly remembered what Melanie said: "Someday you might." I went about looking at the books, curious, touching them softly as if they were sacred. I was dreaming about eating the meals that were so wonderful photographed, when the Italian guy texted me, asking if I arrived home safe. I sent him a picture with the caption "I’m thinking about buying some cooking books," to which he replied, "Am I so charming that...you want to learn about Italian cuisine?"
I laughed out loud in the supermarket, and I just couldn’t tell him that my decision had nothing to do with him. It would have been a too long story to explain via a text, so I looked back in my timeline of memories, remembering the hot summer days when my mom and I followed Jamie’s cooking shows. We both liked how Jamie was acting in front of the camera, and we smiled when he showed pictures from his youth; we dreamt about eating some of the dishes we couldn't find in our small town, and genuinely enjoyed seeing how Jamie's food adventure was unfolding.
Funny as it may seem, there was also this guy from my hometown who looked very similar to Jamie and who had a super big crush on me. Every time he came home for the holidays, we used to meet and catch up. He was living for many years in Spain, so whenever he came back, I asked with a curious mix of eagerness and satisfaction what was his favorite dish of the year. He was attending cooking school, and all his stories were fascinating. I wonder what he's been up to lately. (Hey you, if by any chance you're reading this, send me a Facebook request!)
So how could I have put all of this into a short text message? I couldn't have had, not in a way that it would have been related to us, to Berlin, and to my relish when it comes to Italian meals. My response was short: "you’re incredibly sweet. :)" I smiled at this typically male trait, to think that everything is about him. "Aren't I the greatest?" I imagined him looking with pride in the mirror after reading my text. I wasn’t about to shatter someone’s spirit, was I? No, not after a short encounter. Plus, I liked him, I thought he was sweet and charming, but not enough to make me wanna start cooking. I bought the books that Saturday afternoon, but kept them in my cupboard. I ended up eating out a lot with the Italian guy, and not only pizza and pasta.
And now, back to present days. I spent between 3-5 hours per day learning German, and way less hours during the weekend - because I still want to enjoy the weekend, although the virus turned our life upside down. But in the last three days, I was more committed to repeating some of the words I have learned in April. I even made an effort to make this language stand on its two grammatical feet. I was at my desk around 6-8 hours per day, trying to find my own logic - "table" is masculine in German and feminine in Romanian, so you can imagine my struggle. This week was a bit different (and only 4 days of learning, yey!). We talked about food, and although I saw pictures with different traditional meals, I still think Germans need to broaden their horizons. Or Austrians, if we're being frank - enough with the schnitzel, eh, mate? I also discovered meals from South Korea, Taiwan, China, and of course, Italy, and - don’t tell my teacher this - I took one recipe from Jamie&Friends and pretended it was a traditional Romanian meal. (It is very similar and so well explained in the book, that it would have been a shame not to use it.) I will still need to write a short essay about ecological food, but for Friday, I took another recipe from Jamie's friends and transformed it from Aktiv into Passiv. (Don’t tell my teacher though!)
It's captivating how some stories come to an end, no? But coming to an end in a good way. It starts with something that might feel random at the moment: actions, and words from those trivial days. We call them groundhog days, the days in which we do plain things with our friends and family. And among the way, they come back to us unexpectedly, and we ask ourselves - were those details truly trivial? And no, it is not even the merely border between the blurring lines of the past and the mundane isolation days that makes us wonder. It's that kind of thing that is spreading very much in our life circle and turns everything into poetry.