Category Archives: Conversation Topics

A Week in a Blur(b)

Posted by Erin B.

This week has been a blur of animal poop, dairy desserts, constant interaction with the public, warm weather jubilance, and consistent meals with the fam. A very excellent blur, as blurs go. Last Monday it was lovely and warm so my dad busted out the grill. Tuesday was my little brother’s 12th birthday so we had family friends over for pizza, chocolate coconut cream cake, and loud every-body-picks-their-own tune Happy Birthday song singing. Wednesday we all ate dinner at the Broad Street Café so I could take part in the open mic night they do. Thursday we ate together, but the details of our meal have gotten lost in the blur. Friday I was not in a good mood, and we were having leftovers. Our conversation was sparse and I left early for work. Saturday redeemed us: we had pancakes for dinner, and our conversation was interesting. Dinner felt too short and I left for work late. Pancakes, I’ve decided, are a redemptive thing. Sunday we had a bunch o’ peeps over for dinner (and hey—if you’re reading this, then you’re invited next week. Do come, and stay to watch the Oscars if you wish). Tonight I had to work until 6, and my dad had to leave for the airport by 6:30, so they went to a restaurant right near my work, and I rushed over as soon as I finished and we had a quick but lovely dinner together. We talked about 28 tables and how unexpectedly nice it is to have a set dinner time every day, but also how committing to a set time displaces things like social time and last minute dinner invites.

Outside of dinners with my family, I’ve been more conscious of how meals spent with people are way more satisfying than those spent without. On Sunday I had brunch at Parker and Otis in Durham with good friends, and it was the perfect kind of meal. We had no other agenda, so we ate without hurry, sat outside, and our conversation long outlasted our food. We had many laughs over empty plates and lukewarm coffee. Also: eating a salad in front of a computer for lunch doesn’t seem to change the workday up enough to feel like I actually got a break. It’s kind of my unexpressed goal (well, until now) to do something interesting for my lunches. My lunch hour is a sacred and full of potential, I like to spend it eating on the roof with co-workers, or at a restaurant with co-workers, or geocaching with co-workers, or sitting outside on benches with co-workers, instead of eating in the office or in front of the computer alone.

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I Don’t Eat Eyeballs.

Submitted by Erin H.

We had out first “entertaining at home” dinner for the month.  All of my questions about cooking dinner for another person were answered and laid to rest last night.  We had a great time.

On the menu:

  • warmed spinach salad with homemade dressing and fried egg (makes for an interesting  topper to a salad)
  • white chicken chili
  • whole wheat cornbread with honey
  • flourless chocolate cake
  • beer and tomato ranch veggie chips brought by Ross

The chili and salad were familiar to me, but the cornbread and cake were experiments and if my tongue and the other empty glasses/plates/bowls around me are any indication, I’d have to say that it was a pretty good meal.

I was also nice to hang out with our friend, Ross, and converse without distractions.  The bonus to having dinner at home is that it is not an activity which requires your attention to be elsewhere (like going to a museum or a play, as we’ve done in the past) and you don’t have a waiter interrupting you.  It can go at the pace that everyone dictates.  Conversation abounded.  Initially we talked about food (what else?) and how it’s always a little gamble to cook for people because you don’t really know their tastes.  Ross assured me that as long as it didn’t have his three “dislikes” he would eat it.  That quickly turned into listing things that he assumed I would take for granted that he didn’t eat.  “I don’t eat eyeballs.  I don’t eat glass”, etc.  We did find out, though, that he has tried cow tongue before. Apparently it is really chewy.  Little snippets of conversation from the rest of the evening included: “Remember when you bought that throwing star?” , books we’ve read – from one, we learned people make bad decisions when sexually aroused…really?, Evan’s mad temper when it comes to washing dishes, our scary-as-hell physics teacher from high school (Ross: “I got a 14% on my first test”, Erin” “Me, too!”, Evan remained conspicuously quiet)…  It was a great time with lots of laughter and a wonderful treat on a weekday night. 

Ross and Evan with a fabulous cake

Ross and Evan with a fabulous cake

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Thoughts on eating out.

Posted by Morbo

Our family eats together at the table pretty frequently already. Because we have younger kids we have a no-TV-during-the-week policy (the final weeks of March Madness is a notable exception). So far, not eating on the fly has been only slightly inconvenient. The kids will come to dinner when asked, the hubby works from home and it’s just not a problem when prioritized.

The bigger revelation was yesterday. The children had Tae Kwon Do and the hubby came along. After, we went for a stroll on UNC’s campus. This is something we did regularly when he was still a student and I was occupied with baby #1. The weather was beautiful, a young man was practicing his guitar on a bench and the people, hurrying and hunched under large bags full of books and laptops and who knows what other tools of Serious Academic Inquiry, saw the kids running by and flashed us huge smiles. It was surreal, the sight of my daughter’s hair billowing behind her as she chased her older brother with our youngest son trailing doggedly behind.

Yesterday afternoon was an attitude shift. Sometimes they happen. I get consumed with what has been lost or the unattainable things ahead of us now and I forget that a good walk and good weather changes everything. I wonder why I forget these obvious things.

Naturally we had dinner on Franklin Street. At one of our favorite places that we haven’t been to in forever. We took our time, the littlest of us hopping out of his seat wandering about. There were at least three spilled drinks. Multiple trips to the counter for stuff we had forgotten. My daughter was inspired to share a long rambling story that none of us could follow, her big brother interrupting often with, “What do you mean? What?”

It was a lovely (and still a bit unearthly) continuation of a good walk.

This is all to say that what I have learned so far is:

1) It’s just not that hard for us when prioritized.

2) Eating out should be a part of a larger experience.

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Five Six Seven Eight! tell me you still think I’m great!

posted by Allison (even if she forgot to say so)

Thanks, Jules, for the title inspiration! I’m not familiar with your Feist song, but I can dig on rhyming with counting.

So I have NOT been good about posting regularly. Sorry about that. Seeing as how it’s Sunday night, though, and I’m trying to squeeze in as much “weekend” as I possibly can in the twenty-four minutes before my workweek officially starts again? Now’s as good a time as any for a recap. I’ll tackle our last four days’ worth of tables, the Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighthin part because I don’t want my titular rhyming to be completely superficial. Depth means it’s sincere, right?

Our Table No. Five was more hot dogs. The thing about hot dogs is that we like this one kind of hot dog bun the best (really, they’re just the best), and you can’t let ’em sit around too long or they’ll get tough. Three or four days is about the most we’ll wait in between hot dog dinner night, and this week was no exception: Tables Number Two and Five, both, met with hot dogs.

Our Table No. Six, which Beck already wrote about, was a nice low-key kind of Friday night of apperitifs at Pinhook and super tasty soup ‘n’ sandwiches from Toast. I have to say, I think I make a pretty good grilled cheese sandwich; the trick is medium-low heat to make sure the cheese is evenly melted and a slight mixture of butter (for flavor) and a nice fruity olive oil (for burn-resistance). I think pepper jack and sharp cheddar are fantastic on a jewish rye, and a slice of ripe tomato can do wonders for your lunch and, I’m almost positive, the betterment of the world at large. But Toast? Man, that’s a nice three-cheese they offer and their homemade soups make me want to stay home and perfect the art of italian bean with chard. They’re just great. Eating dinner at Toast makes me want to increase my abilities in the world of Soup, and that’s something I don’t say all too often.

Table No. Seven was enjoyed in two parts: breakfast and dinner. Weekend breakfast often has Beck and I eating at the table, and it’s usually too early to start watching television so we default to talking with one another (and trying to keep the cats out of our biscuits).We had a breakfast that we used to have all the time: cheesey bagels, veggie sausage, KK donuts and coffee; but this was the first time in probably a year or so. I think it stemmed originally from KK changing up their jelly donut (it’s still not as good as it used to be…), but eventually was more due to Beck switching to a more eggs-and-toast kind of routine and just getting tired of consuming a half a pound of sugar in a single meal. That, and I started getting pretty good at baking a from-scratch buttermilk biscuit. The dinner-half involved some experimentation, which was met with brimming forkfuls of tastiness. And also me unintentionally hacking at my thumb with a gigantic knife.

I was being a wanker about removing the pit from the avocado; that’s all. It did, however, afford me sitting out of doing the after-dinner dishes, and Beck lovingly offered to finish making the guacamole if I’d just tell her what to add. I forgot to mention the garlic, but it was pretty damn tasty even without it. Beck hopped on the Adventurous Bus and put together a version of sopa seca that, we hoped, would slightly resemble a tasty dish she likes to get (and I like to eat a couple bites of) from Margaret’s Cantina in Chapel Hill. The verdict was that, in terms of similarity? we probably don’t need to bake it, just broil it for a few minutes or so; but it turned out nicely. It was a little like eating bean dip casserole for dinner, but honestly? How could I possibly complain about that. MMM.

This Sunday night, being the second Sunday of Twenty-Eight Tables, we wanted some continuity from last Sunday’s Table of new recipe and fancy wine. We attempted a mock-up of the signature dish from pretty much our favorite place to eat in Asheville, NC, a happening little nook called Rosetta’s Kitchen: peanut butter-baked tofu, sauteed kale, and mashed potatoes. And I couldn’t let an opportunity pass to bake some biscuits (especially because I slept in late this morning and didn’t make ’em for breakfast). We cracked open a bottle of sparkling wine left over from our New Year’s Eve fun time party house and sat down to a lovely dinner. We got a chance to talk about some things we never had before, and one of the things I cherish the most about Beck is that I can spend an hour with her and still find new things. We’ve had approximately two thousand, one hundred, forty-eight conversations since we’ve met, and I’m still so humbled by what she has yet to teach me, or just tell me. Thanks 28 Tables.

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Arrgh, pass the bacon.

Posted by Morbo

Playmobil Pirate

sillygwailo. Playmobil Pirate.

This afternoon the family and I enjoyed a leisurely lunch of bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches while we argued the finer points of the Viking, Roman and Pirate sets of Playmobil. Windows open, plenty of sunshine, the sound of our chicken, Rosemary, clucking in the yard and thoughtful conversation: Why do we play with pirates? Weren’t they thieves? Where did the treasures come from? Weren’t the English and the Spanish stealing too? If the pirates stole from the people with the ships did that make them steal from the people in South America more?

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Playing Catch Up

Howdy!  My name is Pat and I’ve been doing 28 tables behind the scenes so far.  This is due to both a little procrastination on my part in signing up for the blog and then some strange technical difficulties in receiving my invite to the blog.  But, nevertheless, I have been paticipating along with the rest of the folks here and can start filing updates henceforth.

My decision to participate was sudden and last minute.  I had heard all about the Experiemonth concept from Beck and followed her and the other nutty (pun intended) Month in the Raw participants via their blog last month.  Beck told me all about 28 tables over drinks at the Pinhook last Friday.  This experiment seemed much more doable for me, but nonethless I felt non-commital about it at first.  Then strangely I woke up in the middle of the night in the wee hours of last Saturday (January 31st) and felt compelled to do it.  My mind was racing with ideas about how I could do this and make it meaningful for me.  One of the first things that came to mind was that I wanted to try to eat dinner with my parents once a week.  They moved to Morrisville, NC  from Texas just before Christmas, so for the first time in 15 years, my parents live nearby.  It’s a strange feeling and I find myself struggling to find ways to connect with them now that they are here, since our relationship has been long distance for nearly half my life.   A few hours later, as I was drifting back to sleep after being awakened by my two cats demanding breakfast, my phone rang.  I glanced at the caller ID and saw it was my mom.  I thought it strange since she had gotten out of the habit of calling inappropriately early (it was 7:45 AM) while I was in college.  She was calling from the ER at Duke Medical Center where my dad had been taken an hour earlier due to abdominal pain, nausea, and fainting.  My dad is officially old (he’s 66) but he has been in good health and his youthful demeanor has people pegging him as 20 years younger than he actually is.  After talking with my dad for a few minutes on the phone and having him insist that he was fine and just waiting on tests, and then talking to my mom and having her promise to call again as soon as she had any updates, I hung up the phone and decided then and there to follow through with the experiment.  You never know how much time you have with the people you love, and you should cherish every minute of it.  My participation in 28tables will be very much about connecting with the people in my life, whom I don’t see nearly enough of and cherish – my friends and family.

(Update on Dad for those wondering…he got home from the hospital on Monday. They kept him all weekend for observation since he had almost no medical history due to his dislike of doctors.  All the tests came back negative for the bad stuff – cardiac, ulcer, gall bladder, etc and he is sheduled to go in next week for more testing.   Hopefully this will be his wake up call to be better about his preventative health care.)

Some other things I hope to get out of 28 tables are the following:

– I want eating to become a communal experience again.  Usually my dinners are on the futon with the telly blaring alone or with my girlfriend.  I want to spend meals with her at the table talking instead, or with friends I haven’t seen, and of course my parents now that they are near.  It’s so easy to get caught up in your own routine and not make the time for the important people in your life.  I hope this experiment will get me in the habit of setting more dates with these people and seeing them more often.

– I want my dinner table to be my dinner table again.  Usually it is just a giant repository for mail and all the other crap I set down during the course of the week. It can get so bad that you can’t see the surface of it. I’d like to use this exercise of eating meals at the table to get me in the habit of keeping that space tidier so it is more functional. That said, I am not requiring all of my meals to be at this table.  I am open to meals out or at other people’s houses.  But when I am eating at home, my intention will be to do it at the table when practical.

– I want to spend more of my alone time conscious and engaged.  I live alone and while I plan to spend at least one of my meals with other people each day this month, I also would like to experiment with dining alone in “quiet time.”   On these nights I will have a “no takeout” and “no TV” rule.  The plan is to cook myself a meal I will enjoy and then consume it at the table in silence, allowing myself time to think.  I also am going to make an attempt to reach out to friends in distant places either via phone call or email on those evenings after my meal is complete.

Lastly, I wanted to log some table reports for the first week of 28 tables.

Day 1 – I had a Super Bowl party at my house and invited some friends over to enjoy my new HDTV and junk food.  There were too many of us to fit at the table and the TV was on during said event, but it definitely met my requirements of spending time with people and making a meal (or continuous grazing in this case) a communal experience.  Plus I made a new friend in someone who tagged along that day and we are hanging out on Saturday, so that’s a bonus!

Day 2 – My girlfriend and I shared our first quiet meal at the table and had leftover wings and veggies.  We had a good long conversation, the topic of which escapes me at the moment, but I remember distinctly struggling with the idea of conversing over the meal.  I guess that is what years of stuffing your face in front of the telly will do.  I plan to be more conscious and engaged going forward.  We’ve been together less than a year, and these meals are the perfect opportunity for us to get to know each other even better.

Day 3 – I had dinner with the girlfriend again, but this time we were a little more creative with the table concept.  She had come down with a nasty tummy virus and laid on the futon nibbling on saltine crackers and ginger ale while I sat next to her and ate off the coffee table.  My dinner was rather scattered that night… it amounted to three crumpets from Trader Joe’s, one friend egg, and some pita chips and hummus.   Not really an ideal meal, but I think my concern for my eating partner kinda distracted me from getting my act together and making a real dinner.

Day 4 – I invited my friend  over to play video games and have dinner.  We’ve been friends for about 11 years and went on vacation together last summer, but overall I don’t see nearly enough of her.  After playing Wii for a while, we paused to have Chinese takeout (no takeout rule applies to meals alone).  My girlfriend joined us at the table and consumed chicken broth and white rice, as her tummy was still giving her trouble.  We ended up having wonderful conversation that extended way beyond the mealtime.  I listened a lot as they other two traded stories about their childhoods and enjoyed that my old friend was getting to know my girlfriend better.

Tonight I need to get some shopping done for a baby shower I am attending this weekend, but I plan to call my mom after I post this and see if she and my dad would like to meet me out for dinner after I am done.  I’ll report back how that goes later…

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Scenes from the dinner table, and in turn, my life

Posted by Erin B.

Last night like magic the family all converged at 6pm in the kitchen. I had come home from work at 10 ’til, and had just come downstairs from changing when my dad walked in the door. My little brother and sister cleared and set the table while my mom cooked and my dad gave us a visual run through of his workout that day which, if viewed through the window without context, would have looked like a large muscular man doing an interpretive dance. On the stove was one of my favorite soups ever that is a regular at my family’s table, but that I haven’t had in a long time due to my frequent food experimentation and busy schedule. At dinner, among other things, we discussed food and my theories of food being magically delicious. See, I have this theory that if something is magically delicious, not just delicious but a level above delicious, to the point where it is inexplicable, then it contains: cream, butter, and/or fish sauce (I’m debating whether or not cream cheese should be its own category or a sub-category of “cream”). My family agreed with my theory, and we shared anecdotes about when we’ve found this to be true. Dinner lasted about 45 minutes, and I rushed off to job#2 feeling like my day was suddenly well-balanced.

Tonight was the same. We all magically converged in the kitchen at 6. There was no interpretive dancing, but dinner was delicious again and we spent it laughing and talking about our plans for the rest of the week. I find myself really looking forward to dinner during the middle of my day. I haven’t even been asking what my mom is making because I like the surprise, and these days I like just about anything. I’m in it for the company anyway.

After a long full day, I again feel well balanced. A break in between jobs, even just an hour, is strangely rejuvenating. But now I am tired, and I will leave you with quote that my dad just now said, and the disturbing mental image that goes along with it: “I have to go suckle on the teat of sleep.”


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