Non-fiction: Vinaigrette for one

Vinaigrette for one

For about 45 minutes in 2011, I was the hot new thing in micro-fiction (aka, flash fiction, aka, the-problem-with-your-generation-is-Ritalin-and-sody-pop fiction). One of my first and definitely among my shortest publications at this time was a story called “$300/mo,” named for the Craigslist ad for the sublet I took after I broke up with my first partner Ellery.

For ‘$300/mo,’ I rented the top level of a turret inorganically spun off a crumbling yellow house in the part of town problematically known as the ‘student ghetto.’ It had all the charm of a historic home that hadn’t been inhabited by a woman or a faggot in about 25 years. There were cockroaches, along with a family of bats in the closet. ( How do I know they were a family? Maybe they were just really good friends. For all I know, they hated each other. Am I a speciesist now? I’M SORRY, BATS, I’M SORRY.) But, beyond the always looming possibility of an unwelcome animal scuttling across your foot or swooping into your hair, there was the ‘frog slowly boiling’ atmosphere of marinara rotting right in the jar, popcorn purchased in the Carter years, and having visible reasons to wear flip-flops in the shower.

I used my meager savings (by which I probably mean my student loans) to drink myself deep, deep into oblivion that summer. I’d come up every once in a while for a coffee date with a friend or to crawl limply to the middle eastern restaurant at the end of the block (the falafel had pickles), but what I remember most distinctly (ha!) is buying expensive six packs of IPA (that really high-alcohol beer that smells like weed) and blacking out. (I had yet to discover liquor, and so was unaware that I could have been blacking out for pennies on the dollar.)

I was a pretty hardcore vegan back then, but, then again, you can say you’re on pretty much any diet if you don’t eat anything. I seem to remember there being bagels. Probably untoasted bagels, because I couldn’t stand that long in the communal kitchen with the cockroaches. (For about a week I thought there was only one. I named him Tristan, which is Latin for sad, and then I killed him. Please don’t name your children Tristan.) I dipped bagels in hummus and the cockroaches would scurry off with the crumbs, and then I’d buy beer and try to forget who and where I was.

By the time my latest boyfriend had broken up with me, I had learned a lot more about life. Like how to get drunk for four dollars. Or how to properly perform (and spell) anilingus. And, as it turned out, how to make vinaigrette for one.

Making vinaigrette for one is a skill as sad as it is useful! For a simple and refreshing vinaigrette for one, I recommended:

  • The dashed hopes of at least a decade
  • A painful awareness of how much your life has changed
  • The juice of one small refrigerated lemon stolen from your roommate
  • An indefinite amount of oil ‘about like that,’ I don’t know, smart people probably have set ratios for this, preferably the oil your roommate has in a repurposed tequila bottle
  • A healthy pinch of your roommate’s sea salt, which may or may not even be food
  1. Halve and then juice one small refrigerated lemon. The vinaigrette emulsifies better if the lemon is cold. Don’t fucking ask me, I just know what I know. Hold a cupped hand between the lemon and the bowl so you don’t have to fish the pips out later, like you kind of remember that Italian lady doing on TV.
  2. Realize that you didn’t zest the lemon when you had the chance, and berate yourself until you remember to do it next time, you sack of shit.
  3. Drizzle oil (not vegetable oil, though, you cretin) into the lemon juice while whisking, by which I mean doing a swoopy beating motion with a fork, because what am I, Donald Trump? Stop doing that when it looks more like salad dressing than it did before.
  4. Sprinkle in sea salt all dramatic-like, up high like Jacques Pépin or some shit.
  5. Serve over pasta, arugula, or pasta and arugula if you got paid this week!

(My actual serving suggestion is to serve this over pappardelle with arugula, shaved Parmesan, and sun-dried tomatoes, or over arugula with shaved Parmesan and blueberries. Sources tell me that, while this is technically a vinaigrette, it’s not, like, the textbook definition of a vinaigrette, as it contains no fucking vinegar.)

Making vinaigrette for one does seem like a distinct step up in the world. I’m a single 27-year-old man(nish type person) to whom this would even occur to do, so I guess I have some notions about young sad men beat. It’s not delivery – it’s diSchlomo!

I didn’t start off single life on totally the wrong foot. For a time I remembered that I was an adult human being with a vested interest in my own health and/or ability to maintain an erection, and so I bought arugula and stole my roommate’s lemons (again, she was never there), and I made real people food, kind of, even if it was scaled down.

Things backslid after I got a job, though. I got out of work at about the time the food boutiques closed, and after walking a couple of miles, I didn’t want a springy vinaigrette; I wanted goddam pizza.

I’d go see my friend Frankie at her pizzeria job. Which was mostly to see Frankie, but also sometimes free or greatly marked-down pizza would rain on me like ass into the lap of my 20 year old self. I also ordered a lot of Cottage Inn, though. Did you know their breadsticks come with garlic cream cheese? Because, Jesus, who needs health or personal fulfillment when you can put garlic salt in shmear?

I had to buckle down, though, because delivery pizza doesn’t grow on trees. (It grows on low-lying waterland bushes, if you want to get technical about it.) So that’s when I started buying pharmacy food. Oh the shells and cheese you’ll eat! Oh the guacamole you’ll put on pita chips! Did you know that 7-Eleven has its own sandwich brand? Well now you do, sister!

After Liddie’s lease was up, I moved into my summer sublet, which I promptly discovered did not have silverware. There was a couple of plates, maybe a bowl, some cooking implements, and a bottle of rum with a picture of the kraken on it, but not a knife or fork to be seen. Four adult men, four quadrants of pizza and variations on the theme of pizza in the refrigerator, and not a speck of cutlery in sight.

You can’t even make ramen in that situation.

I would like to state for the record that men are not hopeless in the kitchen; hopeless men are hopeless in the kitchen. The easy answer is not to let the marinara rot in the jar. The easy answer is to just go buy some fucking silverware. But when your life comes crashing down around you, you don’t feel like you deserve a functional kitchen. Pizza is delicious and scratches the itch to punish yourself, and it doesn’t require any utensils.

For the record, I ordered pizza while writing this chapter.

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