We all live different lives but if there is one thing we can all agree on it is that some days are more challenging than others. Our day started at Duke University Children’s Hospital holding my nine month old son as doctors prodded him with needles for an IV. If that wasn’t bad enough, I had to standby and hold his hand helplessly while they inserted a catheter into his tiny boy parts. As tears rolled down his face, the hardest part was facing the look of betrayal in his eyes. It was the look that Micheal Corleone gave his brother Fredo after he has betrayed him, it was the glare Han Solo shot Lando Calrissian with when he found out he was turning them over to Darth Vader. I was glad he was not able to talk and ask me why I was allowing this to happen. Our son was born with a blockage in one of his kidneys, they both function well and he is not in danger but it has to be monitored every 6 months with a Mag3 Scan until the age of 2 just to ensure the blockage does not worsen and affect kidney function. We left the hospital mentally drained, tired and hungry. The boy fell asleep before the key turned the ignition and we made our way down to the Central Park section of Durham with plans to have lunch at Geer Street Garden and try out the new coffee shop Cocoa Cinnamon with hopes to put the worst part of our day behind us.
We sat down at one of the long picnic benches around the back of the former service station turned restaurant. There was a part of both us that wanted to ingest some stiff drinks to help transition from the morning’s stress but the snoring child in the stroller next to the table was an immediate reminder that it was not spring break in Cancun and the sweet tea might be the better option. The next best thing to comfort drinking is of course comfort food, but this order depends on who you are asking. Comfort food has been defined as things that “may be consumed to positively pique emotions, to relieve negative psychological effects or to increase positive feelings”. Nothing pigues positive emotions and relieves negative psychological effects like Cheddar Jalapeño Hush Puppies, Grilled Pimento Cheese Sandwich, Cheeseburger and Fries. Our little guy snored his troubles away as we swallowed ours after lathering the crunchy hush puppies with the sweet honey butter that came surrounded by the golden brown fritters. Next we tagged teamed on a grilled cheese with enough pimento cheese oozing out to choke a mule (thats a good thing) and a great burger topped with cheddar cheese and bacon. Devin slept though the whole meal apprently more comfortable in his stroller than the 90 minutes he spent strapped to a board screaming bloody murder a few hours earlier.
He woke up as we made our way across Geer Street to Cocoa Cinnamon to complete our meal with an afternoon coffee. Cocoa Cinnamon is another former rundown service station that was resucitated by Areli and Leon Barrera de Grodski who converted their two wheeled moble bike coffee business to a brick and mortar coffee shop. Devin awoke like the terrible morning never happened. We placed him in a high chair at the busy intersection of Geer and Foster and he became fixated in the big yellow machine tearing into the conrete on the corner, then the loud motorcylcle that just passed by followed by the large diesel truck that came from the other direction. In tables next to us people were hashing out various business deals, an event planner with a prospective client at one table and people negtioning the sale of kitchen equiptment on the other. His head turned back and forth as if he was trying to keep up with the two conversations and waiting for someone to ask him for his input, all while waving and chatting with the Yellow Lab that was lying under a table. I drank a Middle Eastern Iced Coffee, despite the heat, Serena had a Macchiato and we handed Devin a Pan Dulce for his troubles. He happily shoved the little pieces of sweet bread in his mouth that we would place in front of him and it seems like the morning spent with a tube running into his penis never happened.
After our caffeine and bread fix we made our way home. I continued on some ongoing yard projects then got ready to head to CHOPNC gathering at Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill. CHOP stands for Carolina Historians of Piedmont North Carolina and meets monthly to hear from authors and writers that are sharing and preserving food culture. The group was founded by southern and asian food fanatic Nancy McDermott and tonights featured guest was Crooks Corner’s head chef Bill Smith.
Before tonight I was familiar with who Bill Smith was, I knew he was a two time James Beard semi-finalist and I had briefly looked at the pictures from his recent feature in Our State Magazine but hearing him read about how South American immigrants in his kitchens have influenced his life and cooking or the complexity and simplicty of a bike path that he picks honeysuckles for his sorbet affected me. Hearing the story while tasting his sorbet brought me back to being a kid in Connecticut and hopping off my bike to eat these things right off the bush for no other reason than I smelled them while riding by. The way he visualized these simple actions involving food touched on how I have always hoped my writing comes across. I bought a copy his latest cookbook “Seasoned in the South” shook his hand and drove back down I40 towards Durham.
I thought about our day and despite how it started, it turned out to be a great day. Our son’s kidney issues were put in perspective when we saw a young child being rolled by who has had been undergoing chemotherapy. I thought about what his and parents do to get thought a rough day knowing another one is right behind it. Our sons presence in our lives is a constant reminder how we all should live life a bit like a child again. We all did it once but the seriousness of life has made us forget. So what if the first hours of your day turns to complete shit, lucky for you there are 24 hours in every day, thats plenty of time to turn it around usually with the help of something comforting to eat and drink.