Thursday, September 27, 2012

LA at First Bite

It's one of those moments. I take a sip of my almond milk, the last taste from the juice-paired dinner, and lean back to observe the table and people around me.

I'm almost overwhelmed by the warmth circulating in the garden space, emanating not from a well-placed heat lamp or the unnaturally hot temperatures still lingering in the late September air, or even from the afterglow of alcohol.

It's emanating from each person at the communal table, each gathered here for the same reason -- to enjoy a great meal prepared by a great chef for a great cause

My stomach aches from the pursuit of unrestrained laughter provoked by my dining companions, most of whom had been strangers before we'd joined there earlier in the evening.

"This is it," I think. "This is what it's all about."

As I listen to my friend wax poetic about hot Krispy Kreme donuts, it strikes me that this moment, this iconic representation of the life I've created for myself in Los Angeles almost didn't happen.

A few years ago I almost gave up on LA.

The ceaseless stream of traffic on the 10 freeway, a job that crushed my spirit, the empty nights I'd spend wandering around the Grove or shellacked on my couch with an Amy's frozen spinach pizza -- my early years in the City of Angels were not so angelic at all.

I hated LA.

I hated the congestion. I hated parking half a mile away from my apartment every night. I hated filing my boss' expense reports. I hated my roommate's boyfriend. I hated the noisy neighbors that kept me up at night. I hated washing my clothes at a laundromat. I hated the guy -- Mr. Entertainment -- that I seemed to meet every time I went out. I hated going out. I hated staying in. I hated the hopelessness I felt when I wasn't the one again. I hated myself for feeling hope in the first place.

I hated the person I was becoming.

I didn't recognize her. And I didn't recognize LA as a place I'd ever want to spend more than a fleeting moment of my life.

It wasn't until I started my food blog and was miraculously embraced by the local dining community that my initial impressions of Los Angeles started to ease away. The everyday struggles suddenly didn't seem so bad once I knew the people that were out there struggling with me. It wasn't just me lost in a sea of Pruises and wannabe actors/models.

We were in this together.

We were experiencing the same annoyances -- traffic on the 405, earthquakes, Time Warner Cable outages, fender benders, parking tickets, security lines at LAX, the Trader Joe's at 3rd and La Brea.

But more importantly, we were experiencing the same joys -- Ricky's Fish Tacos, the budino at Pizzeria Mozza, one too many glasses of wine at Bar Covell, brunch at Huckleberry, burgers and craft beers at The Golden State Cafe, soup dumplings at Din Tai Fung, the crying tiger pork at Jitlada

Love at first bite.

LA at first bite. 

And each of us had a spot at the communal table.