Small Talk

A couple weeks ago, I went to a bridal shower in Golden Valley, Minnesota. I was sitting there in the suburbs, drinking tea with well dressed, middle aged ladies in a beautiful house on the end of a cul de sac. It was lovely, until one of the women put down her porcelain tea cup, smoothed her skirt with her “just done” nails and asked me what I do for work. At that moment, as though it were rehearsed, all perfectly coifed heads turned to look at me. Panicked, I stared at the beautifully cleaned, white carpet as pictures of Daniel’s knife wielding maniacal adventures swirled through my mind, trying to come up with a well-phrased way to describe the animal snuff films I help to create. This is where I usually find myself. And so, like most other times, I put down my plate of petite fours, wiped my mouth with the satin napkin, brushed my hair behind my shoulders and, in the most lady like voice I could muster, spoke: “I make a documentary series with my boyfriend about local food, where he kills animals with his bare hands and cooks with their blood.” Silence.

…And normally my cue to leave. So, as per usual, I nodded sheepishly, grabbed my used-to-be-white-but-is-now-a-grayish tote bag and was preparing for a grand curtsy before my departure, when I heard the pitter patter of fancy heels come running from the kitchen. I turned to find the host excitedly hurrying my way. Before I could apologize for tainting the party with my talk of sautéing squirrel intestine (and of course, my disapproval of it), the woman had grabbed my hand and was telling me how she had grown up on a farm, had been raising and growing her own food since she was a little girl, and still made bread from homemade flour. I sat back down.

This is the best part of the job. Being surprised by people…and getting to hear their stories. I hate small talk — it makes me want to kill myself. But if Im able to get past that initial, awkward chitchat lull to the real stuff, that’s where the meat is. I’ve spent the past year sitting in kitchens all over the state, talking with people about the food that brought them to where they are now, and hearing the stories behind each dish: who taught them to cook, where they were when they first tasted, first baked or first set their eyes on a certain recipe. Everyone has a different relationship to food — It is ingrained in their history, and shapes a part of who they are. And once you get them talking… it’s marvelous.