Restaurants: A Love Story

Sorry for the lack of original posts recently. I have spent the past two weeks more or less on continuous vacation traveling to San Francisco and then Boston. On the flight back to the west coast last night this post that I wrote as a guest blog for Melissa almost a year and a half ago was weighing on my mind. My trip back to Boston was amazing. Long time readers know I went to college in Boston and lived there for 4 years before a moved to LA a little over three years ago. I felt pangs of homesickness for Boston as the plane flew west. I reached into my monogrammed LL Bean tote and pulled out my brie and roasted chicken sandwich from my favorite bakery. The taste of the food was comforting, brought back many old memories and genuinely tasted like home. I was reminded of this post I wrote about why I love restaurants and by extension, food in general. The food I create and the restaurant meals I consume are sort of the mile markers of my life if you will. I never cross posted it here so I thought now would be a good time to share. I hope you enjoy.

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I have had a lifelong love affair with restaurants. According to my Mother, I went to my first restaurant at the tender age of 1 week old. It was a breakfast place near my parent’s house. My Mother is a fantastic cook but pretty much not a day went by in my youth where I didn’t ask if we could go out to dinner. Why? Who knows! I was ordering chicken fingers with honey mustard at literally every restaurant I went to.

Eating a scone at Blenheim Palace in London, England; May 1989, 21 months old. International foodie. Clearly, I was intently focused.

My love of restaurant dining has stayed with me since my first trip when I was one week old. I have an unnatural love of bread baskets, fancy bathrooms, menus, restaurant décor, being waited on, and all the other trappings of restaurants. Luckily, 20 some years later I found myself living in LA which is basically a foodie playground. I still love restaurants and I make it my mission to go to as many as possible.


So why do I love restaurants?

Trying new types of cuisine

One reason I love going to restaurants is that I get to try new and interesting cuisine. Where else are you going to try authentic Ethiopian food? Sitting around the mesob (which means table) eating delicious meats and veggies on a large pancake-like bread circle is an experience you can’t really have at home. I love trying food I’ve never had before or new and interesting combinations. It helps that I’m not a very picky eater and I trust most chefs to produce tasty dishes.

One of my favorite ethnic cuisines is sushi. There is an amazing sushi restaurant near my parent’s house that produces visually stunning rolls, like this…

It’s supposed to be a turtle! I could never recreate this which, to me, makes the meal even more special.

International dining is always a new and fun experience too! I love French food (probably because I love anything with a liberal application of butter) and dining in Istanbul was delicious and fascinating. The restaurants in Istanbul served all the meals in small plates. There was so much feta, eggplant, olives, chickpeas, and lamb. It was Mediterranean foodie heaven. Plus, international dining teaches you wonderful lessons about other parts of the world. Like if you order a martini with olives in Istanbul you will get this:

Yes. That is a glass of vermouth with a dish of green olives. See! Restaurant dining is a rich, cultural learning experience that allows you to try new things and expand your personal borders!

Getting waited on

No lie, I think one of the main reasons I loved eating out as a child was because I got waited on. It’s sad but true. As kids my brother and I always had to set and clear the table. I hated this chore and used all kinds of trickery to avoid it (spoiler alert: it never worked). Restaurants were a magic place where we didn’t need to clear the table and we were able to order ice cream for dessert. Even at greasy holes in the wall, we didn’t have to lay out napkins for everyone in the family. It was magical.

I still love going to restaurants for this reason. Don’t get me wrong, I love cooking, but it’s nice to not have to do the dishes.

High quality food

Obviously, sometimes we go out because it’s the path of least resistance. It’s late and nothing looks better than fast food. But many times I go out to eat and get a truly special meal, one way better than I could have produced on my own.

Like crispy fried chicken.

A beautiful tart.

Or a decadent dessert.

Yep, drool -> meet the keyboard.

Making friends

A fun byproduct of going to the same restaurant countless times is that you develop friendships with the owners and the people who work there. As a little girl I always had breakfast at the same restaurant with my dad and we got to know the staff well. They became family friends and every trip home in college was marked with visits to Green Bay Café to catch up. One of my cherished memories from growing up is having a restaurant owner and family friend divide a thick chocolate milkshake into two cups for my brother and I while we sat at the funky, retro inspired bar. It’s the friends we shared these memories with that makes them special. The people you meet and the connections you make build everyday life.

I still love making friends at my favorite eateries and it makes me want to go back. For example, one of my favorite LA haunts, Tavern in Brentwood played host to President Obama last week so of course I stopped in to get all the details over the weekend!

I love soaking in an exciting atmosphere and Tavern was abuzz last weekend. I met several new people and people I ready knew to talk about what went on. Seeing their enthusiasm put a smile on my face. It was exciting and the perfect demonstration of how restaurants can be community centers.

The ritual of eating: food is love

Probably the main reason I love restaurants is that meals out mark all the major events in my life. Lunches and dinners are organized to celebrate graduations, homecomings, reunions, birthdays, anniversaries, and other special occasions. I can remember what I ate when I was accepted to law school, when I graduated from college, when I turned 21, when I reunited with an influential college mentor, and when I bonded with my best friends. Food, and for me restaurant meals, mark the major occasions in our lives and the minor daily event that bring us closer to people. Meals are a ritual, they bring people together.

Celebrating graduation with friends.

Bonding with blog friends, Amanda and Kaitlin, over sausage. Yes, sausages in a beer garden can be considered a restaurant.

With my best girlfriends in the college’s dining hall, where so many memories were made over meals.

Restaurants and I have an epic romance and I don’t foresee it ending anytime soon.

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The ends not near, it’s here.

On top of the mountain. Get it?

So last Wednesday I took my final law school exam and as we speak I am editing the final paragraphs of my Clinical Project. I will be completely and totally finished with everything associated with law school this evening. I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on my law school experience over the past few weeks and going through the normal graduation associated emotions: happiness at ending, pride in my accomplishment, apprehension about the future, and sadness to see several of my closest buddies moving away.

To be completely honest, law school was really tough for me. My 1L year was by far the most challenging for me in my personal life and it was equally challenging in my academic life. With my chaotic personal life it took me longer to adjust to law school than I wanted to. I’d always been a fantastic, near-perfect student and it was really hard for me not to do well immediately. I was very hard on myself for not being the perfect law student and I felt like I was failing at everything in my life.

Half way though first year I began running and started this blog. I am so thankful that I did. Left Coast Contessa gave me an outlet during 1L and something to focus on outside of school. I got healthier and more confident. I stayed in touch with my amazing support network of friends from undergrad. I was fortunate to have two fantastic summers at fulfilling jobs that I loved with excellent mentors to remind me why I went to law school. I eventually got a handle on classes and discovered that it’s totally acceptable to not be 100% perfect at school.

I think the biggest lesson that law school taught me was not to be so hard on myself. Law school also forced me to explore my identity outside being an overachiever. I’m probably the only person you know to have gone to law school and become more calm and less stressed out. Law school taught me that it’s ok to be an average student. In fact, after law school my ability to do great on an issue spotting examination really won’t matter. Law school confirmed for me that I get the most out of my work when it surrounds social justice. I discovered just how much I love that moment when I’m really able to connect and help someone improve their life.

Law school also taught me how special my undergraduate experience was. Simmons College really is one of a kind. Probably because I went straight from undergrad to law school I was acutely aware of the differences between the two schools. Simmons prepared me for law school because it made me the woman I am today. Simmons gave me self-assurance, confidence and transformed me from a girl into a woman. The friends I made at Simmons carried me though graduate school and were supportive sounding boards. Simmons nurtured me and I cannot imagine going to law school without the experience of Simmons. Frequently while at law school I would think about Simmons and the community there. It will always be special to me and there really is nowhere on earth like it.

Law school has also given me some fantastic friendships that I am very thankful for. I feel like I’ve been through a war with these people and no matter what we will always have that bond. I’ve also had the privilege to sit in classrooms filled with some of the most intelligent people I will ever meet. I am still blown away by my classmates on a routine basis. I feel lucky to be included in the same class as them.

There hasn’t been a day where I drive to school down Sunset Blvd and I don’t pinch myself. Graduating from UCLA Law is very honestly something that I could not have imagined in my wildest fantasy for my life. I remember looking at the prospectus on a bench in the Prudential Center in Boston on a warm June day in 2008 thinking “this is a pipe dream”. I remember driving by entrance to UCLA on Sunset when I was on my first trip to LA in August of 2006 thinking “I want to go to graduate school there”. The privilege of going to UCLA Law has not been lost on me and I would not be here without the teachers and advocates throughout school who made sure I got the help I needed to perform to my full potential. I would not be here without the mentor I had in undergrad who helped me network into internships, assistantships and fellowships. I would not be here without my fantastically supportive parents who literally would have done anything to help me succeed to my full potential. I would likely not be here without the absurd amount of economic and racial privilege that helped me go to superior public school and allowed me to not worry about financials during school (yeah I worked hard but I’m graduating with a specialization in critical race theory- I need to acknowledge that privilege has lead to many of the opportunities I’ve had).

These are the thoughts that I’ve been turning over in my mind over the past few weeks. My family arrives on Thursday. Graduation is on Friday and I cannot wait to walk across the stage, get my hood and become a Juris Doctor. Thank you so much, reader, for following me for the past 2.5 years on this blog. Like I said above, this blog really helped me navigate the waters of law school and it’s nice to know that there were people following along on the journey.