|Christmas Eve in Maryland, sometime in the early 00s, double-fisting margaritas (as one does)|
I went to a small high school in Paris and was friends with the other American kids. On graduation day, one of the girls with whom i'd been close said to me, "I've only been friends with you out of convenience, because we had to be friends. But I don't really even like you".
I was upset when she said this. I thought she could have worded it differently, or I don't know, just not told me anything - we never saw each other again except for once, since we lived on opposite ends of the world. But now that i'm living overseas again, I find myself thinking this about some of the people I've met here.
I became friendly with a girl who organizes weekly get-togethers with other expats (not just Americans) to drink wine and meet other women. I like most of the women I've met in this group, but some of them I wouldn't even consider being friends with back home. But because we're thrown together like this, it's expected for us to hang out. Which to be honest is complete bullshit. I spent the last few years purging crap friends from my life and though the process hurt (sometimes I was the purgee and not the purger), the end result was so liberating. Last night was one of our wine weekly meetings, and one of the girls (ultra-blonde, gluten-free, carb-free, intolerant of all kinds of foods, skinny as a rail because she doesn't like to really eat anything) launched into a conversation with me about the special project i'm currently working on, which is a Mexican pop-up restaurant. A bit of backstory: the Mexican food in Saigon sucks. It's either missing salt, acid, heat, flavor, or all of the above. And it's all made far too sweet, to cater to the Vietnamese palate. So my boss wanted me to do the occasional pop-up, and I've become an inadvertent expert on all things Mexican. I've also been exchanging long Facebook messages back and forth with a Mexican friend of mine in Atlanta who gives me guidance, advice, and all that happy shit that supportive friends do.
So the woman (let's call her Beth) tells me she's coming to the next pop-up night (which is tonight). Asks me if i'm serving empanadas (i'm not). She gets visibly upset. "Why the hell not? That's Mexican". I explain to her that we're doing a tasting menu, one dish from each of seven culinary areas, so we had to limit what we wanted to present and, though it cut out a lot of really tasty stuff, i'm really proud of the menu. "That's right, they're called STATES", she says, matter-of-factly. "That's why they're called the United STATES of Mexico".
Me: "Yes, I know. But we've broken it down into seven regions and featuring one dish from each region".
Her: "Well, I can't wait".
Me: "Oh good!", I exclaim. "I'm really happy to hear that. We've gotten good feedback so far. We've been trying to make it as authentic as possible, specifically not Tex-Mex or Southwestern or anything fusion-y". God, did I just use that word? I hate that word. "I tried to keep faithful to the spices and heat in the original dishes".
Her: "What? What are you talking about. I HATE spicy food".
Me: "Oh. Uh".
Her: "And my in-laws are coming and they're Italian. They think puttanesca is spicy. So they hate spicy food too".
Me: "Well... perhaps for your table I could arrange to have your dishes less spicy so it'll be more of an enjoyable experience for you - "
Her: "Look", she said, cutting me off. "I'm from CALIFORNIA. I've had great Mexican food. All the Mexican food in California is NOT SPICY. How dare you call your food authentic Mexican if you haven't even had authentic Mexican? I mean, come on!", she laughed. "The Mexicans in California make great food. You don't know what you're talking about".
Me: "Well actually I HAVE had authentic Mexican and some of it is indeed quite spicy".
Her: "Well you're wrong".
Me: "Okay, well I beg to differ".
Her: "But I'M RIGHT. It's NOT SPICY. Have you had a Mexican taste your food and tell you it was authentic?"
Me: "Are there any Mexicans in Saigon? I don't know any Mexicans in Saigon".
Her: "Well there you go", she said smugly. "You're wrong".
This was my breaking point. It took every ounce of my being not to lash back, but instead I caught myself and thought, What would my chef friends back in the States do? One of them, notorious for being in-your-face-I-don't-give-a-rat's-ass-honest, would have told her to save her money and stay the fuck home because her happy ass wasn't welcome in his establishment (though he would have used way more colorful adjectives). I decided not to be that frank. Instead, I took a deep breath, sat back in my chair, and smiled. And this infuriated her. She grabbed her phone and immediately started pretending to text someone or look something up, involving many furious motions. Within minutes she got up and left.
I notified my marketing girl to expect a cancellation today, table of 4.
Are these the types of people i'm supposed to be friends with? because if so, they can go back to California.