A Blog Mainly About Food

If by "mainly" you mean "sometimes"

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The Maddening Silence Drives Me to Drink

My current student (17 years old, mind you) doesn't have opinions.

This is the conclusion I've come to after multiple lessons trying to coax essays out of him, slowly. When asked his opinion on such heated issues as "Does helping people make an individual's life better?" or "Do you mind postponing trips to your father's house so we can meet on Sundays?" There are times when I don't think the gears are clicking with him. Seriously. The response my student had to the first question:
"Yes, because imagine if you were in line for a candy bar and short 5 cents, and someone helped you. That makes your life better, and if no one did that kind of thing life wouldn't be good for anyone"


Now there's a way to spin this to make it a metaphor for charity, but not only is that a stretch, but it doesn't answer the question at all. The student didn't get that the question was about the giver, not the give-ee, even after I tried to take apart the prompt for him. Finally, I just read him my response (we do an activity where we both answer questions together and compare) and he reacted: "Wow, that's a good answer too." ARGH.

Unlike my last difficult student, this one just doesn't try. Apparently he watches TV all the time, hates to read, and really just wants to play golf all day. He's sweet, in a way, but so extraordinarily difficult.

So, brimming with frustration after the lesson, I walked to Palena. I couldn't get the student out of my mind. How does one grow to the age of 17 without knowing what the word "vapid" means? (His response: "is that kind of like rapid?") Or, for that matter, "revere"?

Luckily, there was the restaurant, and a bit of Eden therein. I sat with friends, drinking pickle martinis and white Burgundy, and enjoyed a lovely and relaxing dinner with great company. We talked food, we talked life, we ate like kings for two hours. And for a few moments my disgruntled attitude towards vague scarecrows such as "kids today" and "the education system" melted into the background, replaced with the feeling that I'd found some serenity. The Café Salad with locally grown lettuce, walnuts, beets, radish, and goat cheese was heavenly; the sweetness of the beets the primary flavor playing off the textures and flavors of the other elements. The Artichoke Antipasto featured a hunk of buffaloe mozzarella that I ate in thin slices, so as to have some with every bite -- here with a slice of ham, there on a parmesan dusted hunk of crusty bread, later with the slices of artichoke heart. I quite literally left nothing on either plate and savored every last morsel. The conversation around the table elevated it all. Good food, good company, good wine.

This will be the last time I write about Palena, at least until I get into the back room for the non-café menu. Accolades could continue ad nauseum as I'll be visiting Cleveland Park fairly regularly -- but that would just get boring. So, for the last time: save your pennies and try it. Have a cocktail, have a glass of wine. Take friends and sit outside if its warm. Linger. Maybe you'll see me there. I'll be the one with a bag full of SAT study materials lying at my feet, blissfully forgotten.