Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Learning languages

I knew it would be a good day when I tried to call a source yesterday morning and got a wrong number. The man who answered the phone spoke Spanish (or maybe Italian?) because this is how our conversation went down:

Man: Si?

Me: Hello? Is Joy available? 

Man ( thick accent): No, Joy. 

Me: Oh wrong number? 

Man: Yes...wrong.

Me: Ok, sorry to bother you. 

Man: Ok, love you. 

Maybe he meant "thank you" or just "goodbye," but either way, I wanted to say, "Ok, I love you, too."

Later that day, I interviewed Phila Hach, an 82-year-old chef, at her home, and of course, she insisted like any good southerner that we (photographer John and I) stay for lunch. She told stories. She dug out photo albums, and she offered advice on everything from roasting turkey to living in the moment and learning to appreciate the wisp of a cloud. Even though she has traveled the world and shared her table with Johnny and June, Julia Child, and presidents of many nations, I'm always struck by her utterly down-to-earth and genuine way. 

"Be real," she once told me, "with your cooking and your life."

And while I try to lap up her wisdom every chance I get, it's food she seems happiest dishing -- slipping her guests an extra roll here, or a spoonful of dumplings there -- at which point we might ought to say, "Ok, Ms. Phila, we love you, too." 

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