When Thirsty Girl initially contacted me with an inquiry as to my interest in guest-blogging, I was at once intrigued and inspired at being presented with a chance to become involved in their mission to celebrate the passion for living from a feminine perspective.
The site, founded by Leslie Sbrocco, is a powerful platform for showcasing the many forms of girl power exhibited in our collective lust for life. Women know they can quench that thirst in many ways, and what struck a chord with me was TG’s explicit acknowledgment of the importance of absorbing all that life has to offer, regardless of how the choice manifests itself. Whether embodied by a group of sorority sisters getting together over cocktails to share in the latest harmless gossip, or lifelong friends coming together to offer support to each other in more difficult times, both are expressions of the thirst that are to be celebrated and acknowledged.
Since my own point of view mirrors Leslie’s concept that the opportunities to unite and bond over food and drink are endless, contributing to Thirsty Girl seemed to me a perfect fit.
Upon some small reflection, I began to ponder: What made me a “Thirsty Girl?” What resonated most about their message? Is my status reflected in my insatiable desire to share the best of my dining experiences with the world, or is it bigger than that? Does my passion for savoring every moment spent with family and friends elevate me to Thirsty Girl? Questions bred more questions.
I was born inquisitive. My earliest memories are colored by a fever to explore my surroundings. Curiosity isn’t all that unusual. Most of us arrive with the desire to scrutinize our environment; it is how we come to learn the world around us. But my questioning, tasting, experiencing — always felt bigger than others. I couldn’t seem ever to be satisfied with the answers I received. There had to be more. But what?
The toddler’s mantra of “what’s that?” often accompanied by a chubby pink finger pointed at the object of the inquiry, be it a blade of grass or the cotton candy wisp of cloud that floats serenely in the sky above, seems to have followed me into adulthood. As children, we struggle with the balance between the safety of our mother’s arms and the pull of the world around us. That childish thirst for knowledge eventually blossoms into friendships with our peers. We all long to be accepted, to be something more than alone. Soon, we begin to respond to the driving force of puberty; we sense our bodies can serve us by bonding us with the opposite sex. We experience and experiment. Eventually we learn to love those who are not our blood, and if we are really lucky, we discover what it means to have a best friend and partner on this incredible journey. As we form each new relationship, we never lose our basic appetites to explore, to be safe, and to connect. The deepest thirst in all of us is for companionship.
When I began writing about food, I wanted to explore the rituals. It seems to me that eating has never been merely about satisfying a physical hunger. Dining is for most of us rooted in our own histories and as complex an experience as the myriad flavors in a well-developed dish. Raised by a Midwestern mother and Italian father, I grew up in a culture of gatherings around food. Every meal was something to be shared with family, and eating was the central feature of every holiday or occasion. Most of my earliest memories involve dining with some portion of my large family unit, enjoying a lavish meal at the communal table. For the first two decades or so of my life, all of these meals took place in Oakland, California, so I chose to focus my blog there, where it all began.
Everyone’s relationship with food is different, but no one eats only for sustenance. Anyone who tells you otherwise is a liar or a fool. From the time we are born the things we taste are linked to a deep and primitive sensory recall. Every time we experience a remarkable flavor, we are either transported to a past memory, or actively making a new one — as the sensations of taste, smell and companionship color the moments of our lives. I see bad food more as missed opportunity to add another beautiful recollection to the life experience, than as a failed effort to create, though both views are valid. To this day, I cannot smell garlic browning in butter without thinking of my grandmother. I cannot eat a caramelized bite of succulent Easter ham without remembering my favorite aunt and the times spent around her table. When we enjoy these
experiences with others, they remain with us forever. I am of the undying opinion that in order to benefit fully, to participate completely, we must savor the love between the slices of bread broken.
It can be as simple as bonding over buttered popcorn and a movie with a friend, or as complicated as sharing a “marker meal” at a traditional once-in-a-lifetime event, like a wedding. Each of these events augments our friendships, expands our families, enhances our lives. Every time we come together to enjoy a repast, we broaden the collective memory. Weddings, birthdays — even funerals — all such occasions serve to cement in us a cognizance of all others present as we celebrate them. Years later we look back and we remember. We remember what we ate, and more importantly, with whom we ate it.
Every time we spend quality time with the people who matter to us, we are given an opportunity. Beyond the pleasure of the food shared is the chance to connect, either to maintain a treasured relationship or perhaps form a new one. Each meal, each moment of our life, can be as meaningful as we allow it to be. I think that’s the point of being a Thirsty Girl — to be open to the possibilities — to be someone who doesn’t let even the smallest droplet of life go unappreciated, because she is aware, every moment, of the monumental waste contained in even the tiniest missed opportunity.
If we pay attention, each of us can be enriched by the human experience, coming together, united over a good meal and a glass of wine. Life should be about possibility. That’s what motivates me, maintaining the constant state of awareness necessary to capitalize on opportunity. I choose to be awake, present enough to taste everything life has to offer. Every day is an opportunity to participate in the making of new memories.
We all have a choice: to sit in the car and watch life go by, or to be aware enough to taste all that life has to offer. You gotta be a Thirsty Girl, or you’re gonna miss the ride.
Angela Lazear is the writer of East Bay Food Scene, Essays on the Ritual of Dining and a former Thursday Thirsty Girl.