The Road Taken: Ingmar Bergman & a Cookbook

Chapter 5:  One dinner.  That’s all I wanted. To plan one dinner for my new friend, Lia, and her boyfriend, Miles. Plus G and me, of course.  My way of thanking Lia for helping me get the job at the TV station. My first, welcome-to-the-work-world, job!

A typist, that’s what I was going to be.  Monica Medina, typist extraordinaire! My job would be to type the weekly program listings—on my very own IBM Selectric, at my very own desk—and send them off to TV Guide Magazine.  Ok, maybe not a desk, but a small table.  My very own small table!  What more could I ask?

A meaningful scene from Ingmar Bergman's "The Seventh Seal" that terrified me for years.

It had been so nice of Lia to take me to the public television station where I landed a job right on the spot. I would be working for Patti, who was in charge of promotions and in desperate need of an office assistant. Patti was friendly and welcoming in her Seattle-casual, rumpled sweatshirt and jeans look. And now she was my new boss!

While I was feeling joyful, I also was hoping that some of my good fortune would rub off on Lia. After I got the job, Lia took me out for a celebratory cup of coffee.  I wasn’t really a coffee drinker, but I was too happy to refuse.  Besides, here was Lia who I’d barely met, still in need of a job, yet happy for me.

And with this job–and the $4 an hour I’d be earning–I could start helping G with the expenses.  Better yet, I could start saving up to get us out of that house. But first things, first.  I was determined to host a dinner party for Lia and Miles. Of course, with housemates like mine, I had to wait for the right time to broach the subject. Thanks to Ingmar Bergman and a film festival of the avant-garde director’s works, the opportunity came the following Friday night.

G and I were in the kitchen noshing on leftovers from Ivar’s Salmon House, when Stan and Jeanette returned home. They had just seen The Seventh Seal for the eighth time. As luck would have it, this put Stan in rare, high spirits. Which totally confounded me.

I had once seen that film in college and found it to be, well, bizarre. Something about chess and the Grim Reaper. Never did figure out what the seventh seal was, but for some reason, the movie made me fearful of mimes dancing at dusk. Yet, somehow it made Stan borderline peppy.

Marigold was hunkered down in her room with the one-two punch: migraine headache and severe menstrual cramps. Every once in a while we’d hear a low moan emanating from her room, like a wolf about to pounce on its victim.  G knocked gingerly at her door and asked if he could make her a cup of tea, but she declined, preferring to wear the mantle of a martyr suffering in “silence.”  Though, when she heard Stan and Jeannette return, she managed to come out of her cave, wrapped in a flannel blanket. Scooting up next to G at the kitchen table, she made sure to keep her sulking face intact.

Here’s what I wanted to say to the housemates:  “We’re having a small dinner party next weekend and you’re not invited. You’ve all had parties and now it’s our turn.”

Here’s what I did say: “By any chance, would it be agreeable if G and I invited a couple of friends over for dinner next weekend?  I promise we’ll make ourselves scarce and you’ll hardly notice. It would be nice if we could do this on our own, but you’re welcome to stay.”

Here’s what would have been nice to hear:  “Oh, sure, no problem.  We’ll leave the house so you can enjoy the evening without us around to torture you.”

Here’s what I heard:  Silence. Awkward, prolonged, deafening silence. Teeth gnashing, too.  Finally, Jeannette broke the quiet. “Sounds fine to me. What do you think, Stan?”

Stan contemplated this, looking up at the ceiling in his pensive, measured way.  He then peered over his eye glasses, and slowly, enunciating each word, asked,

“What are you planning to serve?”

(photo by Marisa McClellan)

His question caught me off guard. Getting the clearance to invite friends over had been the focus of my anxiety, as had been prepping for this conversation.  So, what we’d be eating was something I had not yet considered.

“Spaghetti and meatballs?” I looked at Stan quizzically, hoping my impromptu response passed whatever test he was giving me.

Stan winced. Drats. Wrong answer!

“Don’t you think that’s a tad provincial?”  Marigold nodded in agreement.

Now, Stan knew I was not as practiced in the kitchen as he was. My repertoire was rather limited, having spent my college years making the occasional meal from recipes found on the back of Hamburger Helper and Lipton Soup packages.

Stan needled me some more. “Might as well serve processed parmesan–”

“Swiss Cheese and Mushroom Quiche,” G interjected firmly. “That’s what I’m making, and we’re getting the ingredients at the Pike Place market. Of course, the crust will be from scratch.”

Ever since moving to the Northwest, G had become known for his piecrusts, and his use of generous amounts of chilled, unsalted butter. He also relied on the Moosewood Cookbook, which had become his “bible” in the kitchen. It enabled him to prepare many a tasty vegetarian dish–cauliflower curry, potato and fennel soup–which consistently met with Stan’s approval.  And now it seemed, the prospect of quiche, with a from-scratch crust, was just was the ticket we needed. For suddenly, a slight grin began to spread across Stan’s face.

“Sounds good,” he said.  “Make sure you save us some.”

And just like that, G and I began planning our first dinner party.

29 thoughts on “The Road Taken: Ingmar Bergman & a Cookbook

  1. I know the feeling you get when you finally land a job. It’s pure ecstasy. I freelance, so I have people to work for nearly all the time, and the great part is I can choose who I want to work for. If the person doesn’t sound nice, I leave them be. But job hunting is crazy. I first started searching for a job when I was 17, which was really hard to find. And I had to do it all by myself too, with some help from my mother and step-father. I was lucky enough to snag a job at a Barnes and Noble in my area, which was delightful for me, because I love reading and I love bookstores as well! 🙂

    Lia and Patty both sound truly terrific. It’s nice to have friends in an unknown foreign place, where you don’t really know anyone. As my mom always said, the things in a place just make a place. It’s the friends in a place that truly bring it alive.

    Stan really does sound like someone out of a Nazi era. Maybe he was a commander in his past life. Hm.

    Ah, Marigold. Did all her airs and graces finally fall to reveal her true nature? Oh, no, don’t tell me, I have my eyes closed! I’ll find out as I continue to read your journey, it’s been fantastic re-living it with you so far!

    – Ashley

  2. Monica, I can think of many words to describe Stan but the one that comes to mind rhymes with stick and pick. OMG, how in the world did you have the patience to live with these weirdos? Sister? I’ve reserved you a space right up there with Mother Teresa. Me? I would have been kicked out an hour after arriving. And G and his quiche. How pretentious! Give me spaghetti and meat balls any day! 🙂

    • Hay, mija! I guess I was too down to earth, too homespun and very New York. I enjoyed the simple things in life, like watching TV, reading bestsellers, and eating spaghetti and meatballs, all things that met with Stan’s disapproval and because he owned the house, whatever he said went. I spent almost a year there and was a total outsider the entire time. Yikes.

  3. I’m so glad you found The Seventh Seal to be so bizarre. I used to regularly get together with some guys to watch and discuss artsy films and The Seventh Seal was the one that left us scratching our heads above all others.

    • I actually ended up being forced to see it two or three times in all. I think it would be perfect film for the government to use to get any information out of terrorists. It could probably eliminate all terrorist activity and make this world a safer place, if they were forced to watch.

  4. Love the way you describe poor Marigold – been there, felt that, alas! Stan needs to take the stick out of his @ss, doesn’t he?

    My spaghetti is to die for, and Stan can’t have any, so there! Thanks for sharing.

  5. Your writing makes me feel like I was a fly on the wall when this happened. Can’t wait for more.

  6. Monica, I love your writing. I feel all this pent up anger towards Stan. My grandfather’s Italian family must have been provincial but they made the best spaghetti and meatballs anyone ever tasted. Stan wasn’t good enough to lick the drops of sauce from the floor. (remember what they used to say… Real men don’t eat quiche. LOL) I look forward to the next installment.

    • Yes, I’d forgotten how good the recipes in the Moosewood cookbook were. After writing this, I bought myself an updated copy. I look forward to preparing some of the tasty dishes myself! 🙂

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