Alison Berkley: The Princess’s Palate
A few weeks ago, I get this e-mail from a public relations chick from New York whose last name is Snow, inviting me to attend an all-expenses paid trip to Grand Cayman for a three-day food and wine festival. Let me think about that for a second. Ummm, yeah! I respond. Wed worked together on a recent article and obviously shes under the impression that Im a real journalist. She promptly replies with an e-mail that goes, Great! Let me know how your name is spelled on your passport, and would you like to fly out of Denver or Aspen? So here I am sitting on a plane en route to Miami, and by the time yall read this, I will be sinking my little toes in the warm white sand of a Caribbean beach in my teeny-weeny bikini, wondering how the hell I got there. I mean, the bulk of the writing I do is this sort of self-indulgent banter that should probably get me into a lot more trouble than it does. Like that time I solicited mushrooms through my column on Halloween, and how not a single person objected, and how I walked into a certain store in downtown Aspen a few hours before the party started and one of my readers goes, I think I have what youre looking for. So, like, it actually worked. I dont know how it is Ive been invited to attend The Cayman Cookoff (essentially a smaller version of our own beloved Food & Wine Classic), considering Im a beer drinker and the only food Ive been eating lately is, well, beer, a little liquid replacement meal I like to refer to as bread soda. I am here to tell you that it is quite possible to subsist on a diet of caffeine, nicotine and alcohol, particularly if you are going for that Mary Kate Olsen look. I have tried a lot of diets and I got ta tell you, this one really works. Which chefs would you like to interview so I can schedule that for you? Ms. Snow writes a few days after Ive accepted her invitation. Also, which events would you like to attend? She sends me a link to the schedule, which includes everything from a seminar on Argentinean wines to a cooking demonstration on the deck of a catamaran with Chef Eric Ripert, who is apparently a celebrity after appearing as a judge on Bravos hit TV show Top Chef. I sort of randomly choose a few things that look cool in much the same way as I selected answers on the SATs, using my intuition as a guide and making sure not to over think things too much since I have no clue what any of it actually means. So basically I have no idea how Im bumbled into this high-brow event or what Im supposed to do once I get there in terms of magically turning myself into some gourmet food/wine connoisseur/legitimate journalist. But if theres a will, theres a way, I always say. Ill figure out a way to finagle it. Ill pull something off, especially if it means having an opportunity to work on my mid-winter tan. So you could say things have been going pretty well for me lately. Its hard to believe that just a few weeks ago, I was in the depths of despair, crying to my Daddy about how I had become a childless spinster with no one to spend the holidays with aside from my psychotic dog. So Im especially charmed when, a few nights before Im supposed to leave for my free trip to the tropics, my new man comes over to fix all this stuff thats been broken in my apartment for months. Hes looking very much the hot handy man with his sideburns and his tattoos and his little flavor savor thing that, I have to admit, is starting to grow on me, so to speak, now that I understand its purpose. Hes talking to my appliances, which I find adorable, and is telling me that my disposal is very angry with me, shining his little pen light thing on the dime he says has probably been stuck in there for a very long time. He holds the light with his teeth while he tries to free the dime and even though hes wearing blue rubber gloves, he looks ridiculously sexy. This is the day after he takes me to the Pine Creek Cookhouse for the Replay Sports employee party, where we eat all these amazing wild-game dishes like buffalo dumplings and elk meatloaf and wash it down with shots of some liquor Ive never even heard of that tastes part Schnapps and part whiskey and casts a deep pink hue on our warm cheeks and makes everyone laugh harder and louder. I watch Brads girlfriend Heidi school all the boys in the Chinese downhill race on our cross-country trek back to the car, blowing past them as they land in a pile of strewn poles and skis. Its hard to believe Ive never been to Pine Creek Cookhouse in the seven years Ive lived in Aspen and never met these people because its so easy to be with them I feel like Ive known them for a very long time, like this is a tradition weve been celebrating together for years. The next day, I find great pleasure in doing the dishes, in rinsing out my rice cooker and my vegetable strainer, knowing I wont have to dig through the soggy remnants of my last meal and scoop it out of the sink and into the trash. There is something particularly satisfying about watching all that garbage finally go down the drain. And thats when I realize so much that was broken in my life, and in my heart, is suddenly, and finally fixed. So whether Im in Grand Cayman or Ashcroft or my own kitchen, I know Im about to embark on an entirely new adventure.
The Princess hopes youll still love her now that shes happy. Send your love to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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For the past five-plus years I have sat in a big chair in a small office on Hyman Avenue watching life in Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley play out in front of me.