Food, Life and Love

Olives: Sorting through the Imperfections

When it came to events, I was once a perfectionist. The type of person that polished wine glasses before her in-laws visited. I often uttered the phrase “please excuse the mess” when both my guest and I knew I had been cleaning for hours prior to their presence. I used fabric napkins, cute signs, and loved a good theme for any soiree. My life was a pursuit of control and parties were an extension of that. I don’t know this person anymore and I thank the olives.

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Kevin and the team had driven an hour outside of Austin to a small olive orchard to pick 150 pounds of the fleshy fruit. They were to be brined and eventually consumed when the restaurant opened. In the teams haste to pick as many pounds as possible, they chose not to sort the olives. Enter me.

Instead of subjecting myself to weeks of sorting, I decided to throw a party. It would be perfect. Everyone would bring wine, there would be snacks (cheese of course), and great music. We would sit on the sunny newly built deck in front of the restaurant, get to know each other and sort olives. A bonus is that it would be easy marketing as we could chat with anyone who passed by. It would fuse friend groups and I could also check another task off the list, writing good wishes on the wall. Before the paint went up in the restaurant, I wanted our Austin family to write messages, a little good juju to start the restaurant on the right path. The olive sorting party would be a perfect curation. Of course perfection didn’t happen.

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I came home from work, late, to find 6 people huddled on the floor (the dirty floor) of our 500 square foot apartment. Boxes of dishes, glassware, and other displaced restaurant items surrounded them. Crowded on the floor was our newly hired General Manager, his wife (who I had never met), and their adorable little girl (who was terrified of dogs). Hence why Daisy, our 6 month old bulldogge, was pitifully whining in her crate less than a foot away from the ears of our guests. Kevin and the chef de cuisine, Page were in the kitchen in full chef mode (aka, not talking to anyone) as they prepared for an upcoming media event. Clothes were strewn in the bathroom, our bed wasn’t made, the litter box was full, bills strewn on the counter, well you get the picture. There was no water for guests, no music, just tubs and tubs of olives. And mind you, olives are filthy. The goal with sorting is to weed out any with major imperfections, spots of mold can spoil the ferment. Easily 50% of what we picked weren’t able to be brined. So with moldy hands this group who had never met sat kindly on the floor trying not to move too much as they might elbow their neighbor, silently sorting.

At this point, there were two choices, freak out or lean into the curve. I leaned. We opened some wine, we turned on the music, Kevin made roti, and I ended up playing dress up with a four-year-old. Eventually, we did make our way downstairs to write on the wall. It was a hot mess of a day and completely endearing. The day was in fact about each other not about controlling the outcome.

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Tonight, eating dinner at the chef counter some five months later…the olives are ready. To the right of me on the pony wall, is the picture of the spider that Chris’s daughter drew. Behind me as you enter the restaurant, Velvet has a message next to Page’s. Brittany’s message is appropriately placed above Chef Tavel’s head. And just above the pass, right where Kevin looks out into the dining room is my message to him.

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Life is messy and imperfect. Lately, most of my days don’t turn out the way I planned as I spin my wheels just trying to catch up. Some days I have one too many glasses of wine. I run out the door neglecting the iron and often think of the perfect thing to say way past the moment. I cry too much, often at TV shows and if you wake me up before my alarm, I get hulk angry. I’m tired, I’m stressed, and I am happy. At the end of the day, imperfections and all, I think this life is turning into a pretty damn good olive.

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