When I was in culinary school, I chummed around with a real coupla' knuckleheads: Brian- an Amway salesman just off the train from Connecticut, and Gus, a cheerful barfly who had spent too many years languishing in Tenderloin SROs. They were my "eatin' buddies".
If our instructor left the room for a second, Gus would sidle up to me- lifted Armagnac on his breath- and purr: "Hey Maura, they're serving salisbury steak in the cafeteria...let's go!"
"I can't, Gus, I'm in the weeds. Bring some back for me?"
"Nah. Come on, Brian's going, too."
"Alright, let's hurry".
During our stolen lunches, Brian inevitably discussed one of two topics:
1. Italy, where he was stationed a few years prior.
"You know, there's no beautiful scenery in this country."
"Well, not like in ITALY."
2. Whichever chef-instructor he had a boner for:
"I told Chef Molly I'm taking her to El Bulli this summer. Do you think she'll go?"
"Well, she might. She respects me, you know."
One day, Gus and I decided to have a little fun; over reubens and sheet cake we plotted.
Gus's phone rings.
"Oh, hi, Brian....We're in the cafeteria....reubens, they're good....He's looking for us? Okay, we'll be back in a minute.
Hey- we ran into Chef Molly, interesting conversation....Oh, about books, cookbooks, books about cooks. I picked her brain about what she's reading and Maura asked her her favorite, you know, for a recommendation. She's a real wealth of knowledge, you should sit down with her sometime....Er, Maura, what was the name of that one book? Ah, yes- A Sprig of Rosemary: My Tuscan Memoir....I know, great title... Clarke Newburg....Newburg, yes. And that's 'Clarke' with an 'e'. All the instructors are reading it, she said it's a masterpiece....Yeah, they might carry it, but maybe not. It's just on the market, so you may have to hunt around."
For the rest of the year, Brian- with his horrible memory- informed me about A Sprig of Rosemary: My Tuscan Memoir. How I should read it because it's a masterpiece. That if I find it could I get him a copy because he's been everywhere and none of the clerks have heard of it, can you believe that, it must be very exclusive, a limited edition, but he knows a place in New York that will have it, fer shure!