Friday, July 27, 2012

A Just So Story

Just to be clear, I wasn't worried.

But I was interested, so I invited a literary-minded friend to join me at the VMFA for "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Rudyard Kiplng."

We began at a packed Best Cafe for a glass of wine and the LKB Trio before moving on to something a bit more challenging..

Their first ever literary studio, it was given by Dr. Jennifer Foley, whose wit was exceeded only by her knowledge of Kipling.

Honestly, when I heard during her introduction that she'd read all the Penguin classics, I was impressed before she ever opened her mouth.

Proving that Kipling was right when he said, "If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten," Foley told us some good ones.

Like how Kipling was named based on the place where his parents courted: Lake Rudyard.

She wasn't clear if "courted" was a euphemism, but I have my suspicions.

How he wrote a novel and had a nervous breakdown immediately afterwards. "It was sort of the thing to do at the time," Foley joked.

About his Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907, the youngest recipient at only 42.

And all about what an imperialist he was, not surprising since he was born in India, Britain's crown jewel of a colony, to British parents.

But even that was no excuse for his attitudes (Really? "The White Man's Burden"?), at least according to Orwell, who called him "aesthetically disgusting."

And that's where the "learning to love" part came in because so many people wrote off Kipling for his dated views.

By all accounts, his marriage was a happy one, making me wonder about his assessment, "For the female of the species is more deadly than the male."

I don't want to have to defend my sex here, but that's a tad harsh, isn't it?

But obviously he had a clue about women because he also said, "A woman's guess is much more accurate than a man's certainty."

You can be sure that's a quote I'll consider pulling out again in the future. Thanks, Kip.

After a talk so interesting I now feel compelled to read Kipling's "Kim," my friend and I parted ways, she to rest a sore body part and me to have dinner with a friend.

Approaching Acacia, a couple stopped to ask the valet about what there was to do in Richmond.

I could have walked on but you know I didn't.

Insinuating myself into the conversation, I heard him talking about battlefields and cemeteries and noticed the couples' eyes glazing over.

Once they explained that they were in from New York and only for the night, I took charge.

Walk down two blocks and up to Grove to the museum for jazz, I suggested. Then come three blocks back and stroll Carytown for window shopping and a drink or bite.

Boom. Done.

They offered up visitor gratitude, smiling and shaking my hand.

Nothing like a good deed before dinner and a little South African Chenin Blanc.

Once my friend arrived, stressed and with lots to discuss, we wasted no time in ordering.

I'd been told that velvet softshells had been procured earlier today and that was enough for me to decide.

Yellow tomato gazpacho with a blue crab claw was cool and refreshing.

Flounder ceviche Peruvian-style had an avocado puree and crispy shallots on top. Creamy, crispy, spicy and cool, it hit every button.

Sauteed velvet softshells (three!) with fried green tomatoes, grilled corn relish and lime cumin creme fraiche was a testament to summer flavors.

And ordering so many dishes was a testament to my stupidity.

After a starter of fried oysters over slaw, Friend got butter-poached lobster over housemade tomato and spinach pasta.

I insisted he eat half a softshell because I wanted a bite of his poached lobster, but also because I knew there was no way I was going to finish all of them.

And I didn't, meaning dessert was not even an option.

My friend cheered up and regaled me with tales of visiting Nashville and staying on the top floor of a hotel which had only one other guest: Ringo Starr.

Now I know where the ex-Beatle spends his Fourth of July holiday every year.

Since I'm always at the beach that week, I guess I don't have to worry about running into him.

My friend said it was no big thing to share a floor with Ringo, but I'm guessing he's told everyone he knows.

And you know what Kipling said about a woman's guess.

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