Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Take-Out Thai. A Love Story.

Eating Thai in Namibia
I had spent time with John on a couple of occasions, always at events related to Room to Read, the charity he founded and I volunteered with in Los Angeles.  Each time, the next day he jetted off to some other part of the world to raise money for the millions of kids in developing countries in need of an education. 

A few days after our second charitable meet-up I received an email.  He was in Europe but would be going home to San Francisco in two weeks.  Would I like to come up from LA for a proper date?  The catch was he was only in San Francisco for 36 hours before leaving again, this time for a big event in Tokyo.  If we were going to have a real date, I would have to coordinate my arrival with his return.  I took a chance, and booked a flight.

The plan was John would arrive a couple hours before me, enough time to get in a quick run, clean up the house, and shower.  In our pre-date emailing he had let me know he’d booked a reservation at one of his favorite little French restaurants in his neighborhood.  It would be very romantic.

I was nervous.  Flying to another city for a first date with someone I barely knew?  There was a first time for everything.  I bought a new sweater, packed a bag, and hoped for the best.  I had little reason to be worried. From what I knew so far, John was great- smart, funny, handsome, athletic, well read, oh, and he was helping millions of kids around the world to have access to a better life through education.   Just that.

My flight landed early and traffic was light.  I texted John- it looked like I would arrive 30 minutes ahead of schedule.

Some drawn out seconds after ringing the doorbell I heard scrambling from up the wooden stairs.  Down came John... in a bathrobe.  Shaving cream all over his face, one hand holding his lip, he opened the door and gave me a tentative hug.  “I’m so sorry,” he said, the red of embarrassment peaking through his shaving cream splotched face.  “I cut my lip while shaving.  Now it won’t stop bleeding!”  In his rush to get ready before my arrival, the doorbell startled him and he’d sliced off a good chunk of his lower lip.

I laughed.  Maybe not the best response, but it worked, John relaxed a bit as I followed him up the stairs to the main room.  Hand still holding a towel on his lip trying to stop the flow of blood, he deftly managed to uncork a bottle of champagne, pour me a glass, and sit me down by the fire in the living room to wait while he finished dressing.

Over the next forty-five minutes we tried everything to get the bleeding to stop- ice, pressure, and finally a Band-Aid.  And through the entire process, I never stopped laughing. And after too long, he stopped being embarrassed and laughed with me.

By the time the bleeding ceased, we had long missed our reservation at the romantic French restaurant.  With just fifteen minutes until it closed we ordered in Thai from a shop down the street.  And there, sitting cross-legged on the wooden floor in front of the fire with plates of Pad See Ew and Spicy Basil Pork, we had our first real date. 

Over two years later and many Thai dinners eaten together all over the world, that is the best, and most unforgettable, first date I’ve ever been on.

Amy Powell is a food and travel writer based in New York City. She is a graduate of Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration and the French Culinary Institute. Follow her on Twitter @amymariepowell

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