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Friday, November 18, 2011

About Elaine - Part 2

This is the second in a series of posts about my friend, Elaine Hughes.  To read from the beginning, click here.

Elaine was Lebanese, second generation, born in Mississippi to parents who immigrated and became naturalized citizens.  They were Greek Orthodox, and the church was important to them.  She came from a family who hugged and kissed everyone.  I laugh when I think of Clint telling me about the first time her father, Joe Farris, hugged him.  Coming from the strict German Teutonic background that he did, there we no displays of affection in his home, and Clint was astonished at being so warmly embraced by another man.  He once told me that he learned love from Elaine and her family. 
Mrs. Farris lived in the kitchen, preparing Lebanese food for anyone who wanted to partake of it.   She wanted to feed everybody.  When Clint was in high school, he and some of his football teammates went regularly to the Farris home to snack on taboule, kibbee, baklava and the ever-present bowl of dates.
Her father was short little man who, while driving Elaine to and from Mississippi Southern in his big Cadillac, would tuck a paper bag under is chin, pluck dates from another bag on the front seat, eat them and spit the seeds into the sack under his chin.  
Their house was always open, a warm greeting ready for anyone who walked through the door.  That welcoming spirit was part of who Elaine was, wherever she was.  
Over the next 14 years, my relationship with Elaine grew into a loving friendship.  Clint and I traveled to New York to see her on two occasions.  I remember well, late one afternoon, when the three of us were wandering around SoHo, window-shopping and sometimes stopping in art galleries and vintage clothing shops.  Elaine’s wardrobe was almost exclusively made up of vintage pieces that suited her well.
We were hungry and began looking for a restaurant.  Elaine wanted to take us to a new place she had found, but after a few false starts, she was unable to find it.  So, we strolled along, reading menus in windows, and we finally decided on a tiny French restaurant called Chez Claude.
We settled in and began to peruse our menus, but Elaine wasn’t able to concentrate, saying the music was not “French” enough.  She summoned our waiter, who introduced himself as Christian, and asked him with a sweet ruby red smile if he would please change it.  He obliged in what some would call a sniffy manner and returned to ask Elaine if she were pleased with the music.
“Oh, yes!  What is your name again?”
“It's still Christian.”
“Oh, Christian, thank you so much!  I will be able to digest my food so much better now.”
None of this surprised either Clint or me.  I have never known a more outgoing woman in my life, and she was never afraid to ask for what she wanted.
Our meal of lamb and potato souffl√© and haricot verts was divine, the kind of food one usually finds in the countrysides of France.  We stuffed ourselves on bread and butter and drank several glasses of wonderful wine, ending the meal with the traditional cheese plate.
Elaine called Christian over to our table and asked him the cook’s name.
“Bill?  That’s not very French-sounding, but please tell him for us that he is a fabulous cook in spite of his name.”
Then she jumped up from the table and followed Christian to the kitchen, where she began belting out, “We love you Bill, oh yes we do,” to the tune of “We love you, Conrad” in Bye-Bye Birdie.  She came out and dragged me back to the kitchen so we could sing a little reprise.  I was caught up in her enthusiasm and added my voice to hers.  That was the first and only time I ever serenaded a chef in his own kitchen.
As we left the restaurant, Elaine hailed a cab by enthusiastically waving her red scarf from the curb.

© 2011 cj Schlottman

To go to part 3, click here.


Sue said...

She sounds like a wonderful character, and I love the description of her family!

I am enjoying this series about Elaine.


Martha Mawson said...

Oh, I wish I had an Elaine in my life. She sounds wonderful. How blessed you are to have her in your life.