I almost don't know how to write here, so much has been happening. Nothing earth shaking in the world, but my own little self has been personally rocked by a rather assertively social couple of weeks. It included a wonderful gathering of souls this past Monday night, when the man and I dined with the Armenian writer whose book I have been editing. She and I first became aware of each other at a book launch a year ago in March, an event we each almost didn't attend. A week later, covid-19 shut down the world.
While I sheltered in place in the city, she rode out the first five months of quarantine in Jamaica, having been marooned there when borders closed in the middle of her family's spring break vacation. It was a gift, because she finished writing her book there. Her adopted son, 17, is Jamaican-born, and so is her husband, whom she met after she was already a mother. In addition to the gentle spirit who is their son, they are now also parents to a brilliant spark of a nine-year-old daughter, who likes to point out that she is the only member of their family who isn't an immigrant. The mother is an extraordinarily gifted writer, and the way we found each other felt somehow ordained, our connection infused with a shared sense that we had known each other through many lifetimes before this one.
Long story short, after reading some of her work last year, I sent her first chapter to an agent friend who loved what she saw and wanted to represent the book. But the manuscript wasn't ready. It was too long by almost half, the final narrative still needing to be excavated from what was already an exquisite piece of writing. The book's author has now completed that arduous revise, cutting boldly and without remorse. The result is a work that is very special indeed. When it went back to her agent, she pronounced it magical, and the agent's daughter, who also read the manuscript through several rounds, declared, "I love this book so much I can't even stand it!"
And so we were celebrating. The agent and her wife of 32 years, and my husband and me, all traveled to Queens to dine with the author and her beautiful family. The author is the size of a child, with the aura of a much larger person, and we hugged each other for a long time in greeting. "Are you both really just meeting each other?" our agent friend said, because we've been in constant communication now for more than a year, and it was a little shocking, even to us, to realize we hadn't yet met in the flesh.
Everybody got on with everybody from the get. And my God, the meal. The counter was laden with authentic Armenian and Jamaican dishes, from ackee and saltfish (Jamaica's national dish) to dolma (an Armenian staple of grape leaves stuffed with chick peas or meat), plus two deserts, Armenian bird's milk pastries and a walnut tangerine cake that the author's mother used to make. Their family has dubbed their exhilarating mix of cooking styles as Jahrmenian cuisine. Honestly, the man and I have been dreaming about that fantastic spread ever since. They sent us all home with containers of food, and I wished I had been less shy and taken more, because I was still tasting the deliciousness of every dish the next morning.
Yet as out of this world as the food was, the company was even more divine. We huddled shoulder to shoulder around the coffee table and talked and shared in an easy stream of consciousness, every one of of us falling in love with everyone else. The next day, I missed each person there in a sweet aching way, and was thrilled when our hosts texted us to say that we really must do this again. I was so inside the experience that I didn't take a single photo all evening. How did that happen? I wondered, and my Armenian compatriot wondered the very same thing. "How is possible that this night goes unrecorded?" she said after. For me there was something delicate and precious about the evening, like a moment out of time, and I think I just didn't want to disturb its unfolding.
The photos here are from our hosts' Jahrmenian Feast catering website. Their deviled eggs are the most delicious I ever tasted, with crushed walnuts mixed in with the yokes, and pomegranate seeds the perfect garnish. These pictures don't begin to do justice to the spread our hosts put before us. I can't fully do justice in the telling of that evening, either. In a room full of people of so many different origins, it felt like a wondrous communion of kindred spirits. Oh, it was a night.