Friday, April 11, 2008

A Most Special Lunch

Last Friday, April 4, Maria Shine Stewart, and I were invited to a most wonderful lunch by my long time mentor and graduate school adviser, Dr. William Rod Sharp, who took us to the Tavern on the Green, located in Central Park in New York City. Last December 9, 2007, Dr. Sharp was awarded the Distinguished Service Award by E. Gordon Gee, President of The Ohio State University.

What an incredible vacation from our usual work and cooking activities for Maria and me! Maria is a writer, editor, blogger and teaches a wide range of courses at several universities. I am an independent information professional involved in research for companies, professionals, and trade associations that do not have an in house technical or business analyst.

I was looking forward to meeting Dr. Sharp for lunch to catch up on his current work and networking opportunities as I am always seeking clients that would benefit by my research and information services. Dr. Sharp, Maria and I, discovered that we have many things in common including places we have lived, academic activities, and interest in the tomato and/or tomato products.

Maria prepared many frozen meals for her son to take along on his bus trip to New York City with his school orchestra (Brush High School of Lyndhurst, Ohio) as he has many food allergies. I did my share of cooking before our trip to see Maria's son age 15, play violin at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. My baking included pizza ( recipe included in an older entry in this blog ) and fun food for my husband and dear mother, 91 years young, who are also on special diets. My husband is a pizza lover as is my mother. I make as many of our foods from scratch as I can and grow much in two gardens. I baked fat-free scones and other foods for my husband and mother while Maria and I made arrangements to attend the concerts, do research at an institute in NYC, and see some special sights.

I wanted Maria to see the Statue of Liberty. Maria was born in the U.S. I arrived in the U.S., after a tough trip including a stay in a displaced persons camp, with my parents as displaced persons. I first saw the Statue of Liberty on a Navy Troop carrier, the General William C. Langfitt, when we entered the Port of New York on September 4, 1951. My father held me up to see her, the Statue of Liberty. Although it was long ago, I remember all as if it were yesterday.

As soon as we came near the Tavern on the Green we noticed outdoor overhead heaters. It was a cool spring and slightly damp afternoon in NYC. The Tavern blends in with Central Park from the outside and is a shiny, colorful heaven of flowers and chandeliers on the inside.

The Tavern on the Green has its own horticulturist and florist. It is also one of the busiest restaurants in the nation. However, our Friday afternoon was a most relaxing lunch. We walked from our hotel, at our leisure, through part of Central Park to get to the Tavern that is closest to the 67th Street entrance.

All three of us selected the fresh fish on the menu and a salad.

While waiting for our salad course, I decided to introduce my adviser to Reiki. Shortly, our wonderfully tender, baby arugula salad with grape tomatoes was served to us, (to my adviser's delight).

Maria mentioned at the table that I grow everything that we ate that day for lunch, which is true. I was taught gardening by my father when I was five years old. The only food item I do not grow that we ate was the fish. I do research that includes the marine sciences and fish.

I have never grown such a tiny and tender arugula but will look for the seeds to plant as soon as possible. I grow the grape tomatoes in my mother's yard as they are one of her favorites. The blackberries and strawberries grow near my rose garden. I planted strawberries as needed a ground cover but the strawberry plants turned out to be heavy producers of fruit, to my surprise. The large blackberries are native to our area. I would prefer berries without thorns and have tried to remove the plants many times but they always return. My mother asks me to plant arugula in her garden and mine every year and never forgets to remind me to find the best seeds.

Our next course was a most tender and delicate fish, sea bass. As I was eating the most tender fish, to my shock, I found a tooth on my plate. I had no idea that it was my own as all felt fine in my mouth. Panicked, I asked Maria to look in my mouth right there at our table, in public. I needed to know if and how, I should save the item next to my fish?

Maria kindly checked my mouth and said I had lost something as she saw my gum from a distance. I am very lucky that she is far-sighted. I saved the item next to the fish on my plate and later noticed that it was not an entire tooth but a white crown. My wonderful dentist, Dr. Steven Marsh, whose office is in Lyndhurst, Ohio, cemented it back on my return, a few days later.

I was careful to save my crown in tissue and placed the tissue in a medicine bottle. I feared accidentally throwing out my crown with the tissue. I therefore protected the crown by cushioning it with tissue in my small bottle. We had several more days in NYC in addition to a flight home to Cleveland, Ohio, and did not want the crown to be damaged.

Dessert was served without any major event. I had told my adviser (joke) not to expect to find an engagement ring in his cheesecake when I began his introduction to Reiki. I think that by this time in the course of the lunch, I may have embarrassed him beyond words. I am sure he hoped that no one that he knew saw us but he was kind enough to say that he has lost dental work on out-of-town trips also. It was the first time I had ever lost any dental work in a public place and of all places it had to be with my adviser at a wonderful lunch at Tavern on the Green.

I did not realize how much I needed a break from cooking, although I love to cook. It was a wonderful, memorable, experience to be taken to Tavern on the Green by someone so important to me and my family. After mentoring me for almost forty years, I hope my adviser understands what a truly wonderful experience it was having some time to talk with him. I rarely had time to talk to him when I was in graduate school so many years ago.

I would have enjoyed speaking with him anywhere and appreciate his taking us to a most beautiful and special place. The spring flowers were in bloom, the lily arrangements were fantastic. The shrubs were trimmed in the shape of animals. Many movies were filmed in the area -- glass windows, beautiful flowers, sparkling colors -- all created a wonderful afternoon visit.

Thanks for treating your first graduate student and Maria, who helped in your lab and greenhouse as a young teenager, like royalty. Taking time from your busy schedule to meet with your first graduate student and Maria are forever in my memory and in the picture each of us has of the afternoon (picture taken by the photographer at the restaurant was given to us by Dr. Sharp and is being enjoyed by our families).

As I had lost a crown needed for chewing, the remainder of my days in NYC consisted of the New York Cheesecake diet. It was the only thing I dared to eat and the perfect excuse to eat all the cheesecake one could dream of. I purchased it at the wonderful Fairway grocery store across the street from our Hotel Beacon where I had a large double room with a kitchenette.

The next time I visit NYC, I hope to return the invitation for "a most special lunch".