FALLING AWAKE | Pummi and Me: Just One of Many Stories

I’ve been trying all morning to write about diet, but it hasn’t been fun, and here’s why: people ask me about diet all the time, and then they don’t want to know.

My friend Pummi asked me just the other day, in fact, right after she threw a copy of Vogue on the table with a smack. I leaned over and pushed the magazine to the floor. Fashion magazines are great for style, but they are bad for us, too.

I did have a brief flirtation with MORE. I liked that it claimed to be for “women of substance.” Assuming, of course, they meant me.

But the last time I leafed through, I was reminded, again and again, of the countless ways women shell out big bucks for younger skin.

I don’t think we can have younger skin. I think the best we can do is look like we are trying for younger skin, sometimes too hard. I think that if women spent half the time worrying about the lack of economic opportunity and unemployment in the world that they spend on worrying about younger skin, we’d all be paid well to live out our dreams. The only piece with any real substance was one disastrous account of learning the hard way that just because a “treatment” can be done doesn’t mean it’s goofproof. I hadn’t given any thought to scraping off the top layer of my face before. I thought resurfacing was for asphalt. Such a dreadful story. But I liked it.

Back to Pummi.

When Pummi first came to Seattle from Mumbai, she was trim and fit. Walking toward me on 4th Avenue in a festive, feminine yellow sari, she struck me differently then, say, the somberness I can feel when my new neighbor wears a black niqab, eyes peeping out. Her voice is so kind, though, that it instantly cheers me up. I always feel as if she’s listening in a way I find harder and harder to come by. It’s a great quality when you can find it, listening and then talking, not the other way around. Honestly, I’d like to see more of her, both physically and regularly.

These days Pummi wears jeans like pretty much everyone else. And she’s no longer trim and fit. She’s ample. Or the word we use when we are not the kind of person who would say “fat,” not caring what anyone thought. I write from memory so when she asked about my “diet,” comparing my body to a mixing spoon, “you are like this,” she said, holding up a spoon, “skinny all the way up to your head,” it wasn’t a comparison I could easily forget. Never have I been compared to a utensil before.

Anyway, she used to cook me all these amazing curried vegetable dishes. But after a year of living in Greenwood, she decided cows were no longer sacred. Then it was all beef this and beef that. And “American potatoes.” We’re not talking baked potatoes, but fries. Homemade fries, but still.

Which leads me to her salmon recipe. Now Pummi’s salmon recipe is fun to write about.

“Well,” I said, tentatively, “I tend to eat more like you used to, more vegetables and fish,”

“Oh, I eat fish!” she said in that excited way she speaks whenever she speaks about food. “I will cook you my new salmon recipe, yes?”

It was the most tender-yet-crispy salmon I’ve ever tasted. “Just sprinkle with herbs and broil,” she said.

So that’s what I did.

But, wait. My salmon was not tender or crispy-brown. I mean, we were going to be okay, my dry slab of fish and me, but I missed my salmon, steamed to moist perfection.

“Really?” I pressed. “Just herbs?”  I desperately wanted to say what I suspected.

Now, you have to imagine her saying what she said next in her most melodious Mumbaikar accent, “Just herbs." Pause. "And a stick of melted butter, yes?”

It did occur to me to say that I didn’t use butter on my fish. On anything, really. But I changed the subject.

And as a result I didn’t make one of the biggest mistakes that are possible between friends.

MARY LOU SANELLI is a poet, speaker and author of nonfiction who lives in Belltown. Her collection of essays, “A Woman Writing,” is available from Aequitas Books. She can be reached at www.marylousanelli.com.