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Who Tells Your Story?

Last Saturday, I crossed something off my bucket list (Huh. I have a bucket list??). Standing in front of a crowd of people, most of whom I did not know, I told a story. The popular word for this is “Moth.” You might have heard of the Moth Radio Hour podcasts on NPR? Moths are everywhere–in bookstores, coffee houses, college campuses. Actually, I first heard the word when we watched our son Luke’s friend Rachel give a brilliant Moth during their freshman year. I do believe it was Rachel’s performance that first lit the spark within me.

img_4395Perhaps egregiously, I had thought the term had been appropriated by the general culture, but perhaps not quite yet. When I Instagrammed that I’d done my first Moth, I received several “WTF is a Moth?” comments. The storytelling event in which I was participating is called “Inkless.” (I received even more “WTF is Inkless?”) Inkless was hosted by our friends Flavio and Lisa, who own one of our favorite eateries up in the Berkshires, No. Six Depot Roastery & Cafe.

Depot Six not only has killer coffee (and an impressive fat-ass roaster), but the food is even better. When we sit down with their Caprese panini or their White Bean & Bacon Soup, we cannot be responsible for the sounds that emit from our mouths. But I digress.

img_4399

Depot Six’s Lisa Landry (foreground), capturing each performance.

Having learned that my friends Bobby and Courtney had both done an Inkless, I bravely asked Lisa if I might be considered for the next one. This was back in September, I found out I was on the list in November and this Inkless was in mid-January, so there was no excuse for not being prepared. And that’s when my story presented itself. The theme being “Mistakes,” I decided to talk about the time I showed up for a big celebrity interview without having done my homework.

And in keeping with my theme, a week before the big night, I still hadn’t practiced. Not out loud, anyway. Driving home from a party the weekend prior, Bertrand asked if I wanted to practice. Sure. I took a deep breath, held out my hands, palms up, and said my opening line: “My first big celebrity interview was Edie Falco.”

Before I could say the next sentence, he interrupted. “Why would you be interviewing her? How would we know this? We have no way of knowing why you’d be doing this.”

I looked at him. “Ok, that’s it,” I laughed, shaking my head.”You’ve lost your listening privileges.”

“What??!” he looked away from driving for a quick second, surprised at my sudden resolve.

“This isn’t a job interview or a college application, honey!” I exclaimed. “It’s a script. I’m telling a story. I’m getting to the explanation!”

He was too close to me to be my sole audience, anyway; I would just have to wing it. So, by the following Friday night, I’d begun holing up within myself, uncharacteristically silent as I let the sections of my story flow across my mind. As I sat on the sofa in the parlor the next morning, occasionally looking down at the cue cards in my hand, Bertrand occupied himself with his laptop on the other sofa. If he found me quietly mumbling in the bathtub a few hours later, in he would sneak to kiss me on the head, then shut the door behind him. On our hike, he and Remy allowed me to stay a few hundred yards behind so I could rehearse, determining beats, polishing punchlines, cutting the boring excess fat. img_4041

It reminds me of a similar situation a year ago. I was frantically cramming for my Massachusetts real estate test, one I had waited way too long to take. So much of what I had learned in class had vaporized from my mind, so I’d sit in my study bubble, weekend after weekend, highlighting in my faithful blue textbook. And just like now, my sweet and patient husband left me to my practice tests and calculator tapping.

I did pass that test, thanks to his support. And now, here was Inkless. B ordered our dinner (Flavio and his team had made steam buns for the occasion!) as I sequestered myself in a corner, cue cards in my sweaty hands. Friends started coming in and B chatted them up, while I stayed in my shell just a wee bit longer.

There were seven of us going on this night. Joey Chernila, our MC (and a beautifully poetic storyteller himself) gave me the slot #5, which felt kind of right.

As each speaker went up, I felt myself simultaneously relaxing more and getting increasingly nervous. “I can do this,” I’d think, only to be followed with, “Ooh,that guy’s good.” Did I feel competitive with the others? Of course! But Joey was right; this was a kind and encouraging crowd. Still, I felt my rising more heavily as each person finished.

When I finally heard my name, I stood up to the encouraging applause everyone received. “Any ‘Sopranos’ fans out there?” I began. More applause. “Okay, good. I can tell the story then. My first celebrity interview was Edie Falco. It was back around 2001, 2002, so the show was huge…”

I managed to get through without having to reach for the cue cards tucked away in my back pocket. I remember getting one big laugh, and it was from a line I had just added  earlier that afternoon in that bathtub.

7s7a0922And then it was over. My mouth completely dry and my hands completely sweaty, but I’d made it through. And I wanted to do it again, which was the best feeling of all.

Actually, the best feeling is tasting Flavio’s soup, which he was kind enough to share.

Depot Six Tuscan White Bean Soup w/ Thick Cut Bacon
(Serves 4)

1 white onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, diced
3 T olive oil
1 t dried thyme
1 t dried rosemary, crushed
1/2 t good quality salt
8 cloves garlic, crushed
8 cups homemade or good quality store bought chicken stock
1 16 oz can good quality Cannelini beans ( drained)
4 slices good quality thick cut bacon
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan  ( optional)
1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
fresh coarsely ground black pepper

img_4767Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toss together in a bowl: Onion/Carrots/Celery/Salt/ Dried Herbs/ plus 2 T of the oil- place on flat pan and roast in oven until vegetables are lightly caramelized ( 15-20 mins)

3)On Soup Skillet, on light-medium heat add remaining 1 Tbs of Oil, Garlic, and caramelized roasted vegetables and sautee stirring occasionally ( 10 minutes)

4)Add Chicken Stock and shortly after Cannelini Beans

5)Stir and bring heat up high to a quick boil and then lower to medium and let broth simmer and incorporate (20 minutes)
-at same time, cook Bacon in 350 degree oven until cooked thru and crisp (20 minutes) chop and set aside

6)When ready to serve, taste broth to adjust seasoning and then finish/garnish soups with:
Chopped Bacon
Lemon Zest
Parmesan ( if using)
Black Pepper

Sit with good friends and enjoy!

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Jane was executive beauty director at W Magazine for 16 years. When she is not writing beauty articles, she's likely either hiking with her husband and dog, Remy, or in her kitchen, frauding (new verb) her way around a fancy recipe, a home decoration or a highbrow dinner party conversation of which she knows nothing about. In other words, she nods a lot and googles a lot later.

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