One hundred eons ago, there was a restaurant near Tabby’s Place with a menu that touched the divine.
There were no fewer than twelve salads, all of which had names like This Train Is Bound For Glory and Every Living Creature Is A Galaxy and The Rocket Man Has The Master Plan. (I swear I am not making this up.)
The ingredients? Entirely too many. (“Romaine with rocket lettuce, six varietal cauliflowers, three artisanal mustards, eleven emu eggs, and a frisson of Cheez Whiz.”)
The names? Exquisitely evocative.
The moral of the story? The head chef was both a sage and a cat.
Cats are a loud multitude of things, most of which our lentil-brains will never fully comprehend. But amid their unruly excellence, this madcap minestrone of a species has a lot to show us about ourselves.
Case in point: we are all a bunch of salads, and the sooner we savor it, the better for our health.
Salads, if they are truly glory-bound, are a shameless pageant of pieces. I don’t know who first intuited that civilization would benefit from the marriage of green leaves and salty black orbs you can wear like hats on your fingers and tiny red planets that squirt sauce at your dining partner if you bite indelicately (to say nothing of fetid feta or shaved almonds or emu eggs).
But our progress as a people surged forward that day, and all the cats bellied up to the salad bar in approval (and expectation of fallen feta).
Every living feline, after all, is a salad.
Salade au Lizzy is a full mixing bowl of black olives, briny and irresistible, easy on the palate and favored by children of all ages…but with a bite. Ladylike and leisurely in her easy introversion, Lizzy has learned to let love in, when the weather is right and the air is crisp and the windows merit opening.
Lizzy has not unlearned the power of a well-placed kalamata to make your face pucker and your spirit remember the power of the cat.
Lizzy will love. Lizzy will bite. Lizzy will incorporate all of her ingredients in one savory celebration of a small black cat.
Marjory‘s Mesculun Mix is never on the recall list, but only because her reflexes put all the ping-pong champions to shame. The same cat who dishes out affection like home-grown tomatoes will also dash for the door the moment you dare to pluck her from your lap. The tortoiseshell triumph of gentle love-gazes will nibble your hand like an overgrown radish. The sweetest of lazy girls is simultaneously the saltiest of sprinters.
Her salad may be sweet and sillified by melon balls and miniature hot dogs (this is a cat’s dream salad, people), but it’s accompanied by a stiff Margarita. All ingredients are welcome. Even yours.
And then there’s the cat with the clearest claim to Main Meal Status. Spaghetti is no side salad; he’ll use up every last one of your Weight Watchers points; and he earnestly wants you to expand in his presence.
Expand your expectation of just how cool a cat can be.
Expand your belly as you laugh out loud.
Expand your mind as you try to comprehend a cat so mellow and maniacal, so gentle and so gnashing, so ineffably dashing that you will compare him to George Washington, William Shakespeare, and every single Mr. Darcy who ever dashed across the screen.
Expand your acceptance of your own mismatched ingredients.
Expand your swirls and your strangeness, your weird and your wonderful, and tango with your own tangles.
Expand your peace and your patience with yourself and your companions and this warm, wily life you’ve been given.
Expand your hand to reveal all the cheese of which he dreams. Also any miniature hot dogs Marjory didn’t finish.
The cat who shares his name with stringy semolina, the cat who shuns even all-meat salads for something sturdier, just might be the chef to toss us back to sanity.
(HA HA HA I MADE A FUNNY! “Back to sanity,” like we have ever visited “sanity” at any time in human history!)
With cats, we get it all. They can’t hold back a single sprig of themselves. They would never try. We, on the other hand, are stupid enough to try to mask either our power or our weakness, which overlap considerably.
If we can marvel at feline paradox, why not smile at the swirl in our own kitchens? We’ll never unravel all the odd, incongruous, incandescent elements of ourselves and each other. Even if we could, it would take us away from the table.
Come to think of it, maybe we’re not a bunch of salads after all.
Maybe we’re spaghetti.
Maybe we’re not permitted to reel in a single strand, pick and choose the pretty pieces.
Maybe we’re a big bowl of bafflement, the better to love each other gently.
Maybe this train really is bound for glory.
There’s a Spaghetti Nebula out there, and there’s a Spaghetti Rosenberg in here, and if we play our cards right, it just may be pasta night in your heart and mine.