Life is about experiences. Ones we enjoy in the present, then again in the remembering, and yet again in the sharing and the retelling. Years ago I volunteered for an organization called Rebuilding Together (RT), formerly known as Christmas in April. Every now and then we called it Christmas in June, or July or sometimes August. You see RT is an organization that, once a year, helps the elderly and those in need repair their homes so that they are safe and clean. Many times I have gone in to replace entire kitchens and bathrooms. Other times we would just paint and fix a few electric circuits. Whatever was needed, that is what we did. A few times we were unable to finish a project in April, hence the name change, Christmas in August.
Wait Tom, you are fixing houses? I thought you were in the food business. Yes, that is true, I was in the food industry for many, many years. I started off by tending bar as a young man, then I learned how to wait tables and eventually how to manage and run a restaurant. After a few years I decided to take a step back and attend Culinary School to learn a bit more about food. With this new found knowledge in hand, coupled with an odd twist of fate, I ended up cooking for movie crews while they worked on location. So many fun stories here for another time. But, all good things must come to an end and at the age of 40 I found that the 14 hour days had become a bit too much so I took a tack in a different direction and became a General Contractor.
Soon after starting out in construction, I realized that I needed to advertise, or more to the point, I needed to network. Luckily a friend of mine was organizing RT volunteers for the upcoming work day and mentioned that a group of architects were sponsoring a house and asked if I might wish to work with them. I did, with the idea of growing my business. What came next surprised me. I liked volunteering. I liked helping people in need and not worrying about how much I was getting paid. Something else surprised me even more. I found that I really like people who like volunteering. I mean really. I had intended on networking with these people only for financial profit, instead I made such fast friendships that they have lasted nearly two decades.
One dear RT friend did hire me for a number of projects, for which I am forever grateful. In that friendship I gained more than just the few dollars exchanging hands. I found a friend who liked good food as much as I do. Frequently, when I had a job in Oakland, I would ring him up for lunch. To this day, even though I am here in V-Town, we find time to get together with a group of friends to have dinner, many of whom volunteered with us. I like my life. One particular day I rang him up and asked if he was up for lunch.
“I am meeting my friend Bobby,” he said.
“Oh, okay. Another time then.”
‘No, why don’t you join us. We are going to have pho.” (Pho is actually pronounced ‘fu’.)
“Pho? What’s that?”
“You have to come try it, it’s amazing. Bobby and I love it.”
So off to pho we went. I dare say that it was pretty good. Definitely not a sandwich or burger which was my normal want. Nope, I found it warm and satisfying. I had not been looking for a brothy lunch that day but was definitely glad to have met Bobby, and to make a new friend of Pho. A friend that I would never have made if I had not made a friend while volunteering.
So much do I like my new friend pho that just this week, off to Pho #1 on Sonoma Blvd I went, with another fast friend. Wow! I had heard nice things about this place and found myself relaxed with the pleasant greeting we received. The floorplan is simple and all of the tables are numbered. Told to sit where we wished we picked a 2 top and perused the menu. The food coming out of the kitchen looked delicious. I selected Pho with chicken and thin egg noodles while my guest had Lemongrass Tofu on jasmine rice. I have to tell you that I feel like I should give this place 2 Yums Up. The dishes were simple but well prepared. As always I found my pho to be warm and satisfying while the Lemongrass Tofu was crispy and delicious.
Food and friends. Two things I keep close. The first for the experience, the second for the sharing and the retelling . . . and sometimes the remembering.
Until next time,
Eat Well and Smile Often