The word serendipity was first coined by Horace Walpole in his story The Prince of Serindip (an antiquated name for Ceylon, which is now known as Sri Lanka – that’s for all you trivialists who have missed our asides). It refers to a pleasant surprise or fortuitous happenstance.
On a recent journey with our dear friends and neighbors Gareth and Michelle to New Boston (an antiquated and un-used name for present day Portland, OR) we had an instance of serendipity. We were planning to go to dinner at one of the city’s famous food trucks. Well, as things will go on a quickly arranged road trip, no one checked this good idea out thoroughly.
You see, the majority of the food trucks close down sometime around 3:00pm. The only ones that remain open late are those serving vegan fare. Now, I know this may offend some readers but, I am an unremitting omnivore. I can do without meat (for a meal or two). I can do without eggs (for a while – until the frittatas begin their siren song). I don’t do milk – ever. Well, okay, on cold cereal perhaps; period. But, most of all, I cannot forego cheese under any circumstances. I’m sure that vegan fare is quite tasty, and someday, I’ll get around to trying it but it just wasn’t in the cards that day.
Fortunately, we had a “Plan B”. That was to try a relatively new restaurant, Kachka. Kachka is dedicated to the bringing the authentic tastes of the nations of the former Soviet Union to the Pac Northwest. And, may I say, they do it marvelously. For those of you who can make it there, try the zakuski feast for a whole table. It’s amazing. We also suggest that you try their vodka flights. We stuck with the herb infused vodkas (bay leaf, bison grass, chamomile, horseradish, tarragon, and Earl Grey Tea). We loved them enough that we came home and started two batches ourselves (bay leaf and honey/ lavender).
Bu that’s all prologue. The serendipity was in our seating, or more specifically, the neighbors on the bench where we were seated.
We met two lovely people, Diana and her spouse Aaron. They were celebrating Diana’s birthday with a zakuski feast as well. Now, never having eaten half the things listed on the menu and being somewhat forward (hey, according to our European cousins, I’m an archetypal rude American but – who cares!) — where was I? Oh yes, being somewhat forward and garrulous, I asked about their meal since ours was still being prepared. They were charming and very gracious in their explanations. It turns out that Diana spent time living and working in Russia so she was able to comment with great authority on the authenticity of the cuisine.
We spent the meal in off and on again conversation. They explaining about their current endeavors, former travels, etc. while we nattered on about writing a steampunk retelling of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park.
It was a lovely evening filled with good companionship and lively repartee. I must commend you Diana, you zinged Gareth beautifully with your explanation of why we listened to your urgings to finish the book post haste. I think you gave him a moment’s pause there. Alas, as you saw, a moment was all he could spare. (Anyone recognize the source for that last line? If so, please comment. Your prize will be paltry but you will earn our admiration for knowing a wonderful but obscure telling of a classic tale.)
Anyway, this ramble is drawing to a close. The upshot is, if you’re in Portland, you owe it to yourself to try Kachka. But most of all, try talking to the people around you. Break out of the repressed bubble we’ve adopted from our British cousins. Be garrulous and outgoing. You never know, you might just meet some very interesting and pleasant folks. Lastly, if you are at Kachka and are seated next to a charming couple; and if they are both wearing glasses and the man has the most ornate and wonderful handlebar moustache you’ve ever seen, say hi to Diana and Aaron for us.