After two weeks of eating in the restaurants, I finally moved back to the apartment where there is a kitchen. I invited a couple of friends over and cooked a ton of vegetables which are usually lacking when eating in restaurants in Budapest. The tomato-egg stir-fry that I made — the most basic comfort food during my Shanghai childhood — finally alleviated my craving for home cooked food.
After dinner, we went to an organ concert at the St. Stephen’s Basilica. I had never before heard Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D-minor through such magnificently booming organ pipes. The vibration shook my bones. I was awestruck.
We were on our way to get a post concert drink when serendipity had us run into some members of our cast and crew who were having a birthday celebration for Michelle Yeoh at a restaurant. The ex Bond girl is playing a kick ass fighting nun in Marco Polo.
Michelle’s Hungarian friend knew the restaurant chef, who prepared for us sumptuous dishes that were not on the menu: minced pork stuffed paprika, beef stew, ratatouille with mixed peppers… My second dinner was an absolute feast.
I don’t remember who started it, but after a few bottles of wine (and three sips of limoncello for me), we began taking turns to define the two most over used words with the most expansive meanings: beauty and love.
Michelle Yeoh’s assistant said to Michelle, “Beauty is Michelle.” No wonder she had worked for Michelle for 11 years.
“Beauty is what arrests you for reasons you can’t quite articulate — it’s unreasonable,” said Tim Yip, our costume designer.
“It is the purgation of superfluities,” someone quoted Michelangelo.
“Yes, it must be simple.”
“But beauty is fleeting.”
The discussion went on and on, and no one could completely agree with the other because what lends beauty its luster is precisely this ineffable quality that escapes analysis and speaks to the imagination.
Then we came to the definition of love, which is so all-encompassing and amorphous at the same time that anything we said paled in comparison to what we intuited it to be. Looking back, we sounded down right corny, but we all took a moment to think about love — each carrying a private memory or longing that tugged at his heartstrings. I immediately thought of my children, my husband and my parents, who are all far away but rooted deeply in my heart as I am rooted in theirs.
“Body and Soul.”
“Something to die for.”
“Something to live for.”
We interjected between bites and sips, laughing at each other’s mawkish declarations.
“Love is what I’m feeling right now,” John Fusco concluded with a big smile, looking at all of us who had gathered here because he created Marco Polo.
It is mysterious and wonderful how fate brought us here — around a dining table on a cobblestoned sidewalk in Budapest from different continents — sharing food, wine and friendship, contemplating beauty and love.