One of the first people that I met after I started Project 29 to 30 was Julie.
I liked her immediately. She was fun, cool, and so tiny I wanted to put her in my pocket. Plus she also recently started a blog; a hilarious blog called Julie Versus Vegetables where she set out to tackle her fear of produce, one vegetable at a time. She and I ate beets for the first time together way back on Day 5 (Oh my, that feels like a long time ago). Though I have a feeling she and I would've been friends with or without our blogs, our love of writing and doing cool shit has bonded us in an extra special way. And as far as I’m concerned, Julie’s been with me on my journey since the beginning.
Sad for me, and the entire city of Atlanta, Julie decided over the summer that she was ready for a change, and she has now relocated her fabulous self to Los Angeles. Her move coincided with a lot of big changes in her life, including the end of Julie Versus Vegetables.
On Day 282, as the thing I've never done, I helped Julie celebrate the end of her blog in a big way at a dinner party at her house.
Time out for another story. While I was getting ready to leave for Julie's, I heard a great deal of commotion out on my front porch. I heard children's voices yelling and laughing; I could hear the scampering of their feet on the hard wood. I also heard my landlords' dogs barking hysterically. Not surprising, since I've lived here for five years and the dogs still bark at me, but regardless, I knew something was going on outside before I even opened the door.
I gathered my things to leave and opened my front door to find eight children ranging in age from four to 11. My landlords do not have kids; I'm not even convinced they like kids, so imagine my confusion over these wild children using our porch as a playground.
My sudden presence startled some of them who stopped rough-housing to stare at me. As I pulled my door shut behind me, staring right back at them, a few began to approach me, carrying bowls full of cheap candy. Two others were carrying bowls with two cans of grape Fanta.
"WTF?" I thought to myself.
I looked around to see if there might've been an adult standing on the sidewalk that could explain this little charade. There was none. I was beyond confused.
"You wanna buy some candy?" one of them said to me as I tried to walk through their madness to get to my car.
"What?" I asked, confused. "No, I don't want to buy any candy."
"How about a soda?," another one shouted, showing me the Fantas in the bowl.
"Nope," I replied, "I'm all good."
By this time my landlord Scott had opened his door to face the children. He looked both horrified and disgusted.
"Please stop pestering the dogs," he said to the kids.
I'm confident that I've never been asked to buy Fanta on my front porch, so I could count that as the thing I've never done before. It was so weird, and such a metaphor for my neighborhood and the stuff that goes down here. Not unsafe, just strange.
Back to Julie and her party though.
I arrived at Julie's excited for the evening; excited about celebrating Julie, exciting about meeting the other characters in her blog, and most excited about eating a meal that I didn't have to buy or cook myself.
The party kicked off oooh-ing and ahhhh-ing about Julie and her new found skills in the kitchen. If you read Julie Versus Vegetables from the beginning, you know that Julie cannot cook, so in addition to tackling vegetables, her blog was also about her overcoming her fears of becoming domesticated.
Because she did such a fabulous job of telling the story of the last supper herself, I won't try and reinvent the wheel and do it again. Instead you can go to Julie's blog and read Cage Match Fight to the Death (Parts 1, 2, 3 & 4) for yourself.
I will tell you that in addition to a super gourmet menu that included homemade hummus, soy-glazed salmon on an orange, watercress, and Swiss chard salad, Julie had to tackle another vegetable, her last vegetable, which she had kept secret from those of us coming to her party.
The "surprise" vegetable she'd planned to prepare was onion rings, which wasn't really a surprise at all because the only thing standing in the way of Julie claiming victory over vegetables was onions. And the only way to win a vegetable that you hate (and Julie hates onions) is to deep fry it.
The entire process of her heating the oil, staring at the onion and eventually trying to slice the onion (a task that was eventually delegated to Mark P.) was quite humorous to watch, and I felt for her, having to conquer her fear right in front of everyone. I'm lucky in that I do a lot of my blog challenges on my own, so for all you know, I could be making up all of these stories. (I’m really not, I promise.)
Once she dropped the battered onions, we waited. And then we waited some more. And then we talked about how awesome Julie is. And then we kept waiting. But apparently we didn’t wait long enough the first time around. The onion rings got stuck in the pool of oil.
The second time around was better, but when Julie pulled the fried onions from the fry-daddy she still looked at them with a great deal of uncertainty. I've truly never seen quite a physical reaction like the one she displayed to a vegetable before. Julie held the onion ring in her petite, trembling fingers like it was causing her serious pain. Her friends, who weren't acting very friendly at that moment, had more or less backed her into a corner and were shouting words of “encouragement” that sounded more like military orders to me.
“You can do it!”
“It’s just an onion!”
“What’s the big deal?”
Julie put her lips on the onion and nibbled the smallest "bite" I've ever seen and then she spit it right back out.
I would like to point out, in case it's not clear, that Julie is 31-years old. She's not a child, but an adult. With a freakishly strong aversion to onions.
The entire kitchen yelled at her as if she was a child, though, and without wasting a lot of time, she went back for another bite, this time chewing it completely and swallowing it.
From her perspective, which you should’ve already read by now on her blog, the reason Julie was able to overcome her fear of onions is because onions coated in beer batter and then deep fried in oil actually don’t taste anything like onions at all. But who cares? A win is a win.
Upon winning, Julie's sister presented her with a trophy, a material symbol of all that she accomplished over the course of the year: learning to like (or at least tolerate) vegetables and so openly sharing her challenge through her blog. I wondered where Julie planned to display her trophy. And then I wondered if my brother will present me with a trophy at the end of Project 29 to 30.
After enjoying Julie's handiwork on the onion rings and toasted pound cake chocolate and peanut butter sandwiches (I'm not kidding. We are so fat.), I headed home.
As I was driving back to my house, I thought a lot about Julie and the end of her adventure. I also thought about what a difference a year makes. Last year, she only ate meat and potatoes, and now she's not only eating onions, she's frying them herself.
I don't think Julie or I really understood how much we could change, or that we would change at all simply by choosing to take on year-long adventures and writing about them. But we did. A lot.
To my dearest Julie, my blogging partner in crime, oh how you are already missed and you've only been gone for short time. Congrats on winning (though no one ever had any doubt that you wouldn't) and best of luck in Los Angeles. You really do have great hair.