Tea with Sybil
Tea with Sybil

Yesterday, my friend Sybil came over for tea and homemade anise biscotti. The rain just barely held off long enough for us to have our tea—iced not hot—on the patio, where we talked about all kinds of things. Sybil’s upcoming move to Brunswick was, of course, a major topic. For a while now, Sybil has wanted to move to a place where she can walk to many things and leave her car in the driveway. With its restaurants, bookstore, grocery store, farmers’ market, and cinema, Brunswick is the perfect town for this. Somehow, it has survived strip-mall fever, even though malls hover on the edge of town. While some stores have closed, Brunswick still manages to have a thriving downtown.

Right now, Sybil only lives 20 minutes away from me, and I will certainly miss having her around the corner. Over the past year, she has become a real friend. We both love books, movies, and theater, and when I was in cancer treatment, she fetched me once a week so that there wouldn’t be so much driving back and forth to Augusta. (My husband and I only have one car.) Still, Brunswick is not that far away, and along with shops and restaurants, there is also Bowdoin College and its art museum to visit. Then there is Gelato Fiasco, and if there is better gelato in Maine, then I haven’t tasted it. Finally, our friend Diane also lives in Brunswick, so we have many reasons to go there.

The talk turned to food, as it often does with me. Sybil’s daughter soon will be coming to visit her, and Sybil was wondering what to prepare for dinner after a busy day of activities. I mentioned the salade niçoise I had made recently and how many of the ingredients—potatoes, egg, and sugar snap peas could be cooked ahead of time and then assembled on a large plate of greens just before dinner.

“Salmon would be a nice addition, too,” I said.

“Canned salmon?” Sybil asked.

“Yes,” I replied.

“Canned tuna used to be one of my staples,” Sybil said. “But lately I’ve been reading about how tuna is terribly overfished.”

So have I. There’s an article by Bryan Walsh in Time magazine that explores how we are fishing and eating so much that the oceans are being “picked clean,” not only of tuna but of many other fish as well. It is a very sobering piece, and one that should be read by as many people as possible. Walsh also raises the question of fish farms, which have not always had the best of reputations. Catching wild fish might be the ideal, but as Walsh notes, “With 7 billion people, however, the planet doesn’t have much space for such freedom….if we’re all going to survive and thrive in a crowded world, we’ll need to cultivate the seas just as we do the land.”

Perhaps we will, and in my opinion more of us also need to move toward a mostly vegetarian diet. Yes, fish is a healthy food, but a varied diet rich in nuts, grains, and vegetables can be just as healthy. Hard though it might be, we need to control our appetite for meat and fish.

As Sybil and I finished our tea and biscotti, a dragonfly, vivid in black and white, landed nearby and was obliging enough to stay still so that I could take its picture. Unlike the zooming hummingbirds, which dart into the bee balm and then dart out again before my little camera can catch them.

But I still have two more months to try photograph a hummingbird, and I will be waiting.

Dragonfly on pole


  1. Most of the oysters we buy are farmed. They are fabulous! Also, I read a piece in the NY Times last Sunday about attempting to fish those in overabundance, like Lionfish,that aren’t good to their neighbor fish, and a few celebrity chefs have stated they will give new recipes a try! Sounds like a few options out there!

    1. We sure do! Just like I do when I visit with you and Richard. I’m making my way through Other Voices, Other Rooms. Can’t wait to discuss it with you two.

  2. First of all your flowers look so beautiful beside your patio or terrace. Second, I didn’t know you had been dealing with cancer. I hope all is going well. Third, something has changed in the past several years regarding meat. After quite a time of people eating less, there has been an explosion in meat ads, and barbecuing, and just conversations. I don’t get food fads. Why did people know that grilling wasn’t healthy a few years back, and now they even have indoor grills. And maybe the ocean is clean but geez I wouldn’t want to eat something that shared a space (even such a large one!!) with old needles, etc.
    It is lovely to have a friend such as Sybil.

    1. Thanks for the kind words about the flowers. I know you can’t eat flowers—or at least not all of them—but I love them so much. As for cancer…last year I was diagnosed with breast cancer. So far, so good! Food fads are indeed puzzling. I suppose there must be societal impulses at work behind many of them. Lots to think about with eating fish. Occasionally, my husband and I do eat fish, but for environmental reasons, we eat mostly vegetables. Easy to do this time of year. Sybil is a dear friend. I feel so lucky to know her.

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