Keep it Real

January 5, 2012
Rachel Alexandra Portnoy has come to dinner at our house almost every Wednesday night for the past 11 years. Sometimes we call her Rachel, but she prefers to go by her initials: RAP. Few words can do Rachel justice; quite simply, RAP is the coolest person I know.
Rachel was my babysitter from the time I was four, until she graduated from the University of Texas in 2002. She received her bachelor’s degree in African-American Studies and cherishes that more than her master’s degree in social work. She says that Tupac is the person who inspires her the most, which is rather funny coming from a 31-year-old, 5’ 2” Jewish girl. Before she leaves any place, she always says, “Keep it real.” I’m not sure I know what that means, but if RAP says it, it’s got to be cool. Those Wednesday night dinners are where RAP shares stories, but they’re also where stories are created.
Once, I announced that I was not hungry for dinner because I had just eaten a muffin. For the next hour, Rachel ranted about how she detests muffins. She said that she would sooner eat her own vomit than a blueberry muffin. She said that muffins are “pseudo dessert,” and she has “no time to waste on them.” I, frankly, thought it was a bit of an over-reaction, but when I asked if she was serious, she looked me right in the eye and said, “I’m 105 pounds of serious.” I got the picture and quietly ate my salad.
Rachel’s husband, Ryan Bouillet (or as I call him, “The Booyah”), works as a chef for the Brennan family at Café Adelaide in New Orleans. Before he moved to New Orleans, The Booyah joined RAP at a Wednesday night dinner. He said he thought it would be nice to sit back and just enjoy a meal without cooking for once. It was around the time that my dad was putting unwashed carrots directly into the soup that Ryan lost it. He stormed out to his car without a word and returned with his knife set and apron. The Booyah prepared one of the best meals I’ve had and all was well.
My dad and I constantly argue about whether or not placemats should be used at these Wednesday night dinners. I feel that they are pointless; my dad feels that we are barbarians if they are not used. One night, RAP set the table and omitted the placemats. My dad glanced at the table suspiciously and asked who had set the table. Rachel claimed responsibility.
“Why are there no place mats?” my father asked.
“’Cause,” Rachel said, “that’s just how I roll.”
My dad smiled and went on chopping vegetables. No questions were asked.
What I really love about Rachel is that I can talk to her about anything. We’ve had scholarly discussions about literature, and we’ve talked about her interesting fart schedule. One minute, we could be talking about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the next minute, about whether or not it’s socially acceptable to eat chili on a first date. I look forward to our family tradition of Wednesday night dinners, and I always try to keep it real.

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