Person #1: Hi. I’m Mr. So-and-So.
Me: Hi, I’m Andrew.
Person #1: Where’d you go to school? What do you do?
After everyone in the small group answers, an awkward silence results. We have all been in one of these dead end conversations. It’s painful. You look down at your glass, wishing the libation were stronger or that there were more of it. I tried unsuccessfully to spark the conversation asking about upcoming summer travel, passions, and any recent good reads.
You can read all the books and blogs about networking or developing your inner extrovert, but I discovered a secret yet to be enumerated. And it goes against all conventional wisdom.The day started with reheating 4 pounds of al pastor on a quesadilla maker at my office. Just a normal day at the office. Part team building activity/part epic feast, my boss had reached out to me with her idea to have a potluck. A few emails later, we had a taco cart replete with horchata, 2 meats, guacamole, all the fix-ins you could possibly desire, and enough tortillas to feed a small-to-mid-size village. My contribution was a new recipe from America’s Test Kitchen for al pastor, which means “in the style of the shepherd.”
The pork shoulder takes a decent amount of work, but, based on how fast it vanished at the potluck, is definitely worth it. You start with braising (simmering meat in liquid) the meat for 2-3 hours. Then you slather it in sauce and grill it to get it crispy. After posting a few pictures, some friends I was meeting Friday night asked if I could bring them a sample.
These sorts of requests have become the norm of late and, frankly, I don’t mind. That’s the feedback I desire when incessantly posting pictures of what I ingest. Being the attention-needing chef that I am, I reserved a bit of al pastor for my friends and brought it to the bar.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, bringing a container of food to a bar will serve as a far better ice breaker than any conversation tips you can find. Here are how some of those conversations went:
“Did you just come from dinner?” a young woman asked me after I set the container down on a table.
“No. It’s al pastor.”
“What’s that?” she asked.
“It’s pork that you braise and then grill.”
“Where did you get it?”
“I made it.”
At this moment, the woman’s friends were now interested in what was in the container, and if this were a regular occurrence. It was the first time, but based on the results, won’t be the last. The girls were now introducing me to their friends. For this group, I will forever be known as the guy who brought a container of meat to an alumni mixer.
There are worse things to be known for.