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Cardamom Hill
1700 Northside Dr., Atlanta, GA 30318
404-549-7012, www.cardamomhill.net

Good choices: Cardamom Hill has made just about every “Best of” list in the city and attracted national attention. There’s nothing on the menu I wouldn’t recommend, but do carry money. For a less expensive taste, try lunch.

The restaurant is small and priced in the fine-dining range. It serves the cuisine of chef-owner Asha Gomez’s home, Kerala, a southwestern state of India that was settled by the Portuguese. It was a major stop along the famous Spice Route and absorbed the flavors of many other cultures.

As diners filed into the dining room, Robert looked around for Lee, the man who so strongly attracted him. They had dined together twice and, although Robert knew little about him, he was extremely intrigued. He originally created the supper club in hope of finding a husband before he turned 50 later this year.

Janet dinged her glass with a mistletoe-wrapped dildo to call for silence and introduce the evening’s discussion topic.

“Welcome, everyone. Christmas is about goodwill to all. I want to share a quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald, written 80 years ago. It’s from his story, ‘Rich Boy’:

“We are all queer fish, queerer behind our faces and voices than we want anyone to know or than we know ourselves. When I hear a man proclaiming himself an ‘average, honest, open fellow,’ I feel pretty sure that he has some definite and perhaps terrible abnormality which he has agreed to conceal.”

“He didn’t mean queer in the sense we use the word now, of course, and that makes the quote all the more amazing,” Janet said, leaning back in her chair. “But I wonder how the pressure gay people exert on one another to be normal affects us now.”

A stream of sweet odors wafted into the dining room, circled the table and whooshed out of the room. It was not particularly Indian. Nor was it the usual scent of Christmas. It had a bittersweet quality, like the scent a departed lover leaves on a pillow. It was one of those aromas in the world most people don’t notice.

Lee arrived – late again. He was wearing makeup, which startled Robert.

“It’s funny you are speaking about concealment and normality,” Lee said, looking around for a chair. “Does my makeup conceal me or reveal me?”

A woman wearing antlers draped with condoms spoke up.

“It might reveal your androgyny but it conceals your identity for the most part. So I give it a B-.” Several applauded.

Lee shrugged. “But it’s not a fulltime mask,” he said. “It may conceal my face for a time, but any mask demands removal. So, ultimately, I think a mask makes one more deeply scrutinized.”

A man wearing a thong and a Michele Bachmann mask topped with a plastic Bible and a penis applauded. Then Lee brusquely scooted a chair between Robert and Janet, while conversation continued around the several tables. Janet shot him a look and rolled her eyes.

“Sorry to come between the two of you,” Lee said.

Robert was embarrassed but pleased. Yet he wondered: Why is a hot man in women’s makeup and otherwise normal attire after me? Is this my last boyfriend all over again?

He was referring to Jacob, who came home one day and announced that he had enrolled in a charm school for cross-dressers. He had rented a room in the dormitory of the charm school so he could live among his new community, whose students were heterosexual as well as gay.

“I had no idea you were into this,” Robert told Jacob.

Jacob dropped his jeans to reveal silky, fluffy underwear.

“This is what I’m thinking about every time we have sex, even though I’m not wearing it. Actually, I could care less about your penis. It’s kinda gross. I’m really a male-to-lesbian cross-dresser.” Then he left the apartment.

Robert turned now to Lee. “What’s with the makeup?” he asked.

Lee slid his hand onto Robert’s thigh. “You know Saturnalia, the original pagan ‘Christmas,’ was all about role reversal, right? Masters and slaves exchanged roles. Laws were suspended. Gender was sometimes reversed, too, according to some sources. So, I’m returning to our roots.”

“Actually. It didn’t change that much,” Robert said. “Jesus was both human and god. Mary was a virgin. Santa Claus was probably a pedophile.” He slid his hand on Lee’s.

“So,” Robert said, “who the hell are you for real?”

“I’ll answer that someday soon,” Lee replied, swirling a finger in one of the restaurant’s delectable sauces.

“Just amazing,” he said. “Bittersweet, like life.”

 


Food Porn is a fictional series by longtime Atlanta food critic Cliff Bostock. Set in real Atlanta restaurants, it chronicles the adventures of Robert, a gay man in search of a husband — or at least a good meal. For past chapters, visit www.thegavoice.com

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