“Well I brought some harðfiskur with me. Would you like some?”
“Wha—I, uh, sure?!”
Autism has its good days and its bad days. And then on extreme occasions, I have a “best day.”
I’ve blogged about and talked about my worst days on the spectrum, and those don’t take much doing to happen. A few apples fall off the cart, the whole thing wrecks, and there we are in the ditch.
The “best days” are a rare event, an earthy syzygy; I had one about seven years ago, nearly unrivaled since.
(Mind you, there are those ‘event-level’ days: my wedding, birth of my kids, Tim Tebow upsetting the Steelers in the first round of the NFL Playoffs, high scores in Wii Bowling, but those are different.)
My wife and I went to Coohills, a French-styled restaurant in downtown Denver, for their Taste of Iceland event, featuring guest chef Þráinn Vigfússon. Having grown up in Iceland and having also been deprived of fine-dining opportunities, I’d been—gulp—getting autistically eager over the opportunity. The fact that this was happening made me giddy enough.
I speak a little bit of Icelandic, so I began hyperobsessing and imaginatively projecting that I’d be able to reel off a little islensku, parlaying my ability to actually say the chef’s name properly into a glittering conversation, and then—well, I didn’t get too far beyond that. I just wanted to be the cool one for a night. The grand imaginings, these.
Course after course, we were treated to Icelandic-infused haute cuisine: the langoustines and Scandinavian breads echoing with this faint imagined memory of what I ate back “home.” At the table next to us, two boisterous businessclowns tried to regale Chef Þráinn in vain (note: that’s a sight rhyme – those two words don’t actually rhyme) as he went table-to-table to serve up dessert, a liquid-nitrogen-frozed skyr ice cream concoction.
Since I observed him going through this tableside service, so I had ample time to rehearse (nervously) my lines and line of conversation. It’s taxing enough in English. Try it in Icelandic.
So when Chef Þráinn came to our table, I was ready.
“Er þetta skyr ís?”
I asked if this was “skyr ice cream” — he obliged and responded back, keeping in Icelandic.
I was thrilled. He asked if I spoke it.
“Bara pinulitið,” I confessed. But that was enough to make his night and get him talking beyond just the superficial level — with me, the fine-dining novice.
We got to conversing, and I joked about how each course was way beyond expectation, and how I thought this would be more traditional, like with harðfiskur (a favorite, hardy snack of mine).
And he had some on hand. His own personal chef’s stash!
It was a joyous treat, replete special treatment, culminating with a pic and some charmed memories of the evening – plus an invitation to stop by his restaurant at the Blue Lagoon next time I visit.
So what made this an ‘autistic best day?’
The reality matched even my wild, specific expectations. Being able to imagine speaking Icelandic and making ‘fast friends’ with the chef was a bizarre daydream — but it happened.
My rehearsal paid off. I pride myself on autistically navigating myself through social dilemmas with pre-practice, and in this case, even doing this in my second language – every box was checked, and I felt 100% validated in my preparational oddities.
I felt different and special. While Chef Þráinn mingled and small-talked with the rest, he was genuinely impressed in our common ground and devoted a little more to the conversation with me — and that was awesome. It’s a great feeling.
We have our good, our bad, and our best. I could use a lot more of the best!
I’ll write more about the bad days later, but this was a good reminisce to put a smile back on my face. To learn more about autism from an autistic person’s perspective, follow & subscribe to The Life Autistic here and on YouTube — or follow the more whimsical, spontaneous, and amusing content on Twitter / Instagram. Thanks.
If you like stories, I’m still making more of them and recording ’em along the way. Check out my latest below; it’s a funyun.