Despite what adults tell you, you should really consider playing with your food. One Portland, Oregon café owner took her personal culinary practices in a comically profound direction—and discovered that she could save money, round up free eggnog, and even make new friends.
For one year of her life, Goody Cable ate according to the alphabet. There are 26 letters and about 52 weeks in the year, which offered each individual letter two weeks for independent exploration. Cable started by only consuming foods and beverages that begin with the letter "A" for the first two weeks, then progressed through the alphabet until she reached "Z."
"I never cheated once," Cable told me during our interview at her coffeehouse. "I loved it; it was about constantly creating. I'm not dependent on the outside world for entertainment."
Cable didn't care about saving money; she makes enough of that. Cable is the owner of Portland's oldest and most eccentric café, The Rimsky-Korsakoffee House, as well as a hotel advertised for "people who don't get along" called the Sylvia Beach Hotel, situated on the Oregon Coast.
The café sits in an unmarked Victorian and is themed after Russian composers. In fact, for a place that only serves caffeinated coffee drinks and desserts, its hours are from 7 PM to midnight.
And good luck finding the place. Cable would rather have you "stumble upon it by accident," which hints at the lack of advertising for the coffeehouse from its exterior. There isn't even an open sign, so one must be careful not to interrupt some random household's Netflix and chill.
My tipsy friend and I discovered Rimsky's this way back in 2012 because there were too many cops in the parking lot of Sparky's pizza and we got distracted, meandering off the beaten track. (It took me three years to rediscover Rimsky's afterwards.)
Still, Cable found herself dabbling with frugality.
"I bought a lot of a few things because my creative drive was limited. I cooked a lot at the beginning of each two-week period and relied on leftovers for the rest. As a consequence, I ended up saving some money. But seriously, I really did the whole thing for fun."
Every other Tuesday, Cable's friends would throw a party at Rimsky's in order to "say goodbye to another letter." The goodbye parties were advertised in by one of Cable's friends. Cable's employees and close ones, along with the general public, would arrive to shower her with gifts and support.
It's important to note that Cable viewed shopping for food the same way she viewed eating food. She had to remain faithful to her mission. "During that year, I only shopped at grocery stores and markets that also began with whichever letter I was on," Cable reminisced. "For 'S,' I would only go to Safeway and for 'W,' I would shop at Whole Foods."
I'm guessing she saved less money during the "W" period. During the "E" period, which happened to be during the summer, a friend made Cable homemade eggnog as it was out of season and unavailable at the Exxon gas station market.
However, Cable's new diet also allowed her to branch out socially. During the "C" period, for example, Cable reached out to a customer named Cynthia because her name started with a C. Cable claims that they are now lifelong friends. In fact, Cable expanded her alphabetical lifestyle so that it not only included food and people but also places, activities, and clothing.
"During the 'A' period, I made sure to go to the antique store in Aurora and get an apple with my friend Anne."
At restaurants, waiters would ask Cable what she wanted to eat and she would reply with something like, "I don't care what you give me, as long as it begins with the letter S, except shellfish—I'm allergic to that."
(The amount Cable would tip would depend on how accommodating and polite the waiter was in response.)
"Restaurants were great for the most part," Cable explained. "But I preferred my own coffeehouse. My cook created a special for each letter. She's actually how I chose to do two weeks per letter, because every other Tuesday she changes the specials at Rimsky's."
And at Rimsky's, customers could also participate. Cable gave free desserts to visitors whose name started with the same letter as the special.
And just in case you were wondering what Cable resorted to during the "X" period, she assured me that this period was one of the simplest. "I chose foods that begin with 'ex,' which made it really easy. I just couldn't figure out the D's. I don't like donuts so I stuck to dill pickles on dill rye bread with Dijon mustard."
I would have stuck with donuts.