When I was in college, my friend and I took turns visiting each other’s families at their rented lake homes. There we were on fire with ideas about life and trying to figure it out and there were our parents talking about food. My Mother discussed upcoming gatherings and the ingredients she needed to purchase for her macaroni salad. My friend’s Mother and sister debated the best places to get summer produce: a little Amish market up the street or a farm stand on the road home. At night, my friend and I went out for a drink, a cigarette, a few laughs, and of course, a bit of life contemplation.
One night we were out and as I want to remember it, my friend took a drag from her cigarette, flicked the ashes in the ash tray, leaned pack in her chair and said: “All I know Claire, is when I get older, I’m not going to talk about food! ”
“Yeh, I know what you mean!” And that became our running joke, “Their talking about food again,” and other statements made as the lake visits continued through our early adulthood.
Flash forward 20 some years. A mini-reunion held, we sit down at a nice Italian restaurant, my girlfriends and I well into the 21st century. The red wine poured, the warm bread and olive oil served, my friends and I pull the bread, dunk it into the oil, sip our red wine with its fingers latching onto the glass, and my lake buddy turns to me and says, as I remember it: “Claire, I really like talking about food!” and we both start laughing with a glint in our eyes.
I retold this story when I wanted to support a conversation that stayed away from politics. Everyone laughed. I also caught myself emailing a friend recently saying, you know what I need to keep my conversations less about issues and more about food. My own private chuckle over that one.
In truth, I’m an ok chef. My presentation is usually strong and colorful but I’m not that much into adding spices unless directed with precision by Betty (Crocker) or the Barefoot Contessa. And that is where my signature dish comes in. I need one and I put that as my Facebook post yesterday. I’m thinking of pizza. I took out the big fat baking cookbook from the library again this month, thinking that now is the time to work on that pizza dough. Make it over and over, top it with various vegetable combos from our garden, and presto, I will be able to serve delicious pizza forever, or at least until I die. I can bring it with me when I need a “dish” to pass. My long time friends suggested maybe e-clairs or 7-Layer Mexican dip. Both made me laugh out loud.
A favorite classmate from high school died recently and I noticed that, like me, she did not have the traditional career path, but she did have a signature dish: blueberry cobbler. I could see my friend, a natural girl who loved skiing and pine trees and a good laugh, serving up this blueberry cobbler to her friends and family. Bringing everyone together with the delicious site and smell of blueberries and sugar and butter bubbling away. That struck me as something cool to be in an obituary, the signature dish, and if nothing else, I think I’d like that in mine.
I just read a recap of Nora Ephron’s memorial service on a New York Times report…she planned her service and the producer/author of Julie and Julia included some recipes in the program. From her books and movies, it is clear, Nora Ephron was about more than food but food obviously delighted her. it makes sense: many of us look forward to food each day, if we are fortunate, and it keeps our mind temporarily off the tough stuff, not to mention its bipartisan possibilities for pulling a divided nation together.
Well I’ve got to go…my pizza recipe awaits me. I’ll keep you posted.