It’s one of those soft, damp mornings that I love. My boys pulled on rain boots and ventured into the backyard in their pajamas to explore. I’ve sipped my cup of coffee and sat on the couch beside the window, a blanket over my legs and Alice Waters’ The Art of Simple Food open on my lap.
It’s a beautiful book, both in its language and in the texture of its pages. The kind of matte paper with nostalgic font and black-and-white illustrations that recall an era of simplicity. A perfect melding with the focus of the book, which is that cooking and eating need not be involved, stressful, drawn-out endeavors. Rather, through dint of the right ingredients, tools, and perspective, preparing a daily meal can be a joy.
In the section on pantry staples, there is emphasis on fresh cheese, bought in a block rather than pre-sliced or shredded. The section reminded me of my oldest friend, Melissa, and a time not long ago that I spent at her home in New Haven, Connecticut.
I grew up next-door to Melissa on Old Timber Road in the house my parents built when I was a toddler. We played Ghost in the Graveyard in our yards, Marco Polo in her pool late on summer nights, and we ate so many meals in one another’s homes I can’t recall where they began and we ended.
In college – she at Harvard, me at the University of Michigan – Melissa and I connected via handwritten letters. After, we lived in New York City, mingling our friends over margaritas after work.
Melissa has staying power. As I moved to Washington, then back to Michigan, she lingered in New York to fully understand its streets. And only after she had given much time and consideration to what-to-do-next, did she move to Boulder, Colorado, and enroll in culinary school.
The story of our friendship winds through mountain trails and deserts, as we connected at each point along the road. That is the staying power of a lifelong friendship. When I got married, it was Melissa I asked to speak at the wedding, for she represents what I aspire to: integrity, warmth, thought, and astute creativity.
In one of my first weekends without my children, I flew to visit Melissa, her husband, and their sweet dog Chief. If I were to be without my little angels, the best place I could imagine to cushion my tender feelings was alongside my favorite person in the world.
That weekend, we attended a krav maga class at a yoga studio, laughing through every kick and punch. After, we ate in a cafe on a quiet side street, fresh soups, hunks of cheese, and crusty warm bread. We filled a paper bag with flavors and tastes to bring back to her home, and I reckoned that after a decade of living in Orthodox isolation, I was finally beginning to learn the beauty of living authentically.
Everyone should have a friend like Melissa. Some days, I’m not sure I deserve her.
But I know the heavens have smiled down on me, gifting me as they have with such richness: three brushes of sunlight who are forever part of me, a home with richly-colored walls in which to dance, and true, absolute abundance of flavor and texture.