My friend LJ graciously allowed me to stay in her home for 4 nights when I had a conference in her town; this graciousness was especially amazing because her first child was only 5 weeks old! She was a wonderful but frazzled mother; she now has two little ones and continues to impress me with her love and dedication all the time. The morning that we picked up a couple donuts together as we were out running errands, I got mine in this bag, which I photographed and then left standing on the counter, because mothers need to be reminded of what they deserve: they deserve donuts, and veggies, and hugs, and words of encouragement, and laughter and rest and love.
One time, Husband and I stayed at an AirBnB, an accommodation where people rent out a spare room for a night or two. It was inexpensive, and these people were so kind while still being so busy: we spent a whole evening together watching extreme sports videos while the hostess worked on a painting and chatted with us, and her husband showed us all the improvements they were in the process of making to their old farmhouse. This breakfast (I swear they gave us more than bacon, but they were quite generous with the bacon!) made me feel like I was staying with friends, not just with people who wanted a little extra cash.
The combination of rain and sunshine didn’t do our bell peppers that well this year, but in early October a few late and small peppers came from the plant before frosts took it. They were bitter, like all the thick flavor of a full sized bell pepper had concentrated into these tiny versions, but they made me smile because they seemed awfully tenacious. I hope to help my garden need less resilience next year, but it makes me smile to think at how the plants were fighting to survive, not fighting me. It puts me on good terms with Mother Nature on these frigid days.
Even though many people don’t think it is a delicious food at all, the best comfort food for Husband is Cincinnati chili, a meat sauce with twinges of cinnamon and chocolate that is somewhat unremarkable but is quite elevated when layered on a bun with a huge quantity of sharp cheddar cheese on top. We made it even better by frying sweet potatoes in butter, pouring on the chili, and adding the cheese garnish, and it’s now become out go-to dish for friends with a Cincinnati connection or just for ourselves, eaten in a bowl while watching a movie. For such a savory dish, it also satisfies the little sweet tooth quite well.
My friend S insisted on making traditional Chinese food for me, my friend E, and Husband a few years ago, and it was so good – authentic, simple flavors and textures, with hints of vinegar and salt but mostly the taste of the tomato, the egg, the short ribs. It was at a time when I was eating way too much processed food and needed nourishment more than average, but even more so I needed to eat with others, with people I cared about. I thought that S and I had become close in vain, because she moved back to China when each of us finished our graduate school program. However, a year later, she returned from China to take a PhD degree, and I get to see her every month or two – a surprising positive in a world when sometimes you have to think that this might be the last meal you share with a close friend.
One of my favorite things about knowing people from all over is that when we happen to be passing through a town or city, I can text someone and ask “where should we eat here?” We were given this Southern-Asian fusion restaurant from Husband’s cousin, and the memory of the surprising foods on the menu (chorizo with rice and greens and a creamy sauce? Okay!) made the experience notable even if it wasn’t just piles and piles of food. I am coming around to eating out less often and in smaller portions – if it’s truly memorable, I don’t mind leaving with no take-out box for later. 🙂
The memory of how truly awful me and my friends are at music trivia is nicely overshadowed by the memory that we tried, that same evening, the most decadent food known to man: pecan-candied bacon. The bacon was every combination of bad-for-you that I can think of, and given that I recently read that the most craveable combination is fat+sweet, it makes sense that just looking at this picture makes me hungry. Like food purchased at state fairs, such treats must be a once a year (or once in a lifetime?) kind of experience, or they lose their luster and make us feel terrible, but I’m still a bit in awe of whoever came up with this snack and served it up to us while we listened, mistified, to clips of songs we could not identify at all.