Adventures of An Italian Food Lover: Dinner with My Sister.
When Cath asked if I'd be interested in testing out a new cookbook, I think my reply was along the lines of 'you have to ask?'!
The book is Faith Heller Willinger's Adventures of An Italian Food Lover, and it took me about two minutes to fall in love with it.
Written in such a friendly tone, with personal stories about the recipes and their creators, it just made me happy. Amazing dishes, wonderful stories. It left me wishing I could create a meal from it's pages to share with one of my closest friends.
Closest friends. I'm using it as a term of endearment, and unfortunately, not as reference to the distance between our homes.
Because if I had the chance, I'd create a fabulous meal from Faith's book for Erin. I always get a kick out of telling people that this blog friend of mine? Also happens to be a childhood friend, too!
Erin & I have been friends since we were children. Four, five years old. That's...longer than either of us want to admit! Our grandparents lived a few houses apart, on a quiet street populated almost entirely with couples who's own children had long ago left home, couples, like our own grandparents, who were part of "The Greatest Generation".
The street backing those homes were made up of somewhat younger families, at least enough to provide us with a regular group of kids to play with.
Perhaps because my grandparent's yard was so large, and flat...and had a swing set!...many summer afternoons were spent there. Erin's grandparent's sported a wicked hill, perfect for sledding during those long, cold Northern Pennsylvania winters.
Whether it was just the two of us, or a larger group, Erin & I spent many afternoons playing kick ball, turning the neighbor's yards into the great battlefields of World War II (we were all generals, and all personally chasing after Hitler...), or picking berries from my Grampa's strawberry patch.
When we were younger, people who didn't know us well always assumed we were sisters. We didn't get it, but we heard it from the mouths of too many strangers and family friends to dismiss it.
Sure, we're both short (I'm about an inch taller), we're close in age (I'm about a year older), with dark hair & eyes, and dark complexions. But...we certainly didn't think we looked alike!
When elementary school started, we spent less time together. Schedules and new friends got in the way. We'd still see each other during the summer, whenever we both happened to be visiting the grandparents.
Middle and high school saw us drifting farther apart. It wasn't anyone's fault; we were just two different people. Erin became a cheerleader and hung around with the 'popular' crowd. I...was a social outcast, barely surviving the hell that was my class (seriously...how could they put so many terrible people in one place?), and a less-than-happy home life.
We'd see each other in the halls, or at the odd school function, and of course we'd nod or say hi, but we had absolutely nothing in common at that stage of our lives.
Still, people assumed we were sisters. Teachers would ask me if I had a sister in one of the lower grades...sure, but my sisters were still in elementary school at that time! It happened just about every year, and I always knew they were thinking of Erin.
Post high school, we both did what was expected of us: we went off to college. Saw even less of her then...again, our lives were going in such different directions.
But then, something odd happened.
I ran into Erin one night at a bar (because, in our hometown? That's the only place to go. No social scene outside bars. Nice, huh?), and did the 'hey, good to see you...what's up?' thing. Turned out, she was back in town. I was back in town. I suggested we get together. And we did.
Suddenly, it was if all those missing years hadn't mattered. We quickly found ourselves in a groove. We had similar likes & dislikes, opinions, life experiences. We talked and emailed like crazy. It was like looking in the spare room and discovering your best friend was just sitting there, waiting for you to find them.
When we'd go places, people would still ask "are you two sisters?". By now, we'd just laugh. No, we're not. But you're not alone in thinking it!
I noticed that our lives had taken somewhat parallel paths, too. I was living with relatives (grandparents) due to a low-paying job in the media (radio). She was living with relatives (parents) due to a low-paying job in the media (newspaper). We both had cautionary boyfriend tales, from which we both swore we would learn & never allow to happen again.
We were both determined to leave our hometown, find our way in a chosen field, and hopefully...find love.
I left first. I met Matt, and moved to California. Not long after that, Erin moved to New York (state), and after one 'oops', met her perfect match.
We're both still figuring things out, but we're working on it. And despite the distance, we chat and email, call when we can. We share our joys & disappointments, our frustrations and fears. We can always fall back into that groove, no matter how much time has passed.
Because you see, Erin really is my sister. She's the sister I was supposed to have, that best friend you see in movies and television shows. The one I never thought I'd get.
I have a friend who treats me with as much love, care and respect as I do her. She's the sister I was supposed to have.
So, if she and her wonderful boyfriend were to visit, I'd serve them a meal something like this. I'd prepare all the food in good spirits, because I was going to be sitting down with my best friend, my sister. We'd eat Smoked Mozzarella Cutlets, Leek & Sausage Orzotto, and Brick-Grilled Chicken Breasts till we couldn't move, and talk the night away. We'd forget about the dishes as Matt & Erin's boyfriend morphed into uber-geeks before our eyes. She & I would wander off towards the bookshelves or maybe upstairs to the lounge, put on some funky LP's, and gab all night.
And it would be a perfect evening.
Tagged with: Food and Drink + Cookbooks + Events + Italian + Friends + Dinner + Faith Heller Willinger + Clarkson Potter