I have noticed, lately, a real crossover from the blog world to my real world, especially on the plate. The last two big-time food posts here at Simmer were designed for Summer Fest, brainchild of Margaret Roach, from A Way to Garden and The Sister Project. I loved having a directive: one week tree fruit, one week tomatoes. Cooking is easy, and creating stuff is fun; deciding what to cook and what to post, not so much. Much like Margaret, the Summer Fest mandate really helped me out.
A natural-born mentor, she’s driven to grow things – plants, magazines, friendships – and Fest or no Fest, I like her voice in my head, weeding out indecision and showing me what’s possible. I recently baked (and we devoured) Margaret’s clafouti (recipe via Martha), switching out her peaches for white nectarines and blueberries. She doesn’t think of herself as a baker, Margaret, but her post reminded me that clafouti is a kind dessert – easygoing, straightforward, and invaluable to have around.
April Phillips writes the blog Coal Creek Farm but is a local, a real live person – quite a tall one – right here in Lawrence. We met through her sister Rechelle, who in fact I’d also met through blogging, back in the day. April and her husband Clay are raising four children, and with all those spare hours – not – they’ve got plenty of time for pig farming. Think I’m kidding? There’s chicken-butchering, too. Anyway – this year they raised some gloriously large hogs, and when I was included in April’s annual “Pork Lady!” email, I said yes, bring me that bacon. Now I’m the wildly unkosher holder of pounds of fresh bacon, sage sausage, picnic roasts and thick Canadian bacon, seen sizzling above.
What’s better than a freezer full of porky goodness? April delivering it herself, and staying longer than she’d planned, sitting with Cleo’s head in her lap and a mug of hot tea. We talked and talked, and though we’d met once before, it was, as always, nice to fill in the gaps. It’s not unlike focusing a camera, filling in the gaps, and each time you do you get a clearer, stronger picture of this person, the image of a friend.
Several times a year I try to replicate my beloved Chicago deep dish pizza, especially pizza from Lou Malnati’s, my family’s traditional place. 13 years away and I’m finally edging close to pizza truth; it seems the longer I’m out of Chicago, the nearer I get to my pie. When Paige Orloff, writer and Sister Project genius, first visited Simmer, she left a comment, asking about a recipe for deep dish. It surprised me to realize I don’t have one, that I’ve never written it down and I shrugged, thinking I probably never would. Then I got to trading tales with Paige, and by the time she described me as a “kindred, unruly-haired spirit” – not to mention a virtual “dysfunctional family member,” I knew it might be time to try. The next time I make pizza, Paige, you’re with me in the kitchen. In spirit.
And then there is dear Sara Reddy Coyne, from Culinerapy. I haven’t cooked anything for Sara – not yet – but did cook her something up, and now it can be told: The Baker’s Alphabet post was a gift for an expectant friend, and that friend is Sara. When I posted in mid-July she was still not-hungry, nauseous, and not ready to reveal; but ah, the second golden wave. The fog lifts and you start eating again, ravenous, shiny, content. I’m very happy for Sara and her husband Paul, and wish them many shiny, contented days as their new life begins. It’s lovely to know Sara might walk the floors whispering donut rhymes – something that started in very real midnight hours with Josie, and then went to the virtual world, and now in another pair of real hands, might see daylight again.
I don’t know why I’m so astonished that true connections can be made offscreen, but I am. Every blogger I’ve met says the same thing: worried that in person, they will somehow be disappointed, or disappointing. Since you’ve already glimpsed behind that person’s scenes – a given with childhood pals, but meeting adults, who gets the chance? – expectations may be high, but results even better. It seems that if you put out food, words and trust, new paths may open and in time, circle back.