Goodbye. See you later.
The difference is infintesimile but huge. One infers a finality, a wish that in Spanish conveys the person to God, adios. The other is more casual, connotes opportunity and potential for future meetings.
If 2010 seemed to be the year of big changes, then 2011 is merely riding out the coat tails. After almost eight years living in the Bay Area, my best friend Olga is moving home to be closer to her family.
Her mom suffered a heart attack two days after she stood next to me as maid-of-honor last year. I read the texts on my phone as Nathan and I drove down to Southern California on our honeymoon. The pneumonia that came later didn’t help erase the thought that these symptoms, this story had been written before and too recently in the demise of my dad.
When we returned from honeymooning, Olga and I met up. Large gaps of silence doing the talking ensued; all the kid fears dreaded and for me, realized, found sympathetic voice in the absence of sound. We walked as the words found their way: “she’s in the ICU still.” “I’m scared.”
It felt too soon to be reckoning with this foe again. I wanted a break from sickness, from death, wanting there to be a neutral time and space for Nathan and I to get our bearings.
But this is not the way life was supposed to work. This is the way it works now. Overlap of bitter and sweet. I’m learning to love the sweet even if the bitter is what’s leaving the taste in my mouth.
Her mom is in dire straights, it’s not a huge stretch. She didn’t have to tell me she was moving home. I knew it intuitively.
We didn’t talk about life with the dry socket void of each other that is to come. Instead, we discussed the final days for her at work, the going-away shindigs. I offered to throw a send-off soiree at our house and began contriving gluten free eats she would feel good enjoying as well as how to make it a fond bon voyage rather than one that’s bleak or sad.
And then I found myself buying a plane ticket home the weekend intended for the going-away party. My own family emergency surfacing, the call-to-action was clear and sure: “Go home. Be with the ones you love. Cherish the sweet even in the wake of the bitter.”
And this is a story for another time, as it’s a bit too fresh right now for the re-telling.
Two weeks ago, I didn’t know it would be her last time at my house. What you know at the end of things is to suck the marrow that remains until it’s dry. What you know is there are goodbyes and there are see you laters. What I knew is that I wanted to cook for this person who is more sister than friend, who had been my plus one for the pre-Beck years.
The call was simple: gin rummy and dinner.
Gin rummy is the game we played for several hours sailing the Mediterranean en route to Greece several years ago and what we played wiling away the hours in the Frankfurt airport. It has a history with us and still conjures up this dream of mine of us old and happy, living next to each other in a fishing village in the South of France. In it, she would bring the deck of cards from her neighboring flat; I would make the food. And Nathan, well, he’s a part of that picture now and forever- he would bring the music.
This particular evening, she kept interjecting, wanting to help. And the thing is I wanted her to sit and be the guest of honor. I wanted to serve her. We made a simple dinner of roasted honeyed turnips, salad with mixed greens, apple and a simple mustard vinaigrette and open-faced stuffed Poblano peppers. I found the Poblanos a bit on the firy side- their flames licking the outer orifice of my nostrils as I chopped them. While cooking, I asked her, “Do you trust me?” with a glint of that characteristic mischief she knows so well and she said, “Yes.”
Dinner. Conversation. Gin rummy. Friendship. If you pick one up, you might find the others follow. And the best part is that even what’s new gets grafted into the old.
Into the see you laters.
Open-Faced Stuffed Poblano Peppers
These are the equivalent of open-faced sandwich stuffed peppers. More of the good stuff! I’ve made this for different audiences and it works really well as a vegetarian entree paired with a salad. Go gluten free and use brown rice or barley works well too if gluten isn’t a problem.
YIELD: 4 servings
- 2 Poblano chilies, halved and seeded
- 1 cup cooked brown rice with daikon radish seeds* (or barley)
- ½ cup cooked lentils, green or brown (as they’re sturdier than red)
- 1/4 cup Crema Casera (found in Mexican markets or a mixture of crème fraiche & plain yogurt)
- 2 tablespoons plain yogurt or sour cream
- 2 tablespoons chopped pecans
- 1 tablespoon chopped dried cherries
- ½ teaspoon curry powder
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 ounce grated sharp cheddar cheese & monterey jack cheese
Preheat oven to 450.
In a small bowl, combine the brown rice, lentils, crema, pecans, cherries and curry powder with a pinch of cracked black pepper and salt. Mix with a spoon until combined.
Set your peppers inside-up in a pan lined with foil. (This helps clean-up move right along at the end and the foil can double as container to any leftovers.) With a Tablespoon fill the insides of the peppers with the lentil barley mixture. Once you’ve filled each pepper, sprinkle both cheeses on top of each pepper.
Place in the oven for 15 minutes. You’ll find the pepper to still have a bit of crunch with the cheese melted and oozy atop. Serve with a bowl of soup or salad for a quick and easy meal.
*NOTE: Brown rice mix available at Trader Joe’s. Regular brown rice can be used instead.