The past couple of weeks have been consumed by the rhythms of life. Everyday responsibilities and new projects pushed aside momentarily my side projects, such as writing about food. I expected this to happen—I knew that this would happen when I started. As a side project, this blog is there for playing, important for what it means to me but significant only the extent it provides an outlet for talking about those things that are even more significant in my life, which as I have tacitly suggested, are often lived out around food. These “even more significant” things continue to happen whether I write about them or not. Being able to write about them in a blog is a pleasurable splurge contingent on time.
A couple of Sundays ago we had Chris and Filippo over for brunch, a quid pro quo of sorts that at Chris’s suggestion and Beverly and my eagerness to accept will continue into the future. Since Ines was born, and at times even long before that, we have gone long periods without seeing friends, Chris and Filippo among them. Ines’s birth and her first few years have accentuated those periods, especially with friends who do not have children.
There is something immensely necessary about seeing friends you care about on a regular basis, yet that necessity is often overlooked among other life events. Suddenly, without noticing, months can pass and you wonder how so-and-so is. The next thing you know, your wondering has done nothing to stem the separation and years can pass. As someone who has experienced this his entire life, I recommend that others not follow my lead but heed my advice—stay in contact with your friends and family.
For me, seeing Chris and Filippo, besides spending time with two of my favorite people, was an opportunity to make Ina Garten’s Country Fresh Omelet, a 9-egg large skillet concoction of potatoes, bacon, and eggs with some chives tossed on top. I left out the called-for milk, at Anthony Bourdain’s suggestion that eggs are wet enough and don’t need additional liquid—water, milk, cream, or whatever. If you don’t want dry eggs, don’t overcook them. The same goes for omelets. Along with that, a la Bourdain, don’t scrambled the hell out of them either. The yoke and egg white should be distinctly recognizable when all is said and done. And in this case, they were. It makes a difference taste-wise. Dry and over scrambled equal rubbery eggs.
After frying the potato cubes and chopped bacon in olive oil, I removed them from the skillet, set them aside, drained the skillet, added the eggs and then returned the potatoes and bacon to the skillet with some chives tossed on top. Then I put everything into the oven for about 8 minutes. It came aesthetically appealing, and maybe a point of greater pride, slid easily out of the stainless steel skillet. The absence of milk did diminish the fluffiness of the eggs a bit, which left me wishing I had used a couple more eggs. Of course, eggs, bacon, and potatoes together is a holy trinity.
Beverly made a fruit salad of raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, bananas, and mango, with a honey-and-lemon-curd-infused Greek yogurt on the side or vice versa. We also had cold-smoked salmon and bagels from The Bagel Restaurant, along with cream cheese, red onions, tomatoes, chives and capers. The fluid upon which everything floated was the darkest of roasted coffee, with a hint of cinnamon, and mimosas of freshly squeezed orange juice and Prosecco.
The new person in the get-togethers with Chris and Filippo, or with any friend, is, as already alluded to, Ines. She surprisingly really hasn’t changed the dynamics of our events much, other than having to get up every once and a while to attend to her. For me, it is interesting to watch her around other adults, and of course, to watch other adults around her.
Ines’s best friend is and will probably always be Debby, her nanny for nearly three years. But Debby is Ines’s, and Ines is Debby’s: their relationship is purely their own, with neither Beverly nor I as intermediary. We simply introduced them to each other; they did the rest.
Around other adults, however, Ines is often more reserved but also ready to cut loose if it will get her attention. She likes to make people laugh. She moves back and forth from quietly observing to boisterously entertaining. As she has gotten to know Chris and Filipo, she has made herself the fifth character, an equal player who speaks and expects to be spoken to. She loves Chris and Filippo, in part, because they engage her on her terms, and they get her.
Ines has always had friends, and has begun to make new ones of her own initiative. I watch her around the two little girls she has known the longest and who are her best friends age-wise. One of the little girls is different from Ines in every way: temperament, personality, size. The other is eerily the same, and when they first see each other, Ines and she do a little happy dance and squeal. Both of her best friends are genuinely sweet and caring, and what more can I parent ask of his daughter’s friends?
Ines is making new friends—girls and boys—now that she is in school. She speaks of them often at home, and builds her imaginary play around them. She is quick to reveal their foibles as points of humor and enjoys appropriating their words.
Much of her interactions with her two longest friends, with other friends she has made at the park over the last couple of years, and with her new friends at school are enacted around food—snacks at the park, whole-family get-togethers, snacks and lunch at school, and even the baking of hallah every Friday. There has never been a play date or get-together that did not involve food, and that did not unfold around the sharing of that food as the one constant of the event. It is often during snack or lunch time that the most intimate and consequential interactions occur. It is these interactions that are often recalled later.
I am amazed at how comfortable Ines and her friends are with silence during the times with food. They can run and scream and talk nonstop while they play, but when they sit down to eat, they appear to settle into themselves without losing focus on the other—they look at each other, share with they have, and talk intermittently to the adults who are there but seldom to each other. I’ve witnesses it even in Ines’s classroom, where eight to ten kids will sit around the table eating an afternoon snack quietly yet very much attuned to what the others are doing, responding to others’ gestures and movement with their own gestures and movements.
To be around people you want to be around and to feel comfortable with silence, to appreciate just being in someone’s presence with nothing more expected or needed, I imagine is the truest reflection of companionship. It appears to come so easily for children. The rest of us spend all of our lives trying to find that type comfort and appreciation, not remembering that it was probably a natural part of our interactions at one time.
Even when we are together, we might not feel the presence of another in such a way and be satisfied with that. I don’t mean that we need to or should want to remain silent among friends. It is not really about the silence. I simply mean that we should all hope that being together could be so natural and ordinary. If it were, maybe we would find that being apart is antithetical to our very nature.