Love

crunch.jpg Candy has been a bond between me and my pal Joy since we first became best friends in sixth grade at Beverly Vista Elementary School in Beverly Hills, California.   Sure, there’s been humor, loyalty, shared heart-throbs, and tears…but from the get-go, there were shared Nestle Crunch candy bars filled with crinkly chocolate that we bought every day as we walked home from school together.  It became a ritual, peeling off the blue and white wrapper, then the foil, and eating the crunchy bar while hysterically laughing over some inside joke that was funny only to ourselves.  But it was better that way.

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buffet-food.jpg I considered myself a food lover: a zealous, open-minded, and studious consumer of food.  My tastes ran the gamut from Chex Mix to Chez Panisse, and I felt this to be charmingly, almost wittily, indiscriminate of me.  I read cookbooks, restaurant reviews, and food writing.  I cooked.  I baked.  I ate out.  I would have, without hesitation, claimed to be well versed, at the top of my game even, in the Art of Eating. 

I was, needless to say, a recent college graduate and an unfounded know-it-all.  I look back on those days with an indulgent fondness for my younger self, and her survey-class approach to eating.  There she is, I think in my memory, burning garlic and liking it.   I smile, knowing that soon enough she will be introduced to someone so enamored of food that in his presence one begins to question their own passion for almost anything else.  To my student’s eye, meeting Ryan was like being introduced to Edward Said after a steady diet of Cliffs Notes: there is, after all, much more to be found in the details.

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portwaterdog.jpgDear Mr. President Elect Obama,

Senator Ted Kennedy, the Lion of the Senate, had the right idea.  As he convalesced on his boat in Hyannisport I saw him beckoning to his dog Splash, a Portuguese Water Dog.

If you’ve never heard of this breed, they have a remarkable story.

Bred as working dogs, they carried messages back and forth between boats for the Portuguese fisherman. But what was even more impressive was that they were trained to herd fish into the nets and could dive under water at considerable depths to retrieve tackle and pull the nets in.

This breed is very old and although they are often mistaken for Standard Poodles, Porties (as we owners like to call them) are the source of the Poodle breed. They can be black, brown or white with either a curly coat or a wavy coat. They have hair, not fur, and that’s why we have two of them.

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barbaosummerrolls.jpgIn New York for a brief visit, my wife and I wanted to celebrate our 19th wedding anniversary with a special dinner. After a beautiful day walking around the city, we decided to find a restaurant near where we were staying at 70th and Amsterdam. For our anniversary dinner, we wanted a restaurant where we could talk and hold hands. And we wanted a meal prepared by a chef who cared about making interesting food, but we didn't want to spend a fortune.

The New York Times said a new restaurant was opening nearby that sounded interesting, so we called. On the phone the maitre d' described the menu at Bar Bao as a "modern take on Vietnamese food." The restaurant was opening that night and luckily a table was available.

When we arrived we were greeted warmly. That friendliness continued throughout the evening. Our waiter, Matt, accommodating both Michelle's desire to be meat free and my own unrestricted eating, suggested the Vermicelli Noodles and he would bring the pork belly on the side. Rounding out the meal, we decided on the Vegetable Summer Rolls, Sizzling Cuttlefish, Bean Curd Glazed Black Cod, and Asian Eggplant.

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beans_wax.jpgMy food store in Maine is overflowing with locally raised vegetables, but the small half bushels of yellow bean always stops me right in my tracks. The sight of  freshly picked, ultra-thin, bright yellow beans always brings to mind memories of my dear sweet Mother. When we were kids we visited a farm market on the way home every day to get vegetables for dinner and fruit for the 3 mile ride home. Our parents loved fresh vegetables, but my Mother's face would light up at the first appearance of yellow beans and we ate them every day until the last bean was picked for the season.

Yellow beans make me sad, make me happy and make me miss her again and again, year after year. The first thing that she would cook was yellow beans with pork chops, small white potatoes, oregano and tomatoes. The whole house was filled with the smell of garlic and oregano, filling us with anticipation. We stayed close to the stove talking about our day and snipping the beans. Sneaking small spoonfuls of juice out of the simmer pot to taste without ever being scolded because she always made extra. Being her daughter was as sweet as it gets.

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