Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Friends & food

It is officially autumn (well, technically, it's been autumn since September 23, but just go with me on this one). There is a slight chill in the air (even if there is a bit of an LA Story-ting going on -- "It got down to 58 degrees! What did you do?"), and I'm breaking out all the sweaters I knit this summer. As a way of celebrating fall, as well as our informal entrance back into the world, Richard & I invited our friends Catherine & Brian over for dinner (and to suck Catherine in to the world of Battlestar Galactica by forcing her to watch the original miniseries) on Sunday.

It was lovely. It was such a welcome respite to be able to concentrate on something fun and positive for a change. We cleaned (moving boxes are at least out of sight, if not actually out of the house) and I spent most of the weekend cooking. Martha moment: I actually made my own chicken stock. According to every celebrity chef with a cookbook to sell, homemade stock is the building block of everything good. So, setting aside 4-6 hours of my life on Saturday, I boiled down 6 pounds of chicken wings & livers, leeks, carrots, celery, onions & spices, all to get 2 quarts of precious stock.

Sunday's menu consisted of beef short-ribs braised in red wine (+ the all-important stock), garlic mashed potatoes and fennel & haricots vert (French for green beans, but it sounds prettier that way) salad with a mustard vinegrette. Everything turned out exactly as I could have hoped. The ribs were achingly tender -- no knife required. The salad was fresh and tangy. The potatoes were suitably garlicky (could have been creamier -- I'll use cream instead of milk next time). The only snag was in reducing the braising liquid into sauce, it separated very strangely, with all the winey goodness balling in the center and the oil on the oustide -- eww. So no sauce. But it was fab anyway. Catherine brought a wonderful pumpkin gingerbread and Brian brought two really good bottles of wine and some yummy Brie, crackers & bread. I was very excited that I finally got to show off some of my treasured 60s/70s kitchen wares -- smokey amber wine glasses, Bicentennial glasses, vintage Mikasa dessert plates.

It was a great night -- just sitting around the table, telling stories from college and drinking wine. It felt... normal. Something I haven't felt in a long time. And that's a feeling I want to hold on to. So Rich & I decided to host our annual Friends Thanksgiving, our annual tradition where a bunch of us from college get together from all over the west coast and cook too much food, drink too much wine, and generally have a good time.

This year, I've learned how important my friends are -- both old and new. There are the friends who were with us in the hospital, as everything came tumbling down. There are the friends who came to visit me at home, who tried to make me laugh and sometimes just let me cry on their shoulders. There are the friends who let me pour my heart out to them over the phone, the ones who knew that what I needed was someone who would listen to me. And there are the friends who sent me cards and flowers and emails, just to let me know that they were thinking of me, and Richard and Eliza. My friends, you all have helped me keep going. You have helped me get to the point where I can see a light at the end of the tunnel. I will get pregnant again soon, and I will bring home a healthy baby. It won't be Eliza, but it will be her little brother or sister. And I'm looking forward to that. But until then, I know that I have great friends who will laugh with me, cry with me and eat with me.

And just so this post isn't completely maudlin, here's a pic of my handmade item of the day: my 2nd Matador sweater (love these things!):
knit in Classic Elite Gatsby (sadly, discontinued, but it can be found on ebay)