My friend DB and I try to cook together as often as possible — switching off Saturdays so we each get a reprieve from traveling (we live on opposite ends of town). Cooking at his house is always a very different experience than cooking at my own.
I’m courteous with my neighbors, but we certainly aren’t close, and on my weekends to host our cook-fests, it’s almost always just the two of us. DB, on the other hand, seems to know everyone within a two-mile radius of his place, and they know they are welcome to stop by and visit whenever he’s home.
At his house, I’ve become accustomed to having a crowd of hungry, sweaty and slightly intoxicated softball players show up (his housemate plays in a league) or perhaps just random neighbors who heard tales of homemade pizza being made. In the beginning, I was a little awkward, as I rarely saw the same person twice. But now there’s a group of people that I feel comfortable with, and the conversation flows as easily as the beer does.
I may be the queen of perfectly planned put-together parties, but he is the king of thrown-together get-togethers, where records play loudly and constantly and dance parties have been known to break out.
This is why on the Saturday before my trip to Alaska, when I showed up at his house to cook, I was completely unsurprised when he said had invited approximately eight to ten people to dine with us. It was a spur of the moment type of thing, he explained.
Luckily we already had an idea of what we wanted to make — April Bloomfield’s succotash from A Girl and her Pig. The recipe had been taunting me since I bought the book because the picture of it looks incredible. There is so much cream in her version that the vegetables are practically swimming in the buttery broth.
It was easy to make and seemed like a crowd pleaser for sure, especially when you add in meaty barbecued pork ribs and a plate of sausages. And, hours later, as everyone started showing up, more and more treats were added to the table. A salad of fresh greens and shaved beets, an olive oil cake studded with sour cherries and a berry pie with a streusel-like topping.
As I was bustling around putting the finishing touches on the succotash, I mumbled something about how we had forgotten to buy fresh tarragon at the store. One of DB’s neighbors, an awesome lady who is also from Alaska, mentioned she had some growing in her garden. She was gone and back in a flash, bearing lush sprigs of the pungent herb. As I added it to the pot, we chatted about growing up in the Alaska, the last time we were home to visit and about her novel, Glaciers, which (even though it’s fiction) alludes to her time in the state.
At the end of the night when I packed up some leftovers and headed home, there were still people dancing. We had gorged on food, played a few rather rowdy hands of cards, watched videos and talked for hours. It was another awesome evening surrounded by fun people, some of whom I had just met that night.
So even though I hate that DB and I live on opposite ends of the city, I have to admit there is something special about visiting his neighborhood. I’m not going to stop trying to woo him into moving to the east side, but I understand why he refuses.