Blog, meet my dear friend Hope. Hope is a young woman (that’s right, I said young) whom I am privileged to call my old friend. A master of English, she is a woman of many diverse jobs and interests. She is a very good teacher who (for better or worse) gets very personally involved in the lives of her students because she cares deeply for people and for books and for the relationships they can have with each other. She tends to stay in love with bands long after everyone else has dropped them—like Dashboard Confessional, and probably others as disturbing to consider. She is a lover of Dante, a fun and eclectic home and garden decorator, an imaginary girlfriend to Ronald Bilius Weasley, a collector of oddities such as face mugs, an inappropriate comment enthusiast, an up-for-anything adventurer, and a faithful friend.
Let me tell you a story about my friend Hope by way of some text messages made on the night of October 15, 2010. I am indeed lamely typing them out.
Me: [Out of nowhere] What are you doing the week before Thanksgiving? Do you want to go to Italy around Nov. 17-23?
Hope: Yesish! What are the details??
Me: World traveler! I knew I could count on you! I am getting into London…
[many logistical text messages]
Hope: And done. See you in the big d.
Me: I love you I love you I love you. I can’t believe you did it except I can. I am so excited.
Hope: Did u see my fb status update last night?! I asked someone to offer me adventure.
Me: Happy to oblige.
Hope: I might pee my pants.
Me: I couldn’t be happier. Let’s buy pope stuff.
Me: Wine! Pizza!
Me: Peter! Caravaggio! Bread! Relics!
Hope: Gelato! Leather markets! Mopeds!!!!!
Me: Oh my.
And that was it. I got to go to Italy with Hope. Where we ate the best dinner of our lives, drank a bit too much, walked streets I never wanted to leave, prayed our way up the Scala Sancta, were constantly rained on, and generally had some glorious adventures.
So, Hope came to Waco last week for the first time in a long time and it was really wonderful to see her. We hadn’t spoken in months, but that never seems to matter. We quickly covered just about everything: work, books, thesis, relationships, food, friends, Waco life, Houston life, adventures, the future. All shared (as they tend to be) over a grocery store trip, dinner cooking, constant eating, and a bottle of wine. There’s nothing like good food and wine for facilitating good conversation. Plus Hope is candid, good at understanding people (I don’t know how else to say it), and at trying to tell them what they need to hear. So, thanks Hope. I’d cook a meal with you anytime.
For your pleasure, here is a food time-line of the evening:
Wine: Hope obviously came bearing Becker’s Cabernet-Syrah blend. So delicious. If you don’t know about Becker Vineyards in Fredericksburg, Texas you do now and you can thank me whenever.
Appetizers: All I ever really want is bread, so we had rosemary sourdough with a couple bonuses: a dipping sauce of my fanciest olive oil and balsamic vinegar (Lucini!), and the best cheese (Manchego).
Dinner: A bit haphazard, we had chicken with a red wine-onion-blanket, baked sweet potato fries (a personal very favorite) and a boring salad.
Dessert: Hope came prepared with some unbelievable peach pie (she made all by herself!) and fig tart (her lovely roommate Beth concocted out of left over pie crust). I felt very special to get treats that had traveled all the way from Houston to me.
After: Lounging. Clearly.
Sadly, I didn’t take any photos of this restorative evening, so here’s me and Hope in a more interesting place:
And here is the recipe, as I remember it, of the chicken. I improvised this meal a couple years ago and attempt to replicate it every so often–generally when I have an unfinished bottle of red wine hanging around for too long. It is very simple and doesn’t take too long, but can look somewhat impressive.
- Normal things you’re bound to have like salt, pepper, olive oil, garlic…
- one medium onion
- 1 lemon
- 3 normal or 4 small chicken breasts
- 1c. or so of red wine–anything you have around should work, but if you need direction I’d try a peppery Zinfandel
- Slice the onion somewhat thin
- chop however much garlic you’d like and crush it into a paste with coarse salt using the side of your knife
- toss the garlic into a preheated, large-ish frying pan with some olive oil for a second, then add the onions
- sprinkle some salt and pepper on the onions
- cook until almost translucent, then push to the edges of the pan
- cook chicken in the center of the pan so it gets brown, but don’t finish cooking it all the way through yet
- transfer the almost but not quite yet done chicken and onions to a plate
- turn up the heat a little in the frying pan and squeeze in the juice of one whole lemon, scraping up all the brown stuff stuck to the pan
- add red wine and maybe a pinch more pepper and let simmer until it’s reduced a fair bit
- add the onions and chicken back in to finish cooking in the sauce
It’s good to serve over rice, which can soak up the sauce—though the onions can absorb a lot of it, which is just not a bad thing at all. I tend to put the chicken on the plate and cover it with a wine-y onion blanket.