This is Sharon. Sharon makes me laugh. Sharon has a kind heart and an absurd sense of the world and a flirty style that leaves its impression on everyone who meets her.
In the past few days, Lu has been starting to laugh. Really laugh. She has been giggling most of her life. However, now she’s actually reacting to silly sounds and weird situtations and letting out a big belly laugh. (How much does she love Mr. Noodle? Well, you should see the joy on her face after the laughter escapes her open mouth.) What was the change? Sharon was here for a week.
This afternoon, I asked Lu, “Do you like to laugh?“
Her face opened wide into a smile, then she said one word: “Sharon.“
For 28 years, Sharon and I have been making each other laugh. 28 years. That’s almost 3 decades. In 2 years, Sharon and I will have known each other for 30 years. Wow. I remember when turning 30 felt impossible, when I began to feel old and wondered at my place in the world. But knowing someone, loving her, being her best friend for 30 years?
It is one of the biggest gifts of my life.
And boy, does Sharon know how to eat.
When Sharon comes to visit, it’s a celebration. In fact, this past week, she convinced me to let go of most of my work and simply be with her. I’ve been feeling frazzled with deadlines and too much to do. Sharon reminded me of how infrequently we see each other now (it had been since September, for goodness’ sake) and how she wanted to go on walks, drive the island, shop at used bookstores, and make up new inside jokes with me. None of that was going to happen when I was on the computer.
So we ate. By the end of the first day of her here, we had the food schedule written up. Every meal for 6 days, plotted out.
This was the ham, eggs, and gruyere dish from Le Pichet, in Seattle. Sharon and I took a girl morning in the city, without the kid. (This also hasn’t happened in a long time.) Every stop revolved around food: World Spice, Trader Joe’s, the Melrose Building. Yes, we talked about other things, and we listened to a cd by The Rescues over and over again in the car, but mostly, it was about the food.
I love that breakfast. I love the sight of Sharon across the table over that breakfast even more.
This was one of the two café au laits that we each had at Le Pichet. We drank our first cup, finished our food, and then looked at each other. “One more each, please,” we said to the waitress, as we leaned back in our chairs and decided not to rush anywhere.
I love café au laits, but for some reason, I never order them unless Sharon is with me.
These salads are from Sitka and Spruce, one of the most stunning, understated restaurants in Seattle.
The salad on the left is marinated raw beets, pistachios, sheep’s milk feta, and great olive oil. The salad on the right is salt cod, fava beans, onions, and smoked paprika.
Sharon and I just stared at them when they arrived. The loveliness of this food shocked us both into not talking for awhile.
And then we reached for our forks.
(By the way, both Le Pichet and Sitka and Spruce take care of me beautifully, gluten-free, every time I go.)
“Can we have fruit?” Sharon asked me on the phone before she arrived.
Of course. And so we did.
Then, we put that fruit into a crisp.
This went fast. Sharon made her little moany noises when she ate it, satisfied.
Even an hour before she climbed into her car and waved goodbye to us all (especially to Lu, who made such a sad face), Sharon sat down with us outside and shared one last meal. Quinoa, poached eggs, prosciutto, and a fresh carrot-apple-ginger-fennel juice.
It tasted bittersweet. I always hate when she leaves.
One of the first mornings Sharon was here, we made granola together. This time, Lu joined us. She stood on a chair and stirred up the mixture, with Sharon and I watching her.
I first met Sharon when I was nearly 16, a gawky mixture of enthusiasms and geekiness, a nerdy girl with stacks of books by her bed and an Academic Decathalon practice to attend. Sharon was sort of geeky back then too — my god, her glasses were huge. She grew more and more hip the older we got. Sharon has always been my lightness, the one who makes me laugh and keeps me from growing too serious. Thankfully, Danny loves her as much as I do and we all get along. Now, so does Lu.
You never could have told me, in 1982, when I met Sharon in the 400 quad of Claremont High School that one day she would be standing in my kitchen, making food with me and my daughter.
Standing in the kitchen together, making food, side by side with Sharon always made me happy. We’ve made chocolate chip cookies and roasted chicken, apple pies and filet mignon. We have eaten more meals together than I will ever be able to count. Between us are milkshakes in Wyoming, Italian beef sandwiches in Chicago, a thousand slices from Sal and Carmine’s across the street from our building in New York, diet milkshakes, crunchy salads, pistachio gelato, cups of hot coffee, and the memories we shared over those meals.
There are so few constants in life. Everything breaks and fades away or pulses into pain so great you don’t know how to go on. Lately, it seems to me, the only joy comes in small moments, like the joy of sharing food with a friend who has known you for more than half your life.
Come back soon, Sharon. We miss feeding you.
Now here’s the deal. There are dozens upon dozens of good granola recipes out there on the internet, many more in trusted cookbooks. I have a recipe for granola already on this site. Why am I offering you a bowl of this?
Well, the granola recipe I shared years ago was made with McCann’s oats, which have since been deemed problematic for those who have to be gluten-free. This one is made with Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free rolled oats, which we devour around here. (If you make this granola for a gluten-free person, you must make sure the oats are certified gluten-free.) As for the other recipes, I’m certainly not saying this is the best granola recipe ever. I’m just saying that this recipe, given to me by my dear friend Nina, is a template for great granola around here. Slightly sweet, not at all greasy, filled with healthy pumpkin and sesame seeds, sour cherries, golden raisins, and dried apricots, this granola sits in a clear container on the top of our refrigerator, tempting me every morning.
Think of this as a template for your kitchen. Maybe you prefer olive oil to canola or prunes instead of apricots. Change the sweetener to suit your needs. No need to hew to this exactly. Keep the proportions and make it your own.
Mostly, I’m offering this because Sharon approves of this. That’s good enough for me.
5 cup oats (please make sure they are certified gluten-free)
2 cups coarsely chopped almonds
1 cup pumpkin seeds
3/4 cup sesame seeds
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups mixed dried fruit (we used apricots, sour cherries, and golden raisins here)
3/4 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons canola or other vegetable oil
Preheat the oven to 350°.
Mix together the oats, almonds, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds. Make sure you use a large baking sheet or roasting pan for this. (I prefer the roasting pan, because you can really swirl around those ingredients without spilling them on the floor.) Sprinkle the cinnamon, ginger, and salt over the top. Stir it up.
Toss the bite-sized pieces of dried fruit over the top of the oats mixture. To be honest, you might want more than 1 1/2 cups here. I kept throwing more on until about 1/2 of the surface of the oats had fruit on it. Use your own judgment here. Stir it all up.
Drizzle the maple syrup evenly over the surface of the oats mixture. Do the same with the oil. Stir it all up until everything is well coated — not too sticky, but not dry either. Done? Great. Throw it in the oven.
Bake for 12 minutes, then stir up the granola-in-the-making, then put the pan back in the oven. Repeat this process three more times (it could twice or four times for you, depending on your oven). You’re looking for the granola to be not-at-all wet, golden brown, with a bit of crunch.
Pull it out of the oven and let it cool before devouring it.
Makes 10 cups or so.