Last weekend I scampered out of town to visit with nine dear old friends, for our almost-annual get together of laughter and food. We met in college, and though the years we have kept tabs on each other. What started in freshman orientation at a small college has persisted through boyfriends, husbands, grad schools, world travels, weddings, divorces, careers, children, opening nights, and marathons.
We started gathering steam as we congregated in an airport bar where loud shrieks of laughter and warm embraces greeted each newly arrived traveler. The weekend’s moveable feast commenced in stages. We shared onion rings and fries; then chips and salsa. Then a fish sandwich and a salad. DuClaw Venom Pale Ale, Diet Cokes, Bloody Marys and waters.
After some fun finding our cars in the perplexing parking garage, our designated drivers headed north on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. We rendezvoused in a grocery store parking lot to hunt and gather our weekend provisions: Utz Sour Cream and Onion potato chips, pretzels, rotisserie chicken, salad, tomatoes, celery, garlic, bread and Bergers cookies. We also made a stop at a liquor store. Of course. Our host nation greeted us with a bowl of fruit salad, an apple pie and a strawberry pie, freshly cut tulips and open arms.
We were staying in a cottage, perched on a hill that overlooked a picturesque valley of farms, where we could see ambling horses and gamboling goats. The tree next to the scenic overlook was covered in glowing, burgeoning buds, which seemed to swell and grow by the minute. There were drifts of daffodils and clouds of forsythia, and two roosters to keep it real; there would be no sleeping late when there were heartfelt conversations to be had.
At good gatherings, most of the time is spent in the kitchen. This is where we milled and cooked and washed up and served each other meals. There is nothing like spending time with people who think you haven’t changed much since you were eighteen. Consequently we fell back into the behaviors of eighteen year olds, though, of course, we are responsible adults now.
The dependable ones chopped tomatoes and basil and fresh mozzarella for a killer salad. (Here is a real culinary hint: add a little olive oil and chopped garlic to the mixture, cover and let it marinate for a couple of hours. POW! So delicious!) The former RA cut up rotisserie chicken with her customary efficiency and aplomb. A chopped kale salad was uniquely dressed, and a new crowd pleaser was born. Wine was poured. Pies were divided and conquered.
It was a weekend of sweet indulgences. “Yes, thanks. I think I will have a margarita at lunch. With salt.” And, “Yes, I will have a Bergers cookie. For breakfast.” We cherish these reunions, which is why we spent two hours one morning discussing eye creams. Where else would we find an interactive audience for our opinions about the Duchess of Cambridge’s hats? Who else has the skill set for ear candling?
These are people who love you despite your bad boyfriends: they patiently waited for me to get over a poetry-spouting narcissistic actor once. We love each other despite our big hair in the 80s – and have we got the photos to prove it! Many a time, as we tried to master smartphone selfies this weekend, we thanked our lucky stars that there was no Internet – or digital photography – back in the day. Better to have our hilarious memories (without photos) of the rubber cement incident…
How did we know then that we would still love each other now? Warts, toenail fungus, bad perms, and the acres of stretch marks are all there – and up for discussion. We aren’t too sentimental, but for people from such diverse backgrounds, who fell to earth together in a tiny little spot, we feel pretty lucky.
Consequently, we will share the recipe for Bergers cookies with you. Be warned – home baked Bergers will be like bagels outside of New York City, or pizza outside of New Haven; they probably won’t taste exactly like the Bergers you remember from Baltimore, but they will give you some new, sweet memories, and leave you hankering for more.
Cherish the memories. Now go kiss someone. Don’t waste any time.
“There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.”
― Jane Austen
“The truth is, everyone is going to hurt you. You just got to find the ones worth suffering for.”
― Bob Marley