My Foodie Friend

Gretchen keeps butter in a dish on her kitchen counter. The butter softens to the temperature of the room and becomes easy to spread over her homemade bread, cheddar biscuit, savory scones, or any other wonderful baked goods she creates. The first time she brought me freshly baked White Chocolate Chip and Cranberry Scones was on my thirty-first birthday. The scones were still hot, resting in a wicker basket lined with a floral towel hanging over its sides. The basket was warm to the touch, and each bite of the scone was a marriage of sweet and tart cranberries, and melting white chocolate chip sambaing in my mouth.

She makes a Chocolate Pecan Pie with Bourbon Whip Cream that makes my husband hum; at the sight of it, the humming begins slowly. When he angles his fork and cuts into the cream, through the pecans and crust, he licks his lips in a seductive manner. He pulls it beneath his nose and inhales, as though to have the scent of it enter his being. Then he closes his eyes, puts the union of bourbon whipped cream, crunchy pecans, and melted dark chocolate into his mouth. The humming stretches on until his mouth is clean of it. As though his eyes, when closed, had flown him high above the table and into a world, only the delight of food can take him, he slowly opens his eyes and re-enters our world. He repeats this methodically until the plate is clean of crumbs and cream.

Gretchen faithfully bakes and share her delightful treats (with others) and my family. Once a month, she bakes these treats and serves the homeless. When our families visit with each other, our kitchen dance is well known, like the feet of old samba partners. I cook dinner, she bakes the treats we will eat for breakfast, dessert or celebratory birthday cakes.

On my sonā€™s sixth birthday, she not only baked a cake, she narrated a story. The cake was set off in a distance on our kitchen island, with a crumbled oreo cookie dirt road leading up to it. Along the path, colorful gummy worms stuck their heads out, and small race cars dotted the road. This year for my sonā€™s ninth birthday, his palate evolved from a boy to a young man, and his birthday cake request was Tiramisu. Preparing it was a true example of love and labor. There were precise measurements such as 5/12 cup of heavy cream at one point. There was coffee brewing, eggs cracking, cocoa powder sifting, milk spouting, Kahlua pouring, something or another shaking, stirring, dipping, layering, and spreading.

Then there was waitingā€¦ as it sat in the fridge for at least six hours to set.

Gretchen is adamant about following recipes and measurements; she has all the kitchen gadget there is to have, she knows them by name and uses them correctly. As though being tedious with all the steps werenā€™t stressful enough, she invites the children (we have six together, ages fourteen down to five) into the kitchen and offers simple advice such as a tablespoon of vinegar in a cup of milk, placed in the fridge for ten minutes is a great substitute for buttermilk; to make her delicious whip cream, she puts the bowl and whisk into the freezer to get them completely cold. While doing all of this Gretchen listens to music as she bakes, sometimes stopping to sing into a whisk or spoon, and sometimes, more often than not, she bust a move.