There is a special time that every growing girl experiences; it happen right around the time you're reading Judy Blume books by flashlight at summer camp; a little past scraped-up knees but just before you've graduated from training bras. It's when you're starting to have ideas of secrets, without actually having any real secrets of your own yet. It's the time when suddenly you need someone to whisper those potential secrets to, someone to test out new ideas and personalities with, to stifle giggles with long after you're supposed to be asleep. Suddenly, you're in desperate, cross-your-heart-and-hope-to-die need of a confidante, a soul mate, a gal pal; three little letters that seal a bond of sisterhood that nothing can ever break: you need a BFF.
Your BFF is your partner in hair brush lip syncing. She's the one who will notice you have a crush on a boy before even you do, and will promise not to tell anyone. She's your pinky-swearing, note-writing and -folding, hand-kissing practice partner in crime. She's your Best Friend Forever, which is a solemn and sacred vow between only the most serious of sisters.
I met my future BFF in the first grade. To be honest, I'm not sure what 6-year-olds look for in a friend. I'm not sure if we liked the same color crayon or were just seated next to each other in alphabetical order. But I was the new girl in class, starting a few weeks after everyone else had already made friends and gotten comfortable with the rules of elementary school, and I was terrified. And Marisa stepped forward to be my much-needed friend.
We did what six-year-old friends do: we sang Madonna songs in earnest during recess, imagining our lives as famous pop stars; we swapped lunches and hair bows and shared afternoon snacks. We wore our Brownie outfits together on Tuesdays, and practiced our handstands in the pool after school. There were the ubiquitous sleepovers, of course, which in the early years meant coloring books and Candy Land, but then led to obsessive screenings of Labyrinth and writing our initials in hearts with the initials of cute boys from school, whom we wished looked more like Tom Cruise as seen in Top Gun.
And soon, several years had passed. We were now in the age of summer camp and first real crushes, wondering what cool meant and wondering if we were it. And we were lucky, because we were BFFs, and we didn't have to go it alone.
When I moved to a town 20 miles away, we got the necklaces - you know the one: two halves of a heart that spelled out Best Friends. One of us faithfully wore the Be Fri half, and the other St Ends, vowing to never let time or distance come between us. We wrote letters, back when letters were written on neon colored paper in neon colored pen with hearts over the I's and mailed with a stamp through a thing called the United States Postal Service.
But time and distance eventually did what they usually do. The letters slowed and eventually stopped, and we became distracted by boyfriends and our own high school friends and suddenly we were through with college and first jobs, and beginning our separate and adult lives.
And then, suddenly, thanks to internet searches, 24 years later we are friends again, writing long overdue emails, sending pictures and retracing our steps through our twenties so we can get each other up to speed.
I spent this past weekend with Marisa, her husband and two sons. She lives in her nana's house not far from where we would sleepover in 1985. She's the same as she always was, which is what I had hoped, except now she's all grown up. And I guess I am too.
It doesn't matter that we missed a few years in the middle -- a slew of ill-fitting boyfriends, fights with our parents, missing turns as we navigating our lives with a half-drawn map. I'm sure our experiences were similar enough, because all experiences are. Life just barrels along and then suddenly you're 30 and sharing a glass of wine with the girl who raised her hand and volunteered to be your helper in the first grade. And you're spilling your guts about life, work, sex, kids, wanting kids, family secrets, the stupid thing you did last week that you never thought you'd tell anyone. And you're laughing. And everything's the same, except that now there is wine, and husbands. And maybe a couple of well-deserved laugh lines.
We spent much of the day in the kitchen, which used to be her nana's kitchen, rifling through her nana's recipe drawer, which contains hundreds of hand written and clipped recipes from decades of home cooking -- things like Beef Stupendous, and Hamburger Casserole, and Apple Crisp. It's a truly amazing drawer, and she's bringing back memories of her grandmother by cooking her recipes, and writing about it here, at Nana's Drawer.
I realized, as I reluctantly drove away, that something had been missing all these years. A part of me had been dormant, unstoked. I'd been missing my BFF, and it sure did feel good to have her back again.
Some friendships are temporary. We lose touch with people and never get around to finding them again. Paths and choices take us in opposite directions until you can't imagine what you ever had in common to begin with. Sometimes there are fights or fall outs or moves to new cities. But the friends we're meant to be with always find their way back to you.
Once a BFF, always a BFF.
Marisa, who is also my soul sister in food, fed us the most spectacular and quintessential California meal -- Caprese Skewers to snack on as we drank margaritas made with fresh squeezed juice from her citrus trees, and Roasted Red Pepper, Basil and Goat Cheese Pasta. And she is nice enough to share them here, with you. Because that's what BFFs do.
Adapted from Marisa McBride
6-8 ounces fresh mozzerella balls, or cut up into 1 " cubes
30 grape or cherry tomatoes, washed
1 bunch fresh basil leaves, rinsed
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
salt and pepper, to taste
12 wooden skewers, halved if desired.
Combine olive oil, minced garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, salt and pepper in microwavable bowl. Microwave until just warm, about 15 seconds. Toss mozzerella balls in olive oil mixture and marinate in refrigerator, one hour.
Remove mozzerella balls from fridge. On wooden skewer, alternate tomatoes, basil leaves, and mozzerella. Serve as appetizer or side.
Roasted Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Pasta
Adapted from Marisa McBride
3 Large Red Bell Peppers (1 1⁄2 lbs.)
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 garlic cloves, minced
1⁄2 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons sugar
3⁄4 tablespoon salt
1⁄4 tablespoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1⁄4 cup chopped fresh basil
4 cups cooked bow tie pasta
1⁄2 crumbled goat cheese
Cut peppers in half lengthwise; place halves skin side up on a foil-lined baking sheet. Flatten with hand. Broil 8 minutes or until blackened.
Remove and place in ziplock bag; seal and let stand 20 minutes. Peel and place in blender.
Heat 2 tablsepoons oil in skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, sauté 1 minute. Remove from heat, let stand 5 minutes.
Add garlic mixture, remaining 1 tablspoon oil, broth & next 5 ingredients in blender with peppers & process until smooth.
Combine bell pepper mixture & basil with pasta, put in serving bowl and sprinkle with goat cheese.
Yields 4 servings.