“It’s something you can’t explain exactly, why people become friends. It’s chemistry, is what they say. Maybe it’s just being the right people with the right feelings in the right place at the right time.” – After Eli
I’m standing at the kitchen counter, mincing a dozen garlic cloves for a Thai-themed New Years Eve dinner with friends. The snow-crusted landscape outside the large kitchen window reveals its secrets as I chop: trails navigated by fluffy, short-eared brown rabbits, deer, and silver foxes; the incisions – narrow, wide, and wild – cut during afternoons of sledding. The garlic burns my chapped fingers, but I savor its aroma. My friends roll limes and juice them. We marinate large London broil steaks in garlic, lime juice, brown sugar, and Golden Mountain Seasoning Sauce. We’ve boiled shell-on shrimp in Fat Tire beer and paprika. Rice simmers and swells on the stove. Several generous tablespoons of red curry paste enliven two cans of coconut milk in a pot, bubbling gently. We’re joking and laughing… well on our way to a Thai feast.
Three days earlier, I sent these same friends a frantic email reneging on my offer to be the dinner chef for a short getaway we’d planned together. I cried as I typed: nerves frazzled, ready to breakdown. There’d been a death in my husband’s family; the combination of the emotions wrought by her death and the stress of packing bags and supplies for the entire family overwhelmed me. I told my friends that I just couldn’t do it. It was one obligation too many. Could someone else please cook the food on the last night? I immediately received two responses: one graciously offering to cook, and one expressing pride in me for asking for help.
My mood lifted as soon as we arrived. We walked into the rented house and received cheers. Someone handed me a beer. Someone else hung up my coat, and shepherded me to a chair. During those three days, we cooked, ate, drank, and played heated rounds of Bananagrams and Oh Hell, cursing with gusto. My friends showered me in hugs. They counseled me, refusing to let me make a decision in which I would “make do” and achieve less than my highest potential. I don’t care if I sound hokey. I love these people.
After dinner on New Years Eve, I stepped outdoors to admire the shadows of the bare, white trees. I listened to the snow, faintly crackling as it hardened into a crusty shell, the muffled horn of a freight train hugging the curves of icy tracks in the distance. My face pinkened in the cold. My fingers felt brittle and difficult to bend. I thought of the bunnies and the scraggly foxes, how they manage to thrive in such a beautiful, but harsh landscape. Though my friends and I live in warm, comfortable houses, there are elements of our environment that are harder to endure, but we hunker down and endure them together. I’m so grateful to have friends who come clamoring with hot drinks and warm cheer when my spirit threatens to plummet into brittle, icy winter.
Red Coconut Curry
My friends, Alethea and Jonelle, tie for the title of Curry Queen. I am only a Curry Handmaid, but if you find your spirit in need, here’s a quick recipe to help warm you.
1” nub fresh ginger, grated (I use a microplane)
1 yellow onion, diced
3 tbsp. red curry paste
1 can coconut milk
Warm a little vegetable oil on medium heat in a large skillet. (I use about a tablespoon.) Add ginger and red curry paste. Stir and cook for a couple minutes, then add onion. Stir to combine and cook onion until soft. Add coconut milk and stir to combine. Serve hot over a nice bed of jasmine rice.
Also delicious with chicken, shrimp, or vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, tomatoes, or crisp green beans.