I was eight months pregnant when we moved into our little cottage on Tower Roadin Winnetka, Illinois, the summer of 1990.
It was a beautiful house...a mini-tudor with big windows that became very important to me in the months to come, after the baby was born. Those paned-glass windows were perfect for looking out at the snow falling while sitting by the fire on a cold, winter day.
That first Midwestern winter was an interesting one for me because I had a little baby which was a more-than-full-time responsibility, yet no “real” job. I had grown up going to school and working. Then I went to college and worked. I graduated from college and worked. There I was at age 29 without a paying job for the first time in fifteen years. It was astoundingly challenging to get anything done and yet I didn’t have to do anything except take care of my baby. I was totally unorganized, completely unprepared for the challenges of being a mom, and blissfully content.
Firstborn Daughter hated the car so I packed her up in her stroller daily to walk through the lovely village just blocks from our house. Even in the blistering cold of winter, I loved those walks. While it was more comfortable to be inside looking out at the snow from my cozy house, it was also a bit lonely. Getting outside, even alone with my baby, was refreshing and it somehow made me feel like I was accomplishing something while walking along the sidewalk studying the architecture or looking into the store windows.
It was on one of those walks that I met Anne. We were both walking our babies and stopped to greet each other and coo over each others’ child. Looking in the carriages, we noticed they were about the same size and simultaneously asked each other when they were born. Turns out our babies were born one day apart and a lifelong friendship began. We both felt overwhelmed, yet happy. We missed the freedom of our lives before children, yet loved having children. We felt like it was okay to talk to each other about the things we missed and the things we loved and the things we might still want to do. We have known each other for almost 23 years now, easy to keep track of because it is the age of our daughters.
Anne and I have had numerous culinary experiences together over the years, many of them funny, most of them delicious, and a few of them outright crazy. Amongst a slew of feasts at notable and not-so-notable places, we ate at Le Bernadin in New York City during a girls trip when Anne got a bee in her bonnet and decided she was going to treat us to a special dinner and that is where she wanted to go. With three Michelin stars, Le Bernadin was a place that filled its reservation book months in advance but in a series of events that cannot logically be explained, somehow Anne got us a table with only one day’s notice. Because Anne wanted to go. And my friends and I were oh-so-happy to join her!
On another unexplainable and serendipitous occasion, Anne, me, our friend Molly, and a few more girlfriends ended up at Charlie Trotter’s Kitchen Table in Chicago. As one of the top restaurants in America, Charlie Trotters was another seemingly out-of-reach reservation. And to reserve the kitchen table, the one table placed inside the actual kitchen of the famous restaurant, it seemed you had to be related to Mr. Trotter himself to get that reservation. But my friends rarely take no for an answer and there we were, a group of young moms having a night out, sitting in the kitchen at Charlie Trotters, and that time I think it was Molly who miraculously secured the reservation just days before.
Our girls night in the kitchen of one of Americas most famous restaurants seems a bit like Las Vegas in retrospect....what happens in the kitchen should stay in the kitchen. Let’s just say the “Y” wine was phenomenal and Mr. Trotter did eventually find Eric.
Anne knows her food, loves to try new things, clearly doesn’t think no is a final answer when it comes to reservations, and we always eat well. But we also had to feed our children when we weren’t out galavanting around in America’s best restaurants, and, in the beginning of our friendship, we had very young children.
After the meeting with our firstborns, Anne gave birth to a son and I added One And Only Son and Baby Girl to our family. Our lives were full but we loved our food and the reality was that we mostly had to cook food that our children would eat. We were lucky to have the time to experiment with recipes and allow our children to develop a taste for wonderful meals. We took it upon ourselves like serious sport to find meals that suited both young children and adults who were opposed to chicken nuggets. And occasionally we did.
A recipe that still gets served in my kitchen after more than 20 years, is Anne’s Glazed Chicken. It is simple, the ingredients are few, and it comes out delicious every time. Kids of all ages love it.
Anne and I no longer have young children running around and our time is back in our own control once again. She became a dietician with a focus on celiac disease, something she became interested in because of her own dietary challenges. And I decided to write again, to take the stories in my head and the recipes that I collected and put them down on paper (well on the page anyway).
Like many of our friends who live in different cities, Anne and I only see each other every few years. But it is a friendship that I treasure. She was there for me in a time of my life when I desperately needed a friend who understood my fears, my joy, and my desire for pleasure from my food.
"Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: 'What! You too? I thought I was the only one." - C.S. Lewis
Anne’s Glazed Chicken
4 T. butter 1/2 cup honey 1/4 cup mustard (I use dijon) 1 t. salt 1 t. curry powder 2 T. soy sauce (or tamari) 6 boneless chicken breasts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in a saucepan and stir in other ingredients. Pour over chicken in a baking pan and bake for 40 minutes or until done. Let rest 10 minutes and serve, pouring a bit of the sauce at the bottom of the pan over the chicken.