If you read my blog regularly, you have likely picked up on the fact that I rarely write about actual play-by-play events in my life. I may take a jab at nameless acquaintances, or poke fun at bad dressers, rude travelers, poor unsuspecting dates. But I don’t refer to actual people by name, nor do I much share many overly personal details – at least, none that are so, in my opinion.
This post will be different.
“Perhaps they are not stars, but rather openings in Heaven where the love of our lost ones pours through and shines down upon us to let us know they are happy.”
I lost a dear friend this weekend. He was diagnosed with cancer in the Spring. He was 44 and left behind a sweet, loving wife and a 12 year old daughter. I cannot imagine how hard this has been, is, and will be for them.
He was a friend of our family’s for 26 years, it’s very strange to think that I won’t talk to him again, or hear his laugh, reminisce with him, or share his company.
It’s difficult to not be selfish during this time. I’m thinking about myself, about how I’m sad over his death. I wish I’d told him that I’d miss him, that he was a really great guy, and that I’m grateful that I had the chance to know him.
I saw him more since his diagnosis than I have in years. I would see him maybe once a year, maybe once every two… enough to know that he was still there, he was still the same, still had the same sense of humor and would still tease me, and make me laugh.
I remember the day he got married – he and his wife were so young, fresh out of college. They were so happy, so blindly in love. It was something to see.
My friend loved to cook – he was very humble and would say that he was not a good cook, but he could certainly follow a recipe. I beg to differ , he was a great cook, and I really enjoyed talking about food and recipes with him.
The last time I saw him – last week – he was watching the Food Network and talking about Iron Chef. “What would you do ,” someone asked him, “if you opened that basket and a snake was inside?” Without missing a beat, he replied, “I’d put the lid back on.”
Cooking wasn’t the only thing he was good at, he was very skilled at woodworking, he was involved in his community, he was a coach, a mentor.
My friend marveled, during his last months, over how many people cared for him, over the outpouring of genuine love and support he and his family received.
I cooked for them, I visited (not often enough)…but I didn’t do enough. I don’t know what enough is.
My friend was the second friend who died from cancer this year alone. The first died in the spring, he had four children under the age of 10. He was also under the age of 45.
Life is short. Don’t waste it being afraid. I am guilty of this. And, while I can give this advice, it will be tougher for me to take it:
Don’t waste another day not doing what you want to do. Don’t spend another minute in silence. Tell those you care about that you do. Tell that certain someone that you love them – it may change your life. Don’t spend time wondering “what if?” Go, do, experience. Take risks. Explore. Travel. Grow. Cry. Learn. Read a book. Talk. Debate. Smile. Laugh. Run. Breathe. Watch. Engage.
Hug your loved ones because you can.
My friend and his family invited me to dinner this spring, shortly after I moved into my house. One of the things they made was a blood orange tart. This recipe isn’t exactly the same, but I post it in honor of him.
If you make it, be mindful of your friends, your family. Not just now , around the holidays, but all year round. Every day. The people in our lives are what matter most. Be grateful.
Blood Orange Tart with Cardamom Pastry Cream:
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 2 tablespoons (or more) ice water
- 1 large egg yolk
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 tablespoon cardamom pods, crushed slightly
- 5 large egg yolks
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 6 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 6 blood oranges or small navel oranges
- 1/2 cup apricot preserves, melted, strained
- 2 teaspoons grenadine (optional)
Combine flour, sugar and salt in processor. Add butter and cut in, using on/off turns, until mixture resembles coarse meal. Whisk 2 tablespoons ice water and yolk in small bowl. Add to dry ingredients and blend just until moist clumps form, adding more water by teaspoonfuls if dough is dry. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.
· Preheat oven to 375°F. Roll out dough on lightly floured surface to 13- to 14-inch round. Transfer dough to 11-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom. Press in overhang, forming double-thick sides. Pierce dough all over with fork. Freeze crust 30 minutes. Bake until golden brown, pressing with back of fork if crust bubbles or slips, about 30 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool.
For pastry cream:
Bring milk and cardamom to boil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Remove from heat. Cover and let steep 15 minutes. Strain milk into bowl. Whisk yolks, sugar and flour in medium bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in milk. Return to saucepan and cook over medium heat until pastry cream thickens and boils, whisking constantly, about 5 minutes. Whisk in butter, then vanilla. Transfer to bowl. Press plastic wrap onto surface. Chill until cold, at least 4 hours and up to 1 day.
Cut peel and white pith from oranges. Slice into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Drain rounds on paper towels. Whisk preserves and grenadine, if desired, in small bowl to blend. Spread pastry cream evenly in tart crust. Arrange oranges in overlapping concentric circles on pastry cream. Brush apricot glaze over oranges. Chill until set, about 15 minutes. (Can be made 6 hours ahead; keep refrigerated.)
In honor of Ned Light. Thank you, my friend, for everything. You were like a big brother to me.