Food chat: Historical epistle edition

Sep. 03, 2013 @ 09:25 AM

She was a hurricane in a brown tank suit.  It was as if a wood nymph and a biker had had a love child. 
I was 15, and my family had just moved from San Diego to Elizabeth City. Chef Chrissie’s family was living there, and we already knew each other from Puerto Rico. Before school started, Chrissie’s sister took me to the community swimming pool, to hang out, and meet a friend.
That friend was Bo, a whirling dervish of blond hair and profanity.  She couldn’t have been more than 4 foot 8.  I was a foot taller and outweighed her by at least forty pounds, but she scared me to death. I’d never met anyone remotely like her. If someone that day had whispered into my ear that this was the beginning of a lifelong friendship, I’d have nervously laughed, then applied for the witness protection program.  Bo was a whiskey and cigarettes dame trapped inside a teenager’s body.
A while back, I received a letter from her. It was a whole culinary chat all by itself.  Below is that walk down memory lane.
Debbie,   
I have been an avid fan of your column since you began, as well as your friend for quite some years. I especially enjoy the columns that mention things you and I have done together (before and after The Kid) through the years.
You and I discovered a "food curiosity" at about the same time. Our shopping trip to China Town in Chicago and the three-hour Dim Sum lunch that followed will always be one of my favorite memories. We both had a passion for food to begin with and were on our way to becoming good at the craft in our own ways. You have always been a bit loftier than me, using ingredients and flavors that were either not on my palate or just plain not available in my neck of the woods.
You and I remind me of the PBS series "Jacques and Julia" where they cook the same dish, but each in their own way. It is one of the more expensive cookbooks that I have invested in through the years and it has a prized place in my collection, just as you are a prized friend.
The icing on the cake is our budding chef, "The Kid." I got to see that child’s love of food grow through the years, and then I finally got the call about The Kid wanting to go to culinary school. Of course, after my years in a restaurant a little part of me ached as I know what hard, nerve-wracking work it can be. But on the other hand I was very proud, as I know there is nothing better than a well- seasoned restaurant kitchen that runs like clockwork even during a 3-hour rush. It takes time to achieve, but once you get there it is almost Nirvana.
Our friendship has grown through food if you think about it. It's good to have someone to share this love of food with and I'm quite positive it just wouldn't be right with anyone else but you.
Greetings to you, your family and your beloved Bull City. You were made for each other and one wouldn't be complete without the other.
Bo
She’s made me a more courageous cook. Pork butts and hams were large and mysterious. I was afraid to buy such a big piece of meat and probably ruin it, throwing away the money spent. I was over at Bo’s one evening, and she had a smoker set up. She was smoking a giant Boston butt with no drama. She was so casual that I found the courage to try. I discovered the answer to the mysterious pig. Those parts are cheap, and easy to cook, depending on low and slow, and not on magic.
Another Bo-tip I follow to this day; don’t fret over special pizza crust recipes. Classic focaccia dough makes the best, yummiest pizza you will ever put in your mouth.
Shakespeare said, "A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow."
Yup, that’s Bo.
Thanks for your time.
Debbie Matthews lives, writes and cooks in Durham. Her email address is momsequitur@gmail.com.