My chronically dysfunctional digestive system has given me an outsized appreciation for delicious food. First cultivated around the island in our kitchen, where my siblings and I learned the foundations of good cooking, then fed by my career with one of the finest food retailers in the world, then nearly stolen by a long-nameless illness, my relationship with food is a central thread in my identity.

The month of March was an especially exciting month with several trips, a birthday, and a handful of extremely delicious meals. Because each one strikes me as an incredible gift, I’d like to share them with you.

March 5th—The Gin Mill

We skied all day, which is my favorite way to spend a birthday. The Sunday patrol crew filed off the mountain, past the radio room, and excitedly stowed our gear before making the short drive into my favorite mountain town and to my favorite spot: The Gin Mill. The Gin Mill is a well-worn institution with a sign on the door that says “No Ski Boots Inside” because the wood floors have been beaten to death by skiers who came right off the mountain and into the bar.

We pushed a whole bunch of tables together and ordered one of all the usuals: wings, fries, mozz sticks, nachos, and my favorite, spicy fried pickles. For that evening, we were free-wheeling ski bums, reveling in another day spent doing our favorite thing. I couldn’t think of a better way to start my twenty-eighth year. And as we passed slices of cake around the table, I felt so full of love and gratitude—to have a place, to have people, to be so well loved. A life as sweet as the cool-whip icing on the cake.

March 8th—Sauce

Michelle offered to make sauce. Her proud Italian heritage gifted her a tradition of oversized pots filled with slightly-shimmering, savory-sweet glory, which we ladled over fresh nests of homemade pasta. The ladies of ski patrol (a proud bunch) gathered with (many) bottles of red wine, and salad, and the good bread, and cheese, all packed around the dining room table where we laughed and told tales and built those strong bonds of belonging.

March 14th—Fifty Oysters

I was so happy to be there with the seafood team, learning more about how we build partnerships with the best suppliers. After a few long days of networking, we settled into a meal at one of the best oyster spots in Boston. Outside it was cold and wet as a Nor’Easter blew through the city, but our high top table was a shelter in the storm. The oysters we ordered were nestled into a deep bed of crushed ice, and the spicy cilantro mignonette was the perfect complement for the plump, salty-sweet bites. When a pile of rough and empty shells sat before each of us, we finished the meal with hot buttered lobster rolls that make my mouth water even now. As I finished licking the butter off of my fingers and took a last drink of my cocktail, the gratitude of being offered such a meal brought me almost to tears.

March 19th—Chicken Fingers and Curly Fries

Anna and I were hungry after a few hours of crushing fresh snow under the warming March sun. I mentioned a sandwich, but Anna suggested chicken fingers. For those who grew up anywhere near skiing or riding, you know what we were craving: those hot, crispy, breaded pieces of chicken served over a bed of curly fries and dunked in way too much BBQ sauce. They are the stuff of childhood dreams and make me nostalgic for the many I consumed as a race team kid at Peek’n Peak. I would top that meal off with a hot chocolate and head out again to ski until I couldn’t stand.

Even now at almost thirty years old, they are one of my favorite ski day meals and tasted just perfect when eaten with a friend.

March 24th—Abe Fisher

I flew into Philadelphia after work on Thursday night for a quick weekend with Nathan and Andrea. On our second night, Nathan made us reservations at Abe Fisher, a restaurant specializing in food from the Jewish Diaspora. When we arrived, they greeted us with congratulations and asked who was celebrating the graduation. I realized that Nathan and Andrea in their thoughtfulness had orchestrated a belated celebration of my MBA program completion.

We feasted on the best short ribs I’ve ever had, which were served with house-made rye, extra-dill pickles, and a tangy dressing that together made the best little Reuben taco you could imagine. The trout with lemon beurre blanc was equally delicious, and the sour cream cheesecake made for a perfect end. I’m so grateful for siblings who are friends, and for my sister in-law who feels like a natural fit in our little clan. And of course, so grateful for deeply marbled beef.

March 31st—Kouign Amann

Back in Buffalo, I closed the month with a treat for myself—the most perfectly buttery, layered pastry: the Kouign Amann. Picture a croissant but folded into a crown shape and coated with coarse sugar that carmelizes over the already crispy exterior. I pulled apart the almost butter-soaked layers sitting in the front seat of my car, reflecting on another month lived and taking a swig of black tea every few bites to balance the sweetness.

For the longest time I thought that all of these moments would be absent from my life. It was a grief without words, even without tears. It was a grief that few could understand without walking the road for themselves. I am immeasurably grateful that I got another chance at eating, and promise those not given that same chance that I will treat every single bite as the precious gift that it is. Amen.

2 Comments

  1. Rita Young

    So thankful you can now enjoy this aspect of life. I remember the days when we scoured Amish home markets for strange sounding ingredients. Love.

    Reply
  2. Vickie Wheeler

    Wonderful news of you being able to enjoying food!

    Reply

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