Thursday, December 23, 2004

A Man for All Season(ing)s

He walked into my office nearly 6 1/2 years ago, looking for a job. He was a tall, lanky youth with tousled dark hair and laughing brown eyes, and he exuded both confidence and humility, as well as a keen desire to learn and to work hard, a wickedly irreverent sense of humor, and a sensitivity toward and passionate interest in other people.

Call him Mitch Heat, for an action-hero kind of name suits his daring and sometimes wild personality better than a couple of other nicknames I've used for him.

Reader, I hired him, and in no time at all, we became close friends, comrades in joke-telling and prank-playing, and brother and sister in spirit... and in stomach.

I cannot count now how many times I invited him to dinner and fed him until he thought he might burst: vegetable paella, spinach-artichoke lasagna, random Indian dishes, imam bayildi... not to mention pear cake, baklava, soup and bread and cookies and every good thing. For this guy alone, I made special jars of dill pickles with extra garlic (since he told me he ate the garlic after all the pickles were gone).

For every time he helped me out, be it on a work project, moving me into my house, or being a shoulder to lean on in difficult times... I cooked for him, and I did so with a glad heart, because he has always appreciated this small gift of mine, and because I have long appreciated him.

He has traveled far over the years, and he has been overseas for nearly two years, leaving me bereft of his presence save for occasional emails or phone calls (courtesy of his parents). But he is back home with his parents, and once the weather makes the roads passable, he's coming to see me. This is, perhaps, the best Christmas present I could get this year... the chance to see him and talk with him and enjoy the presence of a very dear friend.

And I'm ready. I have all sorts of food ready for him, from the caramels from my Fabulous Aunt (who also dotes on this young man) and extra-garlicky pickles that I left with his parents, to homemade chocolates and baklava and biscotti. And if he has time, I intend to give him dinner as well... hearty soup, crispy curry crackers, and luscious Pie in the Sky. He's heading back overseas after the holidays, and I want to make sure he has plenty of good memories to carry him through the rest of his stay.

As I've said before, in my little world, food is often an expression of love, and if you think that this lavish display of culinary expertise means I love this guy, you're damn right I do. He is kin to me, someone I trust and rely upon for sound judgment, a fervent hug, an open mind and listening ears, and a rollicking good story. I consider it an honor and a privilege to be a part of his life and know that he will always have a warm and affectionate spot in mine.

Here's a health to you, Mitch Heat, my beloved friend.

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