Zombie-walking into my brother’s apartment after a late-night flight, I barely noticed the cookbook on the counter surrounded by root vegetables and greens. I dropped my bags on the guestroom floor and would soon drop myself beside them for a long night’s sleep, but not before a snack.
“You hungry? There’s some homemade rosemary wheat bread over there and in the fridge is some cacio e pepe butter I made a few days ago.”
Mmmm, I replied, as I began my transformation into a pumpkin, basically falling asleep against his countertop.
“I was thinking we’d have celery-apple-peanut salad tomorrow night with some roasted radishes with brown butter, chile, and honey. We can also have cream of cauliflower soup with our homemade croutons. That sound good? I’ll take you to our farmer’s market after work tomorrow to get the stuff.”
Mmmm, I replied, a step closer to pumpkinhood.
It honestly didn’t matter much to me—I was just happy to see the guy. We live on opposite ends of the American Midwest with equally-small airports, separated by prohibitively-expensive flights. But my summer travels finally made this visit possible.
A work day later for Trevor and a hilariously unproductive vacation day later for me, we stood under the tents of a market in a nearby parking lot. We bought a vegetable from a kind farmer who appeared to be perpetually winking. We discussed homegrown mushrooms with a woman selling them for her son. Then, we bought long, white radishes from a farmer who just got back from another stand with a sandwich in hand.
The farmer was particularly knowledgeable on peppers, indulging my questions with a tour de chile wherein I learned, notably, that chipotle peppers (my favorite) are actually just smoked jalapeno peppers.
There was a man playing music on an acoustic guitar in his own tent.
Dinner happened about two hours later, after a full review of Trevor and Kayla (his wife)’s porchedge herb, greens and tomato farm and a precise but leisurely process of chopping, frying, braising, and plating. To give me the title sous-chef would have been generous; I mainly drank beer and talked. Trevor had carefully selected a local brew to “try” with me.
We ate dinner for more than an hour and threw a frisbee afterwards. Then he went to bed for another workday, I for another hilariously unproductive vacation day. I ate more bread and butter before sleeping, leafing through the newly-bought but already widely stained and annotated cookbook on the counter.
Kayla woke from her nursing nightshift as I was getting ready to eat breakfast the next “morning” (recall: hilariously unproductive vacation day). I helped myself to a bowl of granola from two beautifully-thrifted corked glass carafes that Trevor pointed out the night before: “You know what that is? Remember that Granola Recipe of Doom you gave us? Enjoy it—we’ve been making it for years!” I recalled naming it that on the recipe card, but couldn’t exactly recall why. Then I tried it. I was wired for an hour.
Not much later, lunch. I met Trevor at the Yaffa Grill—and with two nights of significant sleep under my belt—we hit our strides, myself a theology major and he a Masters. We talked about his teaching, his writing, about food, catching side glimpses from other patrons as we accelerated through words like “co-creation,” “catechism,” “solidarity” and “vocation.” It culminated in a spirited conversation with the woman beside us, a joyful Lutheran pastor also on lunch break.
We went to a local pizzeria.
We went to Cincinnati to visit Kayla’s twin sisters, and, according to Trevor, “the best Indian restaurant I’ve been to since India.” Trevor and the restaurant’s owner joked about south-Indian cuisine that the rest of us, having never been to India, could not hope to understand.
Trevor and I got soft pretzels after a long hike, somehow inherited a dozen more from the bakery’s closing staff, and took them to Kayla and her fellow labor-and-delivery nurses.
We went to one last farmer’s market on the way to the airport. He researched prices for local eggs while I poked around at potatoes.
We did a lot. We even saw one of our favorite bands and talked to them before and after the show. We played a lot of darts. I lost a lot of darts. We did at least two hikes and saw a very old tree. I thriftshopped with both Trevor and Kayla on separate occasions, each time in awe of their focused prowess.
But all these paled in comparison. I mostly remember the food.
But this wasn’t just a foodie’s daydream or a week of gluttony. The food was memorable for the intentionality we gave it: the buying, the preparing, the cooking, the plating, the eating, the savoring and then the cleaning.
The food slowed us down.
It got us talking to one another. It got us talking to farmers. It got us talking to restaurant owners. It got us talking to fellow eaters. And at an age where we’re learning how to be adult brothers long distance, it was just what we needed.
How could I possibly thank him?
A 10 ¼ inch cast iron pan did the trick. At the time of writing this, it was already used “seven times in one day.”
I can’t wait to go back and be sous-chef again.