May 16, 2010
My friend Coco is amazing. She’s going to blush when she reads this, one of her many endearing quirks. She will say, “I am not amazing, I’m just me!” But that’s how it is with the people we love; they amaze us simply by being themselves.
Courtney is many things: the English department chair at my school, a passionate, gifted teacher, a non-cutesy crafter, a baker and a cook, the mother of the cutest dachshund in the world, a voraciously intelligent nerd. She is married to a very tall cycling enthusiast named John, for whom I will be making this blackberry-upside-down-cake many times this summer, because it’s his favorite.
She has an unabashed laugh, a mama who makes a mean gumbo, and some beautiful, literary tattoos: Whitman on her wrists—Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes—and when she finished her rather brilliant Master’s thesis on Joyce’s Ulysses (who voluntarily writes a thesis on Ulysses? Coco does.), she had the book’s final line, “Yes I said yes I will yes” inked on her pale inner arm in a curling, celebratory script.
If you are like me, you look back through the catalogue of your friendships and relationships and see each one banded with a distinct hue, like library bindings or an email inbox. The timing and the circumstances lend a particular flavor to each. We can’t help but associate others with the ways we ourselves have changed in their sight, the life events they watched us navigate, time passed with each other.
And then, because we cannot separate out what course our life might have taken without the particular influence of say, a Courtney, the edges and the colors start to bleed and the narrative shifts. We become new through them.
I realized today that my impulse to act like I always, totally have my shit together has waned, that I am more willing to ask for help than ever before, and that’s probably due to the fact that my friend Coco is willing to march past any protest and call BS on my “I’ve got it” act and just start washing dishes in my kitchen. She picks up the heavy things that I’m not supposed to, takes it upon herself to buy beautiful plates, platters, & bowls for this blog, buys me iced coffee, and talks me back to myself time and time again.
It has taken some time, and a friend with untiring generosity, for me to realize that what’s happening over there is exactly what’s happening over here. Courtney has managed to convince me that what she loves about me is me—because she is, quite frankly, exactly what I love about her.
CHEDDAR COINS OF CHEESY GOODNESS
This is a recipe Coco discovered and adapted from Epicurious about a year ago, and it has become one of her signature—and winning—baked goods. The name, of course, is our addition, but one taste and you will agree, “cheddar coins of cheesy goodness” is exactly what they should be called.
Don’t feel limited by their nickname, though; while sharp, aged cheddar works extremely well here, so do Dubliner and double Gloucester. Any hard, distinctly flavored cheese would fit the bill.
Paired with sliced apples and salami, plus the beer or wine of your choice, these babies will disappear fast.
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
8 oz. extra-sharp cheddar or cheese of your choice, finely grated
1 cup flour
½ tsp. salt
generous grinds of black pepper
(optional) pinch of cayenne pepper
pan: two baking sheets lined with parchment
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the butter & seasonings before adding the cheddar and flour. Mix on low until just combined—do not overmix!
Courtney’s tip: turn the mixture into the middle of a large piece of plastic wrap. Fold the wrap in half over the dough and twist the ends like a Tootsie Roll to form a manageable log of dough. Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Slice the chilled dough into ¼-inch rounds (thinner if you’d like them to be more crisp). Arrange on baking sheets and bake until they just brown at the edges, 10-15 minutes. Cool on racks before serving warm, or cool completely and store in an airtight container.