I’m constantly amazed by the generosity of those around me.
Take this past week, in point.
Last year I met this lovely Brazilian woman when she answered a post I wrote on a local bulletin board asking for donations for a family in need.
She invited me to her home and gave me hundreds of dollars in gift cards for this other family she’d never met– and our friendship was born. I’ve since invited Isabel and Alan to my home and we’ve shared cocktails and conversation.
This past week she returned the favor and invited my whole family for a Brazilian dinner.
She lives in a gorgeous home with such lovely details
and she spared no expense or effort to make sure we were comfortable and incredibly well fed.
There was a generous cheese platter with quince paste
and Brazilian cheese breads called Pao de Queijo — chewy little Parmesan-studded breads made with tapioca flour and baked until crispy.
We were also given Caipirinhas (Brazil’s most famous cocktail) made with Cachaca, a sugar cane liquor.
Isabel’s daughter and family were also there, and her son-in-law is a bartender at Pok Pok so of course the cocktails he made were fantastic.
He made three different versions of a Caipirinha: one with lime, one with coconut, and one with a passion fruit and condensed milk base (my favorite).
And then, as if all this wasn’t enough food, she started to pull together the rest of the food: a Feijoada Feast.
Apparently this national dish has a Portuguese origin and it features prominently a black bean soupy base studded with a copious amount of sausages, pork and beef.
It was crazy delicious and we stuffed ourselves silly, filling out our plates with collard greens and more meat.
And just when I thought I couldn’t eat more, she brought out desserts: a flan and passion fruit puddings topped with fresh raspberries
as well as two different kind of truffles.
Superb cocktails and appetizers, a blow-out feast, and then four different homemade desserts.
And such a pretty table to enjoy it all.
What a fabulous night with these lovely people, and as if their generosity that night wasn’t enough, she sent me home with tons of leftovers and even dropped off more soup and the passion fruit puree I loved so much the next day.
(Thank you, friends!)
And then it was suddenly Monday — and I was reminded that it was 9/11.
Long time readers will remember that this is a day in which I (like so many of you) take stock of my surroundings and acknowledge all the good around me.
In years past, I’ve made feasts for firefighters,
bestowed soup and notes to dozens of neighbors,
and invited gal pals to lunch.
This year I mixed it up a little bit, reaching out to those in my circle I don’t see nearly enough, and giving away treats to strangers.
I started my day with the latter.
My husband had found a couple on Craigslist to do some repair work on our grill
and when they told me that they were headed up to Washington for a long drive, I decided to surprise them with a breakfast to go.
(Turns out Amazon boxes make perfect oversized to-go packages.)
In that same spirit of kindness, they knocked twenty dollars off our bill. Thank you!
I took that same batch of granola I’d just made and then dropped it off on porches in my neighborhood, including that of someone I don’t know very well who is struggling with cancer right now.
I then headed home and started making lunch.
That morning I’d roughly chopped about six pounds of the ripest tomatoes from the farmers’ market and allowed them sit in a little olive oil, salt and minced garlic.
I then cooked up some rotini pasta and tossed the warm pasta with the tomatoes; the heat softened the tomatoes and allowed them to release more of their sweet juices. Just a little shaving of Truffled Pecorino and herbs were the only thing lunch needed.
I packed up these lunches to go and hit the road.
First stop was Isabel’s.
In addition to flowers,
I wanted to thank her with a home-cooked lunch for her and her family.
Isabel greeted me with a big hug –and sent me home with more treats.
This time they were vintage towels brought over from her native country.
One came from her favorite farmer’s market
and the other from her aunt’s trousseau, many, many years ago.
I then left her house to deliver more lunch at my friend Rebecca’s; she’s an incredibly talented designer/author/blogger and I hadn’t seen her in far too long.
I brought her a couple bowls of pasta, too
and banana and chocolate chip muffins (doesn’t the bottom one look like an emoji?).
We caught up a tiny bit and she in turn surprised me with some things she’d found recently at the Goodwill Bins: a vintage toy and paper napkins (which of course I loved).
I’m so blessed by such kind, generous, reciprocal souls around me; all the time I find treats at my door, be they food from friend’s travels, like maple syrup from Quebec
or very special olive oil or orange marmalade from Seville.
I’m also the lucky recipient of gorgeous flowers
and different kinds of homemade treats.
9/11 was so shocking for its brutality and its legacy of fear is a very real thing — but so is the feeling that it has galvanized so many like-minded souls who just want to share, and give, and support one another.
And it continues to encourage others to stand up in those moments when they are needed most.
Or so we all hope.
So here’s to confronting all the uncertainty, sadness and bad news in the world with more love.
More random acts of kindness.
And no small amount of home-baked goodness.
Because no matter how hard life gets, there is unfathomable comfort to be found in a hug–and a cookie!- offered.