I write to you, my dear readers, from Framingham, Massachusetts. I am here on business, and not the happy-fun-time food sort of business. I am here for my actual job, as a lawyer.
The specific reason I am in the Boston area is not relevant, nor something I would share anyway, but ordinarily when I travel I write something about the restaurants in the town I’ve visited. That’s not going to be the case this time, because I’m only in Massachusetts for one night, and I had the good fortune to have dinner with my friends M and K, who are from New Orleans but live here now.
I have known M for 40 years or so, and K for over 30, I think. They know I write about food, and when I told them I was coming to Boston, we discussed going out to dinner. They also have 3 boys, however, and I wanted to see them, and while we also discussed a visit at their home so that I could see the kids before the adults went out to dinner, when they instead suggested that K would be cooking dinner I was content.
So I managed to get from the airport to my hotel in Framingham, and then to their home, and a few things struck me on my travels. First, there are a lot of rocks strewn about this place. “Boulders,” I think they’re called. Second, there are changes in elevation here. Hills, and such. Third: basements. These are rooms under the ground. Scuba gear is not required.
Fourth: it’s not humid; it was 87 degrees according to the thermostat in my rental car, but it didn’t feel hot. When you’re in Arizona, and someone tells you, “Yeah, but it’s a dry heat,” it’s different. Because it may be a dry heat, but it’s still hot as holy hell. The sun is beating down on you with the sort of intensity you only get where there is no cloud cover or humidity to mediate the death rays of the perpetual nuclear explosion that forms the center of our solar system. Things are not like that, here in Framingham.
Fifth: things are very old here. We are used to looking at old buildings in New Orleans, but the “old” buildings in New Orleans are pretty rare compared to what you see in New England. The home in which my friends live was build before just about anything in New Orleans that remains standing. It’s a warren of rooms with alcoves here and there and a spot attached to the living room hearth with a built-in cast-iron pot that looks like it could hold about 3 gallons of water.
The pot, as I understand it, was used to heat water for washing clothes. My first thought was that it would be great for making gumbo, but I think maybe I have a different mind-set than the folks who live in this part of the world. I am thinking about food when their inclination was towards cleaning clothes.
I can’t write about the restaurant scene in the Boston area, though I’m confident it’s as good as it was the last time I was here, about 15 years ago. I can say that my friend K is a great cook, and that I had as good a meal as I have had in years, and not only because of the company.
K made a fantastic and juicy pork loin roast flavored with thyme and a bit of clove; roasted potatoes with a perfectly crisp skin and creamy interior, roasted broccoli with garlic and a salad of arugula, beets and goat cheese with pecans. I didn’t tell her I was going to write about the meal, because I hadn’t decided I would do so until after it was over. It would be somewhat awkward had the meal sucked, because I’m not very good at false praise. So fortunately it was outstanding, and then it got even better.
K made a fruit tart for dessert. It was the sort of fruit tart where the crumb on the crust was tender and flaked in just the right way. It was not a sweet crust, because that would have ruined the effect of the custard, which was rich and creamy but, again, not too sweet; because that would have ruined the effect of the fresh blueberries, raspberries and mandarin orange segments that K layered in a pattern over the top of the custard.
I think she glazed it, too, but at the moment I am wondering why I did not ask to take a slice back to the hotel with me. If I’m being generous with myself, it was because their kids also enjoyed it, and they are good, if freakishly articulate, kids. But I’m not really fooling anyone, I would probably fight them for a piece right now, as I contemplate the rest of my evening preparing for my work-related event tomorrow. I would probably not win that fight.
Anyway, I don’t know what this says about food, or food culture. I had some vague idea that the meal I had tonight was a reflection of how our love of food has been transported to the otherwise puritan realm of New England, but that’s bullshit. There’s always been good food here, and there still is. They may not appreciate food the same way we do, but who does?
So ultimately I think the lesson is that I’m glad to have seen my friends, and their home, and I wish that I’d remembered to raise a glass to them with my new favorite toast, “Confusion to our enemies.”
Because that’s what I’m about tomorrow, friends.