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For Mon Frere, on his Anniversaire

Dear Kurt,

Today you are thirty years on this earth — thirty! As a wise friend told me last year when I turned 30, you are still so awfully young, even if it doesn’t always feel like it. Twenty-nine was a big year for you: an , and buying a house. I’m sure 30 will be just as eventful — marriage, settling in to said house — and I’m so glad I’ll be around for a bit of it.

Still, I can’t quite believe you’re 30 today. You! You were my partner in crime ever since I can remember; there’s no way you’re older than, say, 26. Even when we were — ahem — fighting in those youthful days I still hated when you got in trouble; whenever you cried I felt like I could cry, too (except for that one time you … well, nevermind.). I swear it was just yesterday we were swinging on the swings in the backyard and cooking up ‘grass stew’ in the tree house kitchen in the old oak tree in Gary and Susan’s field before it was theirs. Later we’d pick blueberries and sit in the shade or if it was really hot run through the sprinkler. Most nights we’d sit on the clean-scrubbed white linoleum in the real-house kitchen and drink our juice before bed, sleepy and sunned out. You were my best friend before I even knew what those words meant.

Last night my friends came over and we ate pesto and lots of cheese and drank wine and talked and one of my girlfriends said “I didn’t realize you guys were just a year apart.” I said “Yes! Exactly 13 months and three days.” You were mine from the very first; when friends came over to see you I led them proudly in to the room where you slept, all curly-haired and blue eyed, as if you were the most wonderful treasure I’d been handed without asking.

These are the things you have given me:

– Spetses
– the best vegan chocolate cake recipe

– farmers’ markets

– tomatoes in season
– tulips left on my table because you had the key and you knew I’d like them
– Maine in November, cold and shining
– Chez Panisse
– lots of backpacking trips
– chard (o, glorious !)
– love

You’ve also given me an enduring appreciation for clean, good, simple food cooked well and in season — and for that I am forever grateful.

We’ve cooked quite a few meals together over the years — including many holiday dinners — while sometimes fighting for counter space and cheerfully making a mess of the kitchen floor. The one I remember with probably the most fondness is one we made four years ago when we were both still living in (or near) DC. I was a bit at loose ends — unemployed, not sure if I was going to stay on the East Coast or finally move to San Francisco — but I’d signed up for the Marine Corps Marathon, trained in a blind rush that fall, and landed up in Washington hungry and ready to run. (What I most remember about that fall was that I was starving all the time.)

It wasn’t a very complicated dinner : I made a sort of spinach-shallot pie with lots of cheese in a whole-wheat pastry flour crust while you sauteed green beans with almonds until the whole pan was crisp and steaming. I think there was also a spinach salad and I’m sure everything had been obtained at one of the area’s farmers markets. It was a good one, for sure. We talked about farming and boat-building and cats and Greece — and went to bed early.

(Everything tasted really, really good.)

Today in Bath, Me., it’s only three degrees chillier than it is here in San Francisco — an anomaly! — though the trees are probably not nearly as bare. If you were here I think I’d pack up a lunch and take us out to Tomales Point for a windy walk; the leaves in Sam. P. Taylor Park would be a riot of gold and red on the way in and I’d roll the windows down to let the fall air stream through. We might get a coffee at Toby’s after (or I would) and a brownie from the bakery, I’d moon on about West Marin, you’d have some commentary on the state of affairs in Point Reyes Station these days, and then we’d drive home at sunset through the cow fields.

(OK, maybe that’s my

perfect version of a .)

If I was in Maine to cook you dinner tonight I might start off with

a loaf of good from-scratch bread, with crushed garlic and olive oil
– maybe some deep-fried zucchini slices with spicy yogurt sauce


a free-range (if in Calif., a Willie Bird or f. market) chicken, with potatoes and tomatoes baked in the pan so it gets all juicy and caramelized and delicious the way you like it
– chard, chopped, and sauteed in lots of olive oil and salt, with the ribs thrown in, too, and it all cooked until tender and sweet
– lots of roasted root vegetables, because of course
– roasted cauliflower

and to finish

a pint of homemade vanilla chocolate chip ice cream with the requirement that you would have to finish it all with no worries for calories or whatever
– (OK, maybe also a chocolate cake)

In lieu of that, dear brother mine, I hope today in New England dawned clear and bright for your 30th and that your honey takes — or makes — you out for a nice dinner tonight; I’m sure she will. I hope this next year is better than all those preceding it (though truth be told they haven’t been half bad) and you are treated to something sweet today — like lots and lots of cake.

[Goat Rock, Calif., August 2003 or so.]

xo x 100. You’re my favorite, forever. Happy birthday.

ps: Hope you liked your …


  1. What a sweet love letter. Beautiful. I’m almost your brother’s birthday twin. My day is today and I’m about to walk out the door for a 10:30am breakfast of almond croissant + latte. It’s a good day and a good week for birthdays.

  2. Nicole this is so sweet. It’s all I can do not to cry before school starts! Miss you and I’m so excited you might visit…

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