I’m about to leave my thirties behind and a friend (who is only halfway through) recently asked me what I thought of the decade. I liked the last ten years of my life a lot. It was full of milestones: I fell in love and got married, bought an apartment, started a blog (!!!), and became an uncle. It was full of so many good things, and certainly beat my twenties by a mile. But after some reflection, I told her that the only thing I didn’t love was that the thirties felt like a tough decade for friendships. Many people (myself included, at times) turn away from friends and toward partners, or babies, or their career. Of course there are exceptions and friendships that remained constant. But there is a tendency to become more isolated. The intensity of friendships that I had in my twenties was, for the most part, waning. The spontaneous fun of hangouts, stopping by unexpectedly, watching TV together for hours, or sitting in bars was replaced with dinner in three weeks. It has all become decidedly scheduled.
I recently watched the first season of Doll & Em on HBO. It is a show about a friendship. You don’t realize how rare and radical that is until you see it in front of you. There are a bunch of shows that claim to be about friendship (most notably, Friends), but mostly they’re about dating or New York or whatever. Doll & Em is about the beautiful (and sometimes difficult) complexities and value of friendships, and in particular about adult friendships (not a euphemism). I’ve loved both Dolly Wells and Emily Mortimer for years, and so it was especially satisfying to see them tackle this subject together. The two are real-life friends, and they shine in the series. I laughed, I cried (I actually cried a surprising amount—fair warning) and I can’t recommend it highly enough. It is a beautiful argument for the importance of working hard to maintain our relationships with friends.
One of my goals in my last year of my thirties was to see as many of my friends as possible—a gift to myself. We’re spread out all over the world now, so I don’t get to see everyone nearly as often as I like. But this year, I managed to actually spend time with most of them. It felt good, and it is the thing I am most thankful for this year.
I fear we don’t value friends as much as we should in our culture. They take a backseat to a lot of other things. But I wouldn’t be anything without the friends in my life. So, during this week of giving thanks, I’m feeling particularly grateful for my friends. If anything, this year (and even Doll & Em) reminded me that friendships are resilient and will bend and shift to accommodate our changing lives. But also, this year reminded me that it is important to make friends a priority and spend time nurturing these relationships, even when we have a million other things competing for our time and attention.
You are undoubtedly busy with turkey and cranberry sauce and pie, at least those of you in the States. But since the internet is now comprised of mostly recipes for those things, I wanted to talk about soup.
Making stock is probably the kitchen task that I feel most overwhelmed and annoyed by. It requires a kind of effort I can rarely muster for something that is usually just a component of something else. But I really like soup, and I really dislike packaged stock, so I am trying to talk myself out of my aversion. I decided to start with vegetable stock, the least creepy of all stocks.
I’ve become a big fan of this recipe from Kenji over at Serious Eats. It is really quite delicious and feels worth the effort, which admittedly is small. You don’t need to follow it exactly, though I think the kombu and mushrooms are important. It is now my go-to stock recipe. As for what to do with the stock you make, how about some toasted quinoa soup?
The recipe comes from The Chef Next Door by Amanda Freitag, which a friend sent me a few weeks ago. I’ll be honest, I didn’t know who Freitag was—I don’t live in New York and I don’t watch food television. But her book has made me fall in love with her a little. Cookbooks by professional chefs are often the worst for home cooks, but Freitag seems to remember what it is like to be in a home kitchen. The recipes all are manageable, but interesting and make you want to get into the kitchen.
I’ve become a fan of this vegetable soup with toasted quinoa. It’s the simplest of things, but lovely in its way. It is obviously adaptable to whatever you have on hand, but really nice as written. It is an antidote to holiday meals and celebration cocktails.
Maybe make a bowl and share it with a friend?
A couple of notes: The small amounts of vegetables called for in the recipe could be easily obtained at a local grocery-store salad bar. My Whole Foods has all of these ingredients available on their bar and it will save you having to figure out what to do with the other half of each vegetable. You could certainly use chicken stock in place of the vegetable, but it seems unnecessary for a chicken to die for this. Serve it with some crusty bread and extra olive oil. It makes about 4 servings.
Toasted Quinoa Soup (adapted slightly from The Chef Next Door by Amanda Freitag)
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed thoroughly
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/3 cup diced onion
- 6 garlic cloves, sliced
- 1/4 cup small dice carrot
- 1/4 cup small dice red bell pepper
- kosher salt
- pinch of red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 cup small-diced peeled potato
- 6 cups vegetable stock
- 1/2 cup small-diced zucchini
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Spread the quinoa in a thin layer on a rimmed baking sheet and toast it in the oven until it changes color from beige to dark brown, about 30 minutes. Use a spatula to stir it every 10 minutes so that it toasts evenly. Set the quinoa aside.
In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, carrot, bell pepper, and a generous pinch of salt and cook over low heat for , stirring frequently, for 10 to 12 minutes, until the vegetables have softened. Add the red pepper flakes, rosemary, and cumin and cook for 1 or 2 minutes, until fragrant. Add the potato, toasted quinoa, and vegetable stock and stir.
Bring the soup to a boil, then turn down the heat to maintain a simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes, or until quinoa is cooked. Add the zucchini and cook for 5 minutes more.
Taste the soup and adjust seasoning as needed.
November 24th, 2015 at 11:15 am
I love this. I’ve been mulling over the same thoughts lately, too – how “friend” means so much in this decade, but they are often put aside for raising families and working longish hours, and then meeting with people takes 10 text message and email chains. Basically, yes, same, and ditto to everything above. Happy early birthday!
November 24th, 2015 at 11:33 am
happy birthday! thank you for this – i have been thinking about this too. Sending a big hug and love.
November 24th, 2015 at 12:30 pm
Beautiful post. I agree, as we get older it gets harder and harder to keep the sort of tight friendships of our youth. We have to work at it. And it’s work worth doing (like making stock), but I wish it were easier overall. Kudos to you to giving yourself the gift of friendship. Happy Birthday. Happy Friendsgiving!
Jeffrey C says:
November 24th, 2015 at 1:29 pm
I’ve been resenting that I almost always am the one in my circle of friends to initiate and host gatherings, but your post has me thinking maybe this is the most important contribution I bring to our circle.
Amanda W. says:
November 24th, 2015 at 2:05 pm
Hang in there! I am now in the mid-late 40s and I can see the light at the end of hte tunnel. Kids are moving on to HS and college. It is much easier to grab a cup of coffee on the fly than it was just a few years back.
Jeffrey – please keep initiating! We need those people who manage to get us out the door! Thank you for doing this for your friends…
Susan Herrmann says:
November 24th, 2015 at 3:22 pm
Lovely post, and you hit the nail on the head, the onion on the stem. Friends are the warp and weft of life; wonderful meals the pleasure that punctuates it. Happy Birthday, whenever it arrives.
November 24th, 2015 at 4:45 pm
i love you!
November 24th, 2015 at 9:14 pm
Hi Tim, great post. I am in my twenties and my friendships are by far the most valuable thing in my life – quite makes up for all the other Lena-Dunham-esque drawbacks that being in your twenties implies. :) But one has to wonder if you can have it all… all at one time…
PS: As I was clicking through my bloglovin feed tonight and found myself skipping past or quickly through almost all of the food blog posts, I was reminded of your “You’re Boring” post. But as tedious as all food blogs seem to me now, your posts are always fun to linger over and revisit. And bonus from this one – now I have a new show to watch.
November 24th, 2015 at 9:31 pm
Cheers to friendship and the spontaneous events that transpires with them! My eight-year-old knows who Amanda Frietag is…we are a huge fan of Chopped in our nest. I am also a fan of making my own broth…I never let a bone go without sucking the life out of it in a long and slow simmer with whatever veggies I have on hand. Happy feasting with friends!
Heather Scott says:
November 25th, 2015 at 12:57 am
I love that my sister commented on this too — we are definitely sisters! This post makes me sad and nostalgic, because it’s true… But we probably hang out with friends more than we will when we’re 60 so…
November 25th, 2015 at 7:29 am
Thanks for the kind comments, all.
Amy- yeah. it is hard to get it to all line up. but i think we just need to enjoy each for what it is. (and work to make it better?)
agreed that Jeffrey needs to keep initiating and hosting! sorry it sometimes feels like a thankless job.
Crash and Heather- love you guys. x
Mary Anne says:
November 25th, 2015 at 8:44 pm
So strange how this happens to everyone. I have one friend here in New York who is always down for the spontaneous hang, the weekend-long hang, like we were still in our twenties. I’m so grateful for him, because he’s my only friend left like that! I’m also grateful for Amelia, because we still talk on the phone several times a week, even if it’s only for 5 minutes to tell each other “two things”, as she likes to announce when I answer the phone.
And I’m totally obsessed with Doll and Em too! So brilliant. And now after thinking about friendship I want to go call all my friends! Happy thanksgiving!
November 25th, 2015 at 10:07 pm
This has been so on the forefront of my mind lately as well–I’ve been acutely aware of how much I need my friends, need to make sure that I have regular time to see and speak to them, because it contributes so much to my mental health and sense of feeling like myself. I feel really blessed to have several close friends who live close, but also that all of the closest ones are willing to make the effort to make our interactions happen. I’m at the start of my thirties, but for the last few years, what I’ve asked my friends for on my birthday is simply time together–we make dates and spend luxurious amounts of time doing the things that used to happen more regularly and effortlessly. While I miss that ease, I am also grateful for the perspective that time brings–and for the fact that I am much, much better about reaching out to my friends and asking them for things. As it turns out, they are always happy to oblige, and my vulnerability has, of course, drawn us closer.
Thank you for your thoughtful observations and show recommendation xx
November 27th, 2015 at 10:44 am
Dolly Wells is wonderful, also, on “Blunt Talk”… friendship has changed to much in society but really not so much in “real life”. Thanks for tackling a tough (needn’t be) subject.
November 29th, 2015 at 2:11 pm
You gotta read My Brilliant Friend! (The first in the Neapolitan series.) I love how Ferrante tackles friendship in all of its complexities. (Also loved Doll & Em.)
November 29th, 2015 at 3:06 pm
Hear hear to your post! But regarding stock, I started keeping stock bags in my freezer this year, and it’s really upped my soup game. Mushrooms and cheese rinds go into one bag, all cut ends of vegetables into another. I’m sure this technique is known to you, as it was to me since for always, but I never tried it until recently. Made a huge difference in my aversion from/attraction to homemade stock!
November 30th, 2015 at 7:18 am
Beautifully written Tim. I’ve been feeling the same with my close friends and I feel like now we all have little kids we are back on the same page. I guess friendships like anything else ebb and flow. Happy Birthday!!
December 2nd, 2015 at 8:00 pm
What a beautiful tribute to friendship– you summed up perfectly what I’ve been feeling myself lately, also in my 30’s. Happy birthday, happy friendsgiving.
December 10th, 2015 at 3:19 pm
This post has been resonating with me since Thanks Giving and meant to comment but became too busy with too many things that are probably way less important then I think they are. I don’t know why more people don’t talk about this very thing.
I’ve gone through lots of changes in my frienships as my friends of many years and I went on different paths, moved to different cities, careers, marriges , children and divorces.I only see certain friends once a year. I found myself wondering. Did I do/say something wrong? But I hadn’t done anything. It’s just life and friendships evolve and change. All those changes and the passing of time only make it more clear to me how special friendships are. If you’re lucky some friends are there for the whole journey. If you are even luckier you get profound new connections that turn into frienships. It is too conveniant to get in a routine and too caught up in how busy we are. True friends are worth the effort. Thanks for the reminder !
December 20th, 2015 at 8:00 pm
You are my dearest friend timo. And my family. LOVE you