I have a tendency to act first and think later. While my dad always attributed this particular trait to my success on the basketball court, I’ve found it can also lead to walking into doors – literally. My nose has left a greasy print on its fair share of glass.
It’s led to being the girl who twirls in streets and loves to pick friends up in bear hugs. It’s the catalyst for this woman who states her mind, even in the face of public disapproval; this Seattleite who believes in an uncommon combination of gun rights, the right to choose, marriage equality and healthcare privatization; and this gal who wears cowboy boots with her pearls.
When you break it down, I’m a question asking, no-holds-barred-answering, get-to-know-you, gonna-hug-you, in your face kind of person. Age may have helped me quell some of this potentially over-the-top personality, but it certainly hasn’t eliminated it. And over the years, my oh so lovely ability to just go for it has created a rather tumultuous process for making friends.
If the above rant left you thinking – why doesn’t this girl just slow down? Trust me, you are not alone. I ask myself the same question. The funny thing is, with all of my do-first, think-later tendencies, I still think – a lot. I constantly re-play and hash through moments not just from a few days or months ago, but from years and decades.
As much as the times of sticking my foot in my mouth and burning my hand on a hot stove make me ponder the benefits of being one of those reserved girls, I also wonder if they feel like there’s a big noose around their neck.
And all of this wondering and all of this pondering brings me to September 1, 2008 and my first ever conversation with Erin Lindsay McCabe. It was a short conversation. There were only two questions. They were little. They were innocent. And, they established our friendship (or lack thereof) immediately.
My downfall was really the second question, the one about kids and if there were any or if she wanted any or if she thought there would be any. Needless to say, Erin was not a fan of kids or me. Until later.
Our friendship came first, thankfully. I’m not sure when, why or how. Perhaps it was because we had no choice. The masters program we were in was a small one and the fiction section was even smaller. Perhaps it was because I brought treats to class. Erin loves her treats.
However, I believe it’s because Erin is one of the most gracious women I’ve ever met. I’m fairly certain it’s because she was able to see my stumbling, bumbling, awkward tendencies and forgive them. Whatever the reason, I’m glad.
In the months and years that followed, we became walking buddies. We’ve swapped cheese infused recipes. She’s taken me horseback riding. I’ve tickled her son. We’ve sung karaoke, taken shots at bars, recommended books (Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander. Enough said.), and spent evenings sipping hot chocolate while swapping stories about writing and jobs.
Like many MFA students, Erin arrived at St. Mary’s with dreams of publishing a novel. Unlike many MFA students, she did. Her recently released novel, I Shall Be Near You, is a gripping historical fiction, first person narrative. Her use of Civil War vernacular and I-have-to-turn-the-page story telling ability, has earned her national acclaim.
The story follows a young woman’s struggle to stay by her husband’s side despite the trials of war. Cutting off her hair and binding her breasts, Rosetta enlists with the Union Army. I won’t ruin the story for you. But I will tell you it’s a good one full of touching scenes, inspiring moments and gut wrenching images.
Last month, Erin stopped in Seattle with her husband Doug and their son Dally to read a few pages to a group of admiring fans. We spent an evening and a day together, drinking medicis at Caffe Ladro, convincing Dally not to eat the gum off the Gum Wall and devouring large cartons of mac ‘n’ cheese from Beecher’s. We walked. We talked. We jumped in a fountain or two.
Erin encouraged me to make an appointment with myself to write. I did. I’m here. I’m glad and I’m chomping at the bit for next week.
Until then – check out these Cream Cheese Biscuits. They’re delightful and thankfully a far cry from the hardtack Rosetta eats in I Shall Be Near You. Erin brought some to class once. Take it from me, it’s a food best talked about and seldom seen.
Cream Cheese Biscuits
Adapted by Cook’s Country
Makes 12 biscuits
The original version of this recipe calls for equal parts all-purpose flour and cake flour. This is great, if you have cake flour on hand. I don’t usually have such things, but by sifting the flour with corn starch you can achieve the same thing. Plus, it costs a little less.
Additionally, these biscuits are delightful on their own, but they’re even better with a bit of jam and perhaps a smear of cream cheese. You’ll most likely have some cream cheese left, as it typically comes in 8-ounce bricks.
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 TBS corn starch
1 TBS sugar
1 TBS baking powder
1 tsp salt
¾ tsp baking soda
4 ounces cream cheese, cut into ½-inch pieces and frozen for 30 minutes
4 TBS unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces and frozen for 30 minutes
1 cup buttermilk
Sift flour and corn starch together.
Adjust the oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Pulse flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, baking soda, cream cheese and butter in a food processor until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.
Transfer flour mixture to a large bowl. Stir in buttermilk until combined.
Note: Dough may appear slightly dry.
Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly until dough comes together. Roll dough onto 8 by 6-inch rectangle, about ¾-inch thick. Cut into twelve 2-inch squares and transfer to a prepared baking sheet. Bake until lightly brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to wire rack and allow to cool 5 minutes. Serve warm.
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