Julia Reed, by all definitions, is a writer. And a great one - so good, in fact, that I've devoured just about everything she's ever penned since I reasonably became conscious of what good journalism was. By the time I was wrapping up college, she'd become sort of a personal folk hero to me - someone I wanted to model my own career after, and ostensibly, perhaps my life as well. She was always weaving a tale about some character she'd collected along the way, and I think her enthusiasm for people is part of what attributed to my own life becoming such an ongoing collection of extreme personalities.
They say you should never meet your heroes. But last night, thanks to Garden & Gun magazine and Ann Mashburn, I met Julia Reed, and she was everything. She gabbed Ashlyn's and my ear off, good-naturedly disavowed herself from the sangria being served for it's lack of blushy color and (most notably) a detectable amount of booze, and then shushed me for calling her "ma'am." It thrilled me that the voice behind her writing was so authentic. Here she was, right in front of me, and she was exactly the way I wanted her to be.
The entire intent of this blog, from the beginning, has always been to celebrate great people. In her most recent title, Mrs. Reed does the same, lauding lots of the folks she's crossed paths with through food and the stories that accompany her artfully recollected recipes. She goes on in the most charming way about her buddy Jason Epstein, who she met as an interview subject (a way I myself have made many a tremendous friendship), a literary legend in his own rite, who's now carved out (pun intended) a serious name for himself among foodies the world over (see: "Eating".) Her transparent affection for him and their years-long love affair with food rang a little bell in my head.
It jingled my brain right over to my handsome, refined, and incredibly talented friend Ryan Sand - a culinary talent not (yet) widely recognized, but who has trained under some of the best names in the business (the Culinary Institute of America, Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller) at barely 26 years. Aside from the bias granted by the fact that he is my closest friend's twin brother, I will say regardless: I know many chefs, and Ryan stands out as the finest I'm acquainted with.
Case in point: one day, many moons ago, in Gainesville, Florida, a bunch of Sigma Chis, one Kappa Alpha, and myself gathered in my shabbily-appointed townhouse to cook and imbibe. It was a weekly gathering, our little supper club of amateur and aspiring food folk - but this time, we were here to revel in our visiting New York chef's professional presence. The veggies were good at the farmer's market, so in a flurry, Ryan whipped up a ratatouille with the sort of grace and confidence a prima ballerina displays onstage. Every movement was fluid and intentional. As he spotlessly lopped a ladelful on each of our plates, I didn't detect the slightest note of pomposity. It occurred to me then that this was so practiced for him, that married with his talent, the art of executing a fine meal had become second nature. That evening silently sealed my premonition of his future celebrity. The aforementioned Kappa Alpha in the room years later decided to attend the same culinary school Ryan did, and I'd like to think that ratatouille had something to do with it.
I'd be remis if I didn't note that for the most part, this post was penned on the back of JCT Kitchen's Thursday Specials menu. I was so abuzz from meeting Mrs. Reed (exhilarated, sure... but let's be honest, there was liquor involved too) that I utilized the most readily-available paper and started scratching away notes with a stolen red pen from Holeman & Finch. I was afraid if I didn't do otherwise, the booze would make off with my thoughts. I'm sitting on my kitchen counter now, cross-legged with my computer in my lap, chewing on an enamel pen that's so rock-hard my Mother, were she here, would no doubt chide me for endangering what she likes to call my "expensive teeth." Translating sober on a Saturday morning what you wrote down drunk on a Thursday night is an interesting practice, but I think my original point was this: Julia Reed makes me look forward to my adult life. We so fear growing older - maybe because we lose our looks, or maybe because we're that much closer to death, I don't know - but her stories remind me that there is still so much ahead that's good. Perhaps I'll be profiling Ryan one day for some magazine and recall that little moment in Gainesville again. The joy of watching the people you love evolve is truly one of life's best blessings, and her latest title is a latent reminder of that very fact. Further, as I peer into the years in front of me (coming soon: thirties!) I'm reminded there are so many people left to meet, love, remember... and write down. That, my friends, is the good stuff, and if you ask me, really what it's all about.