Note: Marlynn Schotland of Urban Bliss Life was one of the first bloggers I met when I started writing The Good Hearted Woman. I am so grateful for her friendship, and for her willingness to so generously sharing her time, her talent, and her heart here with us today.
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I don’t remember being scared. I was on a plane headed for college 3,000 miles away, to a city I’ve never visited. Heck, I had never visited anywhere on the East Coast before. I knew not a soul in Boston. I was beyond excited.
Something in my gut said Boston, Mass. was the right place for me. I never questioned it, never regretted it; I just applied, got accepted, said “yes, this looks like the school for me,” and never looked back.
That gut decision turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life.
My first day in my new college dorm, I met two women who would still, twenty years later, mean the world to me. One I bonded with over a similar lack of height and I fell in love with her thick Jersey accent – and attitude. Pretty sure she thought I was an ignorant hick from O-RE-GONE, but despite that, we became fast friends and eventually college roommates.
One Thanksgiving, I couldn’t afford to fly back home, so my roommate’s family graciously invited me and my friend’s then-boyfriend to spend the holiday at their home in New Jersey. I don’t remember many details, but I remember the feeling of being so nervous about staying at their home and then being so warmly welcomed by her whole family. I remember bits and pieces of silly college conversations, fragments of Thanksgiving dinner, and I remember smiling. I think I smiled a lot that weekend. It was really nice to be in someone else’s home 3,000 miles away from my own family, and to be welcomed in, fed, and cared for as family.
Throughout our college years, my friend’s mom – we’ll call her College Mom – was a peripheral presence in my life. I’d chat with her if I picked up the phone, see her here and there, I’d hear how she was doing through my friend. It was comforting to know that even though my mom wasn’t nearby, there were other parents in my life to serve as role models even from a slight distance.
I was completely surprised when, at graduation, College Mom handed me a gift. In my hands was the cookbook pictured below, Absolutely Delicious, written by Linda Allard, who was best known as a top fashion designer for the then-popular clothing line Ellen Tracy. College Mom said something to the effect of “You should always have at least one good cookbook in life.” It was a completely unexpected and generous gift.
To this day, I cherish this cookbook. It sits among dozens of others. However, its pages aren’t splashed with sauce or smudged from water-stained fingers. It remains relatively clean and untouched, and I honestly think I’ve only cooked two dishes from Absolutely Delicious. Not because the recipes aren’t fantastic – they are – but because to me, this cookbook is somewhat sacred. It represents so much of who I am, and why I love to cook and bake.
In this cookbook, Linda Allard features uncomplicated recipes and only includes exact measurements sometimes. Otherwise, she offers a general outline of a recipe in order to “allow for the cook’s personal taste and judgment.” It’s very much how I cook today: by instinct. More than a source for recipes, this cookbook is a reminder to always trust my gut, because look at all of the amazing people I can meet and incredible experiences I can have if I just trust myself.
It also symbolizes how, for me, cooking and baking are all about the people on the other end of the serving spoon. It’s about extending warmth, welcome, and unconditional, no-strings-attached kindness to others. It’s about creating community and family, no matter where you go… making everyone feel like family in your home.
I’m forever grateful to College Mom for her kindness over the years, and even though we haven’t spoken in over a decade, I think of her each time I see the cookbook spine sticking out on the shelf. This recipe from Absolutely Delicious is simple, uncomplicated, and fast, but it’s not about the recipe, is it? It’s about the love that goes into it and the warmth it extends to those on the receiving end of the spoon.
- 1-2 medium tomatoes
- 1 garlic clove, finely minced
- 5-10 basil leaves, finely chopped or shredded
- a few parsley leaves, finely chopped
- 1-3 tablespoons good olive oil
- salt and pepper
- Chop tomatoes into small cubes and put in a large bowl. Add garlic, basil, parsley, and oil. Season with salt and pepper and toss. Let marinate for 20 to 30 minutes.
- Toast a baguette in the oven at 375 degrees for 5-8 minutes, just until lightly toasted. Remove from oven and let cool for a couple of minutes, then slice into bruschetta slices. Drizzle good olive oil over each slice. Top each slice with a spoonful of tomato topping. Serve immediately, with a smile, to friends, family, neighbors, kids, and anyone who could use some kindness in their lives.
About Marlynn: Marlynn Schotland keeps up with local food, drink, travel and culture on her blog, Urban Bliss Life, a division of her boutique creative communications studio, Urban Bliss Media. Her blog, as she puts it, is her “celebration of all of the blissful things in life,” where she shares wine tips, wine reviews, wine tour experiences, food, recipes, restaurant reviews, design, style, fashion, printables, and family travel adventures and tips.