Our Well-Loved Cookbooks: Cooking with Friends

Bear with me.

Just as I may be accused of jumping on the pop culture bandwagon (following my twitter and news feeds being filled yesterday with the sensationalized announcements that some middle-aged actors from a television show that ended fifteen years ago are having a reunion episode) apparently authors of cookbooks do the same.

Back in 1995, when the sitcom Friends was barely a season old, some bandwagons were jumped upon by a couple of folks who (with motivations unknown to me) published a collection of recipes co-branded with a soon-to-be generation-defining television show.

I don’t remember exactly who or why… but someone gave me this cookbook as I shipped off and moved out of home setting out towards University.

I’d be lying if I told you this book had been cracked open as more than a curiosity in the decade prior to this morning.

But, for a very long time, it was one of approximately three cookbooks I owned.

Was I a fan of the show? Well. I watched it, but mostly because in the nineties as a student without cable television, we watched whatever was broadcast over one of the four channels that reached our apartments via the little rabbit ears antenna.

Yesterday I couldn’t help but open my twitter feed and see countless people promoting the reunion episode trailer that had been posted online. Serious news agencies devoted writers, resources, and space on their properties to dissecting the cultural impacts of a ten-year-long, millennium-spanning sitcom.

I was reminded that I had this book on my shelf.

Still.

On my shelf mixed in among the other mostly-serious cookbooks.

Latching onto popular culture to inspire recipes is not an obscure thing, tho.

Beside the Cooking with Friends cookbook on my shelf there was also (I kid you not) a copy of The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook (which technically belongs to my daughter) and a more recent acquisition Binging with Babish: 100 Recipes Recreated from Your Favorite Movies and TV Shows, which I bought to support Youtuber Andrew Rea who runs a remarkably well-produced and genuinely brilliant cooking channel where he instructs and entertains around a very similar premise. (After I’ve cooked a few more recipes from his book I’ll post a breakdown in a future post.) I’d also be obscuring my fascination with pop-culture-inspired recipes if I didn’t mention that I own a healthy digital collection of PDF cookbooks containing such titles as The Geeky Chef Cookbook, Minecrafter’s Cookbook, The Nightmare Before Dinner and of course The Wizard’s Cookbook: Magical Recipes Inspired by Harry Potter, Merlin, The Wizard of Oz, and More.

All that said, one season in to the show Friends there was insufficient inspirational fodder for the Cooking with Friends cookbook to be anything but a co-branded cash-grab. The recipes are broad and basic. Italian food (because one of the characters is Italian) or coffee-house treats (because they all spend a lot of time drinking coffee in a café.) Later seasons would turn one of the main characters into a working chef (which certainly would have provided some interesting recipes) and revolve entire episode plots around eating, cooking, dining, drinking, and other food-related activities. But little of these stories is to be found between the covers of this book.

The little blue page flag visible in my photo above opens to a page with a recipe for pesto pizza a recipe that, yes, we did cook a few times, using both the pesto and the pizza dough recipe from this cookbook. I don’t recall the characters ever having much to do with pesto pizza… but the pizza was pretty delicious if I recall.

My twitter feed has already forgotten about the Friends reunion episode trailer that was the star of the news cycle yesterday. Maybe the bandwagon has rolled on. I spent half an hour as I started my day with a cup of coffee flipping through the recipes in this old, once-treasured book. It was well-loved, and perhaps now long-forgotten, but it served us well for a time.

Like an old friend. Friends? Friend.

On Streaks and Inevitable Solo Runs

It’s unlikely that you’ve been following any of the specific news emerging from my little corner of the world, but as of midnight tonight we go into yet another wave of increased pandemic restrictions.

My region is considered one of the world’s COVID hotspots because … um, human stubbornness.

I had spent last week trying to rebuild some of the stamina I’d lost over the last fourteen months.

I find when the yardstick by which I measure these things, my ability to keep up with my running crewmates, measures up short there are a couple efforts I can make to quantitatively improve.

One of those efforts is a running streak: run every day for a set number of days. Daily running pushes the body in mysterious ways to react and adapt, and somewhere in between burning oneself out and a string of epic training runs there is a gradual increase in endurance.

So I ran a streak last week.

I ran seven days in a row, running every day no matter the weather or how I was feeling, and somewhere between exhausted burnout and that epic feeling of accomplishing something, I think I moved my stamina a wee bit.

Tho those runs were mostly solo. Alone. Because not everyone wants to run a streak.

This morning I had that chance to again compare myself to my yardstick as the crew and I (all vaccinated) ran a casual ten kilometers through the river valley. Just five of us. Trails. Sunshine. Fresh air. And a hot coffee at the end.

Yet like a finish line, it is the end … at least for a few more weeks.

No more meet ups.

No more group runs.

No more running crew.

That streak training improved my speed but what I think I might have really been training for was solo running again, this time for three weeks or until this third wave washes by and we can run together again.

Deep breath. Here we go.