WRITTEN ON March 2nd, 2010 BY Meredith AND STORED IN Cheese, Dinner, Holiday, Potato

My long lost friends!   I have so much to tell you.  Please forgive my absence, life around these parts has been a little nutty lately.

We’re moving.  To the ‘burbs.  I’m still in shock.  The last weeks have flown by in a flurry of house inspecting, contract signing, apartment listing and finance fretting.  We move in less than two months.

It’s a flood of emotions, for so many reasons.  The city has truly become home over the last decade. It was supposed to be a quick, two year jaunt of freedom before moving back to Baltimore (for many of my friends, that’s exactly what happened).  Instead, I fell head over heels for a native.  I left my own tribe and stayed long after they had all gone home. It’s not surprising, really.  I was always the last (wo)man standing.

Because of this, I also had a long lasting love affair with a city that continues to seduce me. New York still feels glamorous and gritty all at once. It’s hard edged and fast-paced…well, except when you want to slow down and hang out for hours in the park, or linger at a sidewalk table at Melons on a crisp fall day.  This place that has inexplicably become home has managed to be precisely what I need at the exact moment I need it.  A person can find everything they want here.  Indeed, I have.

So why, you ask, am I leaving?  I suppose there’s a part of me that wonders the same thing.  I write a lot about my hometown of Baltimore, and am only just realizing that I grew up as much in New York City as I did further south.  The last vestiges of my childhood were spent here: out late with girlfriends, howling with laughter in empty diners, drinking too much, meeting new people, tasting life in a way I never had before.  And, finally, finding the person with whom I would create the rest of my life.  The post-childhood life.

So in a roundabout way, I’ve just answered my own question.  Over the past decade I’ve made and lost friends, to changing lives and journeys and destinations. I’ve had several jobs spanning a few careers. I’ve moved five times. I’ve been back to school. I’ve rediscovered talents I thought I’d lost for good.  Most importantly, I’ve fallen in love.  With a person and a place…but in the last year there’s been a subtle shift of attitude.  I’m finding that being the last woman standing can get a little lonely. The walk-in closet that seemed so huge all those years ago is now overflowing with collections of pillows, towels, and bedding that seem to call out for the extra bedrooms we don’t have. All of a sudden I feel ready for more space.  To settle down.  To leave behind the honking cabs and musty subways. To grow and expand in a way that I can’t here.  The girl with the insatiable appetite for life has a craving to taste somewhere new. New York will always be my home, and to say that I’ll visit often is an understatement.  But it’s time for a different adventure.  Stay tuned to see what happens.

Homestyle starch

Down Home Potatoes Au Gratin (serves 4)
3 large Idaho Russet potatoes, sliced very thin
4 tbsp butter
4 tbsp flour
2 cups cold whole milk
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
3/4 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
2 tbsp butter, cut into small cubes
Preheat oven to 350.  In a heavy medium sized saucepan, melt butter. Whisk in flour until completely combined, to make a roux. Stir, letting cook for one minute.  Slowly add cold milk, whisking.  Whisk vigorously to get rid of any lumps, making sure to get the bottom and sides of the pan.  Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer to thicken. Add cheese, nutmeg, cayenne, salt and pepper to taste.  Place potatoes in a single layer in the bottom of a buttered gratin dish, pour some sauce over top. Repeat until you have no more potatoes.  Top with all remaining sauce.  Combine breadcrumbs and Parm, sprinkle on top of potatoes.  Dot with small cubes of butter.  Cover with foil, bake about 35 minutes until bubbly.  Remove foil, bake another 15 minutes until top is crisp.

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