Thursday, April 17, 2008

A Tale of Three Davids

Less than a year after starting my new job, I was asked to be on the interview committee for a departmental position we were going to fill. My task was to greet the candidate, show him or her around the department, then take the person to lunch. After each encounter, I wrote a report describing the candidate’s abilities and interest in becoming part of our team. The first candidate was David. I don’t remember much about him, so clearly he didn’t make the cut. The second candidate was David. Again, not particularly memorable. The third, and final, candidate was David. In spite of leaning towards nerdiness, he was quite enthusiastic and full of ideas and suggestions. We hired David.

This is no joke. It really did happen that way.

So, David and his family moved from the east coast to the western frontier. David had a wife and infant daughter. Continuing my original task, I served as a liaison for David, helping him and his family adjust to their new surroundings. In one of those rare moments, both my family and David’s family just clicked, and we became close friends. It was a glorious time.

After nearly ten years, though, David became restless, and he eventually left our company and moved his family back east. It just wasn’t the same after that, for me and my family as well as for David’s family. We’d fly back and visit when we could, but nothing could replace those evenings drinking tea, playing games, or talking til the wee hours.

They stayed in one city for a few years, then left and headed south, where David’s wife had scored a nice job. For David, though, it was more difficult finding employment. He was growing more discouraged, until, through networking among other like professionals, a good position became available. And David took it.

One summer, I got a call from David’s wife. Seems he’d come home a bit shaken. He’d sideswiped the car when parking, something he’d never done before. It was like something wasn’t quite right. They brushed it off, but decided to run it by their family doctor. When I heard the story, I felt great fear. A déjà-vu if you would. I just knew it wasn’t going to something simple.

Another call. After examining David, the doctor immediately sent him to get an MRI. Within 24 hours he was on the operating table. Diagnosis? Glioblastoma mutiforme. Brain cancer. Big time. Prognosis? Not good. Oh, David believed he would beat the odds. We all hoped so, too. But glioblastomas are nasty cancers. He fought a brave fight, I have to say. The toll it took on him, his family, and his friends was great, and for two years, we prayed that he would come out victorious.

Nearly two years to the day, David lost his battle. His family lost a husband and father. I lost a best friend. I still miss him. It just wasn’t fair.

And as for the déjà-vu part, several years before David was diagnosed, I lost another friend to the same kind of cancer. She was young – only 18 – and half-way around the world when she was diagnosed. I don’t think her mother has ever fully recovered from that loss.

Over the years, I’ve had a number of friends who’ve met the cancer enemy. Some have won; some haven’t. I’m truly thankful that my close family has escaped this disease, but I hold no illusions that it will always remain that way.

So, in honor of my friends and others fighting the cancer battle, I offer a yellow treat to the Taste of Yellow 2008 as a remembrance and in honor of LiveSTRONG Day on May 13th. I hope we win.

Thanks to Barbara at winosandfoodies for being the gracious hostess.

Rosemary Polenta

(Adapted from the Barefoot Contessa Family Style, 2002)

1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
2 cups half-and-half
2 cups milk
2 cups cornmeal
1/2 cup good grated Parmesan
Flour, olive oil, and butter, for frying

Heat the butter and olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, rosemary, salt, and pepper and saute for 1 minute. Add the chicken stock, half-and-half, and milk and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and slowly sprinkle the cornmeal into the hot milk while stirring constantly with a whisk. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for a few minutes, until thickened and bubbly. Off the heat, stir in the Parmesan. Pour into a 9 by 13 by 2-inch pan, smooth the top, and refrigerate until firm and cold.

Cut the chilled polenta into 12 squares, as you would with brownies. Lift each one out with a spatula and cut diagonally into triangles. Dust each triangle lightly in flour. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a large saute pan and cook the triangles in batches over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes, turning once, until browned on the outside and heated inside. Add more butter and oil, as needed. Serve immediately.


Unknown said...

Judy it is four years this week since my best friend died of a gioblastoma. She was given 9 months and lasted exactly 9 months. It is a nasty cancer. I'm sorry to hear your story of David. The friendship you shared was very special. Thank you for supporting LiveSTRONG With A Taste Of Yellow and sharing the recipe.

Deborah said...

I absolutely love this event, but I don't think a day passes that I don't find myself in tears, hearing of peoples battles with cancer. I'm so sorry to hear that you lost David, but it sounds like the time he was here on earth was time well spent. Thanks for sharing your story!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Gosh Judy, life is so good and so strange.
Gioblastomas are certainly one of the nastiest of cancers.
We should all try to live each day to it's fullest.

Rosemary Polenta has long been a favorite of mine and yours looks absolutely perfect.

Sam said...

Tears in my eyes. I am so sorry for the losses to cancer you have had to deal with in your life. Beautifully eritten. Touched my heartstrings.