Chef John and Chicken Provencal

(FYI – I had a whole long post in the works, and my computer froze and I lost it. Grrrrr.)

Tonight – our friend John cooked Chicken Provencal for dinner for us.

I got home at about 5:30, opened the door and was nearly bowled over by the intoxicating aromas that filled the kitchen. Bill got home a little bit later and was equally mesmerized. Onions cooking in fat…browned chicken thighs…white wine…thyme…oregano…everything braising together for over an hour and then…tomatoes…lemon zest… chopped parsley…served up with a chewy, crusty baguette.

John – it was heavenly. Many, many thanks. Tonight was like going out to eat – only better, because we didn’t have to drive home after.

John and my husband have been friends since high school, and they are each armed with a relatively equal number of embarrassing stories about the other. This, and beer, are the foundation of their friendship.

I met John shortly after Bill and I started dating, and over time we became friends. Not just Bill’s best friend and Bill’s girlfriend friends…but genuine friends. We have had many great conversations, and many great verbal sparring matches. I think he respects me because I can eat a hop pellet and not wince. (A hop pellet, for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of trying one, looks kind of like rabbit or hamster food and is made up of dried hop leaves compressed into this bitter little nugget. Hops are the bittering agent in beer, and also contribute to the aroma. They taste awful (as pellets, especially) and are really not meant to be a snack food. But I was encouraged (dared) to try one. So I did. It was clearly some sort of tribal initiation, and as the new girl, I couldn’t say no. So I ate a hop pellet. And the tribe began to accept me….

Anyway, John is more family than friend. He was best man at our wedding…he has helped us move…he helped build the deck on the back of our house…he has co-hosted numerous parties…and he loses dart game after dart game to my gloating husband – and keeps coming back for more. He is an endlessly good sport. In fact, they are downstairs playing now….

OH! And – John predicted the sex of our baby when I was pregnant with Alex.

We were down in the basement, and I was around 7 months pregnant or more. John and Bill had been playing darts and drinking a few beers (really?) and for some reason, John decided to predict the gender of our baby.

He came over to where I was lying on the couch. He knelt down beside me and stared, unblinking, at my mountain of a belly. He stared…and stared…through layer after layer of synthetic maternity-wear fabric…through stretched skin and loosened muscle (okay, and fat)…stared and stared until he could see the unborn child in my womb. Stared…and stared…and stared…until suddenly he leapt to his feet and announced, with finality: “Girl.”

I could go on…there are many John stories, and many good things to say about him. But it would start to sound like I was trying to get him a date. So I won’t go on about the fact that he likes to cook…he’s got a great sense of humor…he’s learning to play classical guitar…he is not afraid of babies…he is an organic gardener…he is well read…he has an inquisitive mind…he chews with his mouth closed and knows how to behave in polite company…

Oh, and next time he’s making me a cheesecake.

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