“That girl’s from Europe.”

A new hire is touring the newsroom of “The Daytona Beach Morning Journal,” and the resident grump/lecherous city hall reporter has honed his sights on her.

“Eastern Europe.”

She comes our way. She’s a lovely, statuesque blonde who will cover one of the area’s municipalities beginning Monday. She introduces herself, and — yes, Mr. Grumpy-Lech — she has a faintly foreign-sounding last name.

“Are you from Europe?” he coos.

“My parents are from Hungary,” she says.

Thus begins my rather creepy introduction to Jude. For a year, I edit her stories. Then my ex and I move across state to Tampa. At my going-away party, Jude and I strike up a work-free conversation. I leave the party feeling like I’ve missed out on something important.

“Jude is really fun,” I tell my ex. “I think we could have been friends.”

That was 1985. Not quite a year later, Jude moved to Tampa, too. We’ve been the best of friends ever since, staying in touch through multi-state moves and decisions both well- and ill-advised. We’ve seen each other through happy times (promotions, marriages, children); we’ve pulled each other through dregs (divorces, breakups, deaths). We’ve offered support and safe havens during seasons of uncertainty.

“You know all my secrets,” I toast Jude on my 50th birthday. “And you like me anyway.”

That’s rare. I can list a raft of friends who opted not to stay around for the long haul. People who got busy with life and families, or who decided I was a bit too high-maintenance for their taste. (In their defense, I was.)

But Jude has stuck with me. We’re not identical: She hails from the East; I come from the Midwest. She has no children; I have two. She’s works for a multi-layered, many tentacled government entity; I’m self-employed. I suspect we sit on different sides of the political spectrum.

But despite those differences, we find common ground. We have history. We have perspective. We’ve built a friendship that has lasted decades — a rare gift in this age of mobility and instantaneous follows and likes.

“Susan is my oldest friend,” Jude likes to tell people when she introduces me. “We met in 1985.”

And we like each other anyway.

Two Peas-In-A-Pod Pie

plum and fig pie

This pie made me think of Jude because it seems the definition of a happy friendship: Two very different fruits — figs and plums — come together in one luscious whole, each contributing their individual essence while allowing themselves to be tempered by the other. (And if that’s a little too precious for you, it’s also a kick-ass dessert.) This is courtesy of “The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book.”

  • Crust for a 9-inch, double-crusted pie (to make it yourself, find the recipe here)
  • 3 cups fresh plums, cut into quarter-inch slices
  • 3 cups fresh figs, stems removed and cut in half
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Dash of Angostura bitters
  • 1 egg mixed with 1 teaspoon water
  • Raw sugar

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and place a rimmed baking sheet on the bottom rack.

Combine the plums, figs, lemon zest and juice, ginger, allspice, cloves, salt and bitters in a large bowl. (And if you’re wondering where the sugar is, rest assured that this list is complete. There’s no sugar to add to the mix!) Let them sit while you roll out your crust.

plums and figs in bowl

Roll half the crust into a circle and line a pie plate with it.

Spoon the fruit into the crust, leaving excess liquid in your bowl.

plums and figs in pie

Place the pie in your refrigerator. Now, roll out your remaining crust. You can place this directly on the fruit, weave a lattice with it, or — as I did — cut it into shapes. Take the filled pie crust out of the fridge and place your top onto it:

plum crust raw

Brush the crust with the egg and water mixture, then sprinkle liberally with the raw sugar.

plum and fig piePlace the pie on your heated baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes, then move the sheet to the middle of the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees. Bake an additional 30-35 minutes, until the crust is golden and the juices are bubbling thickly. Cool for a couple of hours before serving — preferably to your best friend.

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