There is a cookbook by Joanne Chang called ‘Flour‘, which features irresistible recipes from her Flour Bakery + Cafe in Boston. I only know this because my best friend, aka BFF, has a copy and is working her way through it, in order. That’s the kind of person my bestie is – intellectual, methodical and exquisitely pleased with the small details in life. Like the moment when you have your hands covered in soft, white flour; the only sounds those of ingredients sifting and blending, the mixer against the bowl, the cracking of the eggs, the sugar giving way to the warmth of the butter; and you find yourself lost in the wonderful process of creating something new and delicious from scratch.
At the completion of each new recipe my best friend emails me, describing in detail the challenges along the way (some items take several days to prepare and bake), the texture of the ingredients and the pleasure she gets from watching her husband and colleagues devour the fruits (or more accurately, ‘the baked goods’) of her labour. Then BFF tells me what’s coming next, her excitement about the adventure ahead present in every key stroke.
If BFF’s not telling me about her baking adventures, she’s filling me in on work or what I fondly refer to as, ‘spa drama’. In my head BFF’s life is a reality tv show, a behind the scenes at a luxury spa in a five star hotel. High rolling guests, celebrity encounters, free facials, and the occasional old lady who wants to bring her dog into the treatment room. Minus the customer engagement (which would drive me bonkers), BFF has the dream job. She is ahead of the curve on products, her skin is radiant, her nails always beautifully manicured and she gets to make people feel better about themselves every day. OK, OK… this is a heavily edited reality TV show. I’ve skipped over the craziness that inevitably comes hand in hand with spas, money and resort towns. The long hours, the shift work and the fact that most people in the industry work on Christmas Day and New Years, so that others can have the ‘perfect day’.
BFF also works a second job in a kitchen boutique (hence the baking). Not because she has to (which is good because I think sometimes more money goes out on purchase than comes in), but because she needed some diversity and some space. BFF needed a job where she didn’t have to manage others, didn’t have to find replacements when a technician (that’s what they’re called in a spa these days!) called in sick five minutes before her shift started (or didn’t call in at all) and was later seen down the street (the only street fyi) buying a latte. BFF loves both jobs, but it’s her second job that brings out the smile. The ‘spa drama’ emails are funny, but the little corner shop is “fun”.
I love these emails, even if they do result in a fit of lifestyle and food envy, from afar… my best friend and I live 13,077kms apart.
Given this distance, sometimes I think BFF is lucky to still be my best friend. If she was a boyfriend I would have broken up with her by now on the grounds that she is a GUD (Geographically UnDesirable). It must be love 😉 The funny thing is that BFF swears we’re only best friends because I keep telling people as much. It’s my advocacy campaign that has created this reality.
But I figure that’s how all the best friendships start, right? You sit down next to some unknown kid in the playground, simultaneously crack open your lunch-boxes, realise you need to rescue them from their vegemite sandbo and dying apple slices (which would be a selfless act were it not for the fact that you are also hoping to be rescued from your own lunch – sorry mum), and before you can say “jinx”, you have known each other for 30 years. Somebody asks “Do you want to be my best friend?” and someone responds “Yes!” It’s as simple as that. And I’m eternally grateful to BFF for that ‘yes’.
To be honest though, I actually don’t remember how BFF and I met. I only know that our lives have been connected in some way or another since I was about 13. First through dance, then guitar, then university, then Japan, then Hamilton Island, then Sydney, and so on. My grandmother remarried a Canadian and moved there when I was nine, but my best friend marrying a Canadian is the real reason that I have been to Canada more than 10 times. BFF doesn’t know this, but often she is my oxygen. She helps me breathe. She knows my everything – those alphabet men, my bumps and bruises, my losses, my fears, my hopes, my craziness and the way I own the microphone at Karaoke. She often indulges me, sometimes chides me, always hears me. She accepts, me, the entire Fluffy package. And the truth is that I’m the lucky one in this friendship.
I admit though, BFF and I are not necessarily friends because of our similarities. I’m the yin to her yang – and sometimes the other way around. I’m vocal about my views on world events, she wins hands down in her ability to laugh loudly and express joy openly. She can spend hours looking for the perfect Italian shoe in Italy, where as I would rather poke my eye out with a blunt stick than even go shoe shopping. BFF listens deeply, where as I listen… vocally. She shares her inner self cautiously and wisely, I share myself too readily and entirely (again, vocally). BFF moves through life quietly, with grace, while I’m kicking up the dirt behind us and leaving little trail markers, just in case we need to find our way back. BFF is a place of calm, I am too often a place of frenetic energy and movement. Where as BFF is known for her diplomacy, on occasion I am known to be a blunt force instrument (possibly explaining the fridge magnet she gave me).
That said, BFF and I are friends regardless of our differences because at the core of who we are, we come from a place of common values. We both love yoga – because of the way it opens, stretches, calms and connects the spirit. Our idea of a great weekend is to be out in nature – hiking in summer, skiing in winter. We’re both minimalists and nesters – the two are not incompatible. We believe in champagne moments and collecting memories. We’re both instinctively kind, reserved in the depth of our emotions, passionate about our friends and love kittens (it’s important). We’re both looking for ways to enrich our lives, and that of those around us. We’re creative and adventurous (in our own ways) and inclined to encourage and motivate others. I’m not convinced that either of us love easily, but when we do it’s deeply and forever. Which is reflected in that we are both quality over quantity people.
And yet, when it come to regrets in life I have only one, and sadly it relates to my best friend.
I regret that I was once terribly careless with our friendship. It’s 13 years ago now, yesterday in my psyche. It goes like this – in a panic a few weeks before BFF’s wedding, for which I was a bridesmaid, I called and said I couldn’t make it – that I couldn’t scrape together the money. It was true, and it also wasn’t. By which I mean, there were mitigating circumstances (one of which was that I had just quit my full-time job to pursue a career in film and television and really didn’t have any money), but there was also no reason not to go that couldn’t be overcome. The problem was though, I was so accustomed to BFF listening to me and being my rock that I failed to realise that my being at her wedding wasn’t actually about me. It also wasn’t about the dress (which someone had agreed to make and then decided to send in the form of a pattern and fabric a few weeks before the wedding – fyi, I am not a seamstress). There were other far more real and important reasons why I needed to be there, as BFF embarked on this incredible adventure and started this new phase in her life. This time it was my turn to be her rock, to listen and recognise her needs. And I couldn’t do that without being present and accounted for.
Mark Nepo said: “Listening is being completely present to whatever is before us with all of who we are.” And I wasn’t.
I’m aware that we live in a time when it has become customary to deny having regrets. These days we embrace slogans about ‘going forward’, ‘letting go’, ‘living in the now’ and ‘it is what it is’ as though they are life rafts. We cling to them in the hope of being carried through life’s currents and rapids without mishap. But I’m a big believer in remembering, reflecting, learning from mistakes and knowing how to right the raft when it capsizes. And when it comes to the future, I’m all for preparing (did you not read my post the ‘Art of Surviving‘ which was almost titled ‘the art of prepping’…) and to do that you have to think about the sort of life you want. Where do you want to be? Who do you want to be with? If you want a life rich with memories, rather than one full of “what if” and “I wish I had” moments, then you need to invest in your future. Sometimes literally, by taking out a bank loan and showing up at your BFFs wedding. And then pick up the phone and apologise for being such an idiot 😉
So whenever I’m asked whether I have any regrets – that’s the story I tell. About my amazing BFF and that one moment I would undo (even if I did end up going to the wedding). I don’t try to bury the feelings attached to the experience. (That sinking feeling I had in the pit of my stomach as soon as I hung up the phone.) When the memory surfaces, as memories are want to do, I allow myself to reflect on it, in order to better understand why I felt (and still feel) the way I do about my behaviour and choices at the time, so that those associated feelings may guide my actions in the present. My regret makes me a better person – not then, but now. It reminds me of the person I don’t want to be, and of the things that do and don’t matter in life, which then leads me to understanding the person I want to be. Which, truth be told, is someone a lot like my best friend.
BFF’s latest baking extravaganza was croissants. One of those recipes that took several days to complete and a lot of attention to detail. I have a feeling it also required patience and quality ingredients – all of which BFF has in abundance.
Early into her baking adventure with Flour, BFF emailed Chang and shared some of the pleasure she was having working her way through the book. Chang wrote back, equally thrilled. What’s not to love about someone who openly shares their joy in your successes and designs and missives!
The Flour Bakery website describes Joanne Chang’s repertoire of baked goods as “deep and satisfying”.
Which when you think about it, is a pretty accurate description for the relationship between best friends.