When your friend blows into town, you hang onto your hat and lay on the groceries, especially the Stolichnaya Vodka, or “Stoli”, as he calls it. Your friend is a Martini drinker, and particular about his cocktail of choice.
He likes a dry Martini, so the vermouth must be dispensed via a tiny spray bottle. If you don’t have one, he will go to the drugstore and buy one for you. He likes a chilled glass—it doesn’t matter what kind, as long as it holds a few ice cubes—so remember, when you’re unloading the dishwasher the morning after last night’s feast, to put glasses in the door of the freezer.
He likes a twist of lemon and a pickled onion, or sometimes a twist of orange and a Kalamata olive. You never know which way whimsy might take him, so better make sure they’re all in stock.
After the Martini is served, look to the snacks. There should be carrot or celery sticks; red peppers, sliced thin; or quartered radishes—anything crunchy, anything suggesting health–and a dip to dip them in, which can be store-bought. To balance the crunch, there must be gooey cheese, with the right kind of cracker. There ought to be nuts—but only cashews or almonds; he’s allergic to the rest. If smoked salmon is available, bring it on. And, if you’re visiting him in Toronto, make sure you take a jar of his homemade red pepper jelly back with you so you can serve it to him in Whitehorse. He doesn’t really care for the other kinds.
The thought and planning you must put into this provisioning, though daunting at first, become occasion for joy. For, from long experience you know that, properly fuelled, your friend becomes the machine that drives the good times. He says yes to every adventure, from a September paddle that starts with a hailstorm to driving five hours to visit a friend’s cabin to finishing the dinner dishes while you bone the duck to start the confit for the cassoulet that you will cook together over several hours three days hence.
He is always up for it, whatever “it” is. He will bring duck fat from Toronto for the cassoulet. He will stock your wine cellar. And, when you visit him, he will procure special liquors and cook fabulous meals for you; he’ll pump up the tires on the spare bike and guide you through the city with the same enthusiasm he hikes the Fish Lake trail in a snowstorm.
The only, only quibble you have with this excellent friend is his propensity to think that whatever is in the fridge is not quite enough. Left untended he will come home with armfuls of groceries for which there is no room. You know this stems from his generosity of spirit and love of good times. But still, you are overstocked. You panic. He cracks a joke. You laugh, and find room.
After he departs, you are left with an unopened club pack of smokies. Two pounds of smoked salmon candy. Several artisanal cheeses. Three store-bought dips. A bunch of ripe bananas. You don’t really eat bananas.
You’re going on a river trip the day after he leaves. So you bring the smokies and the cheeses, the dips, the candy, the bananas. On your second night, when you’re camped at Fort Selkirk and the sun is setting and it’s bloody cold, you heat butter and brown sugar in a frying pan, add bananas, pour over some Glen Livet, and serve your hot, rich, boozy, welcome dessert straight from the pan. You toast your friend. And you hope, without reservation, that he will be back.
Campfire Bananas with Glenlivet
2 tbsp. (30 mL) butter
2 tbsp. (30 mL) brown sugar
2 bananas, sliced in half crosswise and lengthwise
2 tbsp. (30 mL) Glenlivet
Melt butter and brown sugar in a cast iron frying pan over the fire. Add bananas and sauté just until the edges start to soften. Flip bananas, add Glenlivet and when the whisky has almost evaporated, dig in with forks. Serves four.