My Friend Greg and a Pear & Watercress Soup

by Michael on June 25, 2011 · 34 comments

His name is Greg. His closest friends call him Gerge. I do. He stepped into my life back in 92′ when we met at an Italian Gelato shop and he wouldn’t shut the fuck up. I love that about him. He has a voice and he was the first person, man or woman, that talked more than I did. I sat there, glued to my seat and mouth taped shut, partially unnerved at his ability to steer and control the conversation but mainly in awe. Mostly in awe. This guy was me. Only better.

I moved to Kingston from Toronto to attend University. I didn’t know a soul in that small beautiful city by the lake with memories engraved on every corner. I had an old friend tell me to look for a man who coached the college tennis team. It was on those hard courts painted red and green with stripes of white that I first met Peter. It was through Peter that I first met Greg.

Those were scary days back then and on my own and I was looking for a place to rent and Peter had told me about both David and Greg. I called Greg up and talked on the phone and we met for gelato where we got to know each other. It was like a date, only it wasn’t. We found a place that a friend of a friend was renovating and renting and it was perfect. We moved in together and now have life long stories from those times.  Late nights, even later nights, study sessions and spontaneous trips together just to get away.

We shared accommodations for a few years and our friendship grew during those times. He was like the brother I never had. The first Mother’s Day as housemates we decided to invite our three moms over and I made the food. Greg always liked my food so it was as much his suggestions as it was mine. I can still see the six of us tightly roped around that small square table we called our dining room table. The first of an album full of times like that.

It was my first place on my own, away from my parents. We still have a million stolen moments from those days, our first days. Like Greg dropping off his laundry at the local wash n’ fold. The guy asked for his name and he said Greg. Let’s just say after numerous attempts to correct the man’s spelling, he walked away a new man. He walked away as Gerge.

When he came to pick it up later in the night a woman was working there. “Hi, I’m here to pick up some laundry,” he said. “No problem, what’s the name?” “Greg,” he responded. “Um. I don’t see a Greg here.” He jumped in, “Try Gerge.” “Yup, got it!” And so it came to be.

I left school a couple of years later and headed back to the city I grew up in, Toronto, to find work. Greg wasn’t too far behind. He moved a few minutes and blocks away from where I lived. We’d meet up often during those times, his first in a new city, a bigger city. I showed him around, but often it was him showing me around or showing my something. Teaching me something.

When the work week ended and turned to freedom, Greg would invite me over. He would ask what I wanted for dinner and pick up the ingredients at the market down the street from his house. I would show up and turn those ingredients into Friday night dinner while he poured us drinks. We ate and drank and celebrated adulthood in the big city and shared meals almost every week.

He always loved the food but it was the company that mattered most. It did to me. We would laugh at some of the trouble we got into when we were naive and young and then head out on the town to follow those same steps we took years before.

We both followed a similar path through our lives, long after those university days had passed. A couple of years after that move, Greg called me to tell me he was dating a girl, Amanda, and wanted me to meet them at a pub downtown. I remember walking through the doors and finding them in the back part of the pub, hidden behind the bar. I pulled out a seat and sat across the table from him and his future wife. I knew it then. I saw it on her face. I read it on his.
They got married a couple of summers ago. A beautiful wedding, fitting for such a beautiful couple. Wendy and I fought back tears at the vows and listened to old memories brought back to life during the speeches. We moved downstairs afterwards into the bar area of the country club and watched the two of them move as one during their first dance. I saw that dance play out back on that first meeting. I really did. As the night came to a close there were just a few of us left, the married couple and his closest friends. Fitting.

 
He was now on his way, in great hands with an incredible woman. He was in the best place of his life. A great wife, job and new home. A big bright future. And then the call came. It shook me initially until his voice sounded reassuring and confident, if not worried. Greg had pancreatic cancer. He had a disease I would strangle with my own hands if I was capable of it.

Don’t be sad. I’m not because he’s not. He went from one of my best friends to one of the inspirations in my life. His optimism is contagious. His fight is inspirational and his strength is really a beautiful thing. I wish you could see it. He has a zest for life most men not in his circumstance take for granted and whittle away. Piss away. Not him though.

Greg sends out updates every month or so about his progress. He talks about his doctor’s thoughts and plans on proceeding and he openly discusses his medication and future. In every email I see words scattered about like hope and life and love. Those words never actually appear there, but I see them. I feel them.

I can feel that joy of life in his words, as if he’s speaking to me from across a table. I can sense it. And every time I get a new email I read it by myself and wish I could read the words ‘cure’ or ‘never again’ boldy and proudly displayed. They aren’t there. Yet.

I know Greg would love this soup, this Pear & Watercress Soup. Next time we see each other and he’s between therapies and feeling better, I’m making this for him. And I hope we laugh. I hope it never stops. Ever.

Long ago when I first met Greg and we sat in that gelato shop I knew what I know now. He’s an incredible man. He’s a devoted man. He’s a man with a love for life. And I look at him in awe. From cities and miles away. This guy isn’t me. He’s better. Way fucking better.

Pear & Watercress Soup

The Goods:

1 small baguette1 baguette, sliced on the bias
2 tbsp olive oil
3 large ripe pears, cored, peeled and sliced
1 tbsp butter
3 large shallots, peeled and sliced
2 cups potatoes, roughly 1 large
4 cups chicken broth
2 bunches watercress, about 3 cups
1 cup heavy cream, divided
Sea Salt
1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese

Prep:

 
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Diagonally cut six 1/2-inch-thick slices of baguette for thin croutons. Brush top side of slices with olive oil and place on a baking tray. Bake for 6 minutes or until toasty and browned.

2 Meanwhile, peel and core and slice pears. You should have 3 1/2 to 4 cups. Heat butter in a large saucepan over medium heat until bubbly and browning. Add the shallots and cook 5 minutes or until soft. Add potatoes and pears and then pour in broth.

3 Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 25 minutes. Set aside 6 to 8 watercress sprigs for the garnish and add remaining watercress to the soup. Heat over medium heat for 5 minutes or until hot. Purée the soup in batches in a blender until smooth.

5 Return soup to the saucepan and stir in 1/2 cup of heavy cream. Heat until hot. Season to taste.

 
6 Top each crouton with goat cheese. Ladle soup into six bowls and drizzle remaining heavy cream around soup edges. Place a crouton in the middle and garnish with extra crumbles of goat cheese and a watercress sprig. Serves 6.

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{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

Alan Cooke June 25, 2011 at 4:33 pm
The Bird Cage June 25, 2011 at 10:34 pm
Ken│hungry rabbit June 25, 2011 at 10:49 pm
Christina June 25, 2011 at 11:07 pm
SMITH BITES June 25, 2011 at 11:17 pm
Lana June 25, 2011 at 11:23 pm
Sabrina June 26, 2011 at 12:07 am
Isabelle @ Crumb June 26, 2011 at 2:20 am
bellini June 26, 2011 at 3:04 am
Rebecca from Chow and Chatter June 26, 2011 at 3:53 am
Maria June 26, 2011 at 6:04 am
Jessica June 26, 2011 at 6:29 am
Kulsum@JourneyKitchen June 26, 2011 at 6:52 am
sliceofmylyfe June 26, 2011 at 9:09 am
BecHef June 26, 2011 at 11:12 am
MikeVFMK June 26, 2011 at 2:49 pm
Peggy June 26, 2011 at 2:51 pm
Cookin' Canuck June 26, 2011 at 3:07 pm
Baker Street June 26, 2011 at 3:16 pm
Amy Lucille June 26, 2011 at 4:56 pm
Sippity Sup June 26, 2011 at 9:57 pm
All That's Left Are The Crumbs June 27, 2011 at 1:18 am
Kristen - Dine & Dish June 27, 2011 at 2:25 am
Marla June 27, 2011 at 2:52 am
Meeta K. Wolff June 27, 2011 at 11:59 am
Maria June 27, 2011 at 2:33 pm
Helene June 27, 2011 at 2:38 pm
Cristina June 27, 2011 at 6:30 pm
Alicia Sokol (Weekly Greens) June 27, 2011 at 8:58 pm
Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table June 27, 2011 at 9:12 pm
Shirleen {Sugar & Spice) June 28, 2011 at 10:43 am
6inthemorningside June 29, 2011 at 2:00 pm
Taste Junction June 29, 2011 at 4:41 pm
Heather @ Sweet Sins June 30, 2011 at 5:00 pm

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