Your mind immediately starts racing with possibilities before you tell yourself not to overthink it. Your husband points out that not just any salad will do and suggests writing a salad recipe that embodies your friendship. So much for not overthinking it.
You accept the challenge and start a page for ideas in your bullet journal. This is your oldest friend, and only the most perfect salad will do.
Your husband reminds you that he never actually challenged you. But he knows you well enough to know that you will indeed take it as a challenge and that he can't go around making suggestions without you taking action. He is reminded of that time years ago, before you were married and he casually suggested that the three of you - you, him and your oldest friend - should spend the whole day at the Minnesota State Fair. The whole day. Little did he know it opens at 6:00 am and closes at midnight. He should have learned his lesson that year.
Your list of ideas includes many items that are related to your time together in France. You add chestnuts for the year when you both taught English in small towns in the Alpes de Haute-Provence. That was the year it was certain that your friendship would be one of the most important things in your life. The day you left, her dad said to the two of you, "I'm so happy you guys are doing this together. It means that you will be friends for the rest of your lives." He was right.
Although your towns at the time were so much closer than they are now, only an hour away by car then and almost 24 hours by car now, you had some lonely times that year. One afternoon as you strolled together through Sisteron along the Durance River, probably discussing what you would be cooking for dinner that night, you found a burr that had fallen off one of the ubiquitous chestnut trees, cracked open with two nuts inside. You called them friendship nuts and each one of you took one home so you could still be together even when you were apart. You still have "little Rosie" in a bowl on your dresser. It still creeps her out big time that you call it "little Rosie" but you do it anyway because you like it.
Lemons are added to the list because of all those sunny days in the South of France, the energy of the sun and let's be honest, you guys ate a lot of lemon tarts together in France. Same story with lardons and crème fraîche, the culprits that caused you both to gain so much weight in one year that your jeans barely zipped up by late spring.
The list includes Brussels sprouts for the year that she visited you on the Mesa for Thanksgiving. You spent months planning the perfect menu, which tasted even better than you could have imagined. That's probably because you had so much fun together cooking it all. The Brussels sprouts hash you made that year was pretty spectacular.
Cheese is on the list because this lady loves it, and cheese curds are the first food on your circuit at the fair.
You add kale because your salad is shaping up to be a little weak in the knees, and because kale is hearty like your friendship. You add that last bit to help justify the kale, but also because it's true.
You put it all together, well, almost all of it, and toss in a French vinaigrette and you get a nice salad. A kale and shaved Brussels sprouts salad with chestnuts, lardons and apple. It's nice. Really nice, but you can't help but think that it's just not good enough. Your husband tells you that it's a great salad and your friends tell you that you're being too hard on yourself. Your brother-in-law is brutally honest and says to start over with something that has more curb appeal. You're not the only one who will be making a salad for the reception. He leans closer over the table and tells you, "let's face it - this is a competition and you need to win it."
You tuck the friendship salad away to send her on a fall day with a nice note about how much you love her, and you cook the cover of this month's Bon Appétit instead. It's a recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi, who you know she loves, and it has roasted lemons and it definitely has curb appeal. And then on the day of the wedding, you hover next to the salad table as folks go through the buffet line, secretly (not so secretly) hoping that yours will be the first to be eaten up. And you're beyond pleased that it is, and even more thrilled that your oldest friend sits down next to you with her plate and takes one big bite of your salad and declares it "the best one!" She knows you so well.