"I'm sick," my friend Cindy sniffled into the phone.
A summer cold, the kind that works its way through your entire body and makes you feel like jello, had taken hold, so we had to let go of our plan to spend last Sunday evening cooking together.
A few weeks ago, when Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice and Cath of A Blithe Palate invited me to join other bloggers and cook from Faith Heller Willinger's new book, Adventures of an Italian Food Lover: with recipes from 254 of my very best friends, I knew instantly which Italian food lover I'd invite to dinner. I called Cindy, not because she is my most Italian friend (she is), or because she is a professional food stylist (she is), or because she is a certified executive pastry chef (she is). And not because we have gone on several food adventures together, to an Asian supermarket in Boston and to farm stands closer to home (we have), and not even because she runs highly entertaining "insider" walking tours of Providence's Federal Hill, the most Italian neighborhood in Rhode Island (she does).
I wanted to cook for Cindy, and her husband Ken, because she makes friends wherever she goes. She knows the man who sells her pasta and proscuitto, the woman who grows giant zucchini blossoms, the ladies who bake the best pastries, and the neighbor who grows grapes in his backyard vineyard and makes wine in the garage. Food shopping, to her, is a person-to-person experience, and that is the premise of Ms. Willinger's book, too.
Choosing a menu was easy.