This post is dedicated to my childhood friend, Meli Duran-Kirkpatrick, who died early in the morning on May 11, 2009.
I lost a very old friend yesterday, one who wasn’t all that old, not really. Meli and I grew up together, and together we went through Campfire Girls, junior high and high school, college, and marriage, staying in touch as best we could. We spent a year, more or less, pregnant at the same time and only two months separate the ages of our “only” children. OUR birthdays were 1 day apart, March 14 for Meli and March 15 for me.
We’d just been friends for a long time, and not the kind of friends that see each other all the time. No, we rarely saw each other after the age of 17, but somehow that original bond held fast, and glued us together in a way that later friendships often seem to lack. Time and space, irrelevant.
Meli and I played the bohemian chicks in eighth grade and wanna-be intellectuals throughout high school. We talked about boys and diets, music and books, world affairs and school politics. We shared the common experience of living at Ozette, in western Washington state, working on an archaeological dig, although at different times. I worked as the dig cook’s assistant one summer and Meli spent another summer there as a student of archaeology.
The only way to the dig site was overland on a 3-mile path — we carried in all our gear the first time in. A plane landed on the beach once a week with cooking supplies and anything else the dig needed. The camp nestled in pines a mere 50 feet from the rumbling ocean, the sound of the breakers reverberating through the canvas of our tents.
Looming off the ocean shore, Cannonball Island provided a view a billionaire would buy in a heartbeat. Inaccessible except at low tide, Cannonball could be tricky to navigate, as Meli found out the day she fell down the slope of the island and broke both of her ankles, having to spend the night on the island in the cold with shattered bones.
Meli lived bravely. I will miss knowing that she was there, that we could talk about those wonderful experiences, that we still were connected, even though we lived far away from each other and time wrought some terrible health challenges for Meli.
In honor of Meli and her adopted state and cuisine, New Mexico, here’s a recipe for Chile con Queso Dip from the Cougar Gold Web site. We used to eat sandwiches made of Cougar Gold Cheese from Washington State University’s Dairy Science Department in Pullman, Washington.
Bon appétit, Meli – I wish I could cook for you one more time.
Chili con Queso Dip
Serve with chips for any Cougar football game!
1 cup chopped onion
2 cans (4oz each) green chilies, chopped and drained
2 large cloves garlic, mashed
2 T. cooking oil
1 lb. Cougar Gold Cheese
1 t. Worcestershire sauce
¼ t. paprika
¼ t. salt
½ c. tomato juice
Sauté onion, green chilies and garlic in oil until onion is tender. Reduce heat to low, add remaining ingredients except tomato juice. Cook, stirring constantly, until cheese is melted.
Add tomato juice gradually until dip is the desired consistency. Place over hot water to keep warm.
Serve with tortilla chips. Makes 3 ¼ cups of dip.
[Note: add some pickled jalapeños if you want more fire.]
Cougar Gold comes in a can, because in the 1930s the dairy scientists tried to find another way to preserve cheese longer. This was, of course, before the invention of plastic. See Cougar Gold being made HERE.