Tuesday, January 25, 2011

"Talking with Terri"

Last weekend, a few of my favorite girlfriends and I embarked on a "Girl's Trip" to beautiful San Francisco to spend time catching up on each other's busy lives, and to nurture the friendship that we hold so dear.  We had a fabulous time eating, drinking, laughing, and of course, we fit in the mandatory "spa day"! 

Spoiled were we, but as I have written, never do I take that for granted.  I am so grateful for these blessings in my life -- blessings of good health, good friendships, good meals and of course shelter.  The blessings of my husband and children deserve a novel of praise, so I will leave them out of this blog entry, but they are always there in my heart!  Speaking of the blessings of good meals and having shelter, I could not help but notice the ENORMOUS homeless problem on the streets of San Francisco!  Saddened to see these poor, lost souls just roaming aimlessly through the streets, sleeping in crevices of buildings, and panhandling for money and food.  Occasionally, the mental illness of so many made itself so apparent.  I am constantly uttering silent prayers when my eyes take witness of their existence compared to mine or so many other fortunate beings.  Why does it have to be this way?  What happened to these people, and at what point in their life did misfortune take a drastic turn for the worse?  I know that I cannot single-handedly solve this problem, but I absolutely believe that it can change for the better with contribution and compassion and effort from those that are able.

As my sister and I were waiting for my friend Lori to bring the car around to pick us up and take us to the airport, a homeless woman approached me with her cup in hand, and asked if I could go with her and "buy her a sandwich".  I wasn't sure that I heard her correctly so I repeated, "Did you say, 'buy you a sandwich'?"  To which she quickly chimed in, "Yes, there is a Quizno's right up the street."  She was looking at the pavement as she spoke as if she were ashamed, so I glanced at my sister with an "I'm doin' this" look, and I put my arm around this woman and said, "Let's go and get you a sandwich!"  She replied with "Thank you, thank you, thank you...", and we ventured on up the street to Quizno's. 

On our short walk, I asked her what her name was.  She said, "My name is Terri", and she smiled.  I had my arm around her shoulders as her head lay low, and I was amazed at the look on other's faces.  Many passers-by gave almost a look of disgust as if they couldn't believe that I would allow myself to get so close to this woman.  It only made me want to hug her closer. 

Once we entered Quizno's, I asked Terri what she would like, and without hesitation she blurted, "The Chicken Bacon-Ranch sandwich, the Broccoli-Cheese soup and some juice!!!"  So that is what we ordered, and with a smile, I paid the nice girl behind the register with a $20.00 bill.  My change was $11.80, and I turned to Terri and placed it in her cup which she was still gripping with hands as black as night from dirt and grime.  I told her that I wanted her to use that money to buy herself some dinner that evening and she was so grateful.  She mentioned that she would use it to purchase a bed at a shelter which goes for about $12.00/night.  I requested that she not spend it on booze or drugs, and she assured me that she has been clean for over a year.  I told her that I would pray for her to find the strength to stay that way. 

After being handed her lunch, I looked her in the eye and told her to pray for her future to be different, and that I would do the same.  I told her that I cared.  She had tears in her eyes and thanked me profusely.  We parted ways, and I looked to the sky and prayed for Terri.  She is a human being that suffers daily.  How easily that could be anyone of us.  No matter how she got to where she is, she is there, and I pray for all in her situation, and more importantly, I pray for people to care. 

As I was walking back toward the hotel, a lady passed me by and said, "That was wonderful what you did back there!"  This lady was a patron of Quizno's during my and Terri's short visit.  Of course that made my heart smile, but I wasn't looking for recognition, rather I hoped for this woman's witness of the gesture to cause a similar experience for one she connects with in the future.

How I wish that I could cook this for Terri...our family enjoyed it so much and I hope that you will too, if you are reading this. 

Fettuccine With Quick Ragu
1/2 onion
1 stalk celery, cut into 4 pieces
1 small carrot, cut into 4 pieces
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound ground veal or turkey
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup whole milk
12 ounces fettuccine
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving


Pulse the onion, celery, carrot, garlic and rosemary in a food processor until finely chopped.

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the chopped vegetables and cook, stirring, until softened and golden, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the veal, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, milk, 1 cup water and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until slightly thickened, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the fettuccine as the label directs. Drain the pasta, then toss with the ragu.Top with Parmesan.

Recipe from Food Network magazine, December 2010 issue, p. 124.

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