If you’re asking, “Why Kentucky?” my reason is simple: how could I resist a state whose initials are the same as mine?
The KBF takes place on November 14 in Frankfort, a city I’ve never visited. In fact, I’ve set foot in Kentucky only once before. And when I say set foot, I mean it. While in Cincinnati years ago, I walked across the John A. Roebling Bridge that spans the Ohio River and connects Ohio to Kentucky, and then I promptly turned around. Thanks to the KBF, I’ll have a golden opportunity to expand on my one-step tour of the Commonwealth.
I perused TripAdvisor for things to do in Frankfort and saw that two of the top ten attractions are cemeteries. Because a death motif can be detrimental to tourism, there is also bourbon, and places where you can taste it. Add to that a candy museum, which creates the tantalizing possibility of combining bourbon and chocolate, and I’ve got pretty much everything I require in a destination.
I will also have everything I require in a travel partner, because Mom wants to come with me. I called my parents as soon as I got the letter yesterday afternoon, knowing their excitement would meet and possibly exceed mine. By the time I hung up with Mom, she had already scouted flight options.
The next person I told was my friend Angela, who hails from Kentucky. In addition to being a dear friend, Angela was my elementary school librarian. She helped nurture my love of books and, by teaching me to be a discerning reader, contributed to my writing. She could have considered her job done when I graduated from Orange Hunt Elementary, but instead, she has picked up the pompons and become a tireless cheerleader for my book. She even came to my event at Park Road Books in Charlotte a few months ago and watched me receive my temporary Jewish credentials. (I bet she couldn’t have seen that coming decades ago when I was sitting cross-legged on the floor of her library.)
I got so caught up in this surge of positive emotions that I lost track of time. I had invited my friend Dan over for dinner and I still needed to do a fair amount of prep work. Dan and I have known each other since high school–we worked on the newspaper together –and we have an easy friendship based on ample common ground, coupled with acceptance of and respect for our differences. For example, I’m an agnostic, but I admire Dan’s strong religious convictions and enjoy talking to him about his faith. Those conversations always make me think and never leave me feeling like I’ve been evangelized. My approach to religion doesn’t faze Dan, nor does my irreverence. In fact, he just returned from a faith-oriented trip to Fatima and would have been the first person to laugh had I said, “My friend went to Portugal and all he brought me was this lousy rosary.”
Because Dan is comfortable, fun company, he wouldn’t have cared one bit had I forgotten to cook dinner altogether, but I was determined to treat him to a nice evening. When he arrived, he found me and the kitchen in a state of mild disorder. Appetizers were on the table, chicken was ready to be grilled, and a honey cake sat cooling on the counter, but I still needed to roast the asparagus and cook the rice. I had also stranded all sorts of pots and pans on the stove, including a saucepan coated with a film of honey-based syrup.
As Dan and I caught up on our recent goings-on, including his trip to Portugal and my upcoming trip to Kentucky, the mild disorder in the kitchen upgraded itself to moderate chaos. I sent my pal outside to grill the chicken while I dealt with the sides. I dumped chicken broth in a pot and, while I waited for it to boil for the rice, put the asparagus in the oven. Fifteen minutes later, everything had finished but the allegedly quick-cooking rice. It had boiled over at one point, so I had lowered the heat, perhaps slowing the cooking in the process. As I stirred, I noticed it had taken on an unusual hue. I figured it had something to do with the boil-over and opted not to worry about it. With liquid still remaining in the pot after 20 minutes and our dinner rapidly cooling, I jacked up the heat, threw some parmesan cheese and basil into the pot with the rice, and declared it done.
Dan and I sat down and dug in. The chicken and asparagus had turned out perfectly. I put a forkful of rice in my mouth, expecting to taste chicken, cheese and basil. Instead I got honey. A second bite that was crunchier and more cloying than the first confirmed that I had somehow made honey rice and it was inedible.
“Don’t eat it,” I said to Dan, who was already eating it.
“It’s not bad,” he said, making me wonder if they’d confiscated his taste buds at Customs.
“It’s terrible,” I said, “And now I’m wondering what I put in that cake.” Dan said something nice about how, if my excitement caused some ingredient confusion, it was a small price to pay.
We agreed there was only one way to find out. I cut into the cake. It smelled promising from a socially acceptable distance, so I put two pieces on dessert plates. Dan took a big bite and looked thoughtful as he chewed.
“Tastes like chicken,” he said. I took a nervous bite. On tasting no poultry and just honey, I realized my friend is no slouch in the humor department.
I haven’t even booked a flight, but already this trip to Kentucky is proving pretty sweet.