In memory of my friend Linda, plain but plain-delicious deviled eggs, jazzed up with a dab of Tomato & Herb Relish and surrounding a mound of tiny tomatoes.
So please bear with me as I publicly mourn the passing of the woman who privately and enthusiastically encouraged me during the too-short years of our friendship. In Kitchen Parade and A Veggie Venture both, Linda figures in one recipe after another, first as 'my new friend Linda' and soon 'my dear friend Linda' – and now here, in farewell.
This is an open letter to the husband and son of my dear friend Linda Behrends, who died on June 28 after a long illness.
Jim, we’ve met just once and Jeff, we’ve never met. But I feel as if I know you both, hearing so much about you from Linda. I’m so sorry for your loss.
I would like you to know how much she meant to me, how I regret not making the chance to tell her myself, how much her loss hurts me, too.
We met in 2006 admiring hats at a ladies’ hat luncheon in Forest Park. Mine was pastel and girly with flowers, hers was vintage and sophisticated, inherited from her mother. Only by accident did we learn, while parting, that we both figured in the St. Louis food community, she as the city’s top stylist, I as a columnist. We made a quick exchange of cards and thus did a friendship begin.
Soon we went to lunch where I watched her with glistening eyes. You see, she reminded me so much of my own mother, four years gone. Just like my mom, Linda had a polished look, a sense of style, a head of shiny salt and pepper hair and a big, easy laugh. She was a Home Ec grad, too, and just like my mom, made her living in the field she loved when many of their generation stayed home to raise their children.
These likenesses appeared again and again. Too often, I’d blurt out, “Oh Linda, you remind me so much of my mother.” I worried she’d think our friendship was based on that single dimension.
When Linda’s illness returned, she asked me to come over, she needed to talk, to be distracted. We sat at your dining room table, flitting from one subject to the next as we were so prone to do. That was the last time we spoke at length about her illness, the toll that it and its treatments would take on her. I was, you see, the friend she designated to ignore the obvious, to conduct our friendship as if life were normal rather than one test and one hospital stay after another.
Throughout it all, Linda encouraged me professionally and personally. When she was curious about food blogs, she invited me to speak of my experience to a group of local food writers. When I organized a plating, styling and photography workshop for St. Louis bloggers, she inspired us with insider tips from a professional stylist. When I had a recipe question, she shared her own. When I’d visit, she’d send me home with a cookbook or two, ones she knew I’d like. When I fell in love, too fast, too soon, she encouraged me to “just have fun." When I shared recipes on Kitchen Parade and A Veggie Venture, she read and commented on nearly every one. One day I had big news; my journal from that day reads, “I am so excited about this. I called Linda (and got teary, missing Mom, knowing it would have been her I’d have called …), Linda is excited for me too.”
To the end, Linda remained wholly Linda, vibrant and social. On Father’s Day, she organized tickets to Wicked and dinner at a new restaurant for four of us, happily holding court, making sure the conversation didn’t founder, making connections among people meeting for the first time. As we parted, I hugged her thin-thin but still smartly dressed body, hoping that we just might hang onto her for a few more months.
It was not to be. A week later, she was gone.
Your lives, Jim and Jeff, now confront the gaping hole a remarkable woman leaves. While our grief cannot compare to yours, please know her many friends share your loss, I among them.
Linda was my friend. I was lucky to know her even if I didn't say so out loud.
Goodbye, my friend, you shall not be forgotten.
DEVILED EGGS with
TOMATO & HERB RELISH
Time to table: 30 minutes
Makes 24 dozen deviled egg halves
- 1 dozen hard-cooked eggs (how to make Perfect Hard-Boiled Eggs)
- 3 tablespoons light mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons buttermilk
- 3 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
- Salt & Pepper to taste
TOMATO & HERB RELISH
- 1 Roma tomato, seeds removed & chopped
- 1 green onion, chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh herbs, chopped
- 1 tablespoon capers
- 8 ounces cherry or grape tomatoes
MAKE the FILLING Cut the eggs in half lengthwise, then gently scoop out the yolks into a small mixing bowl. If a white cracks or breaks, no problem, just toss it into the bowl too. Add the Filling ingredients, then use a fork to mash it all up until smooth. The filling may be made ahead of time, just refrigerate until ready to fill.
FILL the EGGS An hour or so before serving, use two small spoons (one to scoop, one to scrape) or a pastry bag with a wide decorating tip (see TIPS) to fill the eggs with the filling.
ARRANGE Combine the Relish ingredients in a small bowl. Arrange the egg halves around a rimmed dish and top each half with a bit of relish. Mound the tomatoes in the center. Refrigerate until ready to serve, then serve and savor!
ALANNA’s TIPS I like Deviled Eggs on the plain side, so the Tomato & Herb Relish adds color and vibrancy to the plate. If you have one of those deviled egg plates that holds exactly 12 eggs, be sure to boil two or three extra eggs because one or two always break. Like Nicole from the great food blog Pinch My Salt wrote when sharing her recipe for Best Basic Deviled Eggs, I have best luck filling deviled eggs with a pastry bag. But do use a wide tip, otherwise the pickle relish will clog up and suddenly the filling mixture will be spurting all over. Trust me on this, it makes a mess. ☺
MORE DEVILED EGG IDEAS Some cooks are way more adventurous with their deviled eggs! Here are a few recipes from some of my favorite food bloggers.
Estonian-Style Deviled Eggs, the filling includes butter and a little mayonnaise.
Deviled Eggs Three Ways, three Asian-style filling, Thai (with red curry paste), Chinese (with five-spice powder) and Japanese (with wasabi).
Curried Deviled Eggs, with a generous spoonful of curry and paprika, very pretty color.
Deviled Egg Salad, skip the stuffing step and stuff the egg mixture (including mango chutney and chopped apple) between slices of good bread for a sandwich or onto cucumber slices for an appetizer.
Hickory House Deviled Eggs, made with mashed potatoes and Deviled Eggs made with a little ham, almost mousse-ish, both from Saveur.
Some of the St. Louis food bloggers who attended a 2006 workshop where Linda did a session on food styling. Left to right, top row: Gunjan from Vyanjanaa (no longer blogging); me (Alanna Kellogg); food stylist and consultant Linda Behrends in the bright jacket; middle row: Lisa from Champaign Taste; Karen from FamilyStyle Food; Nupur from One Hot Stove; bottom row: Bruno from Bruno's Dream; Kalyn from Kalyn's Kitchen who traveled all the way from Salt Lake City and was dubbed an honorary St. Louis food blogger!
More Recipes from Linda
~ Peach Appetizer ~
~ Beef Tacos with Cucumber & Mango Salsa ~
from Kitchen Parade
where Linda tells about the thrill of meeting Julia Child
~ Homemade Zucchini Relish ~
~ Melon Blueberry Feta Salad with Honey Lime Vinaigrette ~
~ Autumn Slaw with Apples & Bacon ~
from A Veggie Venture, my food blog
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