We learned three things from the swimming lessons we endured in the early 1960s:
* pink gingham bikinis are shockingly see-through when wet
* mandatory swim caps were both ugly and painful, especially when tugged on over pig-tails
* never venture into the deep end of the pool without a buddy
These days, when we wouldn't be seen in public in even a dry Spanx brand bathing suit, we still rely on the buddy system. And it isn't just us. Would Lucy have ever made it onto the stage at the Tropicana Club without Ethel there to egg her on? Would Roseanne have opened the Lanford Lunch Box without Jackie's help (and her cash money)? Would Louise have stomped on that gas pedal if not for Thelma and her rebel yell? For good or for bad, women always seem to get more done when there is a buddy along for the ride.
When Suzanne came up with the idea of writing a food column for families struggling to stay on budget, she knew she needed someone to be Rachel to her Monica. Robin was right there, bringing hot coffee, frank honesty and a flawless nonsense detector to the partnership. The fact that she can make a dollar out of fifteen cents doesn't hurt either, especially when the only credentials Suzanne brings to the writing of Frugal Feasts is a 25 year old English degree and five hungry children who seem to expect dinner on the table every single night. Without Robin, Suzanne would have been running recipes for all sorts of complicated sauces that no one would ever make (including Suzanne). Without Robin, you folks wouldn't know that Wishbone Italian Dressing is the secret to perfect lasagna, chicken marinade and the good life in general. Without Robin, there would undoubtedly be less snorted coffee around Concord-she is damn funny and always comes up with the perfect paragraph ending quip. She's always got a last good nerve to share, along with a shovel, a dish towel and a drill sergeant's knack for keeping things on schedule.
When Robin decided it was time to hang up her Fru Gal apron to focus on her first grandchild and her daughter in law, both of whom have moved in while her son completes his Air Force basic training, Suzanne completely freaked out. Maybe not as bad as the time we had to drive our gingerbread shoe over to the Monitor for the infamous gingerbread battle of '09 (suck it Tim O'Shea) but pretty darn close. There were tears. There was wine. There was a lot of hugging.
And just like Season 4 when Bethany and Jill Zarin had to find their own paths, Suzanne is going to try to write the column on her own. That is a terrible analogy. Robin doesn't even ice skate and no one would ever call Suzanne a skinny girl. It would be better to compare us to Rhoda and Mary, once Rhoda moved back to New York to ride the subway to her wedding because Phyllis forgot to pick her up, but we can never seem to agree on which of us is the Mary and which is the Rhoda.
Robin will make guest appearances from time to time; look for her Thanksgiving stuffing recipe this November when we tussle again with Tim O'Shea, and any other time Suzanne needs a little inspiration and a firm hand to guide her away from recipes with more than 15 ingredients. Please just make sure to continue to scrutinize her cart when you run into her at Market Basket. She loves it when people comment on the cartons of Ramen noodles and diet soda.
Suzanne and Robin have been quite a pair (of what we won't say). Another good pair is rice and beans. Together they form a complete protein, and while much less snarky than The Fru Gals, are still pretty awesome. This recipe, adapted from the Moosewood Simple Suppers Cookbook, is a lot like us: colorful, hearty and yes, cheap!
Black Beans and Yellow Rice with Pickled Red Onions Adapted from Moosewood Simple Suppers Serves 4
2 medium sized red onions, sliced into thin rings
3 cups boiling water
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon vinegar
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce, or more or less to taste
Place the onions in a heatproof bowl and cover with the boiling water. Set aside for 10 minutes. Whisk together the remaining ingredients in a small bowl. After 10 minutes drain the onions well and toss with the salt and sugar mixture. Stir occasionally until ready to serve. These keep for weeks in the fridge.
1 1/2 cups white rice
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 1/4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
Heat the oil in a medium sized saucepan and stir in the turmeric and the rice. Cook on medium heat for a minute or two stirring constantly then add the water and salt. Lower the heat to a gentle simmer, cover and cook undisturbed for 12-15 minutes until rice is tender and all the water is absorbed.
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
Handful of chopped cilantro (optional)
Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the garlic, cumin and oregano and cook together over medium heat for a minute, making sure not to burn the garlic. Add the undrained beans and bring to a simmer. Serve over the rice and under the onions, garnished with the cilantro.