My mother could live off of my macaroni salad. She requests it for dinner on nights we are having it for dinner.

I was met with a hug that could cure a cold, a kiss that could paint a masterpiece, and a smile that makes even the grumpiest stranger follow along. Jim has been independent since Independence Day. Others think it’s strange that I go back to visit my hometown for so long. Jim is very understanding about why it isn’t so strange. My family and most of my life-long friends are there. For the most part I have missed birthdays, breakups, graduations, funerals, new jobs, meals, anniversaries, new pets, concerts, Christmases, Easters, Fourths of July, St. Patrick’s Days, and Thanksgivings. You name it, I wasn’t there to celebrate or console. I realized a big part of my life was in what seemed like a permanent hiatus.

When I worked a jobby job, I spent my ten days of vacation I received every year going back to Pennsylvania. I have never gone on a real vacation. Besides an amazing four-day jaunt in Burlington, Vermont, and numerous weekend trips, I have had my two feet on home turf. Now that I have a baking gig, I have the freedom to live like I don’t have to answer to “the man”. I love being my own boss. Hence the extended-extended stay.

Jim does miss me. Terribly. But when I am home, we spend almost all of our free time together, which I love. Don’t think he is neglected all year round with my gallivanting. He bonds with our cat Peaches, and attempts to cook himself dinner. He made chocolate chip cookies. Twice. Something he would most likely not do if I was here, because I am always baking, and he is happy to reap the rewards. In spades. He also picks out his own outfits.  He has great style, but next to cook and baker, stylist is my title in the house. When I am gone we talk on the phone more than most people who live with each other do. It is very humbling knowing what a solid, stable, happy relationship I have. Something that gets beefed up when we spend time apart.

Alright enough mush. For now.

I thought for my first blog back, I’d give you a taste of what’s to come. When I go to P.A., vegetable becomes a dirty word. I go from eating meat twice a week to meat twice a day. The more cheese something has, the better. If it’s deep-fried, it’s mine. I usually gain about ten pounds. Ten glorious, worth-it-every-time-pounds. “I barely chewed that” is reserved for things that, well, are so good, you look at your empty plate and wonder where that delicious thing you were just eating went.  We say it a lot in my house. Don’t get me wrong, we savor the food we eat. Sometimes we just savor more quickly.

Behold the Porketta sandwich. Mayo on the bottom.

Porketta, pre-sandwhich. My mom breaks up the leftover pork and re-heats it in its own cooking juices. It is one of the greatest things there is. You almost don’t need the  perfect kaiser roll (that you can’t really get anywhere but the East coast) to improve this piece of pork art. I said almost.