Chapter 3

It took until August for Ryan and I to really relax, cook a nice meal, and enjoy it around the dinner table together. Summer is supposed to bring a slower pace, but 2015 was a doozy of a year for both of us. So this particular Friday night of the summer was something I was greatly looking forward to. The day before, my grandmother gifted us her silverware settings, explaining that we would get more use out of them than her, leading us to explore the contents of the big wooden box. In it, we found these mismatching but adorable little seafood forks and shell crackers, so we just had to throw together a little clam bake for two. Like usual, we left to the grocer with way more than planned; a seafood smorgasbord of oysters, clams, mussels, shrimp, crab legs, along with sausage, potatoes and corn on the cob. We shucked oysters letting the aroma of ocean remind us of lazy beach bum days, while the pot, filled with old bay seasoning, slowly came to a boil and filled our kitchen with summer loveliness.

Ryan and I could eat oysters all day, but our shucking skills are the limiting factor. Although we’re getting better, we still have to deal with stubborn bivalves and a couple broken shells before we get to slurp back the delicate brininess. After way-too-quickly sucking them back, we dabbed our mouths, checked to see that the bake was done, and poured out the seafood mixture onto newspapers across our countertop. I thought we were quick with the oysters, but we discovered a new gear and went into full throttle beast mode, devouring every last morsel we could find in the crustaceous jumble, licking our fingers and making way too much noise, pleased with our quickly-put-together meal.

As I alluded to, we had a very busy summer of 2015. I was writing my Master’s thesis and he was ramping up his borough council campaign. So, by the time we were really enjoying summer, it was almost over! It felt great to be back in the kitchen together doing what we love. After chowing down on the seafood feast, and knocking back a few Rebel IPAs (which, I must say, is a killer pairing with shellfish), Ryan gasped in awe as he read his email.

“What?!” I quickly asked in excitement.

He simply said, “we won,” and passed me his cell phone so I could examine his screen. My eyes scrolled down the screen, noticing an email from ChefSteps, one of our most frequently visited sites on the web, and I saw the words “won” and “Cooking & Community contest” and tried to make sense of it. What was I reading? Then I recalled some random conversation Ryan and I had a few weeks prior. Wait! Holy crap! ChefSteps is going to cook us dinner!? We were going to be interviewed for a video!? Seriously? Ryan tells me I did this little dance as I reread the email and captured the moment:

I must have been in disbelief until we heard back from Ellen, our ChefSteps contact, because I think I uttered the phrase, “are you serious?!” about a million times. I began telling everyone about the news [though, I’ve since learned that our parents already knew from Ryan. They are pretty great liars when it comes to keeping a secret.], and began discussing how to make our adventure work into our schedules.

Ryan and I don’t celebrate normal anniversary’s. Starting with our 100th day together, Ryan began commemorating hundred day increments with something special for an anniversary, allowing us a mini celebration in each season. For most hundred days events, he took the lead by doing things like preparing a multi-course Valentines meal complete with heart shaped fortune cookies as the menu, to planning a weekend in our favorite city, Philadelphia. Always contributing in some way, I took the lead with 900 days that summer since he was swamped with election obligations. We went to Butter in NYC and saw Penn and Teller, one of Ryan’s favorite acts. I bring up the hundred day anniversary tradition because October 9, 2015 was our 1,000th day together and thus seemed poetic to cash in for our competition prizes in Seattle.

After a few email exchanges with Ellen, and examination of our hectic schedules, we settled on that weekend to come for a visit. We would be spending our 1000th day together with the team who started it all, in a new city where, unbeknownst to me, we would celebrate one of the most memorable weekends of my life.

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