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Judy Foreman: Joan Bowman, Rhona Gordon Do Write by Food and Friendship

Best friends’ Santa Barbara blog chronicles a conversation that’s been going on for more than 3 decades

Joan Bowman and Rhona Gordon met more than 30 years ago when their children attended Montecito Union School. They hit it off and, ever since, have been sharing conversations during their morning exercise routine together.

They’ve covered everything — families, work, travels, you name it — so it’s not surprising that they decided to start a blog, called Food and Friendship Santa Barbara.

A devoted follower for the past three years, I’ve been reading their blog as much for the narratives that center around their life events as for the delicious recipes and beautiful photos. Not only do they relate to common experiences — Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, holidays, joys and sorrows — but they seamlessly integrate the gorgeous natural bounty and beauty of our local community with their inner conversations.

Like all best friends, Bowman and Gordon seem to start and finish each other’s sentences.

“Food and Friendship Santa Barbara began to take shape … when we realized that, although we are all unique, with our own valuable stories and histories, many of our experiences seemed to be universal,” they told me.

“We are women in the middle years of our life who are striving to remain vital and do so by maintaining our connections. In looking around, there are women everywhere, walking and talking and excited about this stage of life.

“We have had families, we have had many careers, and many of us are dealing with elderly parents as well as — increasingly — our own issues with aging.”

Bowman, who is Italian, and Gordon, who is Jewish, both value their family traditions — and the food that is served at their family milestone and holiday occasions. But they also emphasize the role that friendships, particularly friendships between women, play in their lives and those of their friends.

As girlfriends, they are talking about what is important to them and being good listeners as well. They write about recipes on their blog, but they also stress the important inner connections.

Both women are wives (with husbands named Steve), mothers (five children between them and two grandchildren), former teachers, writers and editors, and they have a lifetime of combined experiences in the kitchen and in their home gardens.

Their decision to share their recipes and how their friendship has nurtured and inspired them has an intimate quality. They take comfort in each other, they offer advice without judgment and they inspire each other to stay engaged and vital, both with their friends and families.

“There are so many women walking in pairs, as we are or in hiking groups,” they noted. “We see them talking, sharing, venting and just enjoying each other’s company.”

On a  recent afternoon, with just a hint of autumn in the air, I got to hear more about the success of their blog while being treated to a delicious meal made from some of the recipes from Bowman’s latest project, a family cookbook.

Over the last six years, she co-authored with her sisters, Linda and Jeri, a cookbook called La Cucina Marinello, which honors the fervent wish of their late father, Joseph, to pass down their family recipes to the next generation.

Bowman’s parents were first-generation Italian-Americans and continued their family’s rich culinary traditions. During the last years of his life, her father painstakingly recorded his gardening and cooking guidelines and tips, as well as a lifetime of simple secrets to improvisational southern Italian cooking.

From the quick-cooking marinaras and pestos, to the elegant but earthy main courses, to platters of cookies and desserts, readers can enjoy the best of true Italian cuisine along with the heart-warming stories and photos behind the recipes.

Bowman is holding a book opening at Tecolote Book Shop, 1470 East Valley Road, Suite 52, in Montecito’s Upper Village, from noon to 2 p.m. Nov. 22. Guests will be served sample recipes prepared from the cookbook. Click here to for a preview of the book.

With Food and Friendship Santa Barbara, Bowman and Gordon say they try to avoid what they call “vanity blogs,” which spend a lot of time describing the writer or the recipe. They don’t dwell on the cooking process as much as they emphasize the result and how it fits into how they live their lives and how they entertain.

They say they hope their co-authored prose from even “dry recipe talk” triggers a thought, a feeling and a sense of belonging to which their readers may personally relate. Their intent is to convey a sense of Santa Barbara that celebrates our unique community, but in a way that is accessible, friendly and helpful.

The two best friends have also been traveling companions for decades. Earlier this year, with their husbands, they ate and drank their way through Berlin, Budapest, Dresden, Prague, and Vienna. Upon returning, they wrote about the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, explaining that, after wearing the same three pants day after day and spending three weeks straight with each other, the state of their friendship was intact.

Bowman and Gordon agree that it doesn’t matter whether we travel or stay in our own backyards; if we can get together for a meal with people we love, then at least for the moment, all is right in the world.

Click here to follow Joan Bowman and Rhona Gordon on Food and Friendship Santa Barbara and catch up on past posts.

— Judy Foreman is a Noozhawk columnist and longtime local writer and lifestyles observer. She can be contacted at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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