I met Charmian online. If I had made this statement a decade ago, perhaps even a few years ago, I think I would have been looked upon strangely. But these days, as we all know well, meeting strangers, falling in love, creating lasting friendships has all been made possible via a different medium – online as opposed to in person.


We met several years ago on an online writer’s forum. We would occasionally cross paths in cyberspace and then she took my class. I instantly fell in love with her unpretentious and carefree writing style. I would find myself logging on each morning and going to Christie’s Corner, her blog, to see what she had to say. I would pour myself a coffee ( or two) and sit and read. I felt I was with her as her kitchen construction began, as her new stove come in, as she tested recipes for cauliflower or kale. She lives up in the Canadian north and I live in Virginia. I never dreamt our paths would cross in real life!

 But then, we discovered Skype.  We would talk on Skype and introduce our families to each other and take the computer and walk around the house showing each other our kitchen, our gardens, our lives;  strangers becoming friends over the medium of technology and tied together by a bond of food. We would talk and email, all the time. She became a confidant for me in my time of need. Yet, we had never met.


I got the chance to first meet her earlier this year in New York. I was nervous. Would the friendship endure real life? What if she hated me on sight? But luckily, the stars were aligned. We met in NYC at a conference and spent our free time walking and exploring food markets in New York.


Last week, I invited myself to her home. Trust me when I tell you that I don’t do that with people. I never take such liberties and yet with her I felt I could. Not just that, I told her it was my son’s birthday (a birthday which I share with him) and even asked for a cake. I was stunned at myself. How could I tell her that? Wasn’t she a stranger? But clearly, my head still had to get around what my heart already believed: you don’t have to see each other every day in person to become friends. Some friends are gifts that are part and parcel of your soul.

e met in her gorgeous cottage set in a paradise like garden with brilliantly colored yellow sunflowers and what my son called “pink sunflowers”. I remembered the words of an Indian emperor – If there is paradise on this earth, it is here, it is here, it is here.


She welcomed us with hugs and kisses and Canadian Trivia (If you are the first person to post a comment here as to what a Canadian means when they say “double, double”, I will send you a new cookbook!). We sat around in the kitchen that I had seen being renovated on Skype. My reality and my virtual worlds were merging. And you know what? It felt great.


We were treated to a sumptuous lunch of angel hair pasta with cauliflower, roasted chicken with cilantro, and some sunny yellow beans. She told me she improvised on the recipe. Just as I had read her do so many times on her blog. I saw it for real in her kitchen.  We said grace as we held hands and smiled. “This is for real, right?” I asked no one in particular.


And then came the cake- a gorgeous double chocolate cake. My son blew the candles and she said to him, “ Now comes the best part. Take out each candle and lick the chocolate off the ends.” He giggled and did so and his younger brother followed suit.

I stood and watched, misty-eyed. An enduring friendship – now virtual and real.  


 I am now back at my desk. She is at hers. The only thing I can think of is when she will post the recipe for the double chocolate cake she made. 

 Charmian's Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower


Here's the improvised recipe. It's loosely based on one from Lucy Waverman's A Year in Lucy's Kitchen. I chose it as a springboard because you introduced me to roasted cauliflower when I pulled that recipe for the Modern Spice Virtual Potluck.

  • 1 head cauliflower, cut in bite-sized florets
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 12-ounce package angel hair pasta (or any string pasta you like)
  • 2 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp chili flakes
  • juice and rind of 1 lemon
  • 3/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese (or Parmesan if you prefer)

  1. Preheat oven to 450F.
  2. Toss cauliflower florets with 2 tbsp oil and salt and pepper. Spread on a baking sheet and roast, stirring at least once, for 15 – 20 minutes or until browned and tender. 
  3. In the meantime, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a near boil. When the cauliflower is cooked, bring the water to a full boil and cook the pasta until al dente, according to package directions.
  4. Heat remaining oil over medium-low heat in a large, deep skillet. Add garlic, chili flakes, lemon rind and saute for 2  to 3 minutes or until the garlic is tender and pale gold.
  5. Add cauliflower and lemon juice. Toss to coat. If the cauliflower has cooled too much, cook until heated through. 
  6. Add the cilantro, and toss to distribute evenly.
  7. Drain pasta and put in a large bowl. While pasta is still hot, pour cauliflower mixture over it and toss to coat. 
  8. Sprinkle with grated cheese and toss again.
  9. Serve immediately.

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  1. I have a head of cauliflower I’ve been trying to decide what to do with. I think this recipe fits the bill for dinner tonight. Thanks!

  2. Lovely post! Double sugar, double cream!
    And happy birthday!

  3. Double double = 2 sugars and 2 creams. 🙂

    Cameron S.
    Vancouver, BC.

  4. Doesn’t double double in Canada refer to how one takes their coffee i.e. two teaspoons of sugar and two creams?

  5. That is a very lovely story Monica. So nice to hear about how your friendship came to be. I remember Charmian from the Roger Smith Conference…thanks for introducing me to her wonderful blog! Oh, and the pasta and cake look delicious 🙂

  6. I am inviting me, you AND your son to Charmian’s next year…I am that brash.

    Looks lovely–and of course, it comes as no surprise that it looks so lovely.

  7. Hey, Babette, only if you come, too! Standing invitation, although you might not want to come in winter.

    Monica, this is a very touching post. Thank you so much for your kind words. I had to laugh because I was more nervous than you were! And neither of us had a reason. It was a lovely day. One I would love to repeat.

    Here is the link to the double-double chocolate cake recipe. I’m impressed that so many of your readers know the term.


    Hug the kids for me and tell Jai I found another blue jay feather.

  8. Gorgeous tribute to one of my favorite fellow Canadian bloggers. That lunch looks superb, too.

    It’s nice to know that these friendships we make online can carry over to the offline world.

  9. Double Double is a Canadian “Tim Hortons” coffee expression! Loved your blog! I am now a new follower and fan thanks to Charmian.

  10. Gorgeous post. Two of my favorite people in one virtual space/ The writer and her subject. Love to you both.

  11. A head of cauliflower taunted me from the fridge today, challenging me to come up with a new way to use it. What the cauliflower didn’t know was that I’d read this post… I did my own version with mint and it was a HUGE hit.

    So glad I was able to meet Charmian at that same food writers’ conference! I love picturing you two together.

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