Jeremy is my cousin.
Second-cousin, if you need to know family tree specifics. But my cousins and I long ago decided to cast aside the terms 'second and third' in relation to each other, because such descriptors only communicate distance. And we are anything but distant.
In fact, now that most of us are parents, we cousins decided to claim titles of aunts and uncles. Adult cousins can feel like abstract terms, but 'aunts and uncles' - children can get this. Those are the adults who say yes when your very own parents say no.
Now my cousins have become Uncle Buddy and Aunt Amy, Uncle Suzi and Aunt Steph, and the list goes on. I'm sure there's some inherent joke about the silly song lyric, "I'm my own Grandma." But whatever. It's our family. We do our do. And we do it loud.
Jeremy is a solid decade younger than me. I used to babysit for him. But once you cross the precipice into solid, real-deal adulthood, years matter less and not at all. And there's a beautiful joy in knowing someone since he had a bowl haircut.
Jeremy is a modern-day hippie.
Denver is his current stop as he couchsurfs across the country before he leaves in August to tour and teach in Spain.
He hates anything that minimizes the capacity of the human mind and strength. He won't use a GPS to get anywhere - he fears dependency on the voice that gives directions. His suitcase has wheels, but he carries it instead - he fears dependency on the wheels.
Dependency is a strong theme.
He is anti-career. He has a shining college degree with honors, but he prefers to invest in this and that, that and this - wherever the wind blows and he can have the greatest influence in the world around him.
He drinks only locally brewed beers everywhere he goes. He has this implicit knowing: I love the world already. Just let me at it.
On our first dinner together this week, he said to the waitress, "I'd like for you to order for me. I like everything, I'm in the mood for anything, and I trust your judgement." He believes an open palate is a state of mind. He will try anything, and he will like it.
It's pretty invigorating to hang out with this cousin of mine. I didn't even know I was thinking inside a box until he poked against the sides.
Last night, Jeremy and I cooked dinner. Cast aside your vision of recipes, coupons, and following directions. We followed the Jeremy Style.
We went to Whole Foods, and we started in the meat/seafood department, just to 'see what looks good.' Aha! Tilapia! And then he handed me his brainstorm.
"Let's do fish tacos. We'll fry the tilapia, and we'll serve it inside soft tortillas with Greek Yogurt Black Bean sauce, pineapple salsa, and purple cabbage. With a rice dish on the side."
And then we wandered the produce section, gathering cabbage, pineapple, cilantro, poblano, green chilies, and of course long grain brown rice. He doesn't shop with a list; he shops with a vision. He fills the cart with a pallette of colors and textures. All for less than $30.
Then we cooked. For two hours, we sliced and diced, breaded and sauteed. He taught me tips and tricks he has learned through trial and error coupled with a million episodes of Chopped. Jeremy is a self-trained chef and - in my mind - a strong candidate for The Next Food Network Star. While we cooked, we danced around the kitchen to the melodies of Mumford & Sons, The Mamas and the Papas, and Adele. We sang, we danced, and we created.
There are no words to describe this culinary license - to create something from nothing. To please a hungry crowd with the outpouring of your soul. The best cooking is art, not science.
The meal was amazing. And it was *so much fun.*
We sat on the patio, around a table of seven. Beverages included locally brewed beers, red and white wine, diet Pepsi, and cherry limeade.
I nudged Jeremy with my elbow. "You know, you could marry a girl with a meal like this."
He smiled. "I've been told that many times."