Have you ever known someone for just a brief time, yet their impact on your life remains constant? I first met my friend Julie when I starting working for discount broker Brown & Company in Philadelphia. I had left the cushy mahogany row of Janney Montgomery Scott for a gritty, mostly male trade desk, and aside from my boss, Julie was the only other female in the room. In typical Dawn fashion, I just assumed we would be friends, because why not?
Julie was a tough nut to crack. Quite frankly, she scared me a little. She probably made me cry once or twice, too, during the early weeks. And I’m sure I was a tad bit annoying to her, if for no other reason than our circumstances. I was just about to get married, and she had just gone through a devastating divorce. I am sure my prissy, wide eyed enthusiasm got on her nerves, as well as some unintentional insensitivity on my part.
I didn’t go away quietly. Typically, I don’t bother with people if I don’t feel like they’re worth my time or energy, but I believed that Julie was worth it. I knew that sooner or later she would grow to like me, and I was determined to wear her down with my charm. It turned out to be our mutual love of animals which finally brought us together. She adored her English Springer Spaniel Miss Fergie, for whom she would cook dinners of lamb and rice. I adored our adopted stray calico cat Lulu, who I treated like a child. When one pet lover finds another pet lover, bridges are created, and through those fur covered bridges eventually grew a friendship.
Julie taught me so many things that I couldn’t begin to list them all. She never intended to teach me anything, but just by being herself, I learned a lot. In many ways, she was like a big sister to me. I loved the way she dealt with our difficult customers. It’s hard to explain, but the she always managed to show them who was boss and control the situation without ever being overtly rude. Overtly is the key word in that sentence. All of our conversations were recorded and frequently we would have to go back to the tapes to verify disputed trades, and one quickly learns to keep one’s cool on a recorded line. This skill never came naturally to me in times of high pressure, so I tried to imagine how Julie would handle the situation and just imitated her.
In no particular order, here are some of the things Julie introduced to me: embossed monogrammed stationery (in white, always white), Martha Stewart before she was a household name, the city of Burlington, Vermont, Beaujolais Nouveau, Kir, quilted china storage sets, high thread count sheets, trunk sales, Grace Kelly postage stamps, Scotch (which I still can’t drink), knitting (which I still can’t do), Talbot’s boiled wool jackets, and the notion that truly wealthy people drive old and modest cars. These are things which Mayflower descendents just know.
When it came time to host my first big brunch, naturally I turned to Julie. She quickly scribbled down two recipes: Amy David’s Sausage Strata and Susan Moore’s To-Die-For Potatoes. I have been making both of these dishes for eighteen years now, and I think of Julie every time I get out those recipe cards. I will share the sausage strata today, and the potatoes at a later date.
Sausage strata recipes are a dime a dozen, but this one is special to me since it came from my old friend. It’s not particularly fancy, but it’s easy, delicious, satisfying, and always a hit. Julie has also taught me to stick with the classics, especially if they work.
Julie’s Sausage Strata, courtesy of Amy David
6 slices white bread (crusts cut off)
1 lb. sausage meat (mild)
1 t. mustard (I always use Dijon)
1 cup grated Swiss (I am not a fan of Swiss but it works well in this recipe, trust me)
3 eggs lightly beaten
1 cup half and half
1/4 t. salt
dash of pepper
dash of nutmeg
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease 13 x 9 Pyrex dish
Cook sausage, drain, and toss with mustard. Arrange bread in bottom of dish. Top with sausage. Cover with remaining ingredients. Bake uncovered for 35 minutes.