Like old songs on the radio, food has a way of jogging old memories, taking you back to things you’d forgotten entirely or nearly so.

A very old friend in Kansas City sent me a message that I found this morning in Paris; it brought back a flood of hazy memories from Dallas, Texas in the late 1970s, when we were both working for United Press International.

Marcella Hazan had only recently become a famous cookbook author back then, and from the size of the crowd — miniscule — at the new Williams-Sonoma store in Dallas, it was clear her fame had yet to make it across the Texas border. I was thrilled, because not only was I going to be able listen to her speak, but I was also going to be able to talk to her afterwards too, without the usual scrum of fans.

She signed both my cookbooks that day, The Classic Italian Cook Book, and her new one, More Classic Italian Cooking, and we talked and chatted. Three decades later, we are still in occasional contact through email, but in constant contact, through her recipes, which have become the core of my kitchen repertoire over the years.

These memories come to mind because my old Dallas colleague, Bob Inderman, was searching through his cookbook shelf last night, looking for a new tortellini filling or sauce to try as he was getting ready for some pasta-making during their annual New Year’s celebration out at Bittersweet Farm.

Bob found his somewhat stained copy of Marcella’s More Classic Italian Cooking, and found “something else on the book’s opening fly leaf” — a note from me, dated June 14, 1979, which reminded him (and me too, for I don’t remember this at all) that I had given Bob a copy of the book when he and his wife, Patty Moore, were leaving Dallas to move to Kansas City.

Bob tells me that I wrote that it was important that he have this cookbook. And he tells me that I made sure to let him know that I was inscribing it with the same words Marcella had written in my own copy:

“Con tantissimi auguri di felicita nella vita e . . . in cucina.”
(With many good wishes of happiness in life … and in the kitchen.)

What a great way to close out 2010 — with memories of old friendships that continue to feed us all.

Happy New Year to Bob and Patty, to Marcella and Victor, and to old and new friends wherever they find themselves. And thanks all round.