You can never really know the moment when a forever friend may walk into your life. That fateful moment for my best friend of more than 20 years and me happened in our sixth-period physical education class at Hephzibah Middle School, circa 1994. Charity was born on the Fourth of July and ironically, it was Martina McBride's song "Independence Day" that began our lifelong friendship.
Call it destiny or a mere childlike curiosity, but the first words I ever spoke to Charity as she sat near me on the gym floor were, "Can you sing?" There's no guidebook on how to make friends when you're in your adolescent years, and I'm not sure what made me think of that foreshadowing question. Looking back on it, it may have been my way of finding common ground. I love to sing, and I knew we would get along well if she said yes. She replied ever so humbly with, "People tell me I can." I don't remember the words that transpired next, but in the following minutes, we must've discussed some songs we knew and which one she should sing to demonstrate her ability. Sure enough, Charity turned out to have a beautiful voice. She began singing the first verse, and right then and there, a friendship was born between two sixth-graders.
Charity and I went on to sing in middle and high school choir and at church and weddings together, becoming the very best of friends on and off the stage. It was music that united us and a kindred spirit that would keep us together. We've faced tragedy, celebrated life events, cried over broken hearts and laughed at the silliest of things. We were college roommates and bridesmaids in each other's weddings. During every milestone in my life, Charity has been constant, like fireworks on the Fourth of July.
Since we were 11 years old, I've called her every year on the patriotic holiday from somewhere on a beach. Just as natural as grilling, wearing red, white and blue and flying Old Glory is talking to Charity on Independence Day. For Charity's sweet 16, we actually spent her birthday together on Tybee Island, and I still have the filmstrip we made in the photo booth on the fishing pier. Though we're grown now and miles apart - Charity and her family live near Denver, Colorado - come her birthday, Charity knows her phone will ring and it will be me on the other end. In recent years around mid-afternoon, I dig my cellphone out of my beach bag, step away from my towel and walk toward the surf to give her a call. When she anwers, I launch into singing my signature, overexaggerated, Louis Armstrong-like version of "Happy Birthday." As the waves crash at my feet and the summer sun warms my back, we laugh about that extra growl I threw in the song for good measure or the especially high note I owned while singing it. Then we discuss her plans for the day, which almost always include fireworks, eating cheesecake - she's not a fan of birthday cake - and attending a cookout with friends.
Being born on the same day as a national holiday comes with its pitfalls, but if I had to pick one with which to share my birthday, July Fourth would be pretty high on the list. It's a day on which the entire nation is having a party - let freedom ring! In honor of Charity and our nation's independence, I'm sharing a recipe for the best cheesecake I've ever eaten. Once you make the buttery crust, a combination of vanilla wafers and pecans, you'll never make a different one. It will change your life! The creamy, cold filling is rich and refreshing. Don't be intimidated by the long list of ingredients. The preparation time is minimal, and the time you put into baking this cheesecake is worth every bite. Make it as festive as you'd like by adding to the top raspberries, strawberries and fresh whipped cream, and be sure to share your creations with me on social media using #SomeKindaGood. This dessert will be a showstopper at any cookout, beach gathering or family function. For firecracker flare, try decorating the cake with red, white and blue sparklers.
Happy birthday, Charity, and happy Fourth of July to you!
Georgia native Rebekah Faulk Lingenfelser is the personality behind the blog SomeKindaGood.com. A self-described food enthusiast whose cooking adventures have led her twice to appear on national television and to star locally as host of "Statesboro Cooks," she currently is taking her passion to the next level as a student at the Culinary Institute of Savannah. Search Facebook for Some Kinda Good or tweet her @SKGFoodBlog.
Yields 14-16 servings
40 vanilla wafers, crushed
1 cup pecans, finely chopped
1/3 cup butter, melted
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
½ cup butter, softened
1½ cups sugar
2 cups (16 ounces) 4 percent cottage cheese
2 cups (16 ounces) sour cream
6 tablespoons cornstarch
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4½ teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 eggs, lightly beaten
3½ cups fresh blueberries, divided
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Fresh blueberries, strawberries and raspberries for garnish
Fresh whipped cream, optional
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a large bowl, combine the wafer crumbs, pecans and butter. Press onto the bottom and 2 inches up the sides of a greased 10-inch springform pan. Place on a baking sheet. Bake for 8 minutes, then cool on a wire rack.
Reduce heat to 325 degrees.
In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and sugar until smooth. Process cottage cheese in a blender until smooth, then beat into the cream cheese mixture. Beat in the sour cream, cornstarch, flour, lemon juice and vanilla. Add eggs and beat on low speed just until combined. Pour over crust.
Return pan to baking sheet. Bake at 325 degrees for 70-80 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then carefully run a knife around edge of pan to loosen; cool 1 hour longer. Refrigerate overnight.
For glaze, puree 2½ cups blueberries in a food processor; press through a fine mesh sieve, reserving 1 cup of juice. Discard pulp and seeds.
In a small saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch and reserved blueberry juice until smooth. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Refrigerate until completely cooled.
Remove sides of pan. Spread glaze over cheesecake and sprinkle with remaining blueberries. Garnish with raspberries, strawberries and fresh whipped cream if desired.
This recipe is inspired by Taste of Home.