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Evan Bliss, plus a Roasted Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Panini

August 24, 2012

Last Friday, my husband’s best friend, Evan Bliss, died of a pulmonary embolism. Mourning Evan is an oddly public/private event due to his local celebrity as a popular musician in the DC area. I had to shut off the social media for awhile, so my thoughts could collect without Facebook chatter. However, something I am certain about Evan is that he would want his friends to memorialize him with our stories. So if you don’t mind, I would like to remember Evan today.

I knew of Evan before I really knew him as a person, and it is this last part that I am really grateful for having.  We went to the same college, but I transferred after two years, so my knowledge of him was limited to occasional interactions at parties. When AAM and I started dating, I was nervous about meeting Evan again because I know he was a big personality, and more importantly — he was one of AAM’s best friends. The first night we hung out, Evan immediately gave me a test. Peppering me with bands, he tried to figure me out, and I gave my analysis. “Big Head Todd?” “Pop dribble.” I responded.”WHAT!” Evan was up in arms. The conversation continued like this for an hour. As we would later find to be a trend in our friendship, we often disagreed. But Evan seemed to enjoy disagreeable people. He liked the intellectual challenge, but he also liked being right, so no conversation was quick. For the next few years, the three of us went to many shows, and Evan would raise another singer/songwriter I was supposed to like. I would respond with the person they were copying, as I was always interested in the original music, but Evan liked to discuss the improvements in the style. This back and forth lasted for the entire ten years that I counted him as a close friend. Maureen and Evan arguing became a mainstay, and AAM would just sit and watch the back and forth, laughing.

When AAM turned 30, I arranged an evening in Baltimore of our close friends. He has a very tight-knit group, who manage to find humor in the smallest of moments. After a fun night of hanging out, we decided to grab pizzas at a popular local place. While we sat outside waiting for my sister to get the food, avoiding the hoardes of people, a very, very drunk college girl started yelling homophobic slurs at my husband. Utterly confused, the guys started to try to figure out what happened, and seeing that the attack was unprovoked and random, humor coupled with reason started to be the approach. I remember hearing Evan practically and lightly saying, “Now that’s not very nice.” Revved up by Evan’s comments, she continued to scream uncontrollably at AAM, who was standing there dumbfounded. Evan and a few other of the guys explained to her friends, who were embarrassed and  apologizing profusely, that they needed to get her home before she got herself in trouble with a group of guys who might actually react. Her friends pulled her away, explaining this happened often, and started to walk home. Unfortunately, we realized they were walking in the same direction we needed to go. The girl continued to yell at us as we headed home. So Evan, a person who loved to bring movies into every life situation, leaned low, snapped his fingers, and started singing West Side Story, following her all the way home. I am pretty sure I can say for all who were there, it is one of our favorite memories of Evan.

Many people knew him as a singer/songwriter who loved to talk. However, the way his friends will remember him is as an incredibly sensitive and supportive person. Whenever we caught up, Evan always paused to really find out how AAM and I were really doing. He cared deeply about his friends, which is why he had a large, but close, group of people surrounding him. He had a knack for knowing when his friends were struggling, and would quickly switch gears to talk about life. A few months before Serafina became a possibility, he noticed that I was not my normal self and I explained that we were having a hard time getting pregnant. Instead of telling me what I should do, feel, or believe (which many people did), he turned to me and said in the kindest and most caring voice, “I know you will have kids. I just believe you will. The two of you are meant to be parents.” At first I didn’t know what to say, because I couldn’t see beyond the present, but his endless faith in the future of his friends and family will sit with me for a long time.

Finally, his curiosity was endless and he would be deeply interested in really funny, unexpected things as well. He loved to learn more about whatever I was cooking. Vegetarian Chili? He wanted to know which beans and how long I cooked it. Dipping sauces for fries? He wanted recipes. A few years ago, we had a New Year’s Party, and I was forbidden from making complicated dishes. After several times in a row of being overly ambitious and being too tired to enjoy the party, AAM put a moratorium on cooking new meals when we had guests. So, we decided to put the panini maker out with fixings and people could create their own sandwich. Fascinated, Evan sat at that machine asking AAM dozens of questions, and the two of them goofily made paninis for everyone. Here I was, feeling like I cheated by throwing ingredients on the counter and walking away, and Evan made the evening into a cooking show. I love the memory of the two of them together engrossed in their sandwich making, and Evan talked about that panini machine for years. Evan’s interests never ceased to surprise me.

Today, the day of his funeral, I am posting this panini recipe for Evan. It seems like a silly gesture to me at the moment, but what are you going to do? Last night, we made them in honor of our good times with Evan.The rub is, because it was a few years ago and  they made many combinations of paninis, I am not really sure which one he liked. Therefore, I am hoping he won’t mind resting while I take the liberty of putting together one for him.

Links about Bliss:

Evan Bliss’s Obituary

Evan’s Band: Evan Bliss and the Welchers

And, my favorite song by Evan, “Four Walls” on You Tube

Roasted Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Panini

  • 1 Red Pepper
  • 1/2 cup of goat cheese (from a plain log)
  • 1/4 cup of fresh basil, chopped
  • splash of olive oil
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup of mixed greens
  • honey mustard
  • 8 slices of fresh whole grain bread

1. Pre-heat your oven to 400. Cut the red pepper into long slivers. Brush the peppers with olive oil, on both sides. Roast for 20 minutes, or until the edges of the peppers are browned and the flesh softened.

3. Turn on your panini machine to medium on the grill function. Spray the grill with canola oil.

4. Mix together the basil, goat cheese, salt and pepper. If your goat cheese is crumbly, add a splash of olive oil to help make it into a smooth spread.

5. Spread goat cheese on one side of each piece of bread. Layer the a slice of bread with roasted red peppers and greens. Spread honey mustard on one side of the top piece of bread.

6. Place the sandwich on the press, lower the lid, and cook for 2-5 minutes, until their are golden grill marks on the sandwich.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Corinna Bonk permalink
    August 30, 2012 11:43 am

    Great blog. Definitely can relate to a lot of things mentioned here. He was such a genuine supporter of his friends and is so very missed!

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