You can never really know the moment when a forever friend may walk into your life. That fateful day for my best friend of more than 20 years and I, 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. Sure enough, Charity turned out to have a beautiful voice. 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. 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 Old Glory flying, so 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 original filmstrip we took from the fishing pier photo booth. Though we’re grown now and miles apart–Charity and her family live near Denver, CO.–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 cell phone out of my beach bag, step away from my towel and walk towards the surf to give her a call. When she says hello, I launch into singing my signature, over exaggerated Louise 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 4th would be pretty cool. The whole 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 so 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. 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!
Blueberry Cheesecake Recipe
Yield: 14-16 servings
This recipe is inspired by Taste of Home.
- 40 vanilla wafers, crushed
- 1 cup finely chopped pecans
- 1/3 cup butter, melted
- 2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1-1/2 cups sugar
- 2 cups (16 ounces) 4% cottage cheese
- 2 cups (16 ounces) sour cream
- 6 tablespoons cornstarch
- 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 4-1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 eggs, lightly beaten
- 3-1/2 cups fresh blueberries, divided
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- Fresh blueberries, strawberries, raspberries for garnish
- Fresh whipped cream, optional
In a large bowl, combine the wafer crumbs, pecans and butter. Press onto the bottom and 2 in. up the sides of a greased 10-in. springform pan. Place on a baking sheet. Bake at 375° for 8 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Reduce heat to 325°. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and sugar until smooth. Process cottage cheese in a blender until smooth; beat into a cream cheese mixture. Beat in the sour cream, cornstarch, flour, lemon juice and vanilla. Add eggs; beat on low-speed just until combined. Pour over crust.
Return pan to baking sheet. Bake at 325° for 70-80 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Carefully run a knife around edge of pan to loosen; cool 1 hour longer. Refrigerate overnight.
For glaze, puree 2-1/2 cups blueberries in a food processor; press through a fine mesh sieve, reserving 1 cup 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. Sprinkle with remaining blueberries; garnish with raspberries, strawberries and fresh whipped cream if desired. Refrigerate leftovers.
This article will appear in the Statesboro Herald on Sunday, July 3, 2016.
New to Some Kinda Good?
Georgia native Rebekah Faulk Lingenfelser is a freelance writer, entertainer and food enthusiast who writes and speaks about her love of good food and the Coastal South. A Season 2 Contestant on ABC TV’s “The Taste,” she is the Statesboro Herald food columnist and past host of the program “Statesboro Cooks.” Lingenfelser is a student at the award-winning Culinary Institute of Savannah. To learn more, visit RebekahFaulk.wix.com/RebekahFaulk or connect with Rebekah on social media by following Some Kinda Good on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.