1. Impromptu Anniversary Lunch
My husband Dario and I were married at Skibo Castle in northern Scotland, a place we discovered not very long after we met. Everything about our wedding and the dinner that followed was breathtaking -- but it's a simple lunch we shared there a few years later that always makes me smile. We had been walking on the golf course, and it started pouring rain. So we dipped into the nearby golf house and found that it had the best country food: fish and chips wrapped in newspaper and tied with tartan ribbon, followed by a decadent sticky toffee pudding. Dario treated himself to cappuccino; I had fresh gingerroot tea. The setting was beautiful and quiet. We were relaxed. We were together. And despite the wet and the muck, we were just as happy as we could be.
2. Return-to-Roots Breakfast
I'll admit it: I am unabashedly fond of my own cooking. I learned some things from my Nana growing up, but I really started cooking when I first moved to Hollywood. I was pretty homesick, so I began studying cookbooks that reminded me of the food I grew up with, and one of my favorites was a gift from my aunt called Kentucky Treasures. I read that book through and through and made so many of the recipes. By the time I went back home for Christmas, I was able to create a homemade country breakfast for my whole family. I did everything: the grits, the pancakes, the milk gravy and homemade sausage. I even made my Nana's buttermilk biscuits, which I now can do with one hand tied behind my back. I take a bite and it makes my hair grow -- they just nourish me so deeply.
3. Holiday Away from Home
I was playing the role of Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof on Broadway in late 2003. Being in a show at that time of year means you need to work through the holidays, away from home and the traditions you look forward to. So that November I asked my friend Cathy (or CL, as I affectionately call her) -- one of the most gifted chefs I know -- to help me re-create our Thanksgiving meal. I'll never forget that day: Dario and I got to have everything we love about the holiday -- all the trimmings, all the moments together with friends and family -- even with my hectic schedule. It made me feel grounded to have her there because when you're away from home during the holidays, everything is different. When a dear friend lends a hand, however, at least the food, and the memories it creates, can remain the same.