Plan a visit to San Francisco and chances are good that Chinatown will pop up on your itinerary. It’s a favourite with tourists. Yet unlike most tourist frequented areas, this also has a very strong local pulse. There are times in the day that this pulse becomes an aggressive beat, sort of like watching hundreds of people scramble to Iron Maiden’s Run to the Hills. Stand in one place and you are liable to get bowled over by carts unloading or old grandma’s armed with shopping carts. For Chinatown, among other things, is also a veritable treasure trove of a market.
Living in the next neighbourhood as I do, I had never really spent much time in Chinatown since the very first time I lived in the city. I passed through it often yet never lingered much. The tourist attractions hold none for me and the markets, bakeries and restaurants confused me. I have a comfort zone with food which I tentatively push and expand a little at a time, and will certainly not do under any duress. And the stress of trying to figure out what was in a particularly enticing bun always reduced me to a bundle of nerves. And in that condition, I reach for the old and familiar not the new and untested. So Chinatown and I went on like those ships that pass in the night, and speak each other in passing.()
One of the (many!) enjoyable things about living in San Francisco is the easy access to a great variety of cheese. I don’t mean the stuff near the deli at the supermarket, though that’s fine in a pinch. I mean the lovely varieties of artisan cheeses that are available here. One of my favourite ones is Cowgirl Creamery’s Pepato, a wonderful peppery sheep’s milk cheese which is mmmyummmmy all by itself. I can wax lyrical for volumes just about this cheese, but that would mean digressing, so…. putting dream cheese away in fantasy fridge to focus back on the topic at hand.
I like to shop for food like some women like to shop for shoes. I can spend hours wandering around food, gawking at all the wares. I think dogs who stare dolefully at dining tables must be more subtle than I am. Fanatical about hygiene though I may be, I have no problem shmushing my face into cheese counters and such to get a better look at what’s inside. The more expensive the store, the longer I will linger, since the thrifty part of me will engage in long arguments with the part that wants to buy half the store. The compromise is Greedy Guts get an eyeful of everything she’s not going to have. If you see someone with vacant eyes, staring supposedly aimlessly at the counter while you try to get at the clotted cream around her, forgive me for being in your way, but now you know why.
Sometimes though, the staring brings with it inspiration. On a particularly late night grocery shopping trip, where my thoughts were also on the night’s dinner, I sampled a wonderful gorgonzola. It has been ages since I ate some and wondered if I could put it into a salad. But the cold night demanded something warm and so gorgonzola pasta was born.