Earlier this year, I decided to attend The Big Traveling Potluck in southern California. I knew absolutely no one else who was attending. It took place in way more sunshine than my foggy San Francisco existence can now handle. I prefer solitude in my personal life. When it comes to interacting with people I would rather have one-to-one interactions or small groups of friends. Given that even at events where I know people, I’m likely to hang out at the periphery, this endeavor did not have the makings of a good idea. It was altogether so far out of my comfort zone, I would need a map to navigate my way back. But the event itself promised to be a good one to, focused on community, learning things others have to teach and I have to learn, and sharing a few meals in the process. I thought I might try it.
Our opportunities for self-assessment go down as we get older and are often tied to our jobs or our families, with little reflection on ourselves. This, for me, was a step in a series of attempts to do something that I didn’t have to do or wasn’t pushed along to try because of the time I am at in my life. To shake things up. There was no deliberation on what I hoped to achieve from it, except that I would be committing to doing something that I would normally shy away from.
Earlier this year, I was gifted some wonderful strawberry jam at a most casual meeting, one that didn’t need gifts. It was such a gracious gesture and one that I appreciated very much. Because you see, I have this thing about jam.
As the years have elapsed, this list has gotten much shorter. But there are still a good number of things that intimidate me. Things like stilettos, really big hairdos, sketching (Yes, I get the irony of it vis-a-vis my profession), crotchety grandmas, my high school French teacher,
the idea of anything rare or medium-rare, raw fish of any kind, making macarons, chapatis. Also jamming. No, not the Bob Marley or Michael Jackson variety. Although attempting to dance a la Jackson is a full-blown fear. I wake up nights in terror with a recurring dream dancing badly to Thriller in front of a packed audience. But no, I’m not talking about that. I’m talking spread-on-your-toast-perhaps-with-some-peanut butter-for-company fruity goodness.
Through your visits here, I hope you have gotten to know a few things about me. Things such as how excited I get about the recipes we try. I write about them here because I want to share them with you, but I try not be bossy. I rarely like being unequivocally told what to do and so I assume, neither would you. With most of the recipes, I gently coax you try them, hoping you will enjoy them as we did. I don’t post every meal we eat, but I hope that the recipes we do post are interesting to you. Through either the memory of the meal or its impression off a page, they were interesting to me, and that excites me enough to bring them to you.
For the most part, it is a calm interest, a gentle excitement. Every once in a while though, I come across a recipe that fairly shrieks out to me. Not literally – I know that would be very odd, and probably unsettling – but it captures my attention with just as much alacrity and focus. I cannot rest until I’m cooking it in the kitchen. At times, it turns out that recipe sounded better than it ends up tasting. But this recipe, this is not that kind. This was a time that the dish turned way better than I imagined it.
He came home to a dark flat. He paused at the threshold for a moment, straining to hear sounds of the television, of her laughter at said television, of any signs of life. He could hear the electronic wheeze of the 31-Muni opening its doors at the corner of the street. He could hear the washing machine running in the upstairs apartment. The street lamp cast long shadows through the open windows, silent and animated. There was, however, no other noise inside.
He stepped in, letting the door close behind him as he reached for his phone. He punched play on the voice-mail wondering if he had gotten her message wrong, but there was her voice telling him she’d be going home early. The past two weeks had been filled with busy days and exhausted nights for the both of them. All they had been able to do as they crawled home was stop at the small cafe on the way home. It was open late and made Vietnamese sandwiches, which they would gratefully devour standing in the kitchen at home with paper towels held under to sop up any spills. They were entirely too tired to have dishes to clean. There in that kitchen, the aroma of the smoky vegetables would help blot out some of the tiring day while the layers of avocado provided much needed comfort. At any rate, he was glad that those weeks were now behind them. Any sandwich, no matter how delicious, was tiresome after a third straight night. He preferred home-cooked food anyway, eating out only under duress or because she loved to try new places. He had been looking forward in anticipation to dinner all afternoon.
(Note: If you’d like to know what plants are included in each photo, please hover your cursor over them.)
Our gardening endeavors started with 6″ high pots on a 5″ window ledge, in a 6′-0″ X 5′-0″ kitchen. That kitchen was also where this blog was born. Friends wondered loud and long how we cooked in that little space, let alone blogged about the food. It was our very first kitchen together; cramped and quirky though it was, we loved it. Any cooking and blogging in there came with the prerequisite of some planning and involved some bickering. Okay, a lot of bickering, and also very many ‘I’m sorry I was mean’ brownies. All in all, nightly dinner took more work than the plants did in a month. They were content in their little heaps of soil with just a little sun and water. We looked at that ledge over the sink and marveled at how the herbs grew, seemingly with little help from us. Sometimes, if we were feeling apocalyptic, we considered the mess they would make if the earth decided to shake things up as it so often does in these parts. That thought did give us pause, but we got past that. What is the nebulous possibility of pottery and soil in your garbage disposal compared to the promise of chillies on your window-sill right now? Plus in the event of the apocalypse, the mess of a potted plant would not qualify as a mess at all.