There was a time right in the beginning when I wasn’t as enamoured of San Francisco. While you stifle shocked gasps, allow me to explain. I arrived here from the bright sunshine and scorching heat of Texas in the month of June. Right away it felt like the world as I knew it had turned topsy-turvy. It was bleak and gray and cold….brrr..warm jacket cold, in summer! My first glimpse of the city was Tenderloin, which as anyone can tell you is an acquired taste, and certainly shouldn’t be the first thing you see in San Francisco. As I shivered in a friend’s tiny studio apartment and wondered where the sun had gone, the weather seemed to mirror the greyness in the soul of my then just graduated jobless self. It was the last recession. Another friend Viral was very surprised to learn that I didn’t like San Francisco right away. Having lived here a couple of years, he already loved it. And as I found a job, stayed here and learned to love it very quickly, his quiet confidence that I’d been mistaken in my first assessment stuck with me.
Viral is at once a charming and easy person to like. He’s an architect who is a study in contrasts. While he loves to meet people, he also enjoys being on his own. While we have a lot in common, like where we grew up, our profession and college, that is one thing I have in common with him that I don’t often have with many people. He’s a good friend and a good guy, kind and helpful. And its been a long year for him too, like it has been for so many of us. So I was thrilled for him when he got a chance to take a vacation in Europe last month. It is fun living vicariously sometimes and couldn’t wait for his stories when he got back. But he did me one better by sending me this charming postcard on my birthday. With his birthday wishes was a brief glimpse at his Italian experience. Gazing at the beautiful Piazza Navone and the fascination of Rome got me thinking about the beautiful country of Italy and invariably, its food. I went through my cookbooks book-marking all kinds of Italian-base recipes. But last night Amey beat me to the punch, by very neatly adapting a risotto recipe from Jamie Oliver’s book.
“Today I had yet another run-in with that girl. You know that girl. Everyone knows that girl. She’s the one you’d love to hate. And it would be easy to, what with her gorgeous good looks, engaging smile and perfect hair, she’s asking for it. But what makes it hard is that she’s also witty, intelligent and caring to boot, a perfect angel. She has to be the most annoying person ever! And it is hard to avoid her, she’s so easy to run into. All you can do really is smile back. And you probably should anyway…..you’ll walk past that mirror in a couple of seconds, and she’ll be gone as quickly as she arrived, not forever, just for a while.”
I don’t know what to do with these few lines above that I wrote, nor do I know where they came from. Here I was sitting down to talk about a delicious pasta dish, and this is what popped into my head. Maybe someday that girl will get out of my head and on to paper, along with the rest of her tale. Maybe it will be ‘that guy’ or ‘that kid’ instead of ‘that girl’, I don’t know. But I swear that the amount of random topics that pop into my head and clamour for elaboration are getting to be a veritable pain in the posterior. I mean really, I had thought starting to write about food would focus all my creative energy in one direction. But talking about food hasn’t brought the serene peace of mental vacuum that I hoped it would. As truly as nature abhors that phenomenon, food ideas are multiplying and bringing their non-related friends to the raucous party. And so I digress like, but much worse than my college history professor, who was supposed to teach us about history of architecture, but mostly taught the history of himself. If you are what you eat, than I’ve got to start giving random drug tests to my spices. Have they been secretly doped? Or maybe there was something in those chips I ate earlier. I always knew the processed food would get me.
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.