Saturday, November 19, 2016

2003: Highway 395

This memorable meal took place when Ben and I were barely first dating [if you could even call it that], when he spontaneously offered me a ride home to Carson City from San Diego.  We were planning to hike and camp a night in the Sierras, and stopped for an hour or so at his parents' in Orange County.  I met his parents for the first time as well as his visiting uncle - I can still picture myself looking up from the couch at all their lively banter, observing the warm family dynamic.  His grandfather, who was 100 and only about a month from the end of his life was taking a nap back in the adjoining apartment. At the time, I wished I could meet him,  knowing what an important part of the family he was and having a funny feeling that Ben and I were starting something serious.

Ben's mom sent us on the road with sandwiches which we unwrapped just as we neared the turnoff to 395 - that amazingly beautiful and nostalgic stretch of highway that we both love so much.  It was the kind of sandwich that you know you can't replicate for yourself - always better when someone else makes it.  A baguette with a good, rustic crust and chewy center, roasted turkey, avocado, maybe either sun-dried or roasted tomatoes, crispy romaine, a healthy amount of mayonnaise and the right amount of salt and pepper. I remember savoring every bite, cognizant that it was made by hands that knew simple and good wholesome food and by a woman who loves her children and is thoughtful and caring enough to send them off in such a way.  I had a feeling I would feel right at home in this family :)





This is the picture my roommates ran out and snapped as we were leaving. I was, of course, mortified at the time but thankful now that I have it.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

*2005: Missoula

Our short two years in Missoula, Montana were so full of experiences.  There was something about our first years being married and the newness of it all: the place, the jobs, the graduate programs, the homes, the friends, the hikes, the visits from family, the restaurants...  It is strange to look back on it and realize it was just two little years. Dos añitos in the scheme of our whole lives.

There were many, of course, but one favorite meal was the time we took my visiting sister, Liz, out to Scotty's Table. We gave to her that year in the Christmas rotation and decided our gift would be a dinner out.  I feel like our engagement and wedding festivities ill-prepared us for real life: we continued in the celebratory extravagance a little too long - to the detriment of our savings and future loan repayment.  You know what though?  I kind of think it was worth it.  We enjoyed life: meals with just each other and with friends, conversation, wine, quality food and connection with the hands that prepared it.

Back to the meal at Scotty's - the wonderful place I was so lucky/blessed to get to work.  We - a poor graduate student and mostly day-time server - went all out.  Sadly I don't remember every detail of what we ordered, though I can picture exactly where we sat - that first booth near the hall.  I know we had at least two bottles of wine - I had many favorites - and definitely a glass of Prosecco or Saracco Moscato di Alba to start and port or that yummy late harvest white at the end.  I remember we had then-chef Paul's glorious, silky paté and one of us probably had the rib-eye steak with chimichurri or that beautiful flank steak dish they had, maybe the Cinque Terre seafood stew [so sad. why did I not write this down earlier?]...  We most definitely finished with dessert and noisette [our favorite espresso drinks in France] for Liz and I.  Regrettably I don't remember the details of everything we ate, but it was good.  It was good to treat my friend and sister to a fancy meal, to feel like grownups - good fun to feel rich and indulgent for a night and deal with the shock of the bill later.

How I miss that place and that time.




[different dinner (another great one - our last I think) but same place, same table even]

Monday, January 23, 2012

2002: Ocean Beach

My very thoughtful and perceptive sister-in-law gave M.F.K. Fisher's The Gastronomical Me for my birthday: a collection of essays and excerpts from her writings on food - I highly recommend it! In the introduction, she talks about how people often accusingly ask why she would write about food - such a trivial thing compared to "wars and love."  In essence she says that the food we eat link us to all the people, the places, the times in our lives and our needs for love and happiness.  I loved that she said that - it's exactly why I started this blog in the first place [yes I've only written about 4 times and it's been 2 years...] I mean I love the tastes and I love the rituals of it, but I also love to think about where I was, what I was doing and thinking, who I was with and what life held for me at the moment I had that meal.
***

After college I moved to San Diego to house-sit. What was supposed to be four months turned into almost three years. After my house-sitting duties were over, I lived with my BFF in a tiny apartment within earshot of crashing waves and within walking distance to Ocean Beach - one of the seediest, dirtiest, tackiest and most interesting places I've found. There we found some of the best Mexican food I'd ever had [even considering all the travel I've done in Mexico!] at a dark little hole-in-the-wall called Ortega's. Ah - I so enjoyed my cold Pacífico with lime and those salty hot tortilla chips as a friend and I waited for the meal.  I rarely ordered anything but the grilled fish tacos - the best fish tacos I've ever found to this day. They executed them perfectly: moist, grilled white fish, soft and flavorful corn tortillas, avocado slices, cotija, shredded cabbage, a white sauce and wedges of lime.

I haven't been back to eat there but once, and was actually slightly disappointed that time. Maybe things have changed: new cooks, poorer quality - who knows. I'd rather maintain my memory of Ortega's amazing fish tacos - they're tied right in with those casual, endless summer days in San Diego: the good friends, the perfect climate where I could wear my hoodie and flip-flops every day of the year, the walks along the cliffs and down to Newport Avenue... all the experiences that I so fondly associate with that time in my life.


 Orchard Street - taken with my Holga.  
We lived down by the water on the left.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

1996: Carson City


My friend Heather and I had stopped by my house on our way home from school on our way to soccer practice. My mom -Homemaker of the Year 1995(?)- would bake bread weekly for our lunches. When we walked in the kitchen there were about 9 fresh steaming loaves of oatmeal-molasses bread cooling on the racks. Is there anything more tempting?? I remember us slicing off slice after thick slice of the soft, moist, flavorful bread and slathering it with butter until just about the heel remained. Then we walked to practice and worked it all off. Oh to be 17 again.

Monday, November 9, 2009

2000: Montevideo




I love to remember this one.  I was backpacking sola in Uruguay and had gone as far as Punta del Este - a beautiful but deserted-for-the-season resort town where I could hardly afford a thing. I had a few mishaps including accidentally hitchhiking a ride from a whiskey-downing Argentine [another story altogether, which by the way also ended in a memorable meal here (sans the drunken Argentine)].  Anyway, I was on my way back through to Argentina and had just exactly enough money for a night at the hostel and a ferry ticket the next morning. I knew I could count on the absolutely amazing and wonderful complimentary breakfast that I had gorged myself on the week before: fresh crusty baguettes served alongside bowls of butter and dulce de leche. However, I didn't have a single cent for dinner and planned on suffering through the hunger until breakfast.

Instead, I happened to meet a solo traveling Italian who was going to make some dinner and asked if I wanted to join him and another hosteler. Um - ok! He showed me step-by-easy-step how to make Spaghetti Carbonara. I'm sure there's many different ways, but his version will always be the *right* one as far as I'm concerned. We sauteed some diced pancetta while the noodles cooked - a small pitcher of beaten egg, cream and parmesan ready on the side. Immediately after draining the pasta we threw it in the hot pan and poured the egg mixture in, tossing it all quickly with some tongs. We finished it off with some more parmesan, salt and a healthy amount of fresh cracked pepper [key ingredient he said].  Afterwards the other traveler treated us all to helado.  To be expecting to skip dinner altogether [something I don't think I have ever done in my life] and then to be treated to such a meal!

I wanted to buy more of these plates too, but had to take a picture instead.


*sidenote: funny how different it all would have been in this relatively recent world of debit cards...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

*1980s: Ophir Mill Ranch, Nevada


This was the original idea for this blog. An employment application to a specialty grocery store included the request for a "favorite food memory." One of my most favorites had recently come to mind as I washed a peach over the kitchen sink. Here is the mini essay that made me realize my head is filled with such 'food' memories:

I grew up fifteen minutes from my grandparents’ ranch and spent a considerable amount of my childhood there. There was a spot down near the river called simply the picnic area where we would celebrate all the national holidays, a wedding or two and many a random Sunday afternoon. Invariably, my Grandpa JohnD would enlist all the older cousins and uncles in helping with the lamb – roasted all day in an underground pit. It, along with the potato salads, orange sodas and other fare were always spread out on a big old wagon bed that rested in the tall grass. We sat around in those old woven beach chairs [you know the kind?] swatting away the flies and listening to the grownups and their stories. My favorite part – and this is where this morning’s peach comes in – was after the meal when the homemade ice cream was set out. It had been ground out by hand in a big salted tub, always made with the freshest summer peaches. I can still remember the big portions slopped into paper bowls – you had to eat it quickly before it melted into a peachy soup. Soft, creamy, speckled with bits of peach and enjoyed under the cottonwoods – it’s a memory I’ll never forget.

[am I really sharing this picture? look to the left. that's how I remember my Grandpa: his cowboy hat and pearl snap shirt]

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

2001: Oaxaca

My friends might tell you that my life moves from one great food experience to another. Certain meals: the food, the atmosphere and the company remain as fresh as the day I enjoyed them.

This one took place in a small town in southern Mexico. I was there traveling with my friend Kendra after college. We had started our trip volunteering with our church at a women's shelter in Baja. The director of that shelter gave us some items to take down to a former tenant/friend of the shelter who had moved back with her family down in Oaxaca. Reina and her two sweet little girls [who I imagine must be out of high school by now!] met us at the bus stop and we were invited to their home for lunch. Reina cooked and sold homemade tortillas for a living. How quaint we had thought! Entering their home, however, we were humbled at the apparent poverty they lived in. The family of four shared one cluttered tiny room; the kitchen was outside in the back, under a corrugated metal roof. I'm not sure if there was a bathroom.

We chatted about her girls and about the shelter up in Baja as she rolled out some fresh masa tortillas for us and cooked them up on her comal - in this case a metal garbage barrel. She served them with fresh chopped tomatoes, cilantro, salt and a little lime. The absolute simplicity of such a delicious meal was ... I can't quite think of the word I want to use: astounding? humbling? so pleasant? Either way, I haven't forgotten the meal or our sweet, hospitable hostess.