life vegan vegetables vegetarian

Just Lovely

29 June 2009


[Afternoon drinks, Inverness, June 2009.]

Saturday night I was in the kitchen chopping an onion and thinking about August. The dog was sprawled on the rug near the front door sighing softly in his sleep as I plotted and dreamed a little. As I scrubbed a squash the cat leaped up on a chair and eyed me suspiciously (he’d earlier realized his sweet meows wouldn’t make me feed him and so gave up in disgust); too bad for him. While I peeled a knobbly carrot and sipped at my gin and orange (the tonic unfortunately having all been drunk), I thought about the homegrown lemons glowing on the counter before me and what I could make with them: granita, lavender-citrus syrup, madeleines.

As I swirled mushrooms into olive oil on the stove and added a splash of red wine to make the pan sizzle and spit, I smelled more than just the frying garlic; underneath those comfortable scents was the one singing of outside — bay leaves, sea breeze, eucalypt standing tall and straight against a darkening sky. I thought about Australia and wondered if my bit of wanderlust will ever be ‘cured’ (and if I want it to), imagined Jack London‘s last days, wished for sun the next day.

I pulled out the dish of roasting cauliflower to check (not yet) and shredded cucumber for salad, mentally putting together packages to send to far-flung locales. I thought a bit about Greece and swimming in a warm ocean, searched the cupboards in vain for pine nuts, contemplated figuring out if it’s possible to make feta from scratch.

Cooking does tend to make the mind wander.


[In the fields, Pt. Reyes National Seashore, June 2009.]

I was out of town again this weekend. I think that’s my summer pattern; though I’m quite happy here in my cozy blue-and-white San Francisco apartment with its bare and gleaming hardwood floors I truly love a weekend Away. If I can’t manage a backpacking trip I aim for the next best thing: a few days in the ‘country’, either in Sonoma County or Inverness/Pt. Reyes.

But I have to, I think. I need the quiet stillness of a long twilight without the clatter of street noise. I need to hear the wind in the trees absolutely knowing it’s not the cars rushing past instead. I need to have drinks and lunch outside on a deck, even if the mosquitoes descend and force me back inside.

I need to have home, even if only for a few days.

So my weekend, of course, was just lovely. I know I say that a lot: oh, lovely California with its lovely light and lovely blue hour and lovely blackberries just beginning and lovely, lovely golden hills. But really, my weekend was entirely lovely and beautiful in its simplicity. I adored every minute. I’m wistful for that brief stretch already, in fact. I also wish you’d been there — you would’ve loved it. No, really. It was absolutely, infinitely lovely through and through.


[Sally’s jam, June 2009.]

It started, as the very best weekends do, with a sunny ferry to Marin that churned through a bay flocked with sailboats white and tense against all that afternoon dazzle. I was picked up and whisked over Mt. Tam and down by Stinson, sunny and bright the whole way — a much-appreciated experience as I’m still getting used to this whole sun concept after those few weeks of persistent fog. There was a g&t in the living room and pesto and salad for dinner, lights out by 10.30. I will admit that’s pretty much one of my favorite ways to spend a Friday.

Saturday morning I woke up early to sun, flinging open the curtains and resting my elbows on the sill the better to see the water shimmering out in front of me. I had coffee and (whole-wheat walnut) toast spread well with butter and homemade rhubarb jam, a bit of Wimbledon-watching, and poking at the dog with my feet. Later we drove out past Tomales Bay before 9 a.m.,the water unrippled and calm as a sheet of glass, through the fields almost to Drake’s Beach. It was hot and still and clear — a perfect day. That night I cooked dinner and we sat long around the table to finish with slices of plum pound cake for dessert.

Sunday was more of the same, although it was switched up a little with drinking coffee from Toby’s in town and then an incident where I lay on the green couch for at least two hours reading the New York Times Sunday paper (and yes, I had another cup of coffee and no, I never lay around for two hours like that, especially when it’s nice out. It was marvelous. I may have to try it again some time.).

[Oysters, Pt. Reyes, June 2009.]

The other thing about my weekend was that I ate an oyster.

(I’ll just let that sentence hang out there a little bit with no comment.)

No wait: I ate an oyster this weekend! Me! Not only am I a vegetarian but I’ve never liked seafood even! Did I lose my mind for a minute there? Tempted by des fruits du mer? Wanted to try something new (I’d never had an oyster before, a near-travesty for a native Californian)? Enticed by that briny, salty odor so indicative to things pulled from the Pacific? Unable to resist the lure of the barbecue? Hit with heat exhaustion?

Well it’s a long story, how I came to eat that oyster. It includes unforeseen circumstances involving an early morning wake-up to sun and birds whistling across the trees, lots of tea, a 4-mile hike through a cow field out to an empty beach, white pelicans, water-blasting said crustaceans, a beer at noon — anyway, I tried one. I had to. I debated sharing this because it was a bit strange (not to mention out of character) for me — I haven’t consumed meat or fish in twelve years and yes I’m feeling the tiniest bit guilty about said consumption — but sometimes things happen, right?

I didn’t like it, though. My dad says oysters are an acquired taste and maybe that’s true; at any rate it was too salty (but not in that good feta-cheese way) and I had to chew the darn thing. I pretty much horrified myself that I even put it in my mouth and I doubt I ever will again.

I think I’ll blame the beer.


[Near Drake’s, June 2009.]

In June the light is beautiful, soft and smoky in the sunlight. Dogs patter all over and maybe (though not on this weekend) there will be a fire in the fire place. There are drinks on the deck as the sun slips down over the ridge, night falling cool and still. The sky is like velvet and the stars fade in if it’s not too foggy. Mornings by the sea the water can be that deep, impossible blue that happens sometimes when it’s hot; the trees droop and drop and the grass stirs slightly. The air smells like bay leaves and salt and damp earth pressed together, sometimes laced with a mild breeze, and you have to just thank the great universe for places like this.

West Marin has my heart, part and parcel. This is not a new revelation but still it bears repeating every so often. Driving to the ferry this early morning the mist was rising off the fields and the light almost could break your heart it was so clear and pure. I wish so I could live there, truly. One day?

Well, back here in the real world there are Monday nights of roasted cauliflower, beet and cucumber salad, a few tiny baked potatoes, and the first corn of summer melting and sweet — and really, these are very nice nights when you think about it. After a few days of gorgeously hot weather the wind is tossing around the branches outside my window as a reminder that Yeah, it may be nearly July but this is San Francisco, lady, and don’t you dare forget it but for once I don’t much mind.

I had my weekend, you see, and it was just lovely.

p.s.: Me and the oyster? Let’s just keep it between us.

What’s in the Fridge Pasta

In the spirit of Kim O’Donnel’s Eating Down the Fridge challenge on her great Washington Post blog A Mighty Appetite, this is a loose recipe that uses up whatever veggies are kicking around the fridge and a variation of which I always seem to end up making when I’m visiting my friends and I’m rummaging through the shelves for produce. I used linguine pasta on Saturday night but again, any pasta you have in the pantry will work just fine.

1 onion, chopped
or 3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 red pepper, de-seeded and chopped
mushrooms, sliced
chopped spinach

zucchini or yellow squash, sliced
dried basil and/or oregano
salt and pepper
red wine
olive oil

Cook the pasta. Meanwhile, saute the vegetables in the olive oil, beginning with the onion or garlic. Add the mushrooms. Add the red wine. Add the squash and red pepper and cook for about 10 minutes until soft. Add a bit of cooking water, more red wine if you like, the herbs, and salt and pepper.

Drain the pasta and put in a large bowl. Add the vegetables, a bit more olive oil if necessary, and toss well to combine.

  • denise 3 July 2009 at 2:55 pm

    maybe if you tried an oyster from the marshall store you’d be happier with the outcome…maybe? i know i would be. lovely post.

  • Liz 1 July 2009 at 10:45 am

    OMG. You are killing me! I simply must get back to the Pacific, and more specifically, back to Marin, pronto. It is so very magical.

  • Lainey 1 July 2009 at 8:35 am

    oysters are weird, but the fresh ones … oh my. love love love.

    so you have a lemon tree. i’ve been comtemplating getting a meyer lemon tree. i’ve heard i can keep it inside. just have to find one somewhere in nebraska.

  • Whitney 30 June 2009 at 1:46 pm

    I laughed out loud when I got to the part about the oyster. I like them cooked (with lots of spinach and cheese and butter thankyouverymuch) but never cared for the raw.

    Thanks for this post. I was kinda having a down afternoon (endless Bar studying) but this really did lift my spirits.

  • Ke Zhang 30 June 2009 at 10:29 am

    I can’t believe you ate it! Blame it on the beer. Meanwhile I’ve been here in Canada eating fresh lettuce and beet tops from the garden every night. See you when I get back.

  • Lindsay 30 June 2009 at 7:28 am

    I just had to comment on how much I love your blog. Your writing is fantastic and I feel as if I’m standing right next to you, enjoying your weekend trips – reflecting back on your travels. Reading your blog is like taking a mini vacation right smack dab in the middle of my work day. Thank you.

  • dawn 30 June 2009 at 7:15 am

    Your secret’s safe with me… I happen to love oysters, but they are definitely not for everyone. XOXO, D