california gluten-free life nostalgia recipe san francisco vegan vegetables vegetarian

Nearly Fall

12 September 2016


[Lavender-onion tart, August 2009.]

Time was, summer was this perfect, ethereal thing marked by fog and trips to the coast and cursing at the July mist that secretly gave me a little thrill as I wrapped my scarf around my neck mid-month and tucked my hands more firmly into the pockets of my down vest. Sometimes it broke and we went through the sun and wind to drink pints at the bar in Tomales and I took photos of the boats in the bay as we drove past on Highway One. I picked lavender from my mom’s garden and put it into tarts and pots de creme and then wrote about it for NPR. We always talked about going to the Russian River and renting a canoe, or getting kayaks from Blue Water and going out to Hog Island, or at least doing the community swim from Shell Beach again.

The months seemed long, endless, bookended by Indian Summer that descended hot and heavy on San Francisco and made my long Sunday runs all the more delicious for the hit of sea breeze when I made it down to ocean beach. Sweaty and famished, we’d go afterward (post-shower of course) to Alamo Square Park to read the New York Times and eat sandwiches and ogle the dogs.

But after all they did end and we never did manage to canoe, or kayak, and two years of swimming ‘cross the bay seemed to be enough.

My life, my California life, was pretty simple but damn, it was sweet. As our annual trip home flies by I find myself ever more nostalgic for those days which I did appreciate indeed: Saturday mornings at the Fillmore farmer’s market getting deals on flats of strawberries that I could turn into jam and buying ‘seconds’ on tomatoes to roast for sauce; coffees up the street at the little coffee shop on Divis that was never crowded; early mornings with tea and listening to the ‘sacred music’ hour on the classical station; a swim at UCSF with a burrito afterward; slipping away to the Botanical Gardens in Golden Gate Park – free to residents and thus also never crowded – to sit under the redwoods or watch the herons stalk gophers.

Life then, even in the midst of a big city, felt so close to nature; the beauty of San Francisco is that it is perched between bay and ocean and you are never very far from the water and always know it.

But life changes and you change with it. We have two children now and I don’t know if we’d have stayed in the city even if we’d had the option. It’s pretty cold, y’all. Not to mention expensive. Sierra and I spent a few sweet days in the old neighborhood when we arrived in June and it was foggy, misting, in the 50s. Quite the shock to the system. (“It’s raining!” I heard plaintively more than once.) There’s something to be said for warm summers (although perhaps not quite as warm at Riyadh thankyouverymuch!) and cool winters without too much rain.

We should know our next posting by Thanksgiving and my priorities at this stage of our family’s life include playgrounds, good outside opportunities, running options and yoga classes for the adults, and a decent variety of fresh local produce (the safety issue being surmised but not taken for granted). Any fun extras would just be luxurious.

I used to chafe at the way my rather predictable life had rather dramatically been uprooted but in the past few years I’ve grown into a sense of – dare I say it – peace. Sure, we currently live in Saudi Arabia, which always provokes raised eye brows and conversations I don’t really enjoy having, but we’ve carved out a little spot for ourselves despite the obvious (and not so) challenges. My family has grown; my girls are sweet and consuming; I have work that satisfies while still allowing me buckets of time to devote to my children; we have solid friends we’ll know for years down the road no matter where we live; I run 3x a week or so; we get outside when we can. I feel lucky, beyond fortunate to have what I have.

Still and all, I miss a good farmers’ market. The greens out here this summer have been nothing short of exquisite and I’ll miss them dearly. A favorite way to prepare them has been with a red onion and kernels shaved from an ear or two of corn, all sautéed in a bit of olive oil in a hot cast iron pan. Come to mention it, the corn has been pretty amazing too. I’ve done chard and corn piled on a plate next to a goodly sized slab of wild and locally caught, massaged and probably pedicured baked salmon filet plus some roasted potatoes doused with pesto or a pot of quinoa and that’s a dinner that takes about 20 minutes to slap together.

Summer. Easy living. Make it while you got it.