[Solo dinner, June 2008.]
Boy do I love soft serve. I love it almost as much as I love baseball — so Saturday night at the A’s game when both got together I was pretty much in heaven. If the ice cream in question was served in a little plastic baseball cap (“safe for food use; made in China” … hm) I was all the luckier because I got to take it home with me (the one that came with the fries we gave to the little kid sitting behind us — all the ketchup washed out first, of course).
I didn’t bring my camera, and I think I would have gotten made fun of if I’d taken a picture of it, anyway — but man, did that ice cream ever hit the spot. Oh, did it! My friends always say the East Bay is warmer than the city, and I have to admit on Saturday night that was the case; the air was downright balmy during the game, and I didn’t mind sitting outside for a few hours after the sun went down. That deliciously creamy bowl of ice cream was such the icing.
Baseball, and ice cream, mean summer to me. Even in this strange town where the weather is often all turned around, going to see a game makes it summer regardless of temperature. Little can compare with that solid, satisfying thwack of the ball as it soars into the outfield (or dribbles down the first baseline, as the case may be), the hum of the crowd you hear even before you enter the stadium, the crisp uniforms at the start of the game, the collective roar when someone manages a home run. True summer is lazy afternoons at the ballpark with the smell of hot dogs and vendors lugging their heavy coolers up and down the stairs, entreating you to buy an overpriced beer, or chocolate malt.
The first time I ever went to a baseball game was out at Candlestick, when it was still Candlestick and still home to the Giants. For some reason I got it into my head it was required to know the national anthem if you went to a game, so the night before I memorized the song and then went over and over it in the minutes before we left for the long drive. I think the Giants lost (shocker); I think they were playing the Cardinals. Did the game go into extra innings? Since that game was just the first of many, all those trips have blurred into one long, sweet afternoon of clutching my mitt and hoping for a fly ball. In the 80s — what I like to think of as the Giants’ ‘glory days’ — I would listen to the games when I lay in bed at night, willing them to get just one more hit, to seal the deal c’mon please!, before falling asleep.
I’m ashamed to admit this was my first game of the season — and it wasn’t even ‘my’ team! Oh, A’s are also my team (countless youthful hours were also spent getting sunburned at the Oakland Coliseum) but the Giants are it for better or worse (often worse, sigh). I realized this weekend I almost enjoy watching the A’s better than the Giants because there is not that same terrible wish for them to win and the agonizing, sinking feeling when they don’t. I’m more cheerful when I watch the A’s. On Saturday night I stood up with everyone else in the bleachers and screamed at an eighth-inning home run and booed at a bad call. I was mildly disappointed when they lost but it wasn’t a big deal. I was able to savor my ice cream and feel the air warm on my face and think: summer days are like this.
Baseball is different now — the players are paid more, they don’t often stay on their teams for the duration, as in the old days — but it is still sweet. The food is different too, especially in the Bay Area: on Saturday I ate a vegetarian hot dog and fries, and heard rumors about sushi (sushi!) and imported beer. Across the bay in San Francisco the ‘new’ stadium is known for selling clam chowder in sourdough bread bowls, microbrews, veggie burgers, and other more glamorous offerings. Luckily there are still big glasses of Budweiser, and peanuts.
Fireworks bloomed over the field and we could see them as we waited for the Bart after. Home by 11 and then reading late and then up early for yoga: my usual weekend routine, but I can’t say I mind too much.
Because this isn’t so much about food, I will leave you with the dinner I made for myself last week, when I’d eaten out too much over the preceding days and needed something mild and healthful. It was just a roasted cauliflower and a big pile of quinoa toasted with garlic and mushrooms — infinitely simple, yet so satisfying. I ate it all with a bit of bread and cheese but for once hardly even wanted the cheese the rest of it was so good. Because quinoa is so high in protein, it made a very complete meal with the addition of a few vegetables. My beloved roasted cauliflower was, of course, an extra treat.
I wonder if I could bring this meal with me to the next baseball game I attend ….
Quinoa with garlic and mushrooms
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
2 cups water
3 gloves garlic, sliced
2 tb. olive oil
8 mushrooms, thinly sliced
dash vegetable broth
salt and pepper
In a medium pot, boil the water and add the quinoa. Return to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and cook about 15 minutes or until the quinoa softens.
Meanwhile, in a frying pan over medium heat, sauté the garlic and mushrooms in the olive oil. Add a bit of the broth or water to keep the vegetables from sticking. When the quinoa is cooked and the mushrooms have released their juices, add the quinoa to the frying pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring well to combine and to prevent burning. Salt and pepper to taste.