We’re currently in our last days in San Francisco — this time, the keys will be turned over to my landlord after nearly 8 years in this light-filled, spacious (and, le sigh, affordable thanks to rent control) apartment and the furniture will be moved out; we’ll be gone in less than a week. There will be no returning after a month in Morocco — this is it, and it feels rather big in its finality. But despite the lingering nostalgia I think it’s time. This space has seen me through many transitions, the biggest one of late being it’s the home to which I brought my baby daughter and where’s she’s spent the first weeks of her life. Many hours have been spent snuggling on the couch listening to Kate Rusby, KDFC, and the occasional blast of classic rock, sipping the last of the lovely coffees my beloved neighborhood has to offer, just being in the moment and being together. Of course, she won’t remember this time but to us it has been very sweet. And I hope the reality that she’s a California girl through and through will somehow seep into her waking dreams so she will remember …
Still, adventures await. A new ocean to explore. A large and lovely and equally light-filled house in Casablanca will be where she most likely will take her first steps. She will have her first pain au chocolat at the delectable French bakery cafe located about half-way between our house and downtown and which has amazing pastries always available. We’ll have a garden in our wee yard and will plant spinach and chard and tomatoes (and maybe strawberries, too) and herbs together when she gets a bit older. And who knows? The Western Addition may be our home again one day if the real estate market ever drops again (ha!); I wouldn’t mind that at all. I will miss Golden Gate Park with every bit of me — how many miles have I logged on its trails? — and our little bagel spots, Little Star of course, and good burritos too, among so much else. Hopefully I will develop a liking for couscous in the interim (I, um, rather don’t right now. More on this at a later date.).
[She’s bigger than this now, sigh, October 2013.]
Meanwhile, our girl is five weeks old today — already! Oh time, slow down if you please. She has woken up a bit more these past days and definitely lets us know when she’s hungry (this is a good thing). Most nights (and I type this knowing I hereby jinx myself) she allows me 2-3 hours of sleep at a stretch — I call these my ‘cat naps’ — and despite the inevitable wild-eyed hunger that descends without fail during the witching hour and which creates an unpredictable bedtime, we seem to have slipped in to a sort of rhythm. She very patiently lets us lug her out to lunch, for chilly walks in the park (she is appropriately bundled), on trips to see her grandparents and is a champion cuddler. She and I will spend the next month in Sonoma County before departing for North Africa — so many transitions already in her short life, and I hope this will not take too much of a toll on her wee psyche. Sometimes I worry we are being terribly selfish in dragging her around to satisfy our adult whims but I comfort myself with the reality that we love her utterly and utterly unselfishly, and I think she somehow knows this even after a little more than a month on this earth.
So among the many things I will miss about living in San Francisco is watching my kid spend her early years under the redwoods of the Botanical Gardens and dipping her toes into the Pacific. She, however, will remain remarkably unphased. Wherever she will be is what she will know and what will be familiar to her and this will help her mom, too.
Still — let’s be real: I am going to miss the coffee and the upscale ice cream, sure, but I am truly going to miss my friends — in particular the ladies who I have dubbed ‘the two Ls’. One is Lupe, who lives less than a mile away from us and whose little girl is just 10 months older than Sierra (I won’t even start on how much it physically hurts that our kids won’t be growing up together for at least 4 years), and the other is Lesli, the best thing my former job ever gave me (yes — even better than the steady paycheck). I will miss them and their kids terribly, not least of all for their delicious food that they’ve plied us with these past weeks and most of all for their inherent loveliness and good company. Oh, sigh. But we will remain friends despite the miles, this I do know.
Twice now Lesli has baked us loaves of delicious, nutty whole wheat bread which we’ve used for cheese and marmite sandwiches, quick breakfasts of toasted slices spread with cream cheese and avocado, and in French toast. This last occurred solely because Lesli mentioned in one of our frequent text conversations that she often uses it to make French toast … and what a fantastic idea that is. Err, was. We devoured the last of that particular loaf pretty quickly.
Of course you don’t need Lesli’s bread for this French toast recipe; my mom makes a wonderful breakfast using challah bread as the base for her French toast, and really any eggy, tender bread will do (though I do like a nice robust wheat bread as well). I prefer a bread that can be sliced thickly; no baguettes here, please. I also like a lot of butter in the pan and a lot of cinnamon in the batter and a lot of maple syrup poured over during serving but of course those components are rather subjective so you may alter to suit your own tastes …
It is so strange and hard to move away from a place you love — San Francisco (and my apartment, and my neighborhood, and my friends, and the easy proximity to family, Yosemite, wild spaces, and and and) is the first place I’ve ever lived that I have absolutely no desire to leave. I have settled into such a nice life here over these past 7+ years that even knowing we will be back eventually and sometimes life – and jobs – takes you elsewhere it is a bit of a cold comfort. So I bake, and I write thank-you notes, and I pack up the few remaining things in this apartment, and I cuddle with my sweet girl, and I make French toast. It all helps. And after all, there are a lot of good things in Morocco, too, and I look forward to embracing them again once I’m there. Onward.
Lots of fruit here is a must — strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries in season, or sauteed pears and/or apples in fall — as well as good quality maple syrup. Up or lower the cinnamon and vanilla to taste; I like a lot, but you may prefer a more delicate flavor. The orange juice is essential.
Makes 2 servings (double, triple, etc. accordingly)
4 slices bread of choice
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
optional: 1 tablespoon cocoa powder, pinch nutmeg, swap 1/4 cup of the milk for heavy cream, dash of brandy or bourbon
In a large baking pan, lay the bread flat. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, orange juice, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and ginger. Pour the mixture over the bread, lifting the slices to let the batter seep underneath. You want the batter to really soak into the bread. Let sit for at least 5 minutes.
In a large skillet or frying pan, heat the butter over medium heat. Place a slice of eggy bread in the pan and cook about 2-3 minutes on one side, until medium-browned, then flip over and cook the other side about 2-3 minutes more. Serve immediately or keep warm in a 200-F degree oven. Repeat with the remaining slices of bread.
Serve with fruit and lots of maple syrup.