I've missed posting on this blog. Missed the words, and the pictures, and the comments. But life is full of extensive and unexpected surprises. Which can be enjoyable, or stressful. Or so mind-blowing that you love 'em and hate 'em all at once.
Sometimes, I get really funky and nerdy about life. I over-analyze food, or eat things of less-than-desirable origin. Those are obviously the two extremes. However, there are times when I just want to go out and eat. For the fun of it. Some place where I don't have to think or worry about money. Just to be pampered with candle light, noisy cooks working hard to satisfy my hungry tummy and expectations, and to be so happy at the end of the evening that I can barely get out that contented sigh. Always teeter-tottering back and forth between my love for cooking, and my love for exploring the culinary world...
A while ago, I persuaded my patient Papa to dress up, fire up his truck, and drive down to Glen Ellen. And we ate at the Fig Cafe. We were seated by a perky hostess. Not long after, Papa and I met Hannah, who was our waitress for the night. Hannah was a sparkly soul with quick intuition and easy manners. She had excellent eye contact, the patience of Job, and perceptive ways of making suggestions. I would return just to see Hannah again, and have her serve the table once more.
The Fig Cafe is similar to a rustic French cafe, but with a bold Sonoma County flair...when you eat there, and see the paintings on the wall, you will know what I mean. Papa asked me to analyze the cafe for him; I think that it was amusing for him... I'm actually going to with-hold my observations, my dear readers', because those notes I scribbled have been saved for my culinary memoirs. However, I'd be more than happy to walk you through our dinner!
First up, we ordered a cheese plate, with a side of spiced almonds. We chose our three cheeses...a biting, ripe cashew-colored cow cheddar with a rough texture and intrusive finish. Not for the timid palate. Next, there was a musty goat cheese...young, not properly aged, with an immature mold. I loved the goat's milk flavor, but the improper youth of the mold was saddening. Then we had a stunning cow's milk brie: creamy, supple, rich in butterfat, with a gorgeously aged mold. The flavors devastated my tastebuds...unbelievable. Extremely disappointed in the coppa. It was bland, limp, and dry. I have had amazing imported coppa...but this was not the occasion. The accompanying apple slices were crisp, fresh, and juicy. Tart, too! The olives didn't blow my mind...I wanted savory, garlic, herbs, olive oil, abundance, but there was nothing to criticize, and nothing to praise. The pressed fig and almond cake wedges were a dark sweetness with hints of molasses and rosemary. Extremely enjoyable. Having never had caper berries before, I was tickled pink to try them. Lively flavor.
Papa had a bowl of lovely carrot soup. Creamy, gentle, with hints of ginger, mineral-rich salt, and oh-the-irony! cilantro as garnish...the one herb he loathes. He ate the cilantro, all the same. With a slight grimace of course.
Then he had a chickpea panisse cake, dark triangular shapes, with soft cumin tones.
I had a pan roasted half chicken with an unassuming potato-fennel hash, perfectly-blanched spinach, and an ashy, rotund romesco sauce.
My fries never came out- but then we weren't charged for them either! Tarragon aioli: that's what came with the fries, and that is why I was ordering them...just to taste that aioli. Oh, shucks.
But life and dinner didn't end with the entrées. Dessert was a rich and unearthly salted caramel ice cream. Papa and I shared a bowl of this texturally strong, and flavor-balanced sweet treat.
The spearmint sprig on top was boring. A coarse, flaky maldon salt would have knocked my socks off, with a fresh floral adornment of petals...darnit, I just gotta stop dreaming.
Times spent in company of my parents', over occasional special meals such as the one shared with Papa are precious. I can't recreate or replace those times, but I can make sure that they happen every now and then. Although Papa is not much of a talker, I enjoyed just looking up, and seeing his smile, or hearing him hmmm in delight. Or trying to figure out his face when I told him about my irrepressible desire to scribble a note or two on our brown paper tablecloth covering. I didn't think it was that loony, Papa. Next time, will you join me, please?
These days have been topsy-turvy and crazy-busy, but I love little moments. They mean the most, they hold the rarest, and they clench my heartbeat. Often, I become so wrapped up in work or school, or self, that I forget to cook for my family. This grieves me. And when that sense of loss and inadequacy overwhelms me, I cannot cook for guests, for friends, or even for coworkers'. All I know is that I need to enter that kitchen, and create something for my family. There are times when I wonder about why I cannot bring myself to cook for strangers. I think that I know.
Food is an intimate expression of the soul. It is a raw and vulnerable exposure of love and trust. It begs to nourish, and yearns to fulfill. And to fill another's hunger with such an undeniably valuable gift- why, that is to offer up one's everything. I don't give that everything to just anyone. I save it for those I love most: my family. Those who have given all, and more than all. That is my reason, my excuse, my alibi.
A dear friend urged me to consider hospitality, and the kind gesture of feeding a stranger, or a hungry individual. Not wanting to be mistaken as selfish, stingy, or steel-hearted, I have thought it over, but I still do not completely understand those who cook for a living, or cook for nameless individuals. I want to sit down, and watch the one I am feeding. Hear the criticisms, hope for contented smiles, or just know that the one eating my offering has received my expression of love and affection. It's shy, complex, and immature on my part, but that is reality. For today. Maybe tomorrow I will awake and decide to invite friends over for a cooking party, or pursue my chef's certificate. I do not know what tomorrow holds, but I do clasp one fact with the core of my mind, and it is this: that nothing I accomplish, cook, or write is worth anything unless it is an offering for someone I love.
We all express ourselves in different manners: from behind a stove, with ink poured into words upon paper, with a listening ear, or in another fashion. Recently, someone I'm not well acquainted with, (and incidentally have never cooked for,) had the audacity to inform me that I am incapable of love, affection, and emotion. Maybe so. But then again, too, maybe not.
The Barefoot Girl