Thursday, February 3, 2011

Talk to me about food!

I absolutely love good food. I imagine the way a sublimely ripe tomato feels warm and full when I pick it off the vine. I dream about beautifully striated treviso or radicchio piled high at the farmers market. The pale green, deep wine colored red, and stark white mingling together on imperfect leaves. I strive to cook homemade pasta till its just al dente and I can still taste the exact blend of the simplest ingredients... flour and egg.

Lately I've been head over heals for anything green. I can't get enough broccoli rabe, escarole, spinach, and even frozen peas (they make a pretty fresh 'spring' pea soup). I think its due to the complete absence of green this time of year. The landscape here on the Cape is bleak. Winter has scoured this surface down to its most elemental and left us all blinking, adjusting to the harsh surroundings.

My strong sentiment comes from a longing for great food and, even more, for foodie folks.

I feel a bit like an alien from another planet. On my planet, food is everything. Who grows it? Where is it from? How can it be prepared? Let's discuss any and all applications in depth. Let's refer to an expert. Lets grow and cook and eat and talk about growing and cooking and eating. On that planet I learned something new every day. I was inspired.

A bit scary, but that's the gist of it. That's where I 'grew up'. That's where my passion began and was fostered. For the past ten years, without any effort, I was surrounded by friends, co-workers and guests who's interests were like mine. I was spoiled.

Here on the Cape, I have met some extraordinary food folks, had wonderful conversations and eaten delicious local fare. I know the same food minded people are out there. I know there are fantastic products being grown and prepared skillfully by creative chefs and cooks. It just seems to take so much more effort to find them, to connect, to stay connected.

I've been lazy. Its easy to have a passion when you have to do very little to feed it. I'm not giving up my love of food. I've just got to put my money, or maybe some delicious local shellfish, where my mouth is. I have to reach out in many directions and learn to communicate in different ways.

Like the little birds outside our window that have managed to survive this winter of all winters, I have to forage a bit farther afield.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Papa's Jacket

I forgot my Papa... Not entirely, but a little bit. Growing up, he and I were very close. Two peas in a pod you might say. We are both Leos and the bond between ferocious felines is something to be reckoned with.

Papa died three years ago at the age of eighty-eight. My husband and I were living in San Francisco. We had been there for over seven years and the physical miles of separation had distanced me a bit from Papa in his last years. I was deeply saddened when I received news of his passing, but that man, weakened, thin and pale, was a tamed version of the mighty lion who had been a strong and loyal friend from the day I was born.

I lost him, and all that remained were memories, faint glimpses of our lives together. I enjoyed reminiscing but did so less and less frequently. Papa became a good spirit that I knew was watching out for me and our family from somewhere 'out there'.

Our move to Cape Cod is an ever evolving lesson in life. As our time here becomes less about summer vacation and more about the beginning of a new life, I am confronted by a past that was obscured by thousands of miles. This house was built by my grandparents and every part of this property was touched by Papa. I think of him daily...

A few days ago I was putting away some winter coats in the back of the closet in Gramma's room. I spotted a vaguely familiar pale green, quilted fabric clinging to an old wooden hanger. I snatched it out of the closet and pulled it out into the light.

'I think, I'm pretty sure... this is Papa's jacket!'

In an instant I knew it was his and could see him standing out on the deck in the crisp, cool of early fall, the jacket zipped close to his younger, stronger frame. It might have been the day he decided to build a deck on to the back room, or maybe the day he planted one of the trees out front. He may have been cleaning out the eaves or touching up paint. No matter the chore, there he was standing in front of me in that fantastic jacket.

I looked more closely at the garment. It's a little rough around the edges. The cuffs of the sleeves are paint splattered and I could see Papa's strong, wrinkled workman's hands at their end. I smelled the fabric hoping to catch even the slightest scent of Old Spice, Papa's favorite.

I have to admit, holding it out in front of me, the jacket looked a little small. My Papa was a big man, or so it always seemed. Now I think that maybe it was his spirit, his powerful presence, his passion for life and his family that made him a bit larger than life.

I unzipped it and slid my arm into his. I zipped it back up and stood there for a minute imagining Papa's arms wrapped around me.

The jacket fit perfectly.

I called Gramma to ask if it was alright for me to wear the jacket. Sure, she said, and told me that, after cleaning out many of his belongings over the past few years, she just couldn't give away this one last article.

I think it was meant to be. My fellow leo is nowhere near as far away as I once thought. I'll wear the jacket, live here at the Cape house, for now, and I'll build my new life a bit closer to the people and places I grew up with.

Friday, October 15, 2010

A Few Things to Love Living on the Cape

My morning run along the bike path at Coast Guard. The view is always incredible, rain or shine.

Tammy's home made fig jam slathered on a piece of curried naan with lots of butter. Breakfast at its best!

Planting over 100 little daffodil and crocus bulbs everywhere in the yard. I anticipate a colorful spring.

Tuna sashimi and Wellfleet oysters. Fresher than fresh. Tasting of the sea.

Monday, October 4, 2010

'Phase 3'

When Chris and I moved here we spent three days packing up our one bedroom apartment into a small part of a big moving truck. We'll call that 'phase 1'.

Once that truck arrived here on the East Coast we just piled that old life into a shed in my mothers back yard and forgot about it ('phase 2'). We were tired of schlepping anonymous boxes of stuff, truly annoyed by our possessions.

It's October now and most of our gear has been in those boxes since last February. We drove to the Cape this Spring armed with the essentials, never really looking back on the awful, pending task of unpacking and organizing all of our stuff.

Well, you've got to pay the piper sooner or later. For Chris and I that payment will come in installments. We are borrowing a home, furniture, appliances, decor etcetera for the time being. We do not have to unpack those things. We do have to move them. We have overstayed our welcome in the shed and everything, our whole little apartments worth of cardboard boxes, packing tape and bubble wrap has to be moved, once again, to an actual storage unit (phase 3).

In addition, boxes of cold, foggy, typical SF weather clothing that we have had no use for in the heat of East Coast summer have to be unpacked. This past weekend my mom drove up from RI with a carload of those boxes (phase 3 cont...).

I haven't really thought twice about leaving San Francisco since our arrival here until I started pulling those boxes out of the car and peering into the past. It seems weird that a bunch of old clothes might cause one to wax nostalgic, but that's exactly what happened. All of a sudden I got a little sad.

I started looking through all those folded pieces of a wardrobe that defined me in a different life. Me managing a fantastic, vibrant, busy restaurant in the heart of a beautiful city, or running through the Presidio watching the sun come up over Chrissy Field and feeling so incredibly lucky to be a part of such an amazing community. Me meeting wonderful friends for coffee, drinks or dinner, or driving to the ferry building farmers market early every Saturday morning anticipating all the tempting treats on offer. Me, in my warm little apartment, cooking dinner, watching tv, reading on the couch, doing laundry, living my life.

I know that our decision to move was the right one at the right time. I'm not sad because I regret a thing. I'm just a little envious of the life I had. It takes time to 'get a life'. We haven't been here long and I'm not the most patient person. I want to look into my closet and see me here with a great job, friends and a place to call my own. I hope that, eventually, new clothes will take the place of the past and reflect a new life that is all mine once again. I think that will be the final phase.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


We sped out of the beach parking lot on a desperate mission to save a life. I was driving and Chris was complaining that I needed to accelerate. I'm not a speeder and I do not like breaking any the law no matter how desperate the situation. I pushed down on the pedal... a little.

Earlier, we had been on the beach soaking up the last rays of summer sun when we spotted the unfortunate victim. A junior sea gull lumbered awkwardly across the sand dragging his injured appendage. It was obvious he had met some type of relentless foe. His wing dangled at an unnatural angle. He was alert but clearly uncomfortable, and looking for food, stopping just short of beach blankets in hope of a handout. It was heartbreaking from the start.

It doesn't take anything at all to convince Chris to help an animal and this poor, pathetic site put the rescue wheels in motion. He called Wild Care, the wild animal rescue shelter, to find out how we could help. They advised him to try to catch the gull in a towel and transport it to them as quickly as possible. He darted up the stairs and ran home to get the car and a box.

In the meantime I sat with Oscar and kept a close eye on the creature as he made his way slowly down the beach. Chris arrived back shortly and set out to catch the bird with a beach towel and a ceramic bowl of dog food as a lure. Dog food? I brought Oscar and the gear up to the car and then returned to the beach in time to see the heroic capture. Needless to say the bird had no interest in the dog food and was caught sans lure.

We ran the squirming towel up the stairs to the parking lot. Adrenaline flowing, Chris was firmly urging me to get in the car and drive while he held the shrouded animal in his lap. Thankfully, in the few seconds before pulling out, I had a fleeting vision of our speeding car careening out of control as a large, lame, panicked sea bird tried to flutter its way out of Chris's grasp. Our friend was already struggling a bit and I insisted that we take a minute to try to put him in the box rather than drive with him loose.

We got him in the box easily and were off.

We were just at Wild Care two weeks ago with an injured squirrel. We're not sure if he made it but, sadly, our pitiful gull did not. His injuries, we were told, were too extensive and the best they could do was give him painkillers to make his last hours tolerable.

As we drove home we felt relieved that this animal was not left to suffer and starve on the sand. We even laughed a bit. What are the chances of having to rescue not one, but two wild animals in less than two weeks?

Well, here on Cape Cod, apparently pretty good.

Oh, A.R.T.? Animal Rescue Team... that's us.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Summer Is Very Loud

I am sitting in the living room of Casa del Sol. There are wooden chimes clanking just outside the screen door. The wind from a passing rain storm is subsiding. I can faintly hear the waves crashing on the shore below the bluff. There are crickets and some birds bidding farewell to daylight as evening creeps in.

At long last Chris and I have the house to ourselves. It is quiet.

It has been a wonderful summer. We spent it here in the woods. Walking the dirt road to the beach. Basking in the warm seasonal sun. We enjoyed a cacophony of friends and family and all that Casa del Sol offers to anyone who wants to escape the 'real' world and lose themselves at the Cape.

It's hard to imagine this house without summer and all of it's encompassing sounds, but I can honestly say, so good.

We are adjusting to our new lives and hoping that our choice to stay here on the Cape permanently will be rewarding. We are slowly fleshing out a small business plan and I am hoping that I can take advantage of the impending quiet and concentrate a bit more on putting my thoughts into words here in this blog.

No one in my family has ever spent the year here at the Cape house. To date, it has been a summer home left to the solitude of its location in the winter. I have always had to say a teary-eyed goodbye at the end of the season, wishing that I could stay. This year will be an experiment, a lesson and a test to see if living here is right for me, and for us.

I'm starting now to record what I should have been recording since our move here at the beginning of the summer. The noise was distracting, but I am back on track. A year at Casa del Sol...

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Purslane Is In

This spring we got to do something we have been talking about being able to do for years in SF. We planted our first summer garden. Our goal was modest. We wanted to get a feel for what was possible as well as for the time commitment our small plot would require. We have learned a lot...

Lesson number one, purslane is not a weed. I'm being totally honest when I tell you that I did not recognize this cool green growing almost everywhere in our garden, despite the fact that I must have run into it at the market in SF. Shame on me. For weeks I was pulling it out from in between our rows of veggies unaware of what I was throwing aside.

Purslane is healthy and versatile. High in omega - 3s, it is a crisp, subtly flavored green that can be tossed into salads like an herb. It can also be sauteed, stems and all, with a bit of butter or olive oil and served alongside meat or fish, as well as cooked in a soup or stew. Once cooked it takes on a piquant flavor.

Recently this humble green has garnered a lot of attention. Now that I know what we've got, I'm seeing it everywhere. It is sold at our local farmers market and been highlighted in a number of food related articles I have just read. Planting and harvesting our first summer garden is an ongoing learning experience. Our 'discovery' of purslane and is just one of many valuable lessons learned that I'm passing on.