Okay, I have far more than two loves. After all, I’m a woman of passions, as you can read on this website. However, here are the two loves of today.I’m in love with my new kitchen shelves.My kitchen has been making me happy all summer long. I swing my hips as I dance in front of the stove, creating new concoctions, like the blackberry sauce recipe from last night that made me nearly moan and stamp my feet this evening as I actually ate it. I lean my feet against the cupboards as I sit sideways in my chair in the little kitchen nook, under the skylights with the morning light showering upon me. And I unload the dishwasher again, because there always seem to be dishes these days. Good parties always happen in the kitchen, people leaning against the counters with food in their hands. Cluttered or clean, I’m always happy to be in my kitchen.But now I really love being in my kitchen, because now I can look at my new kitchen shelves.Yesterday, I spontaneously stopped at Dick’s Restaurant Supply store, on 1st Avenue South. I was on my way back from a secret recognaissance mission (you’ll read about it on Friday) in south Seattle, and I saw the sign while I was waiting at a stoplight. With a name like that, I had to stop. As you know, I’ve been obsessed with all things to do with the kitchen lately. It was only a matter of time before I stopped in a restaurant supply store.Plastic pitchers, red menu covers, tortilla warmers, giant coffee makers, and napkin dispensers—these are the real stuffs of working restaurants. Everyone behind the counter talked like a short-order cook. A female customer was complaining about someone in her restaurant: “You know, she came in and ordered six sandwiches at once, and then she asked for a discount. And I told her, ‘No! It’s not as if I’ve ever seen you before.’” Um, I don’t think I want to go to her restaurant. I felt like an interloper. I sidled around corners and investigated. It looked as though most of the items there were meant for sandwich shops and places with plastic tablecloths. I thought I was probably done. But then I started looking at the shelves.Whenever I walk into gourmet kitchen shelves, I feel at ease. The gleaming chrome shelves let in light and air. Everything looks more beautiful on these bakery display shelves. Sur la Table is packed with them. Les Cadeaux Gourmet stores cookbooks on them. And Macrina Bakery piles loaves of now-forbidden bread on them in the windows. Somehow, they always seemed beyond my reach, a piece for professionals. But yesterday, I looked up and knew what I wanted. I asked the guy holding an ice cream scoop, “Do you know where I could get these?”
“Well, we sell them,” he said.And so I bought some.This morning, I started putting them together. It wasn’t that hard—there were no long screws or complicated tools involved. But I was so eager to have the gleaming shelves erect before my window that I started unpacking the boxes before I had my coffee. Still in my pajamas, still in my smudgy glasses. The living room cluttered with shoes and papers strewn across the floor. And the sticky tape from the ripped-open boxes kept clinging to the bottom of my feet, so that I had to keep kicking it away. The finished set is over six feet tall, so trying to place each heavy shelf and guide it down all four poles at the same time was nigh impossible. One side would slip down the pole and the rest catch at an awkward angle, and I was left shoving and swearing until it all came clattering down. Sometimes, I’m like my own Laurel and Hardy film over here.But finally, it was done. And this afternoon, I disemboweled the cupboards of my kitchen and placed every beautiful object on my new shelves. In the late afternoon sun, everything shone. Limpid light through pale green glass looked like happiness to me. And now, with most of my cooking supplies out on display, cooking seems even more enticing.In between finishing the shelves and stocking them, my day was wonderfully full. Almost too full. Taking Elliott to the Seattle aquarium for the first time was a delight more wonderful than I can write. And I especially liked when he put the tortilla basket from El Puerco Lloron on his head and called it a hat. That boy is my constant, every-day, can-never-see-him-enough love.But in one of the few moments of silence in the day, I sat down in the green chair in front of the living room window and read The New York Times.Writing about how much I love this newspaper would take up more space than this post can hold. But I remember the first time I learned to fold it the proper way to read it on the subway, just after I moved to that city. That’s when I felt like a New Yorker. It has been my constant news source for decades, still scintillating after all these years. And what can I say—the Seattle newspapers are best used for lining the bottom of my friend Jessica’s birds’ cages. Seriously. I’ve been subscribing to the Sunday New York Times for the four years I’ve lived in Seattle, and it has become one of the week’s best rituals. A slow pot of coffee and the paper spread out before me. I looked forward to Sunday all week.But this summer, I’ve been finding the blue-wrapped paper on my doorstep every morning. Someone from the Times called last month and said I could have the daily paper for the same price. Of course. And of course, now I’m hooked. And do you know why, in particular?The Wednesday section on food, of course. Dining In, one week, and Dining Out, the next—it’s always filled with fabulous stories of people living for food. This morning, I was fascinated with this piece on fresh, local food making its way into college cafeterias across the country, and how astounded kids are with the taste. God, all I can remember is dipping limp broccoli in ranch dressing in my college cafeteria. And drinking Starbucks coffee with hot chocolate from a mix. Not exactly spectacular. Maybe we are really starting to change in this country.But my second-favorite weekly section of the paper is the Science Times. I’ve always been a science geek, and in fact, I thought I was going to be a doctor when I graduated from high school. The human body fascinates me, and that’s part of the reason why this celiac diagnosis and the effects of eating gluten-free captures my attention so fully. Yesterday’s section included an article you simply must read: “The Other Brain, the One with Butterflies…” Did you know that the enteric system, otherwise known as your guts, has its own sensory cells, neurons, and connections? And that the intestines and your brain are the most-alike organs in the body? Or that 95% of the serotonin made in your body is produced in your intestines? 95%! The medical field is just beginning to understand this and investigate more fully. It’s no wonder that full-blown celiac often seems to be accompanied by depression and brain fog. It sure was for me. And now, with healing intestines, my mood is far more even, and my spirit indefatigable. I’m convinced—when we talk about a “gut instinct,” we’re not talking in metaphor.And I love that The New York Times seems to always mirror what’s going on in my mind.This evening, my neighbor called up from downstairs. She had spotted the new shelves through the window. “Hey, those look great. The food channel is going to be calling soon.” I called her up instead, to show her the new layout, sample the fancy olive oil I bought at ChefShop today, and taste the cooling blackberry sauce. She appreciated it all, but she also had that look in her eyes. The look that said, “Um, you might be a little bit crazy.”Yes. Yes I am. I’m in love with kitchen shelves and a newspaper. What else would you expect?
PEACHES ROASTED WITH BROWN SUGAR AND BASIL
Every week, the dining section of the Times offers up several recipes I’m eager to try. This one arrived in a piece about how to cook with toaster ovens, but I’ve translated it for the conventional oven. I have plenty of basil in the house, and it’s truly peach season in Seattle, so I’m going to make this tomorrow:
3 tablespoons of unsalted butter, softened
3 tablespoons of dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons of chopped fresh basil
a pinch of ground cinnamon
a pinch of salt
4 ripe peaches, halved and pitted
°Pre-heat the oven to 425°.
°In a small bowl, mash together the butter, sugar, basil, cinnamon, and salt.
°Spoon the mixture into the cavities of the peach halves. Arrange the pieces stuffed side up. Bake until the peaces are softened and the butter is bubbling (about fifteen minutes).
°Serve hot, with creme fraiche or sour cream.