This gluten-free, book-touring life has been incredible: surreal, exhausting, pouring out love, filled with hilarious stories, and certainly full of good meals. I
have been in four different cities in four weeks, with three or four events in each city. The Chef and I returned from the Bay Area on Tuesday afternoon, and then I
taught a cooking class almost immediately after we landed. Whew. I’m grateful for it all. I’m grateful for the chance to meet so many of you, to celebrate with a glass of wine in hand (or be handed a bottle of wine from Sonoma County, as Jennifer did a few days ago), to hear how much the book means to you, and mostly to hear your stories.
The last few weeks have felt like one big gluten-free party.
You know that feeling the morning after the best dinner party you’ve ever thrown? Dishes all over the counters, memories clinging to different parts of your brain, the back of your eyes a bit sore because you stayed up too late having fabulous conversations with friends?
Yes. Like that.
I could craft stories of gluten-free hijinks and intimate gatherings in San Francisco. But you know what? I’ve been trying for days. And I’m not sure I have it in me right now.
Instead, I want to share some photos and fleeting phrases with you. This is inspired by something the Chef said to me, late one night, in bed, at our friend Tea’s house. We were debriefing on the day, talking about our favorite moments, as we usually do. He, Tea, Shuna, and I had eaten a great meal at Oliveto — the best bitter chicory salad I have ever eaten — and jabbered all evening about blogs, books, and great food. The Chef enjoyed it. But the blogging conversation (site meters, snarky commentors, blocking ip addresses, and the strange sense of intimacy that unfolds on these virtual pages) was not spoken in his language.
When bloggers get together, we speak cryptic moon man, mostly.
The Chef whispered to me, his face next to mine: “You know, sometimes I even get tired of talking about food. I mean, why can’t we talk about the sea, and sky, and the way the trees bend in the wind?”
I looked at him in the darkness and said, “Hey, you want to marry me?”
He grinned. “I already did.”
“Oh yeah,” I said. “That’s right.”
And so, I want to bring you sea
and the way the trees bend in the wind.
San Francisco sports a lot of pastel houses.
And a chaotic, filled-to-the-brim farmers’ market that has a roast pork stand. (Plus, June Taylor stands behind her jams, laid out on a table. I love her.)
Golden Gate Park has plenty of places for contemplation.
And excellent little hills for rolling down, spontaneously. (Thanks for the suggestion, Tea!)
Singular-tasting, great gluten-free food is easy to find. (This is a jicama-grapefruit salad with avocadoes, at a little Mexican taqueria.)
Including gluten-free pizza, just out of the oven. (This is from Mariposa Bakery. They serve it in their cafe.)
And slippery, thick rice noodles in an intoxicating sauce, a dish so warm and pappy that it feels like comfort food, even if you have never eaten these spices. (This is from Burma Superstar. Go there. Ask for everything without soy sauce, in a clean wok. Then, sit back and sigh.)
Even if you can’t eat gluten, it’s hard not to delight in the sight of the Chef so enjoying that chorizo sandwich.
Besides, if you miss the gluten, you won’t remember it later, when you eat dinner at Sens, and Shuna sends out such a barrage of glorious, gluten-free desserts (the best sweets you have ever eaten, in your entire life, like this hot chocolate with a homemade honey marshmallow)that you toddle back to the tram with your friends in a food coma, your belly so full you feel the sky could never hold it all.
You will remember this forever.
You think you’ll never be hungry again after a meal like that. But then the Chef wakes up, makes breakfast, and comes out holding plates of this. Scrambled eggs with butter, crepinettes from the Fatted Calf (pork sausages with pine nuts and currants, covered in caul fat), and roast potatoes with fresh-roasted peppers.
You find room in your stomach.
Find a way to drive out of the city, past the Golden Gate bridge, to Marin.
Stand on top of Mt. Tam with your dear ones.
Be sure to stop at Cowgirl Creamery on your way to the beach. (The Chef and I fed each other Mt. Tam as part of our wedding ceremony. We had no choice but to buy some while we were there.)
Drive to where the land meets the water.
And be sure to stop at Hog Island oysters, where you can buy a dozen on a brown plastic tray, and shuck them by the ocean. (It’s lovely when the Chef volunteers.)
Have a picnic, right on the lapping water, the briny air mixing with the oysters on your tongue, the cold along your fingers making you huddle into each other. This is the best way to be gluten-free.
And when you have a friend like Tea, she remembers everything. Including two ripe persimmons. I had never eaten persimmons before this day. Their fleshy sensuality sopping down my throat made me long for more.
Finish the most memorable meal of the Bay Area — even after eating safely and beautifully at Zuni Cafe, one of the meals of your dreams — with a last bite of fig and ginger chutney, on Humboldt Fog cheese, and a gluten-free cracker. Salute the sky with your fingers.
Hold your husband as you look out over the water, just before the light fades away. Say thank you to your dear friend, for bringing you here. For being part of your life.
And hold all these moments within you, tucked away, knowing they have changed you, knowing you will never be able to capture them into words. Let go of even trying.
(thank you to the Chef for taking most of these photos. That boy can do anything.)