in San Francisco

Accidentally, I’ve wound up in San Francisco for the winter. Olives are dropping from trees on the streets, and I’ve been saving some for bringing home, and growing the pits into houseplants. I’ve read you can expect a crop from an olive tree in a pot, but even so the foliage is beautiful.

Also, the plum trees are in bloom. My grandmother-in-law, for some 45 years a student of Zen, told me the other day that in Japan plum blossoms are a symbol of bravery, on account of that they are the first fruit to bloom in the spring, and thus the most likely to lose its crop to frost. I like that, thinking of them as brave, rather than stupid which is what some farmers I know have called them.

The apples here are boring compared to what I’m used to in the east, but then with demand sucking them up so fast this year, the apples left in the east this time of year, at least in Vermont, are pretty boring too. More disappointing, the citrus available here, that I’ve seen so far, has not knocked my socks off. And I came too late for persimmons. But the new-harvest olive oil is in, and a joy.

Restaurants are pissing me off, as typically too precious or pretentious or expensive, often all three. I am beginning to turn against this new foodism, as readers know. But here it’s as bad as anywhere.

On the other hand, wine and cheese availability, considering only that which I can afford, is stunning, and there are shops that hurt my heart to be in, to be surrounded by such plenty, with the expectation of being able to enjoy some of it. I am currently drinking the best bottle of wine I’ve probably had in six months, a Fronton from Chateau Flotis, the second bottle I’ve bought in the city, and I spent on it $12. Gorgeous.

But I’m missing West Virginia. While I can buy fifteen varieties of mushrooms here quite easily, I’d rather learn to pick them in the woods myself for free. And make cheese, and cure meats, and ferment cider, and everything else I do and want to do, and can do there, without being a rich man. And eat no worse than a rich man. Except, of course, for wine. Achilles heel of us here at the antipasto.


the traveling kitchen

The issue of leaving the house, sometimes comes up. Sometimes it’s more than a day. My wife and I, we try to prepare. Once, and for years, our traveling kitchen included olive oil, pasta, knives, a cutting board, garlic, herbs, onions, at least one cast iron pan, and many things I am forgetting, too, that we no longer carry. We did this because we had to eat, and eating in those days was a very difficult thing. Even so, we spent wads of dollars everywhere we went, buying wine, meat, various ingredients in small measures. These days, more people seem to eat, so it is less of a trouble. We are on the road, but we have pared down considerably. Here is an inventory:

a one-pint capacity wooden mortar and pestle.
a primitive knife grinder (sharpener)
a silicon spatula with a broken-off handle
a wooden spoon
cork screw
sea salt

These things, we cannot do without. Sharpish knife, crusher and muddler, reasonable things to stir with, the possibility of having something to drink, and a salt that won’t make us feel slightly ill. Please don’t ask me to do a double blind on that last one. I don’t believe in double blinds.

(See relevant link posted previously here, and while I am adding addenda, I may own up to usually bringing a coffee kit as well. This year, though, it being winter, I’d run out of beans, so have been instead at various mercies.)