If you, as I am, are a reader, there are articles, chapters, bits and pieces from a book that you know that you’ve read, that you can never find again. This used to be far more common, but even now, even with the internet, instead of a shelf in a library late at night, there are still things; things that poke at you in the early morning hours and things that tweak at your memory whenever your read something else, things that you long to find, tie down, quote with authority, but cannot find.
If this is not your lot in life, it’s OK. Rejoice. You are not one of the damned. Go, and, as Kahlil Gibran said, “laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.”
Many and many a year ago, I read an article by M.K. Fisher about how to prepare a meal in order to send a lover off to sleep before his amorous intent could become manifest. It may have been in the New Yorker? I may have read it sometime in the early 1970s when I was babysitting for a couple whose apartment was full of old cookbooks? But what was memorable was how, after every line, you would go, “Oh, yeah, that would make me completely ready to sleep.” I’ve been trying to find that article for decades now and I’d still love, love, love to find it.
But today I want to write about Frances Mayes, who’s written a wonderful post about her favorite meals. You should go read it here. In the same vein, and with the same abandon for the strictures of time and place, here’s my own perfect food day.
I wake up in New Orleans and, well, of course, I wander through the graveyards, go to Cafe du Monde, and have chicory (that blue-flower root brought from France to America by Thomas Jefferson) coffee, thick with cream from Wisconsin cows and sweetened by cane sugar from Cuba. I have a second cup. I have a third. I take a long time with the third.
I materialize inside the Algonquin Hotel in New York. My wonderful DiL is there, as are my lovely friends E. and J. I have a bagel so tough on the outside that it takes incisors to bite through it, and it is spread with rather sour cream cheese, and topped with chipped, smoked salmon, capers, paper-thin red onions, and lemon juice. There is a bloody mary there, with Stoli, Clamato, lime, celery, and the juice of fresh New Jersey tomatoes. Celery salt is involved.
The Algonquin cat steps past.
For second breakfast (because, of course, second breakfast), I am just outside Muir Woods, in an old lodge, half WPA and half Rivendell. The Earl Grey tea is served, as it must be, in a thermos. The oatmeal is thick, salted, buttered, and scooped from earthenware bowls into our gentle mouths. The berries are laced with cream, the mushrooms and butter are married with love, and the woodsmoke is redolent of cedar. There is trout if you are really hungry. It was fried in bacon.
I can’t have lunch anywhere except the Palm in Washington, D.C. Tommy knows me, seats me right away, and sends over one of the best Stoli martinis in DC. Maybe I’m interviewing a new attorney. Maybe E and I are celebrating our week-apart birthdays. Maybe DiL and I have come there with an infant G/Son. Or maybe, and this is most likely in my perfect week, it’s 9/11, the world has gone mad, the president is hiding underground away from DC, almost everywhere else in DC is closed, and the white-coated waiters at the Palm are there, composed, serving shrimp cocktails, rare steak, braised asparagus. They bring me more than one martini. And then, before, in the late afternoon, I drive across the abandoned TR bridge, they bring me another.
It’s afternoon tea and I’m back in San Francisco at the Compass Rose Bar in the Westin St. Francis. I’ve just finished reading The Compass Rose by Ursula LeGuin and I’ve left the legal meeting, abandoning contract interpretation for watercress sandwiches, clotted cream and oyster puffs, and fish tacos on the beach in San Diego.
I watch the sun set in San Diego and then I’m back, time-travelling hours ago, to a tiny diner in the northern bit of the southern bit of Appalachia. Landscape Guy and I have been at the Virginia arboretum and now we’re in the kind of place where everyone looks up to see you walk in. You’re not locals. We pick up a bag with two chicken barbecue sandwiches and two jars of cole slaw. We head on out to Hollywood Cemetery and we sit down outside the gravestones of Virginia Woodmen. We watch the river roll by.
I’m sitting on a soft blanket beside the banks of the tidal Potomac on a Spring night in DC, watching the waxing Moon. I’m with you, and with you, and with you, and with you, and with everyone I adore. We can see the full Moon shining through the branches of the flowering trees that the Japanese gave to us over a hundred years ago. The Moon shines on the water outside the Jefferson Memorial. We have fried chicken, and corn biscuits, and the Moon shines into whatever we’re drinking, allowing us to call it Moonshine.
Eating well is a ritual of the Goddess. I won’t be gone long. You come, too.