let's catch up a bit


i'm heartbroken to see that news about iran has practically fallen off of the front page. it's really discouraging to see that the cruel and dirty tactics employed by those in power in iran are working, but in my heart, i know that my generation isn't going to back down.

so many times over the course of my life, i've looked at my brothers and realized that it was essentially the toss of a coin that brought us to the states and gave us this (relative) life of luxury and freedom here while our cousins were left in iran. i'm well aware that if just a few things had been different, i might have been protesting in the streets myself this month.

marjane satrapi, who wrote the persepolis books, had a sweet op-ed in the nyt yesterday.


lately i've mostly been canning just to save things that might be going bad, less so than with the intention of putting up food for later. apricot jam yesterday, red currant mostarda (an italian sweet-spicy-sour condiment for meats and cheeses) the day before, and red currant jam last week. we've also been experimenting with indian-style beet relish and turnip kimchee.

i'm still waiting for my beloved dirty girl early girls, so it looks like tomato sauce season will be late and long this year.

outstanding in the field:

this week we had a dinner at green string farm with outstanding in the field. though i was really nervous about being organized enough to serve 100 people a five-course dinner in the middle of a field, everything ended up working out beautifully. (i cannot thank ross cannard enough for everything that he did to make this possible.)

the fantastic baker mike zakowski made loaves upon loaves of special breads for the event, and then baked flatbreads for the first course in the wood oven that bob built in front of the barn.

one of the most special people i speak to on a weekly basis, cindy callahan of bellwether farms, came and spoke about her perfect cheeses, which we use day in and out at the restaurant.

we served:
sunny slopes farm figs with chris lee's prosciutto (complete with a berkel slicer)
vella cheese co.'s oro secco with red currant mostarda (made with gs farm red currants)
summer vegetable salad with fresh coriander vinaigrette and marinated sardine flatbread (veggies from gs farm, star route, and martin bournhonesque. fresh coriander from county line)
roasted zucchini lasagna with sheepsmilk ricotta (zukes from terra firma. basil from gsf)
gs farm goat (spit-roasted and braised) with green beans, cherry tomatoes and shell beans (from martin, gs farm and terra firma)
hand-cranked peach leaf ice cream with roasted apricots and fresh boysenberries (all fruit and leaves from gs farm. can i just say how delicious peach leaf ic is?!)

breads from mike z.
wines from cline

nearly every one of our cooks volunteered time to make this event a success. the generosity of spirit that these guys and girls have never ceases to amaze me. i am so proud of and have such great appreciation for my cooks. thank you so much.

unfortunately, i was running around like a crazy person trying to avoid disaster the entire day, so no photos. luckily, diana sanchez (our fantastic server and a terrific photographer) was there to capture the entire day. she said i could post some of her photos when she gets them to me. i can't wait.

coming up:

i'm going to be blogging and tweeting from the roots of change summit next week. super excited.

i'll be teaching a canning workshop at hoes down this year. i think we'll do tomato sauce and perhaps some sort of jam...we'll see what's in season come october.

a little birdie (hee hee) told me that soul food farm is planning to start a chicken & egg CSA. please email alexis to show her your support if you'd be interested in joining. her pastured eggs are like a dream, and the heirloom pastured chickens are really, really tasty. and since chicken and eggs are staples in most households, i think this is a fantastic idea! she wants to make her stuff available to everyone, instead of just restaurants and shops, so let her know that you want in. trust me, there is no better egg in california.

a typical spice and snacks shop in tehran. i love how ornate it all is. you never see that here.

there's a sweet article on iranian food in the dining out section of the nyt. in part, i find it sweet because something so commonplace as a mother cooking for her kids was deemed interesting enough to write about in the times. i don't think i've ever met one iranian mother who wouldn't do the same.

i was indescribably lucky to be born to a woman who cooked every single day for me and my brothers. my grandmother once told me, exasperated, that ours is the only cuisine that requires the cook to be in the kitchen all day long. that may not be completely true, but i'm willing to bet that only a few other ancient cultures manage to draw out making dinner into a day-long (or sometimes multiple-day-long) ordeal. on top of cooking time, my mom, displaced like so many others, searched high and low around town (or even as far away as l.a.) for the perfect ingredients, ones that could reawaken dormant taste buds that had given up hope of ever meeting with the flavors of the past--of the old world.

i remember feeling an incomparable inferiority to my cousins the first time i went to iran and met them, because there was no way i'd ever be as iranian as they were. and later, i realized that the food i grew up eating wasn't actually the "real thing," but my mother's closest approximation of it--the yogurt my mom made wasn't as sour as the yogurt i tasted at my grandparent's home on the shore of the caspian, and pita bread, the bread i'd eaten for breakfast nearly every day of my life, was nowhere to be found in iran. i also realized that the culture of convenience hasn't spared iran, either, and pre-prepared foods are just as common in kitchens there as they are here. no matter where she was, i saw, the care and time my mom put into making everything for us from scratch was the most authentic part of our meals, something even many iranians didn't have anymore.

i thought of all of the homes of the diaspora i visited during my childhood, with each family's own version of the past set at the table, all slightly different than what we had at home. my mother's obsession with organic produce that led us to hippie coops and natural food stores wasn't caused by any trends or quest for health-foods as much as it was a search for the flavors of her childhood, passed sitting in plum and walnut trees at dusk. for me, my mother's food was always the best (who doesn't feel that way?).


Paperwhites, originally uploaded by schönwandt.

a friend brought me some paperwhite bulbs the day after my surgery. they're not quite to this point yet, but hopefully, when they are, i'll have the presence of mind to snap a photo or two of them.

i've been thinking a lot lately about my insecurities.

ok, who am i kidding? i think a lot all of the time about my insecurities.

three times (and twice very recently) people have told me that i use silliness and humor to avoid having to be my true self around people, and to distance myself from people.

it's completely true--i don't deny it.

on one hand, it's a protective measure--if i don't have a serious conversation with you, then there is no way for you to know what i am really thinking, what i am sensitive about, and there is no way for you to hurt me (or at least hurt me as severely).

and on the other hand, i feel like i am more in touch with my true self and my real emotions than most people i know, and more willing to share that part of me with people i trust. but that can make people REALLY uncomfortable. one of my dearest friends (and i think that some of you will know who i mean) cannot deal with my rawness. she actually, visibly, twitches with discomfort. it's a sacrifice for me to have to keep my true feelings from her, and it's set limits to our friendship, but i realize that it's something i have to do for her sake. it is mean to gush when i know she can't handle it. i won't do that to her.

i sometimes make jokes to avoid uncomfortable situations. the most tightly wound person i know is someone i love and respect a lot. she is one of the most critical people i've ever met, but also one of the most sensitive. sometimes, she says things i completely disagree with, but i can't disagree with her directly, because i know how much it would hurt her. i also don't want to agree with her because it would betray my own feelings too much, so i usually make a joke to lighten the mood or change the subject.

i'm so serious in my own head all of the time, i want to spare other people from that. i can't deal with all of my time spent with friends being as intense as the time i spend alone with my thoughts.

a friend (not the clairvoyant one i mentioned a couple of weeks ago, but one who i really do believe can see things on another level than most people) told me recently that i have inherited a legacy of worry, and that things don't have to be so hard for me. he said he can see right through my silliness to the reasons for it, and that i don't have to be that way so much.

it's good to know that some people are okay with the truth and intensity. it's scary, because there can be a lot of pain wrapped up in all of that. but if you can't ever be your genuine self around your friends, can't show them your grief, or pain, or sadness, then what is there?


last thanksgiving, i worked all day, and left around 3 pm to go home and rest. i was exhausted after two very long weeks of very long workdays, getting ready for beaujolais nouveau and thanksgiving. i think i was also fending off the flu.

when i was satisfied that everything would be alright at the restaurant, the cooks plated me up some turkey and everything else, and i got in my car to come home. i don't answer my cell phone at work, and half of the time i forget it at home (anyone who knows me knows that the thing looks like it's straight out of 1992), but i typically check it for missed calls and messages when i get into the car. i'd parked in someone else's spot, since she wasn't working on thanksgiving, and the sun was over the bay, shining into my eyes.

i had several missed calls, which was strange, and two from one of my brothers, which was even stranger, since my brothers rarely call me, and we'd just spoken a few days before on their birthday. there was a message from my dad, too. so i called back my brother, who was at work, and he told me that our uncle had a brain tumor--a glioblastoma multiforme, a tumor he was born with, the size of a golf ball or bigger. stage iv cancer. very aggressive. prognosis: one year, maybe 18 months.

(it is the terrible truth that cancer is so much more than something to worry about or be afraid of--it is something that will inevitably touch everyone's life. but it will never be easy for anyone to watch someone she loves be eaten away to nothing. i don't want to lessen anyone else's pain by talking about mine--simply put, this is something i need to do. i have a large family, entangled like the neverending branches of a banyan tree, and looking back upon our history from where i stand, it seems that pain and hardship are what have created the strongest bonds between us. i could be wrong, or just caught in a moment of negativity, but even in the limited experiences of my lifetime, difficult experiences are what have brought me closest to others.)

this year has, in many ways, been the first year i've had to be an adult. in many ways, it's been my worst year, and i can only hope that things improve for me and the people in my life.

i have always appreciated small things, and savoring mundane beauty has certainly become an important part of my vita quotidiana. this journal is above all a place for me to catalogue these bits of magic, and for that i am grateful.

thank you, universe, for my family and friends (my second family), for good health and delicious food, for doors that magically open whenever i know where i want to go (and for giving me the people who open them for me), and for beautiful art, books and music. thank you for my healing hand, with no permanent damage, and for tilden park, where i find myself almost every single day now. thank you for pizza. and ice cream. and thank you for every day you give my uncle, in the midst of his umpteenth round of chemotherapy, not too much better, but not too much worse, either.
i can't sleep, again.

i totally love tylenol pm, but i am afraid to take too much of it. i should probably just take some now, but i'm not going to.

michael pollan's class today was pretty great. i'll find out soon if he's going to let me audit. i was kind of wishy-washy about it before, but now i really want to do it.

pretty much all i can think about is my uncle and my family. i don't know what to do--my family is falling apart. everyone is falling apart. i have fallen apart (that happened long ago, though).

if you are wondering what is going on with the outgoing message on my voicemail, all i have to say is this: melissa made me do it

we've been making a lot of this salad at the restaurant lately. the blood oranges have been so good! but i think that's pretty much going to be over now that we've had this devestating freeze. i had some kishus yesterday--i hope they'll be around for another couple of days at least. i have to go to monterey in the morning, so i'll find out then, i suppose.