picnic


 


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The truth is, food is It for me.  I can track every event of my life by first remembering the eats - was it small bites or a plated affair?  Were there servers, a buffet, curtain-covered tables?  I don't try to remember the meals, they are Just There.  I remember the food before I remember the groom, & once I place those details, his name comes back to me, as does the location, the occasion & the season.  


I never intended to cook.  My mom made food from all over the world, and still does.  She satisfies her love of the senses by whipping up eccentric jasmine-scented cakes & garnishing them with purple blossoms, "accidentally" slipping chilies into barbeque & frying up salted fish over fluffy beds of garlicky-fried rice for breakfast.  So why cook?  Why would I do that?  


As true San Franciscans, my father owned no car.  The Muni bus would show up every 10 minutes & take us wherever we wanted to be.  So Sundays growing up meant church, meeting up with Dad, pastries at the Chinese bakery, a movie in Japantown, a stop at the used book store & a really good meal. 


I'm thinking we ate at every restaurant in the City, & certainly every neighborhood: Shwarmas (Mediterranean lamb + yogurt wraps) on 24th Street, Juk (Chinese Chicken + Rice Porridge) on Clement, Fish & Chips at the Wharf, Stuffed Potatoes at the Embarcadero, Southern BBQ on San Bruno, Carne Asada Tacos in the Mission, Sinigang + Adobo (Sour Vegetable + Meat Stew, Chicken Browned in Vinegar, Garlic, Bay Leaves + Soy Sauce), Hawaiian-Style Breakfast in Japantown.  


You'd think my life was one big picnic!  

As it turned out, I fell in love with someone who loved food more than me.  I would make toast & D would thank me profusely, praising it's perfect crispness & bragging to his mother.  Given my commitment to eating, not food preparation, I viewed this craziness as some sort of unconscious manipulation.  He was daring me not to cook!!  


Following D to Los Angeles is what did me over, in so many ways.  First of all, it's expensive down there!  You can't just be eating out all of the time.  And I did realize from the beginning that D was for keeps.  At first sight, actually, but that's a different story.  He loved cooking, but his reperatoire - not so big.  (He made 4 excellent dishes)  We had a terrific, very LA Safeway in our apartment parking lot, chock-full of organic produce.  Working as a stylist all day, I'd come back home famished from rushing around on my feet, catering to the demands of divas & starlets.  I had to learn how to cook.  


It was a love-letter to D.  So I took 2 months & cooked the most ridiculous, adventurous foods I could find.  This included making a gorgeous life-size coconut by wrapping a balloon in plastic wrap, dipping it in chocolate & then toasted coconut shavings.  Making coconut ice cream while it froze, then filling that shell with an inch-thick layer of the ice cream.  Serving it cracked-open on banana leaves, spilling over with sliced star fruits, melty jack fruit, fragrant mangoes & pineapples.   I called it, "M Loves D Ice Cream."  Everything since then is called something like that.


Many on & off gluten-free years later, every dish has become even more meaningful to us.  As much as he loves food, D, like many folks who live with food sensitivities, is very happy to eat what I call "rabbit food."  You know, baby carrots, an apple, rice crackers.  No way.  Here's an "M Loves D Picnic" 


Fried Rice with Smoked Salmon, Eggs & Sweet Peas


Steamed Cauliflower with Feta, Capers + Olive Oil


Low-Mercury Tuna, Organic Mayonnaise, Relish, Chopped Celery, Sea Salt + White Pepper


Zucchini Bread with the boy's Cinnamon-Honey Butter


Fuji Apples - lots!