Posts Tagged memories

Desert Mirage

I am currently in Las Vegas, because I am an idiot, or a masochist, or both.  There is just no good reason for a person with Summer SAD to “vacation” in Las Vegas in June, but that’s what I did.

My husband had to come here for business, and because he is always extremely busy with his start-up, I decided to come on out with him. He’d be too busy working to spend time with me, but the drive to Vegas and back would give me more time to hang out and talk to him than I get in the average week, so it seemed well worth it.

Until it was 106 fucking degrees in the fucking shade and the fucking hotel room won’t cool the fuck off.

I used to spend parts of my summers in Vegas. My grandparents lived here when I was a child. Mornings would start early to get some good play time in before it got too hot.  My grandfather would walk me to the local playground so I could play for a little while before the metal slide got literally too hot to use safely. Then we might walk over to 7 Eleven for a Slurpee. If I didn’t get a Slurpee, there would probably be coins left on the ledge outside the house for me to get something from an ice cream truck later in the day. They sold the house when I was 8 years old and left Vegas for a cheaper town in the middle of nowhere Nevada to retire. I drove by the house yesterday. My grandmother would be horrified to see the condition that the current owners have it in. The huge sagebrush field that I explored is now completely littered with 2 story suburban cookie cutter tract homes. Overall, it felt surreal to be there. I had planned to call my father while parked out front, but decided I didn’t really like it there, so I meandered on my way.

I stopped at a store to look for a new purse (my current one is falling apart) but had no luck with that either. Upon exit of the store into the overbearing heat, I headed back to the car when I sign across the parking lot caught my eye.

Rita’s Ice Custard Happiness

Ooh, ice custard. Do I want that?
Of course you want that. It’s happiness.
Well, yeah, but should I have it?
What “should”? It’s happiness. Go get some happiness.
It probably isn’t any good. It’s probably too expensive.
It’s Happiness, it says so right in the name, plus The Beatles say Rita is lovely.
I don’t think it is the same Rita.
Whatever, come on, people are always accusing you of being too negative. Go get some happiness. Be a person that deserves happiness.
Fuck you.
HAPPINESS
Serious, fuck you. Alright, fine, I’ll go get some fucking happiness.

So I drag my heat exhausted ass across the hot black top toward Rita’s Ice Custard Happiness. So. Hot. I have to walk around the building when I get there, the sign was on the back of this little section of strip mall that is floating out on the street side of the parking lot. I pass the Subway that is next door, and get to the front of Rita’s Ice Custard Happiness and am greeted by a “Coming Soon” sign.

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What’s Cooking?

One of my many happy things about being back in the Los Angeles area, is the food. I missed the restaurants, but I also missed the produce and the ethnic markets fiercely.

Lately I’ve been enjoying garden bounty: Squash from one person with an overflowing garden. Lemons from another with heavy trees. Tomatoes from a friend who is growing more than her household will eat.

It is such a wonderful thing. Because it is fresh, the flavor and nutritional values are higher. Because it is free, the financial benefit is awesome. Because it is what is available right then, it forces me to think of ways to make use of them, which often leads to meals I wouldn’t normally think to shop for.

Most of all, for me, food is so much about caring. When the ingredients are gifted to me through my network of human connections and interactions, it ties me to the positive. As I cook, I think of where ingredients came from. I think of whom they are going to feed. I think about ingredients loved by people I love. I think of the last time I prepared a dish, and who I fed that time, or of whom I would like to feed with it. I follow the threads in my mind as I chop and mix and sample.

Onions and cucumbers came from the CSA last week, and my daughter requested a cucumber salad. As I prepared it I thought back two summers to being in New York City, when a different CSA delivery led to a different cucumber salad. It was prepared by a dear friend as we worked together in the kitchen to create a feast from CSA items and food treasures collected at a nearby market. I know this is part of why my daughter wanted the salad too, because of her memory of that NYC salad, and because the friend was extra on our mind because she had a birthday this week. Every future cucumber salad will always remind both of us, of that one, and no other will ever be quite as good, because some food moments are so right.

With my bounty of tomatoes I made gazpacho, which is pretty much a perfect summer treat. It makes some use of the lemons as well. Lemons can be used pretty much daily in cooking, especially during the summer, which is the perfect time for multiple salads. Anything to stay cooler.

I’ve been cooking on the grill a lot lately, even things I wouldn’t normally cook on the grill (like banana bread). This is because it is fuck-all hot and I don’t want to heat the kitchen up further. The rest of the tomatoes I slow cooked into a delicious tomato sauce using the grill. I suppose all this unattended cooking out there could eventually lead to my house burning down, but whatever, in Southern California I can survive without housing longer than I can survive without food.

Half of the tomato sauce is in the freezer waiting for another use. The other half, I simmered ground and seasoned lamb patties in. Those I served over portabella mushrooms, stuffed with a mixture of spinach, goat cheese, extra garlic, basil, and pine nuts (and cooked on the grill, of course). The abundance of squash has been sliced up, lightly salted, spritzed with ACV and grilled. Everything gets grilled.

The heat has been leading to a desire for cooler and more refreshing cocktails as well. I brought home mint the other day so the bartender could make me mojitos. The peels from the cucumbers for the cucumber salad, I used to flavor vodka overnight, along with mint sprigs. Then that made cucumber mint spritzers the next night.

The heat wave finally broke yesterday, after a week of evil yellow ball in the sky trying to kill us all weather. It is still summer though. It will still be a grilled dinner tonight with refreshing cold side dishes and beverages, just with less lethargy and overheated misery.

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I’m Not Good at Acceptance

During our dark first year in Minnesota, a very good friend of mine died.  I was in Minnesota, and he was far away in California, and he died.

I spent a little tiny bit of time in denial. Then I moved on to anger and stayed there for a while. Then I moseyed on in to the deep valley of depression, where I’ve spent large chunks of my life anyway. I just walked in a lot farther than I’d been in quite a while, and I set up housekeeping, with no particular intention of ever walking back out.

I was not wallowing in grief. I was mainly too numb to bother with grief. Flashes of rage aside, mostly I simply put away the fact he is dead in a box in the back of the closet. It isn’t the same as denial. I know he is dead. On a day to day basis, I long ago stopped needing to remind myself I couldn’t call him. It just wasn’t fully integrated into my world either. Like everything else from my old life, my real life, it was just on hold.

Which leaves me in an interesting position now that I am back “home” because I am drinking in all the sights and sounds and smells of my old stomping grounds, and there is always something there to remind me.

Which means the box has come out of the closet and I am needing to deal with the full blown reality that he will never go to any of our favorite restaurants with me again. He’ll never annoy the shit out of me with his bizarre ordering quirks again. We’ll never be sneaking the back way between the valleys to avoid the freeway traffic, spending the whole drive deeply engaged in meaningful and meaningless conversation again.

Yeah. Turns out I’m still really pissed off about him dying.

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