My dear reader,
I don’t intend to make a habit of diarizing my days for your reading pleasure. But, inspired by Our Hidden Lives, a book I write about here, I wanted to try a little experiment (which will be located on a tab at the top of my blog called A Hidden Life with the exception of this post) in diary-writing, one that involves describing life in 21st century California. Here it is, for what it’s worth.
2/16/07. A belated valentine’s day dinner at Chez Panisse. We rarely go out anymore, being so preoccupied with children and work. It’s good to remember that we once did this sort of thing, liked it, and will do it –someday — again.
Upstairs at the cafe, we walk by the open kitchen, and see a crowd huddled over what appears to be pizza dough on the counter. A woman with a cap of dark hair and a nice smile — Alice Waters — appears to be teaching the neophytes how to make a really good pizza. This is a good sign.
We ate oysters (all oysters served at Chez Panisse are identified by their homeland, in this case, Hog Island, which I imagine Alice Waters goes to frequently, just to make sure that the ones she’s going to be serving me are up to snuff as the briney pieces of perfection they’re supposed to be. In fact, that’s just what they were.) W had a spring time ravioli, with peas — it was perfect and jewel-like. (Note to self: Lucette is making pasta from scratch. I should try that again after my effort ten years ago.) I had the thing everyone has, but I never do: the mixed lettuces salad with little rounds of baked goat cheese that have been rolled in some kind of crumb mixture. This used to be unusual; now you can get it at Costco. But it’s lovely, because it’s dressed by someone who loves lettuce and knows how to make vinaigrette.
Best of all, though, was the tisane. It’s such a simple thing really, but there’s no restaurant I know of in the United States where you know for a certainty that they boil the water they put over your tea (in most places it comes straight out of the espresso machine water tap). And how lovely to see those mint leaves become incredible tea. W had apple tart (pink lady apple, I’ll have you know). I shared my tea with W, because it is Valentine’s Day and that is What You Do. I want to grow mint and lemon verbena and have a glass teapot in which to make tisane.
One of my favorite things about Chez Panisse, oddly enough, considering that it’s a temple to gastronomy, is the bathroom. Someone, a lapsed catholic, a penitent glutton, installed what look like little confessional windows over the light fixtures that’re directly above the toilet paper. I’ve never actually taken a picture of the interior of a bathroom before, but this seemed to call out for memorializing.
The movie we saw — Dreamgirls — was memorable only because it featured an Eddie Murphy who is so clearly enjoying himself. Everyone else seemed ‘way too earnest. This is, after all, a story about the rise of Diana Ross and the Supremes. I loved the audience though, a mixed group racially, with lots of African American women ranging in age from teenager to grandmother and lots of couples on dates. People clapped at particularly rousing numbers by Jennifer Hudson and I did too. I like that sort of participatory cinema far better than the artsy movie theater in downtown Berkeley where people glare at you if you dare to shift in your seat a little bit.
I’ll admit to a moment of wishing I could, like Pepys, now write “and so to bed” — in fact, it was “so to home in order to put children to bed.” First, though, a terrific meltdown by smallest boy, who was reprimanded for yelling “bastard” at the game he was playing, and for calling the woman who has cared for him so lovingly since he was a baby “fatso.” He is, all accounts to the contrary, not a total monster. Not yet. But if we don’t continue to be very, very strict with him about things like this, he will be.