Rama's pa Richard's birthday is January 29--Sunday the 31st we headed up to Nevada City to celebrate and visit. Madz had managed to get her Monday dinner shift covered and was able to accompany us; she'd been working a lot and a mini-retreat was very much the needed thing. We had a late departure; Maddy and I worked brunch, and then were dragging our heels packing after.
I don't know why I seem to always have a weird procrastination about packing, even for travel I'm excited about. Maybe it's the editing I find daunting; the writing truth, "if I'd had more time it would have been shorter," I think can also be applied to packing. If I give myself more time to pack I will bring less. I love the idea of being a minimal and elegant traveler, carrying one small bag containing just the (flawlessly curated) basics, expertly selected to compose in varied combinations tasteful and pitch-perfect ensembles. As I get older I am getting more practical about my wardrobe. I used to be downright perverse about buying clothes; I went in for a lot of "pieces." If there was something weird and surprising about an article of clothing I had to have it. No regrets--I have a lot of really beautiful clothes, and I love on a whim extracting Lazarus-es from the closet depths. Nowadays though I actually consider the wearability, versatility, and practicality of whatever I'm pondering purchasing. This kind of fashion is definitely more conducive to one day achieving that chimerical valise. For this NC visit I was very much in sloppy excess mode--unsure of what to expect temp-wise, I filled one bag with sweaters and coats alone.
So we left late, after dark. I dozed most of the drive, nodding awake to catch snatches of Sacramento radio's solid throwback selections (Rama and Madz were well-pleased with the deejay-ed offerings). We arrived at the Auburn Alehouse and rolled in for traditional bite and brew. Maddy, your typical pescetarian gluten-free OC beeyotch, was kind of screwed food-wise since they were 86-ed corn tortillas for their fish tacos. She ended up doing some weird improvised salmon lettuce-wrap thing, which, despite being crappy, was in fact superior to Rama's and my supper. We split the veggie lasagna--I thought it seemed like a safe choice, hard to fuck up. FALSE. It forwent the dish's tried-and-true tomato sauce, opting instead to "innovate" with an astoundingly disgusting, very sweet bell pepper sauce. Plus the pasta cube wasn't even heated all the way through. Yeck.
Richard and Sita (R's sis) had stayed up to await our arrival, but I was so walloped I didn't visit long before retiring. The next morning dawned clear and cold.
The house's human occupants passed a relaxing couple of hours chatting and reading and sipping coffee. Pappy however was considerably less unwound, and assumed a lofty (and furious) post to eagle-eye Poundy, who in turn mostly dozily sulked on his taco.
Rama got to prepping yellow chanterelles to accompany eggs, and I snapped a couple polaroids with the camera Sita had bday-gifted her pops.
Breakfast was a thumbs-up--the aforementioned foraged gold, beet greens, toast, and over-easy egg (Rama has an interesting technique he learned staying with his relatives in Spain of cooking the eggs in a kind of olive-oil bath, splashing hot oil on top to cook the white).
This was to be a Burn Day, and soon after mealtime Richard headed out back to saw down some last straggling dead manzanita branches to add to the burn-pile he'd been assembling over the preceding months. Then it was time to light it up!
I'm not too pyromaniacal compared to most (Maddy and Rama both very definitely are), but I was pretty STOKED on the idea of this fire. I'd never partaken in a Burn Day before, and had been envisioning an overcast day, a roaring blaze, and a dope photo-sesh featuring me hopping around snapping pics like an excitable monkey. The perverse reality of bright wintry white pervading afternoon sunshine really (for me) monkey-wrenched the whole deal, but Maddy, Ramz, and I still took some pics, a handful of which I'll post here though I quite literally hate the light in them.
Richard had a devil of a time getting it going; months of rain had done their work on soddening the logs.
Poundy was keeping busy with his horse ball, until he lost it in the pond.
Sita fetched his life-vest so he was able, to his extreme relief, jump in and retrieve it.
It was however freezing out (the birdbath that morning had contained a disc of thick ice), and once out of the pond P began trembling violently. I grabbed a "shoal towel" and wrapped him up and propped him up in my lap, rubbing him down for a while like an enormous cumbersome toddler, and then when he was drier Rama made him sit with his haunches practically in the fire (which was very stressful for everyone else to witness).
The fire kept shrinking down as Richard, Rama, and Sita maintained its dutiful consolidation, yanking out the unburnt jutting timber and heaving it back into the heart of the heat.
Finally it was a size safe to leave smoldering (it was super satisfying that night to through the bedroom window spy in the distance its flickering orange glow).
Rama, Maddy, and I headed downtown, ostensibly to get groceries though I was very much wanting to peep the new location of Kitkitdizzi, Nevada City's quiche hipster-y Atomic Garden/Esqueleto-esque store (though it's much less merch-laden than its O-town cousins). We checked it, and then went in search of repast as Maddy was Hangry Code Orange. We settled on Three Forks Bakery & Brewing Co., the scruts from which Rama and I had previously dug. This time the food was a bit of a let-down. Rama and I shared a good salad, but the soups fell flat. It's always a bummer to get a bland bowl, but flavorlessness in scratch-made soup is a commonplace. My carrot-ginger was okay, but Maddy's and Rama's broccoli-cheddars were watery and awful. Maddy got a gluten-free pizza-ish flatbread too, which profoundly mediocre but not bad.
After ordering I jotted over to Harmony Books to pick up a b-day gift for Richard: David Mitchell's compact and stylishly-designed "ghost story" novella Slade House. I highly recommend it, but it's probably significantly more thrilling for fans who've already enjoyed Ghostwritten and Bone Clocks, as it features some pleasing reader-rewarding character crossover.
Next we headed over to the BriarPatch Co-op for the ingredients our devised menu required--I was ready to bludgeon Rama who was being doing this thing he does where he's curtly contrary, anal, and controlling about produce selection. To riff on Parks and Rec, this is the man I have chosen to love. Next we went to SPD to obtain our shopping list's dregs, and then at last headed home.
We passed a pleasant evening cooking with Mississippi John Hurt Pandora and good chat and red wine, and dinner, when ready, was great. Rama did his goat milk "cream sauce" (regular-type and then a gluten-free cornstarch-thickened one for the Maddog), simmered with shallots and Black Trumpets (we'd strategically gone foraging before the NC visit, and came bearing a veritable bounty of choice 'shrooms). Maddy had a gf pasta, and the rest of us had awesome Baia pasta gifted by my ma. Richard was especially pleased with it; after reading Eating on the Wild Side he's been very concerned with the nutritiousness (or not) of food. The Baia pasta was made with Kamut, which is a brand name for the grain variety khorasan; Baia's website reads:
The grain differs from modern-day varieties because it has not been modified through modern breeding practices or genetic modification. Although not thought to have been in commercial production anywhere in the world in the recent past, most scientists believe it probably survived the years as an obscure grain kept alive by the diversity of crops common to small peasant farmers perhaps in Egypt or Asia Minor.
Pretty neat. We also had broccolini, sautéed greens, and Ram's deliciously potent and evoo-drenched garlic bread. After dinner we played our weird version of Cranium (the only one the game store carried), which consolidates the game into a two-team affair. We did girls vs. boys, and girls crushed it. Rama and I had a pretty heated disagreement about rule interpretation at one point--we're the worst. Immediately after its grumbling resolution I took a breather/baño-break, and backing out of the room flipped Rama a heartfelt double-bird behind everyone else's backs; the gesture felt genuinely cathartic and also cracked us both up. Throughout the game Maddy and I had a definite brain-twin, sisterly advantage--she was astoundingly intuitive at guessing my charades. Post-Cranium we played a spot of no-rules Pictionary to cap the night--it was a fun time, and I didn't behave too abominably unsportsmanlike.
The next morning I woke up and, pre-vision-correction, recumbently admired the blurry gray-day window-view, murmuring something to the effect of "o, it's so pretty out." The moment the words left my mouth I ticked IT WAS SNOWING and emitted a bizarre strangled gasp, then leapt from bed to run and shake Maddy awake. We're HB gals, and our parents aren't really "winter sport" folk, so we've had relatively limited exposure to snow. Awakening to a surprise snowfall felt like the dreamy fantastical Christmas-morning-type glory of yore. We hastily layered up to rush out. I didn't (and don't) have any snow gear, but I pulled on some leggings over underamor, doubled-up sweaters, then assumed a scarf, gloves, wool socks, and waterproof hikers, and we were awf. Now bear with me on a ridick quantity of ecstatic snow pics:
Rama emerged from the house bearing mugs of hot cocoa, I mean coffee, which was truly the most satisfying thing ehvuh; Sita also came out to join in on the fun.
We ambled down the drive to grab the paper.
My hair got soaked but I was totally comfortable temp-wise. The snow was so soft and fat and gentle and lovely. After a spell we went inside to quickly re-group before rolling over to check out the river.
The snow was pretty much finished by the time we piled into the car...
...and there wasn't a spot of it north up the highway to the river. Our Yuba jaunt was still enjoyable, and I felt so #blessed to have experienced at all the snowfall's brief magic (it's actually very rare for their property to see snow).
Back to town for another round of eating/grocery-getting. First Sita grabbed a couple crêpes, and then we hit up fudenjüce. Rama and I usually get their INSANE "couscous" salad (featuring their own cray-cray yum-yum garlicky, superlative "Green Goddess" dressing). This time we split a gf bagel sandwich. It was temper-tantrum-inducing-ly under-seasoned, but we figured out we could flavor it with the aforementioned dressing from its side-salad. I've had really great sandos there in the past, so it must have been an off-day. We hit up the Gross-Out for wine 'n' olive erl, then SPD again.
Back at the homestead Maddy and I got down on cleaning our hedgehogs while Pandora-ing, and Rama, headphoned, watched Volcom Pipe Pro on his comp while cracking walnuts. We did this for a couple hours (cleaning mushrooms is extremely time-consuming, even when you maintain mindful tidiness during the scavenger-hunt frenzy of harvest). As we cleaned Maddy and I separated out especially cute or pleasing specimens, and when we were done I drew them with one of those very satisfying retractable Sharpie-brand fine points. I love that shit.
Next we three teamed up to compile the "Bomb," alt. title "Labor-Intensive" Salad (this time with inadvertently but tastily soft-boiled eggs), and Maddy prepared some salmon from home she'd needed to cook. It was such a yum and nourishing meal (Richard was again very stoked), but it was so late in the day that immediately after we had to get started on dinner, which felt very unwholesome, like when you're stuffed to the gills but talking about your next meal.
We did up pizzas, their impetus being our wonderful, toothy, sweet-smelling, toasted-cream-colored hedgehogs (hands-down my favorite mushroom). Rama's method (it might be everyone's--I dunno) for preparing them yields invariably incred results. He coats the bottom of the pan in a thin layer of olive oil, heats it up on medium, dumps in the fungi plus a generous scattering of salt, then stirs regularly until the water cooks off.
It's crazy how much they shrink down, and the sweet scent of them cooking is positively intoxicating.
The pizzas were as usual vg, but it was an abbreviated evening for Rama and me, as were both pretty beat and retired early (falling asleep we overheard Maddy and Richard swapping cat-lover stories--it was very cute).
The next morning Richard and Rama trucked off to pick up shingles for the porch project, and I line-cooked and dishwasher-ed for Madz as she prepared a most gourmet brekkie: Hedgehog Benedict. We toasted up the fat and superlative glutino English muffins (they're actually much yummier than R's and my favored wheat Thomas and Sara Lee brands), then topped those with chopped avo (for Maddy), arugula (for me), hedgehogs prepared in the "traditional fashion," expertly-poached (by Maddy) eggs, and a home-made (by Maddy, obviously) hollandaise.
It was such a treat, and a good send-off for the drive back to Oakland.
I'm always grateful for our NC visits--they feel like such a retreat. I get such a re-charge from the homeyness of the house, the work-in-progress sprawl of the property, and the positive energetic space Richard creates. Plus visiting mountains has, for whatever reason, been a lifelong relief. It's really lovely getting to spend time there, and with Madz in the mix it's next-level heavenly. Anyway, signing off, sending thanks.