Eating Local for Urban Families. Gluten-free and Dairy-free, too!

Friday, October 19

To The Bay and Back

I hadn’t been back to my alma mater, Mills College, since I packed up my dorm room, stuffed it all into my dad’s van, along with Aaron’s motorcycle (seriously, we put the bike in the van) and headed north to Portland. But this past weekend I headed down to the Bay Area for a journalism department reunion and finally saw the campus and all of its gorgeous Spanish architecture, inhaled the scent of the eucalyptus trees (I think this is what made me go to this school—that smell lifts you up and make you feel like you can do anything), and met up with a group of women I didn’t actually know (no one from my class was there) but all shared this campus, a beautiful and maddening little world all of its own.

I’d been back to the Bay Area many times, even to my old haunts in Berkeley, but not to campus. There are lots of reasons, too many to go into here, and as time goes on most of my old disappointments with Mills seem too inconsequential now to hang onto. For a few years I’ve wanted to renew relationships with the people and the professors I knew then, partly for your basic career networking, partly out of a desire to make connections with new graduates and help usher them into the working world, but mainly because they were such a big part of my life, they taught me so much, and I missed them.

I was on campus for a very short three hours, so I really didn’t get to see much of anything. And that was because I had to head across the Bay to see…


Ok, really, you have to believe me. That white blob in the middle really is Shuna Fish Lydon. The LitQuake Lit Crawl reading was totally packed into at Laszlo’s, a skinny, dark bar in the Mission. When I first got there (sure that I’d missed her entirely because I’d had to drive around for 20 minutes looking for parking) the place was packed to the door and even when I stood on my tiptoes in the entry way I couldn’t see anything. I held my camera over my head and tried to hold really still, but as you can see that didn’t work out very well.

No matter. Shuna read her piece on recipes, which I knew well. It was lovely to hear her sweet, clear, sometimes creaky voice read her words aloud. This was a warm and witty Shuna (with just a smidge of bitterness thrown in there, which is her way). It wasn’t the Shuna of raw emotion I saw speak at Blogher when she spoke about the impact the words—the good and, especially, the bad--of food bloggers can have on an eatery, how they can make or break the fortunes of so many good people. If you’re not reading her series on opening a restaurant, which addresses this here (though somewhat cryptically) follow the series by starting here.

At the reading I ran into Jennifer Jeffrey, who has just published her crab book. We talked a bit about her two-part piece on feminism and cooking (part 1 here, part 2 here). This issue is one I’ve been contemplating for a long time, before and after Jennifer wrote on it. I keep thinking I need to write some kind of response, but…I keep running into work deadlines, field trips, housework, a funeral, dentist appointments, trips to the co-op where the damned local eggs still haven’t come in, coffee dates with friends I haven’t seen in months… I keep running into all the real-life craziness that women juggle when they devote themselves (by choice or for survival) to work and family and friends.

For Jennifer I think the food probably suffers before the writing. Though I only assume this because she’s published two books. For me, I know the writing suffers first. I could easily choose convenience food and have more time for writing, or anything. Right now I have to trust that the food has to come first, because that’s where the writing starts. The problem is I always feel like I’m stuck at the beginning and not making much progress.

Back to food…

Iris and I stayed with my cousin, Laura, and her sweet little family in San Jose. Sunday morning we headed up the street to their fabulous little farmer’s market. I didn’t buy much since I would be leaving the next morning, but now, looking at these photos, I wish I’d bought a little of everything and just ate my way through the rest of the day.

Laura, who’s lived most of her life in the Bay Area, chuckled as I went on and on about how lucky they were to still have green beans! And tomatoes! And eggplant! And strawberries! To her, this is all commonplace.

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