Well, hello there. Happy New Year! Hope you all had a very, very happy Christmas and Chanukkah and Boxing Day and Epiphany and New Year's and all other champagne-drinking, cookie-baking, latke-frying excuses for wearing red velvet and spilling powdered sugar down your front.
It is, weirdly, something like 60 degrees out on the streets of Brooklyn this evening, which is a very strange backdrop to the still-sparkling Christmas lights and discarded holiday trees sprawling in the gutters, but nice for the Pie Queen, just recently re-entered from warmer climes, notably her beloved San Francisco, preceded by a two-week tour of K's friends and family down South, from Richmond, VA to Charleston, SC and all across and around the balmy state of Florida, home of alligators, manatees, flamingo paddle boats and key lime pie. And the Weeki Wachee mermaids! But more on them later.
There will be lots about Florida in the next few days-- a place I'd visited only once, at age 9, and then just en famille to Disneyworld. What I remembered were palm trees in the hotel lobby and being so terrified by the build-up to Space Mountain as to completely melt down while standing in line (something I still tend to do, even when medicated, at airports everywhere). The real Florida, revisited at 38 alongside hometown girl K., still had lots of palm trees, not only growing inside the Orlando airport but all over the place, from bushy palmettos to swaying royal palms, along with bald cypress and hibiscus bushes and poinsettas growing in big showy bushes right in the front yard. We didn't see alligators eating household pets, or pythons trying to eat alligators (and exploding as a result) but otherwise the dream state completely lived up to expectation, and more, with skee ball and fireworks on Daytona Beach for New Year's Eve, barbecue in Miami, the Gulf of Mexico lapping at the shores of Cedar Key under a pink-streaked dawn sky, and orange trees and gator-head key chains everywhere.
It was fabulous all around, but I did miss cooking. I grabbed it when I could--frying up latkes for breakfast at K's mother's house in Lake Mary, making oatmeal/currant/apricot scones for Molly and K. when they got back from running around Lake Merritt, practically weeping with delight in the circus-colored citrus aisles of Berkeley Bowl before making pints of guacamole, a pie pan full of Meyer lemon bars, and two roast chickens for the See-Me/Meet-K. party at the Red Meat Ranger's house in Oakland, then serving the RMR's continental needs with cafe au lait and warmed-up Arizmendi Bakery's monkey bread in the morning. Back in the real world on Monday, I needed to hit the chopping board even more than I needed to pick up my mail or get started on the pile of work due at the end of this week. I just needed to eat my own food again: a big cast-iron pan of cornbread, a pot of red-bean chili, handfuls of spinach melted down in the chili, followed by freshly peeled blood oranges toted home from CA.
And yogurt! Ah, the joys of plain, plain, live-culture, unflavored yogurt. I had not realized my utter dependence on plain yogurt for breakfast until I had 2 weeks of mornings in Other People's Kitchens, generously stocked with Starbucks holiday blend and milk and bagels (even, in one happy instance, a can of pineapple chunks and an unopened box of Grape Nuts, oh joyful day) but alas, no yogurt. Here is the key to road-trip happiness: do not let your digestive system become dependent on anything not readily available in a Kwiki Mart. Had I needed kiwi-strawberry or key-lime-pie-flavored yogurt, I'd have been happy as a clam; as it was, my only chance at scoring a spoonful of plain old no-sugar 'gurt was a jumbo 32-ounce tub of Dannon from the Winn Dixie--not the most practical option when you're in a 70-degree car for most of the day. Honestly, I liked the grits and eggs, and the chocolate croissants served with French press coffee while watching Ray Liotta chewing up the seat cushions in Turbulence, perhaps the worst Christmas-Eve/serial-killer-on-board/flight-attendant-flies-the-plane- movies ever. But it wasn't until San Francisco that we were back in the land of sixteen kinds of plain yogurt--cream on top! non-fat! organic! goat! The golden West, gracious land of lactobacillis.