Along la Loire
July 30, 2012 § Leave a comment
I have a little attic room in a two-star hotel in the Loire valley. I’m staying right by the train station in Tours and my little window looks out directly on the other little window across the street. The room is about big enough for the double bed, the TV (on which I am watching numerous Olympic events and discovering new sports, all through the slant of French commentators) and me sitting on the floor. The rain putters down outside and it is cool enough to store my yogurt on the windowsill. I am happy to be back in France.
The sidewalk heading out of town along the Loire quickly becomes a spacious bike bath, descending right onto the riverbed, in the trees and bushes that line the water. A gentle drizzle cools the air and a couple of heavy gray clouds hang overhead. The water is peaceful, flattened by the rain, and reflects the clouds above. On the other side of the river, an aging stone castle emerges majestically between the trees and clouds. One might say that the landscape is grim, but it has never been more welcomed. I have not felt this energetic in quite awhile. A couple of miles in, I am focused, determined to push harder, rather than eager for the run to be over and to collapse under a fan for the rest of my lifetime.
After the madness that was walking around in Athens, the sleepiness of Tours is a calm respite, though I am ever frustrated because I always seem to be hungry at times when restaurants are generally closed. So I wander the narrow streets, looking at one menu or another, aimless due to the reality that I cannot actually dine at any of these places, and finally score two small loaves of bread at a nearby bakery — one green olive, one peppered with dark chocolate, so much so that you might call it a loaf of dark chocolate with bread. And maybe, one loaf was finished on the rainy walk back to the hotel.
Oatcakes and the big 26.2
April 19, 2011 § 2 Comments
I sat down to do a race recap of my first marathon this weekend, and I can already barely remember parts. There was never a point in time where I didn’t think that I would finish it but there were many points when it just needed to be over damn it, and why did that last mile feel so, so long. Miles one through five were faster, faster than they should have been, and I was alive and peppy and trying to get away from the people that were chit-chatting behind me. And then we hit the long, straightaway along the marshes of the bay and the pace relaxed enough to take in the cow pastures. I ran past horses, along a muddled creek, a dirt gravel path framed by dried out weeds. The runners had separated out and I was on my own now, very on my own for miles at a time without a soul in sight. The out portion seemed to go on forever, one never-ending trail without an end in sight. Eight miles down, hit the 12-mile marker, turned around soon after. Did the whole trail back again. Boredom set in as I passed mile 15. I picked up the little brother on his bike around there. My whole family had been biking around the course, handing me energy gummies and water. They stayed pretty nearby for the rest of the race. Mile 19, the pain really sets in. Suddenly the slight uphill as you duck under the overpass feels like a real hill. I don’t really feel like I need to say that my legs hurt, but nothing really hurt, so I guess that’s a good thing. Another out-and-back for miles 21-24. I never really noticed a wall. I noticed I was tired yes, my legs felt tight and heavy; I knew if I stopped running, I wouldn’t be able to start again. Before mile 25, the out-and-back was over and we turned in to run the lake on the way home. Mile 25, the home stretch, you could see the finish line balloons, the tents, it all looked so far away. But you could see it. I’m not sure if that was better or worse. The last mile seemed to continue for longer than a final mile should — every time I thought I was nearly done, the path wound again to the side and then there emerged a whole other portion of the pond I hadn’t been able to see a few seconds before. And then one more turn. And then it was over. And I was sitting on the grass, eating a lackluster It’s It ice cream sandwich (why are these famous again?) and then a handful of peanut M&Ms and a Safeway white chocolate chunk cookie.
I had originally been planning on making a post-race snack the night before. But between making a 3.5-hour playlist (which I didn’t even get to finish in the race!) and cutting bite sized Power Bars, I never got around to it. So instead, the next morning, I hobbled around the house and made these hearty oatcakes. I pre-ordered Heidi Swanson’s new book Super Natural Every Day and it was like Christmas when it finally arrived. Every page is gorgeous and I want to stand in the middle of the kitchen hugging it and cooking from it all day. She calls these oatcakes an improved version of the oatcakes — little oat patties, often with dried apricots or nuts — that you find (and are consequently disappointed by) in many San Francisco coffee shops. These are the ideal version, dense, slightly moist, packed with nuts and whole grains. I used all spelt flour and half rolled oats, half steel cut oats. And I’ve been eating them ever since.
I love a good market day
April 11, 2011 § Leave a comment
This weekend I went down the hill to the Alemany Farmers’ market for the first time — ever. It’s odd that, even though we live in such close proximity to it, we always chose the market at the Ferry Building. Perhaps that market has a soft place in my heart after many mornings when I was younger spent at the old Embarcadero parking lot location eating watermelon and root beer flavored honey straws. But these days that location is madly overrun with people, so we went for a quick stop at the Hayes Valley Grill stand for the mandatory crab cake sandwich — char-grilled crusty roll, creamy, toasty fresh crab, with a hearty swipe of herb aioli, mixed lettuce and sliced cabbage, and a couple of tomato slices — and a leisurely stroll through the Alemany market. We found fresh corn tortillas, spicy smoked scallops, vibrant chard in every color of the rainbow and even long stalks of sugar cane, which I had to be convinced out of purchasing before I even knew what to do with sugar cane besides eat it raw. I think I’ll be back just for the smell of corn over the fire.
Following the eating extravaganza, in which I demolished a carton of organic strawberries in a couple of minutes right there in the parking lot, I went for an afternoon run along the Sawyer Camp Trial. The trail starts as a crowded mess of weekend walkers and children biking during the first mile and then the crowds thin out, and you’re practically on your own, winding along the twists and turns of the reservoir, until you finally cross to the other side and start climbing. The trail is marked every half-mile, which makes pacing very easy but also pushes you faster than you should be going. I topped off the last mile really pushing it only to come to the realization as I sat down on the hot pavement to stretch, that the marathon is in less than a week. Cue terrified freak-out.
While we were down on the Peninsula, my mother picked up a bag of lemons from a friend’s backyard tree. A couple of extras were thrown in the paper bag upon the news that I was on a citrus curd-making spree. Following my blood orange tart, which I made a couple of weeks ago (and you can find it at Eat the Love, alongside the other fabulous citrus desserts at 18 Reasons — my skirt matches, don’t you think?), I have started branching out from my favorite lemon and discovering the ups and downs of curd making. I’ve struggled to get a firm consistency from my blood orange curd while maintaining its bright, sing-song color and zesty flavor, and I’ve found that while lime works interchangeably with lemon in my favorite recipe, it’s flavor doesn’t sing “lime.” Rather, the lime curd pops with citrus flavor, but does not meld into a distinct lime burst until after it has sat on the tongue for awhile. Which is okay I guess, when you’re eating it straight off the spoon.