lunch money

[A post-in-progress, as some of the accompanying photos are locked in my phone and will require a consulting teenager and some new skills to unlock, while others are trapped in a camera that is out of batteries, plus this report will be written in installments, lest I go on and on and on.]

This was a non-food vacation, which is fine, even with an obsessive feeder and eater like myself. But it was a non-food vacation in one of the richest food mines known to me personally, which is kind of like torture--in the sense of the word that we the fortunate employ when we say “torture” and we don’t mean “torture,” not at all. Kind of like when we say we are “starving,” when we mean it has been a while since breakfast. In that sense, it was torture. In that sense, I was starving.

Which of course I was not. The thing is, in my family of origin, mealtime rules. We can plan this or that activity, yes, but will we be back in time for lunch, or should we bring some along? And so forth. In the group we were running with this week, meal times often blow by. You may find yourself embarking on a hike at 11:45 am, with no plan to tote along, acquire or be in the presence of calories before 4pm. You may find yourself insisting in an unpopular fashion, or you may find yourself stuffing comestibles into your pockets on the QT, or you may find yourself and the minors around you quite peckish on a majestic hilltop or in a beautiful dry riverbed. This was not a vacation on which to forage extensively for esoteric ingredients and take time imagining how you might assemble them, or to linger over their preparation. It was a lovely time, made especially so by my nephew who is so deeply happy to be with my children that he is practically airborne with happiness in their presence, and vice versa. But it was not a lot about food.

It was a good time to reflect on why the finding, preparing and delivering of food is so absorbing to me, but that is perhaps a topic for another time.

Today, our last day away and spent on our own in San Francisco, was more about food, but even so there were some deliciously inedible pleasures. We woke up in my friend’s beautiful Tiburon house, which hangs off a rocky hill over the bay and which was the site of many happy escapes when I was in college. As the sun rose on the water and the city twinkled in the distance, I watched a sleek black seal pop his head up here and there in the water. My son appeared at my side, his eye on a couple of wrapped gifts with his name on them, and I told him a seal had come to wish him happy birthday. We looked out the window, in time to see the seal turn somersaults. The postage-stamp-sized rocky beach, reached by switchback wooden stairs from the house, was covered in sea glass of all colors. We crossed the Golden Gate Bridge in deepest fog, her orange towers only faintly visible above us.

After a nod to culture in the morning, we had lunch here. It was insanely crowded and claustrophobically tiny and there was nowhere to sit, leading all among us, myself included, to wonder if the detour was worth it. The sandwiches we tore into as soon as we reached the sidewalk laid all doubt to rest. I snarfed up a tofu banh mi with a tart and potent lemongrass dressing that was beyond tasty, and did not hear any complaints from the snarfers around me in terms of their own sandwich selections. Dazzled by the absurdly plentiful choices, we put a few of these and one or two of those in our little basket as we shouldered along the tiny aisles, and I soon found myself with a little sticker shock at the register.

Lunch at the oasis can cost you, after time in the desert.

Figuratively speaking.