Thursday, May 17, 2007

I feel like a person again now that I've got my zaatar

(it's true)

Today after apartment hunting I went to Samirami's, a Middle Eastern food store in the Mission. My supply of zaatar from Sevan had run out and I'd been without for weeks. At first I was doubtful...I'd found spices, but no zaatar. Then I spotted giant pound-sized bags of zaatar. Boulette's sells it for $2.25 per oz. but this was 5 bucks for a giant plastic tub of zaatar! And then, oh joy, I saw a bulk spice section with three kinds of zaatar (Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian)...this I hoped would be the freshest. So I filled two bags with some Palestinian and some Lebanese (I think the Sevan stuff was Jordanian). I did not let myself get sumac (it's trendy now though, I think) but I did ask the man behind the counter for mastic. And, to give him credit, he didn't seem surprised that a whitegirl wanted mastic. That sent me back over to the other side of the store for rosewater for Claudia Roden's gum mastic ice cream (I bet my new Vitamix blender can be used in lieu of robotcoupe). I looked for mulberries for ice cream, but no luck. My Persian supervisor at Frog Hollow *did* say she'd bring me a cup of mulberries (we had to negotiate the amount I wanted into a small enough amount she could spare it).

Rosewater/mastic ice cream...a taste memory. I am sure there's an Oleana-ish restaurant here in SF, and sometimes it's the memory of taste (the warm not cool mint flavor, the everpresent rose slightly oily in aftertaste, the milkiness), and sometimes it's in the memory of small and deliberate perfection. Here, I'm not in a community of people who serve food made with love on plates shipped from Turkey in suitcases. Here I'm in a community of baker-girls with boyfriends, career-change chefs whose restaurant experience is much more limited than mine. I bruise my hips on walk-in doors, decorate cupcakes, daydream about clafoutis and brunoised rhubarb and baby fennel. I feel like a person now I've got my zaatar, and I will let you know which kind I prefer. But I would like some people to talk about food with, for real,and I've been nostalgic for restaurants lately. Even for the gloomy darkness of Sonsie upstairs, getting coffee and looking out the windows on Newbury Street too early in the morning for foot traffic, whittling away time making 40 shots of espresso for ice cream and dreaming of California. Although there was no conversation at Sonsie, no dialogue about production and menu change and how to be better at what we do.

I'm not frustrated with work (really I'm just overworked, and pulling doubles the next two days). Just lonely for someone who can help me fix my polenta cakes, and who understands my zaatar longing, and whose taste buds are more refined than mine. Which is nothing new.

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