Thursday, October 25, 2007

circuitry of kitchens

I had the good fortune last Friday of spending the afternoon in Berkeley with Maryusa of Recipes for Trouble. After a much needed cup of coffee from Peet's my brain started working again and so I was able to figure out where we needed to go for the promised afternoon pastries. Masse's was mentioned as was La Farine, which my FH manager just adored. I'd had a bite of her La Farine croissant earlier in the day and was a little unsure, given the chewiness of its crust was a few short blocks from Ici, and when I'm in the East Bay I like to do as much as I can because I know I won't be back for some time. So we drove off to the cute lil bakery and split a piece of chocolate pound cake and a lemon shortbread. We didn't discuss the pastries much...they were all right but less than wonderful...but instead spent the afternoon talking about writing, food, cooking, feeding people, the self-aggrandizement of the bay area folks...and she had to go at 4:30 but I'd been talking up Ici all afternoon so, of course, we had to go to Ici first and were lucky enough to find parking spot right outside. Then we had to taste every flavor, ask about flavors that weren't featured I'd been instructed to try (pumpkin ice cream sandwiches, quince sorbet.) And when we were *finally* settled (Maryusa with a cone of apple sherbet, me with a cup of apple sherbet + malted banana), she sighed as if she'd found Xanadu and wondered if there were any possibly way she could see the back.

Well Yeah Maybe. I shrugged. If Mary's Here...I Know Mary. We'd met over the summer and then I'd seen her again just hte week before when I'd stopped in with her employee/my friend for the persimmon ice cream since I'm trying to understand persimmons. But it wasn't as if going in back of Ici to visit Mary were something I'd normally do. Still, what with Maryusa wanting to put up a cot and stay the night, I asked the counter girl if we could go back.

{I feel like people normally have that reaction to Ici. I have that reaction to Ici. You have to give yourself over to the process and try every flavor and wait and wait. It's not like a normal ice cream store. But you will be rewarded if you do so, or else you'll go away grumbling what all the fuss was about but only because you didn't do it properly, and if you do, you might be compelled to go back frequently}

So we go in the back and Maryusa chats up Mary and I look around at all the busy, quiet workers and then get around to asking Mary my sorts of questions (when will you have quince+why is the sherbet this consistency today), discussing the mastic ice cream from my job, discussing FH, and then when we go back to the front tell Maryusa all about how I met Mary and in the process I realize how completely small, circular and self perpetuating this community is.

Boston was never this way. I knew meaning hung out in the kitchen of and staged with, probably the best pastry chef in town. Though her only real competition would be from Rick Billings at Clio. And she knew people, certainly, meaning when she wanted advice from the owner of one of hte Three Good Bakeries they could chat it up, and she used to work for the owner of the Second Bakery, and they got their bread from the Third. Tight, sometimes, but not necessarily in a way where there's an exchange of information, an interdependency, a way in which the cook network can seem all consuming.

But when I saw I know Mary, I have to expand on how my bosses both know Mary, and then they know each other, and how I hang out with Mary's employee who knows one of my bosses, and how Mary's husband is chef at the restaurant where my FH boss used to be pastry chef...and it only goes further out.

SF feels like a town sometimes. Small and homey. But it also feels like an isl;and of narcissists. I have made myself a part of htis tiny community where we all pass on our ideas, where we can and do talk about ice cream base for hours, where we know cooks all over hte kitchen and have worked for and with one another's friends, bosses, former bosses, and so on. I always thought of SF as a place full of people who were too self important. Who had their niche in their worldview and who were disinterested in expanding. My old roommates in Oaktown were that way...everything they did pertained to one interest.

I am starting ot see it in myself. But I am too caught up in the currency of exchanges out here to know whether it's a good thing or not.

Another intriguing offer has found its way to my email inbox and I am considering it. Details to follow.


Marusya said...

I love that you're trying to understand persimmons.

I'm glad we did Ici the right way.

I have never had persimmon ice cream.

Is circuitry the same as community?

Monkey Wrangler said...

I almost went mad last year trying to finish off freebies and explore/come to an understanding of persimmons. They oozed about inside my head like chocolate chai fuyu sorbet or veggie korma. After having resided in the sweet range all my life, they really became a crazy savory thing for me. With the season fresh for them, who knows where I'll travel this year.

And like, yeah, the bay area is small in nearly all ways. Lots of nepotism and insider trading.....