Saturday, June 11, 2005

Saturday Thoughts on Innocence, Farmers' Markets, Baseball Dates & Sideways

We're enjoying one of those rare Saturdays...lazy and delightfully homebound. Ron is tending his tomato plants, washing the dog and starting a new puzzle. I'm reading and writing (here, not political), and dreaming of a new dish to concoct for dinner. Andrea is napping, reading, listening to music, and hopefully cleaning the bird cage.

We have a baseball date...Angels at 4 PM on TV, followed by Cal State Fullerton in the college world series. We have the requisite big bag of peanuts, and dinner will be served casual-style in front of the games.

Now if only our two-week-old granddaughter could come hang out with us this afternoon....
If kids these days have an age of innocence, Andrea's is over this week. She graduates from middle school next Thursday, and a few days later, starts a summer school class at high school.

The 400 8th graders of Tuffree Middle School had their graduation party last night....a three-hour extravangaza in the school multi-purpose room of dancing and lots of game booths manned by parents.

There were prizes tickets, gift cards, even dollar bills at one hotly-contested game booth. And food combinations only teenagers could savor...taquitos, nachos, brownies and big cookies, Chinese food ("not very good"), flavored shaved ice and Starbucks caramel mocchiatos.

The room was decorated by the parents, with fathers doing the heavy lifting and mothers commandeering the final touches. The entire event was planned and paid for by the 8th grade parents. And the kids actually dressed up in school-friendly yet fashion-cool attire. They looked scrubbed, expectant and adorably trendy.

It harkened to visions of the idealized 1950s, before student protests, drugs, the rise in teen suicides and other hard, historical realities. And before the simultaneous "dumbing down" of American education and increased pressure on the most academically talented kids to produce school-district-pleasing test scores. And before the rise of myopic organizations with selfish, even cultic, designs on our children.

Tuffree Middle School has been a wonderful, albeit sheltered, environment where the 8th class of 2005 still experienced a modicum of innocence these past two years.

Yes, they do know reality. Four kids were expelled from school a month ago for drug possession, and 14 more were suspended. A local high school freshman committed suicide, and her 7th grade brother found her body. Another girl ran away when she learned her parents are getting a divorce. And, of course, the whole sex thing. Kids making out. Kids doing more than making out.

But hard reality has been muted until now. Until June 21, her first high school class.

I wish she could stay forever in a happy, contented 8th grade bubble. I wish I could shield her from reality.
Last Sunday morning, I had the vast sensory privilege of exploring Seattle's
Pike Place Market, the nation' s oldest farmers' market, founded in 1907. I'd been there about 15 years ago, but frankly, had forgotten its rich pleasures.

It's a blocks-long ocean-front patchwork of fishmarkets, plump produce, used book stores, candy and pastry shops, fresh flower vendors, weathered eateries and local artists selling their wares. The fragrance, the colors, the pure vibrancy, the charming ambiance is unforgettable.

Pike Place Market is home to the original Starbucks coffee bar/store. To their corporate credit, they've not changed it a whit from the original wooden-floored, white-walled shop that blends in with surrounding retail shanties. The only differences between Starbucks #1 and our neighborhood coffee sanctuaries are that it looks a bit older, and everyone takes pictures there. It's a landmark, a place to say you've been.

The fishmarkets prominently displayed delectable whole, wildly fresh Copper River wild salmon, a Pacific Northwest delicacy that incites culinary orgasms in foodies and fish lovers. This salmon is only available for four weeks each year, and Seattle makes quite a fuss over it.

The farm-fresh vegetables and fruits were simply gorgeous....strawberries, eggplants, onions, tomatoes, carrots, apricots, newly-cut herbs, summer squashes, sweet corn, bell peppers, blackberries, artichokes, varieties of greens and so much more. I longed to buy an armful and head off to my kitchen to cook a meal for family and friends.

Pike Place Market has an intriguing email newsletter, complete with creative recipes, organic food news and tips for buying fish and produce. Be sure to sign up for it.

And at all costs, make browsing at Pike Place Market a centerpiece of your visit to Seattle.
Ron and I used to own a gourmet food "" It was a non-human victim of 9/11, which took the wind out of its fledgling sails. We worked for two years to develop, launch and grow it. We mourned its demise.

I miss writing about cooking and food on the internet.

Last week, I told the Managing Editor of that when he's tired of me ranting about liberal politics, I want to be the guide to one of's food/cooking sites. Not now, he said. I'll remember that. But not now. It would be impossible to adequately juggle two sites.

My fave site is French Food. I met the guide, Debra, last week, at our Seattle meeting and we had great fun chatting and rating the meals we ate there. She's as delightful as her food writing.

In her responsibilities as guide to French food, she travels to France once or twice a year on culinary tours (and deducts it!). She interviews top cookbook authors, and receives advance copies of the newst French cookbooks. And she tests recipes.

Maybe after the 2008 elections.....
I wish I had written Sideways. I know...I has some wrong attitudes and R-rated scenes. And Ron reminds me that there's strong language, too.

But it's so clever and multi-layered and character-revealing. It's so authentic. It's so Californian, and after all, I'm a native. Miles, the Paul Giamatti character, is a masterpiece in being lost and then found. Miles is the perfect name for him, as he has miles and miles to go.

I'm just saying I wish I could say I wrote something that finely, uniquely good.

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