Chicago is the great American city, New York is one of the capitals of the world, and Los Angeles is a constellation of plastic; San Francisco is a lady. 
-Norman Mailer

This past weekend has been nothing but quiet. I’ve spent a lot of time with Don Draper, whose plight gets only more and more wretched in Season 4 of Mad Men (yes, I’m behind the times), a significant amount of time talking to people on Skype and on the phone (yay for modern technology!), I’ve read, I’ve cooked (you’ll never believe this, but my new love might be lima beans. Stay tuned!) and I slept a grand total of 21 hours. 21 hours, a span of time basically unbelievable and unprecedented in these trying times of teaching an 8 a.m. class! I’m almost ashamed of myself for indulging in this kind of decadent behavior, but clearly it was necessary. I had felt like I was on the brink of a cold on Friday morning and, after a refreshing, low-key weekend, I feel nothing short of restored. Here are a few of the things that made me so tired to begin with; it’s amazing how pleasant things, when combined with the Monday-Friday grind, can simultaneously lessen and contribute to your fatigue. 

Before the Greek left, we went to Zatis, a lovely Mediterranean restaurant just around the corner from my apartment.  It’s a very unassuming place, but the food is always amazing. Once the Greek started speaking Turkish (yes, his linguistic skills put my own to shame) to the waiter, we got the royal treatment. It turned into quite a feast, but how can you turn down Zucchini Fritters (basically the same as the Kabak Mucveri a friend and I made last summer when I was living in the “castle”) and Manti? I was thrilled to discover the Turkish version of Russian-style “pel’meni” (meat dumplings), which, whenever I find myself in Russia, is always one of my go-to meals. Also, just call me a sucker for rice pudding. I can’t say no to anything topped with that much cinnamon!

The Greek must have been on a Turkish kick before his triumphant return to Greece because a few days before our dinner at Zatis, he made Acem Pilavi, a rice dish with beef, pine nuts, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and currants (or raisins). I had never had it before, but it was delicious. As fall is almost upon us (the leaves are already turning! At least in North Berkeley!) and the evenings are now more cool and crisp, it’s nice to make dishes that fill the apartment with a spicy aroma and, even better, make it a little extra toasty. He was clearly having a culinary week because he also made flan.
The day before his exam (only last Monday, which now feels like a lifetime ago!), he decided to go to church. While he went to say a prayer for his success on Monday, I walked to Ghiradelli Square (I was on a secret birthday present buying mission) and stumbled upon a form of earthly, rather than divine, glory: the annual Chocolate Festival.  It was a beautiful day, the kind of day that you don’t get all that often in San Francisco. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, the Golden Gate Bridge was visible….In short, it was beautiful and picturesque.

I didn’t sample many things, but I did go to Kara’s Cupcakes. I had wanted to try these cupcakes ever since March of 2009, when a visiting friend and I went to Ghiradelli Square for a hot fudge sundae and discovered there was more to the square than good old Ghiradelli. While I love sweets and can eat them like a champion, it’s impossible even to consider having more dessert after a hot fudge sundae (those things can make your teeth ache–in the best possible way). So, my date with Kara’s had to wait…For over two years. In my old age, I’m clearly learning patience.

I wanted to grab something for me and the Greek for later; just call it my idea of “pre-official exam passing” celebratory cake! Both Passion Fruit and Fleur de Sel (can you go wrong with salty chocolate? Answer: NO!) caught my eye. But before we could eat them, we walked around….and around…and around. I almost started to wonder if I would ever get to try the wonder that is Kara’s.

Please excuse the brief digression; I don’t know what it is with me and birds these days. It’s almost like I stepped into a Hitchcock film. I couldn’t resist, however, snapping this “bird fight.” The bird on the right was clearly King of the Sand Strip. But I admired the fact that the plucky little fellow on the left wasn’t afraid to speak his mind.

I really wanted to eat the cupcakes in the car, but the Greek suggested we wait so that we could enjoy them properly. Maybe with a cup of tea. At a table. With napkins.  I (grudgingly) agreed, which is how they ended up on the plate in my kitchen in the top picture. It was almost too much for my willpower. But, after 2+ years, Kara’s did not disappoint–they’re light, fluffy and have a fabulous taste!– and, as you all know, I’m a lady who takes her cupcakes seriously.

Kara even gets extra points for having helped me to bond with one of my students who came to office hours and recognized the bag, which I was using to carry my lunch. She told me that Kara’s Cupcakes were her favorite and I mentioned a few other choices places to her. In short, we talked cake (she’s told me where to find good coconut cake in Berkeley) and then we talked writing. Yet another fine example of the seamless intermixing of food and academia. 

2 thoughts on “The Dwindling Days of Summer

  1. What a lovely, lovely post! I loved the chocolate serendipity and getting a taste of fall in the Bay:) And I loooove Zatis and miss it terribly! Let's go there when I come back–that Manti is to die for!

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