Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Seeking A Little Balance

“Oh Gawd Ma, that is so good” Jeremy back in 2003 when I made him a batch of one of the best things I had eaten in Spain, tomato bread. Now Jeremy was never a fan of the slippery little fruit, in fact outside of salsa he never ate them and as suspected it was a texture issue. I once had a friend that was completely repulsed by tomatoes and whenever asked why he would say, “They don’t seem like they’re finished” that comment always made sense to me, I happen to love them but I can see how one might see those goo covered seed deals as like tiny tomato embryos or something….ick. Truth is I have my own issues with them, when they are out of season they simply suck and I can’t use them, when in season they can be a little sweet to my highly sweet sensitive palate. Easy enough to fix, I douse them in lemon juice and a good clip of salt, all that lovely flavor without the sweetness. So I never forced Jeremy to eat them and could tell he was dreading the Spanish tomato bread the second I announced I was making it. Poor kid I am sure he was picturing something like Bruschetta but even back then the kid was ever supportive and kind of a foodie (yeah I hate that word but it is the one most used so I am using it) so he was willing to give it a try. Imagine his elation when I brought out a plate of crispy grilled bread that had been brushed with olive oil, rubbed with a cut clove of garlic and simply smeared with the cut side of a fresh tomato. Crunchy, spicy (from the fresh garlic) and cooled down, revived by the acidity of the tomato juice. That one plate of my newest loved food would set in place a palate that would forever seek balance and a precedence…always make a double batch of Spanish tomato bread.

I’ve been struggling with balance a lot as of late. Balance in time, energy, love, friendship, work, this blog…feel like I have been walking a thin, fine wire about to be knocked off at any second which I must confess has left me feeling a little panicked, exhausted and afraid to make any sudden moves but…a move needs to be made before everything snaps, including me. So I’ve been doing what any sane grown up does in this type of situation, ignoring it. Choosing instead to pout and retreat a little….which of course makes me feel lonely. Crazy, feel like I have been living in Crazy Town the past couple weeks. After my forced shut down the other night and the subsequent, “Oh man, me too” comments I heard after I knew it was time to stop avoiding, start facing things head on and deal with any snappage when it comes. My first attempt was a complete and utter failure.

I had the opportunity to have a quick visit with my beloved Amy, she and her hubby were in San Diego for a work thing but they had a few hours Sunday morning before they flew back to Dallas. We had planned on her driving up to meet at our much loved Tracy’s but her hubby thought there might be an issue with her getting back on time so vetoed that via text message as I was getting ready for my early morning date. I walked into the kitchen, face half painted, still in my jammies and poured myself a Pastis. Best idea so early in the morning? No. Smartest thing considering I had been walking a tightrope for weeks? Absolutely not but it’s what I did. Truth be told I was trying to spare the hubby the boo hoo fest that was beginning to puddle against my lower eyelids. You know you are in a crappy place when your husband emerges from the shower and makes his way to the kitchen stops to look at you and says, “Fuck you are so beautiful” and the first thing that sputters out of your mouth is, “Oh please. You’re high”….funny he didn’t mention how charming I am right? I told him about the cancellation and felt his little funk follow him back to the bedroom to get dressed. Again he emerges and says, “Well we could go down there and meet them”….have I mentioned he should be sainted? So turns out booze on an empty belly, anxiety and loneliness are a treacherous combination….any thought that I had of unloading some of my crap and having her help me sort it out went right out the window the second we popped a bottle of Chidaine Rose…before lunch. The wine went down so beautifully sitting there in their open and airy room at the resort, seeing their faces, being close to them….tears. So much for keeping my shit together or trying to talk about my issues…failure but not yet ready to quit.

I felt the same bullshit weighing heavy on me this morning. The feeling like I need to get back onboard with the whole social media thing, not knowing how or where to start... not as much for this blog…although it has always been written with The Wine Country in mind, but to find ways to promote our store…make people notice. I hopped on a few other blogs, tried to read them but for the most part could not, cannot see the point of chiming in with “Great post X!” after scanning the uninspiring marketing chatter of someone trying to sell themselves. I don’t have a problem with them doing so but they don’t need me, there is a virtual sea of others skimming and congratulating each other…I’m not buying, I’m not a magazine editor looking for the next new yawn inducing voice and with their boxes of free samples they aren’t looking for a place to shop. Minor breakthrough in the balance of time, only visit that which you actually enjoy reading, learn something from or might actually do the store some good. Hooray.

The heat was driving me nuts but the hubby was hooked up to his phone for the whole afternoon and not feeling at all like making a lunch run I scoured the freezer and fridge to see what I might be able to come up with. Found some sausage, white onion, beer, stock and buns….perfect. Sliced the onions while the beer and stock came to a simmer, plunked in the sausages and onions and covered them until they were cooked through. I removed the lid and while everything thing was getting brown and toasty it hit me….sweet onions, rich sausage and soft buns….out of balance. Had nothing in the crisper, no veggies to add so I looked to the condiment section of the fridge. A little mayo, finely grated Parm, big splash of lemon, Dijon mustard and a couple shakes of hot sauce. A feisty sauce to combat the richness. I stood there assembling sandwiches for Call-o and after my sandwich updates on Facebook, for my neighbors and I felt really grounded….like my mind was clicking in the right direction and my focus was coming back a little.

My life is about balance, finding time to love all those that I do with as much as I have. Learning how to balance my snarky sense of humor with working the sales floor. Writing here for this blog and for the obviously more professional newsletter…learning how not to feel guilty when one needs me more. Being a growing public voice while still being a spokesperson for The Wine Country….being sensual and being a mother….selling wines that I may not love but to those that absolutely do. All of it requires balance and as I sit here, my toes gripping the thin, fine wire once again, glass of 2009 Chateau Canorgue Cotes du Luberon Rose bringing life to my heat weary palate, the fruit, minerals and fierce acidity making each little sip a perfect one… letting the little beads of condensation formed by the sweating glass slip down my chest….I feel like I can take each step forward, arms extended, little bounce in my step, swing of my hips…flip of my snarky lip and proclamation of, “you are going to love this” even when I don’t. I can do this…fuck I need this and I’m just not willing to give any of it up.


Michael Hughes said...

That tomato bread makes me think of my grandmother & my aunt in the kitchen in my aunt's flat in Barcelona. Sometimes the simple things are so delicious. I have to have to have to try that Chidaine.

Samantha Dugan said...

It was in Girona (about an hour outside Barcelona) where I first sunk my teeth in that tomato bread. We were at a dinner, there were like 10 of us, a bunch of expats from Berkeley now living in the bustling Spanish town and the five Americans. So what does the chunky white girl order, (on accident) but a skewer of giant deep fried hunks of ham and Swiss cheese. I tried to tackle it but between the giggles and the fact that it was truly vile I had to give....sustained myself on that remarkably balanced and perfect bread.

I would not hold my breath on the Chidaine Rose, he made so little of it I doubt there is any left...I was hoarding two and that bottle with Amy was my last. Sniff. Was a perfect way to taste it, this whole getting back into the swing thing, was very well spent.

Thomas said...

When my balance is off, especially in summer when the tomatoes are fresh off my vines, sliced tomato, leaves of basil, olive oil, crushed white pepper, and thin slices of Grana Padano cheese on a crispy baguette give me my center back.

John M. Kelly said...

We finally ripened some tomatoes in our garden this year - first an incredibly delicious Russian heirloom heart-shaped thing. We are getting some heat so perhaps a few of the other varieties will move along. Heck we're just now getting a good crop of green beans.

I'm stealing that tomato bread recipe. I have developed texture issues with bruschetta (not bad enough to avoid them entirely, just don't love them like I used to).

It was 106° at my house yesterday, and my hot-weather solution to eating was to grill some blade steak and chicken thigh, slice thin and wrap it up in a flour tortilla with pepper jack, guac and salsa fresca. Left a cheap bottle of local bubbles in the freezer until almost slushy and then sabered off the top (I'm into that lately - it's freaking fun!). Was a perfectly balanced meal - hitting all five food groups equally.

Now - if I could just achieve any sort of balance in the rest of my life...

Samantha Dugan said...

Damn that sounds good, the cheese adding that salty element that I need...sounds like my perfect summer sandwich.

Dang we were on the same page once again me amigo, kind of anyway. Made grilled chicken, hummus, thinly sliced red onion that I drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice and mixed with cilantro...and a tiny pinch of sugar...then some paper thin slices of cucumber that I heavily salted again a squeeze of my beloved citrus, (let both veggie mixes chill in the fridge for about half an hour) and we wrapped it all up in flour tortillas.

One thing i might suggest with the tomato bread is to not go crazy with the garlic. I loves me some garlic but it can be so aggressive that it kills the subtle tomato flavor. I usually just make an X with the cut cut garlic instead of rubbing the whole piece of bread...but either way try it, so freaking good.

Anonymous said...

Trying the tomato bread tonight, sounds like just the thing.

Gotta love a man that says "Fuck you're so beautiful" first thing in the morning. I would have responded the exact same way, lol.

So glad you had a chance to meet up with your friends, it sounds like a good start to finding the balance.

Looking forward to Sat, if you're up for it.

Samantha Dugan said...

Another Day of Crazy,
It was great to see them and it was not all tears and crap, we laughed a lot and maybe that was just what I needed. No more drinking in the morning though, just not cut out for it!

Cannot wait to meet you Saturday and in honor of your making the special trip to the store I hope you will do me the honor of buying you a ticket to the tasting...don't argue, save that cash for some much needed Rose!
See you Saturday!

Anonymous said...

Girlie, if we're as much alike as we seem to be, there's no point in arguing with you. So yes, thank you, that's very sweet. I'm excited too!

Thomas said...


I have it on good authority that heat isn't the answer for ripening tomatoes. This has been among the hottest summers on record here, yet tomatoes ripened at about the same time of August as they always have in the past.

The situation had my wife and me doing a parody one day of the old jazz song "All that meat and no potatoes," we sang, "All that heat and no tomatoes."

This week, however, they are coming in faster than we can process them: San Marzano, yellow plumbs, cherry toms, German strawberry, beefsteak, and a strange Italian variety that my wife discovered and the name of which I haven't in my memory bank--the vine has long thorns, as did the flowers that encased the fruit. I'm scared to death to go in there and pluck the fruit...

chris said...

A life or vine in balance = good fruit.

k2 said...

Tomatoes and rose, two things I am absolutely crazy about. I agree with the social media thing. I feel like a big fat prostitute 90% of the time and a raging dork the other 10% (or maybe its the other way around).

Ron Washam, HMW said...

My Gorgeous Samantha,

My theory is that the freakish weather is what's thrown everyone off-balance. It was 111 here yesterday, hard to feel friendly or loved or anything but trapped in Hell.

I'm one of those people who doesn't like tomatoes. Texture is my deal too. I love salsa, I love tomato soup, I love lots of stuff with tomatoes in it, but I just don't like to eat raw tomatoes. If that were my only weird trait, I guess the world would be a better place. But your Spanish Tomato Bread, that just might work.

As for balance, well, what passes for me as balance is thought of as very unbalanced and twisted to other people. One must remember what tightrope walkers must do to maintain balance. Never look down at the rope between your toes; always, and I mean always, look forward.

How in the world can you be lonely with all the admiration and love all of us here faithfully throw at you? I know. I get it. I often feel the same way.

I love you!

Your HoseMaster

Samantha Dugan said...

Another Day of Crazy,
Wise woman....see one more thing in common. I will have your tasting sheet waiting but um, yer gonna have to email an idea of what you're wearing because I have no clue what you look like, well aside from the tree stump ankles you told me about. Well I guess you can find me, I'm the blonde in the black The Wine Country shirt!

Very true darlin'. So very true.

It's not so much the doing the whoring as much as figuring out where and what is gonna drum up more business for the store...yacking at and kissing up to marketers aint likely gonna get her done as it were. That and I get my whities in a bunch when I read some crap post and listen as everyone gushes over it...ugh, not the time, the energy nor the inclination for such crud.

Ron My Love,
All this Spanish bread talk has me making a batch this evening....wish you were here.

Trust me Love I do look forward but there are times when doing such leaves you feeling like you are waiting for the other shoe to drop. Oh and you know as well as anyone how grateful I am for the adoration and affection I get here....just sometimes wish I could feel it on my skin.
Love you too you sweet thing you!

Anonymous said...

I'll be the cankled brunette who wanders in looking absolutely lost and unsure of herself, of course!

Sara Louise said...

When I was in the middle of reading this post, my father-in-law showed up with a basket of tomatoes from his garden. Perfect timing :-)

I have know doubt you'll find your balance again soon. Yesterday was a full moon and a strong one at that; the Cherokee Fruit Moon, also called the Choctaw Women's Moon, and the Dakota Sioux Moon When All Things Ripen. Maybe you've been influenced by the coming of the moon and your balance is see-sawing back and forth until it settles where you need it too.

Great Post X! (hee hee... but it was!)

Samantha Dugan said...

Another Day of Crazy,
Okay I will be the blonde in the black Wine Country shirt fixated on everyone's ankles.

Welcome home girlie! Try the damn bread. I did it again tonight and it is seriously fantastic. The big tips are to grill the bread after a good deep glug of good olive oil, (you got any of that there in Provence?) and salt it before grilling. Then you get this deeply flavored, chewy, charred flavor that is perfectly balanced by the fresh blast ripe and succulent that is ripe tomato.

You my dear girl happen to have one of those blogs that are worth rising early and making time for...