“[There are] ways that we often talk about love of place, by which we mean our love for places, but seldom of how the places love us back, of what they give us. They give us continuity, something to return to, and offer a familiarity that allows some portion of our lives to remain connected and coherent."
- Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby
When you've lived in a place long enough, you know it like a family member. It’s strengths and weakness are plain. Here is the corner where homelessness, drunkenness and sadness abounds. Where you were accosted by a stranger on your first visit to the town eight years or more ago. Here is the corner where drivers do not watch for cyclists, and you were almost struck on your way to work. And here is the sweet bakery whose employees you know by name, the corner where you pick up your farm share, the hardware store where the people are kind and where they sell screwdrivers alongside fragile plants.
More than anything else, you come to know the tastes of the place -- what the French call terroir. Things you have never tried before or you couldn't buy anywhere else: dukkah, Downeast cider, Dwelltime coffee beans. After five years in Cambridge, there are many things I will miss when I leave. Foods are the easiest loss to anticipate.
There is the pepperjack sesame cheese bread from Nashoba Brook Bakery we got hooked on in a spring farm share two years ago and have only just (just!) managed to secure in regular supply. The green goddess bowl at Life Alive, where the annoyingly long wait can be circumvented by a quick phone call, allowing you to jump the line. And the hazelnut chocolate cookies at Flour bakery, which I never grow tired of, but are recently unavailable due to skyrocketing nut prices.
And there is the sandwich at Central Bottle, a wine store that also sells food, which I've lived off of for stretches of time. Before this sandwich, I couldn't stand arugula. I had a nearly allergic reaction to it's sharp taste on my tongue. But after this sandwich, I could tolerate the bitter green. Even grew to enjoy it, silently renaming it rocket in my mind, and together we were off to the races.
The sandwich in question is rather simple. It is goat cheese meets lemon zest, sage, olive oil and walnuts laid out on a thin baguette, with a bed of greens layered on top. And that's it. Simple but spectacular in its execution.
Of course, I discovered last week that they do not even make this sandwich anymore.
There it is — life. Either you change or the world changes around you. Best to take what you can, and just keep marching.
My favorite walnut cookies from the coffeeshop disappeared two years ago. After a change in the baker, they'd failed to reappear. Lamenting their loss, I squeezed the recipe out of the lady behind the bar.
A few months later, I came in with a fresh baked batch to share, and the women who sold me these cookies for years, reveled in their memory. The cookies were no longer theirs — now they were mine. It was now up to me to carry the recipe on. And it in turn would function as a map, directing me back to a time and place when I was a student who hung out in a coffee shop in Cambridge and got to know the baristas by name.
And then there are all the places I've neglected in my time here. The deli in Harvard Square. Haymarket — a razzle-dazzle wholesale market in Boston I haven't ventured to in more than four years. A ramen shop in Porter square I've never tried, but my friend swears by. One could live a life time in this city and never explore all its crevices, not least because we creatures of habit are often loathe to venture into the unknown.
But into the unknown I will soon go!
Our new home, Santa Barbara, will have its own culinary highlights. In our short visits, we've already fallen in love with the lemon bread from Crazy Good Bread Co. And the Thai food at TAP Thai. And I'm already missing a brand of greek yogurt I bought there, that I've confirmed one cannot source in the northeast.
Nothing lost, nothing gained.
Lemon, Walnut, Rocket & Goat Cheese Sandwiches
Portions listed for one sandwich - double or triple for more!
1/3 - 1/2 baguette - ideally skinny
few tablespoons goat cheese
few leaves fresh sage
handful of rocket/arugula
small handful of walnuts
1. Cut the bread in half. Lightly toast if you like, but not necessary.
2. Put a 1-3 tablespoons of goat cheese in a small bowl. Add about a 1/4 of a lemon of zest per sandwich and 1-4 sage leaves, per your taste for the herb. Add some olive oil, maybe around a 1/2 tablespoon. Finely chop a tiny handful of walnuts and add to the bowl. Mix it all up.
3. Spread the mixture onto both sides of your baguette. Add the arugula in the middle and squash it all together a bit. You're ready to eat!
Warmed Olives in Zest
olives - castelvetrano are my favorite
good quality olive oil
Add some olives to a small pan and add some olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan about a 1/4 inch. Put some citrus peels or zest in -- I like a mix of lemon and orange peels. Cook over low heat for a few minutes until warmed, move the olives around periodically so they don't overcook in one spot.
If you don't eat all the olives the citrus flavor will increase over time in the olive oil. And you can eat the olive oil later, for example by dipping bread into it or using it to cook something else.