I’m on semester break from culinary school unwinding from Fall semester (crazy town) and gearing up for Spring semester (prediction: even crazier). This will be my fourth, and final, semester of my program, and it’s going to be a biggie complete with 12 hour baking lab days (Advanced Pastry! Intermediate Cakes! Showpiece and Chocolate!) and long, long nights compliments of the two English composition sections I will be teaching again, and a bit of work I do for a local environmental nonprofit. So, my breaks are spent revising my syllabus and pulling materials — all the things that teachers do between sessions when others are imagining them sitting around eating bon bons and watching daytime television.
Even so, between semesters, I make a point of traveling home to California for a week or so. It’s good for me to see my friends, work a little bit if I can (I’m a state credentialed substitute teacher), and, perhaps most importantly, I get to reconnect, albeit briefly, with the Northern California food scene. This energizes me like nothing else. Being back in the thick of Where Food Is Happening is like a psychic caffeine transfusion. I soak it in and feel the light energy buzz tingle down to my fingertips when I see all the new places that have opened since I’ve been gone and read about what’s coming next. A week in the San Francisco Bay Area is like a Foodie boilermaker.
Energy buzz notwithstanding, it’s always a little surreal being home. You know how it is; you’ve been gone but when you come back it feels like you never left except for the fact that you did, in fact, leave and life here has been going on without you. And, in 7, or 4, or 2 more days you’ll leave again and in the space of a 6 hour flight you’ll be back in a whole different piece of your life that none of those other people you just spent time with know about because they live 3,000 miles away and are busy leading the life you just kissed goodbye.
You, know, the usual.
On the other hand, coming home is super great. Every time I come back to California from somewhere else I recommit to it. It’s always a welcome sight; it’s always the right place to be. There is something about this place that relaxes me. The view panning out across the hills? The way the roses bloom, hardy, against the bright, cold winter sun? The thick, gray blanket of fog in the summer? The Campanile? The mudflats? San Francisco sitting across the bridge like a fable? Or maybe it’s the people: a strange, certain, passionate, particular people, Californians. I don’t know. All I know is that it works for me. I can’t imagine ever being bored here in landscape or endeavor.
This is all a long way of saying I dig it. I just think California is tops. And as beautiful as other states can be and as important as it is to be close to family, there’s something to be said for being home.
But, for now, while I am here in California as visitor, my two cats, Puddin’ and Sox, have to hold down the fort back in Maryland. I’ve always wondered what they do while I’m away. Previously I have assumed they run around like maniacs scrambling throw rugs and pulling each other’s fur out if the state of the house upon my return is my deductive guide. Turns out, as this photo, snapped by my fabulous cat-sitter who dotes on them without reserve, shows they lead a sedate, philosophical, culinary lifestyle when forced to fend for themselves. Sometimes a book title or two will be pulled forward a bit, suggestively. Every once in a while a book will be flat out sprawled on the floor when I return although I confess I’ve never taken the hint.
Here they are this time, passing the time of day: Sox consults the cookbook bookcase while Puddin’ relaxes next to his cardboard lounger.
They get that from me.