Friday, April 27, 2018

California Strong--Author Discovers You Can't Go Back Home

By Cal Orey
You are where you're supposed
to be
Last weekend I took a trip out of town to Gilroy “The Garlic Capital of the World” for an author book signing at Barnes and Noble bookstore and a treat of revisiting Monterey. After the new Tea and Honey books event (the store needed a larger selection of tea!) it was onward to the sea. The plan was to stroll along the wharf (like I did years ago), munch on sizzling hot fish and chips or fish soup with bread. But now I recall, always have Plan B. 


Trying to find a woodsy hotel in Pacific Grove was a task while driving in circles amid traffic. Once there, it was back to Cannery Row, the place noted by my fave author John Steinbeck. I must tell you, though, on a busy Saturday night the tourist crowd overshadowed the sensory details of food. As a bit of a reclusive writer, the hustle bustle of strangers was uh, um overwhelming. I sensed a Finding Forrester ball game anxiety moment coming on when an Uber driver rescued me (a centered driver that I'll always be grateful for her efforts) out of the crowd filled with cameras and chaos--and back to the serene and spacious hotel suite, complete with wood paneling, a fireplace, and an "aha" view of the woods. Ironically, it was much like my rustic but charming cabin at Tahoe (without my zen-like cat and fluffy Aussie)--and no tea.
Love the ocean, adore the Lake
Lone cypress tree 
The next morning, taking the 17-Mile Drive in Pebble Beach, viewing the fog, ocean, golf courses, and million dollar estates, Del Monte Forest, and on the way home, stopping at the Moss Landing roadside produce stand made me smile. I stocked up on budget-friendly tomatoes, garlic, and other California fruits and vegetables utopia. Now I know why the health-oriented coastal characters in the TV show Big Little Lies have limitless bowls and bowls of produce on their counter tops for breakfast and dinner.  After all, they're near the agricultural hub of the nation! Back home again in my comfort zone, I cooked up this Monterey-inspired tomato-garlic-y pasta sauce and spaghetti (like husband Ed serves to his imperfect but likable family) to make up for the lack of dinner with an ocean view I didn’t get.
Garlic toast or warmed up French bread works
Big Little Lies Home-style Spaghetti
 ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup garlic cloves and yellow onion, minced
6 Roma tomatoes, chopped
Italian seasoning to taste (dried or fresh)
Ground black pepper and sea salt to taste
Easy meal, healthful California fare
Whole grain spaghetti
Parmesan cheese, shavings
Basil (garnish)
Old country Italian Bread, fresh (Safeway bakery)
European-style butter or olive oil (for dipping bread)

In a deep skillet on medium heat place olive oil, garlic, and onions. Add tomatoes, and spices. Turn to simmer. Cook about 25 minutes until the tomatoes turn into a chunky sauce texture. While the sauce is simmering, cook pasta per box directions. When al dente, remove. Place pasta on plates, top with sauce. Sprinkle with cheese and basil. Serve with slices of warm French bread and real butter or dip in olive oil. Serves two or three.
My home now is in the mountains
The garlic aroma in the kitchen took me back to the food smells I remember when I used to go to Cannery Row--a different time (probably a week day; what was I thinking?).While I didn’t get the eats by the sea, home-style spaghetti with slices of warm French bread in the mountains (off season) is just as good. Perhaps I needed to see if the cypress gems are greener on the other side to appreciate towering pine trees surrounding me at Lake Tahoe--my home now.

— Cal Orey, M.A., is an author and journalist. Her books include the Healing Powers Series (Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate, Honey, Coffee, Tea, and Superfoods) published by Kensington. (The collection has been featured by the Good Cook Book Club.)  Her website is www.calorey.com. 

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