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Grow Our Food


Shirley and I took off today to drive to Davis for, surprisingly, NOT an ultimate tournament. She offered to rosham to drive, but I quickly realized that my V8 was going to suck up a lot more gas than her sprite car, and so quickly lost the rosham by not playing. We were heading off to UC Davis' Good Life Garden event "Grow our food." Traffic sucked on the way up, with our pulling a U-turn on the 101 (okay, not really, but close enough) and went up the 880. Traffic was sucky suck going into the City. We were, fortunately, heading out, once we managed to escape 101.

One of the advantages of driving two hours to an event is that you have two hours to talk on the drive. Of course, it helps if you like the person you're driving with for those two hours. And Shirley? Most definitely.

There were three speakers at the event: Georgeanne Brennan, Ethne Clark, and David Howard: an author, an author, and Prince Charles' former head gardener. We listened to the first two speakers, then sampled a whole bunch of foods from local artisans and shops (where "local" means "Davis" and "Vacaville" and "Sacramento").

Georgeanne Brennan had, back in the late sixties, bought a small house in Provence and moved to France to live there. She described to us how everyone had a continuous kitchen garden: planting and harvesting at the same time, and always having something for the garden at dinner. Some houses had more than just a kitchen garden, they had a market garden, where they would grow more vegetables than they could eat and sell the excess at the local market. Georgeanne had several stories about her American adventures in France, and let us know about her book, a Pig in Provence.

Ethne Clark had lived in London, and also had American living in a foreign country experience, and gave a presentation about gardens through the ages. Ethne's presentation was, although informative and entertaining, shaky. She seemed nervous but still presented fairly well. I've certainly been in the "I'm fine, just let me talk, ignore my shaky voice" presentation situation.

There were about 150 people at the presentation. All of us filed out of the lecture hall and wandered out to the lawn to taste the various local foods. I really liked the smoked fish from Laszlo’s Gourmet Smoked Fish. Shirley had the smoked prawns, and said it was good, too. I had only the salmon and trout. I did, however, break from my vegetarian diet (for the second time this week, and also had a couple slices of sausages from Morant’s Old Fashioned Sausage which were really good, too.

Other local providers included Grateful Bread Company, whose bread was tasty, and Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates who had some of the most delicious chocolates. Ginger Elizabeth commented to me that chocolate and tea go together flavor-wise, and are a great alternative to chocolate and coffee, if you don't like coffee. She was way right, and the truffles she offered were amazing.

Shirley was way braver than I was when it came to the caviar from Sterling Caviar. I don't particularly like roe, so I didn't try any myself, She commented that, although it was tasty, she couldn't really taste the caviar much, with all the other flavors in the sample (which included special baked bread and a dip of some sort).

The mini-cupcakes from Babycakes Bakery were, uh, odd. When I was taking one from the table, I asked the woman behind the table if she had a business card, as I really felt I was going to like the chocolate cupcake with chocolate frosting. Her reply? "I couldn't be bothered to get any for this." Uh, okay. I guess.

The cupcake had a surprise in the middle for me: unmixed batter. I think I'll go to Hannah's bakery first.

I really liked the cheese from the Nugget Supermarket, though I couldn't say it was anything that I would order online and ship to the Dillers to try. I'm still looking for some cheese that makes me feel like sharing with them. And the olive oil from UC Davis, manufactured from olive trees on campus? Avoid the one on the right, it's way bitter.

Neither Shirley nor I bothered with the wines or beers. I'm not sure exactly why she didn't, but, well, if it's not great whiskey or Oreana, well, I'm not really interested. And beer? Yeah, WAY not interested.

After pretty much getting our fill of tasty food, we wandered back into the lecture hall, where I talked to a woman who had asked for gardening resources before the food break. She had just started gardening and was excited about the experience. I told her about the Master Gardening program, and told her to contact them.

Last up in the evening was David Howard, who, in a fabulous English accent, told us about his life story. He told us about his wanting to be a gardener at age six, his working for the Queen at 16, his becoming an organic garden and his eventual becoming head gardener for Prince Charles. The presentation was fabulous, entertaining and interesting. As Shirley asked me as we left, "Are all Englishmen good story tellers?"

I think all the ones who have left England might be.

The drive home was as good as the drive up: full of interesting conversation with Shirley. The longest topic on the way back was Shirley's post-graduate plans, in all of their many-numbered glory. Shirley currently has the curse of choice: so many options that

Having spent the last few months spinning my wheels with projects I could start, stalled by the indecision of which one to actually do (and FINALLY choosing pounds), I could completely relate to Shirley's dilemma. I, unfortunately, gave her conflicting advice, which I wasn't sure I should do. I told Shirley that, hey, you know, there really isn't a wrong decision in life: try something out, if it doesn't work, change it, but all of the choices she had were fine choices. Except that isn't quite true if you have a goal, then some options would be bad choices if they don't lead to the goal.

I also told her to pick the choice that makes her happy. I told her how I thought just out of college that, hey, it would be okay to sacrifice the next ten years working hard, in order to make enough money so that I didn't have to work as much. Except that it didn't quite work out that way, and I ended up sacrificing those ten years working hard, missing out on a lot of life. Missing out in a way that I couldn't recover.



Except that you have to take those paths yourself. It doesn't matter that someone else learned those lessons, they don't really translate. If you had told me when I was 23 to choose the work that made me happy, I would have had no idea what that job was. I'm at good place because of the pain I went through when I was younger. Having the financial means to order whatever is on the menu without worrying about the price (a goal I recall of Allyse Manoff's when she and I were working together way back when), as an example, has pretty much always been important to me, but not for the sake of keeping up with the Jones. Instead, I've liked to have the financial means to do what I want to do (ultimate tournaments, work on projects, garden, etc.), without worrying about making next month's rent.

I couldn't figure out how to convey that to her, without sounding cliche.

I still don't know how to say it.

I do know that I very much enjoyed spending four hours on a Saturday hanging out with Shirley. Friends are an important part of that "good place" I'm in.