I suppose the sensible thing to do when you wake up at 6:45 unsure whether or not you’re hungover is to roll over and go back to sleep. I thought about it — I even tried it for a little while — but honestly? It was boring, and there were enchanting hints of birdsong outside the heavy curtains, so after I crept to the kitchen for a glass of water and a banana I came back to the bedroom and now I’m sitting in hazy yellowish mid-morning light, listening to those birds, who are politely far-off and all soft twittering, nothing jarring or unpleasant.
There’s so much to say about the past few days and I’m spinning with the impossible impulse to say it all at once. So, to the beginning then — or where I left off, at least, which was Saturday night, and sushi.
Afterwards we’d planned to go to an art gallery opening, but we were both feeling a bit inert, and had made the mistake of sitting down in the living room, which is all plush enveloping furniture, on which it’s impossible not to curl up and lose hours. So instead we watched RENT, which I hadn’t yet seen, and which in an effort not to be irritating I won’t comment on, except to assure all my pre-mutinous readers that I didn’t dislike it.
I had the very good fortune of coming into town the weekend of the Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival, so Sunday we headed out there — and thus began the eating. I don’t know if it’s something about Baton Rouge (er, the BR area, I suppose) or being on vacation or just a sudden onset bout of insanity, but all of my usual good eating habits have flown merrily out the window and I’m finding the idea of getting back on the scale when I get home terrifying (and, aside to myself: perhaps I’ll skip the scale for a week or two and get aggressively back on the box, so to speak, and become a more dedicated rabbit). Anyhow, we strolled around a bit and checked out rows and rows of little strawberry stands and festival food booths and antique shops and craft tents, and spent quite a bit of time searching for a cafe, any cafe, where we might be able to find something, anything vegetarian. Deciding it might be smartest to ask someone local we stopped at one of the more permanent-looking eateries, where my two questions — Do you have anything vegetarian? and Do you know anywhere in town that would? — were so deeply distasteful that the woman behind the counter would not even speak to me, instead pressing her lips together and shaking her head slowly, her eyes (a little wide and scornful) fixed onto and boring into me all the while. I thanked her and we went to Subway.
When we finished our sandwiches (which were much better than I’d anticipated — I haven’t been to Subway in ages and had formed this sort of bad idea of it in my head, even though I’ve always liked it, and it stands far above all the other quick options, Chipotle and Baja Sol notwithstanding) it was noon, which is legal hour to begin serving daiquiris, so we each got the official festival strawberry sort. They were a little sticky but it was strawberries and crushed ice and rum, and what’s not to love? The highlight of the festival, though, was of course the strawberries themselves, and I bought a whole pint, which I ate while strolling down the main greasy-fair-food row, and the long aisle of carnival games, and through the modest cluster of craft tents, and back down, and along the main street, and finally sitting on a little bench outside an antique shop, basking in the sun. The berries were big and red to the core and sweet and glowing, and there are no words to describe the colors and tastes of real fruit, really good fruit, which for me always throws me into imagining the fruit in the field and thinking about the days it spent soaking up sunshine, so now it’s like swallowing warmth and light and everything beautiful and vibrant in the world.
Afterwards we shopped, hunting through antique stores until I was spun and looking at the heaps of merchandise without being able to see any of it. We stopped off at a little shop we’d seen on the way in to sample the local wine, which was quite disappointing, sticky and cloying and not like wine at all, and the local shortcake, which was surprisingly delicious, sweet and cakey and strawberry-y, and then we strolled back to the car. In the morning we’d sensibly overpaid for one of the first lots we’d seen, which we discovered as we drove out was the same price as some of the lots at least a mile or more down the road. We also discovered that we’d unwittingly been very smart in getting there and leaving early, and again in trusting that we’d be able to intuit our way to the highway while taking the road in the direction that was not completely stopped dead. So we headed out of town past miles of solid gridlock, and rather than having to intuit any sort of back roads, we just went straight and were funneled directly onto exactly the road we wanted, in exactly the direction we wanted, and giggled over our fortune as we sailed past the Ponchatoula exit, now backed all the way onto the highway.
Back at the apartment we finished the menu-planning we’d started Saturday evening, and headed out again for the local produce market and Whole Foods. The produce market was — amazing. It was a big open building — a roof more than anything, all high rafters, full of sunlight and air. And produce, of course. Heaps and heaps of fruits and vegetables and greens and grains and all of it gorgeous and cheap and we filled our cart with more than we could probably actually eat in two weeks, all for about twenty dollars.
And then, and then, we stopped at Counter Culture. There is some kind of magic at work down here because at this point the day, already surfeit with sun and warmth, did something unexpected: It kept getting better. I wasn’t surprised at the time because it feels entirely natural in Steph’s company for days to just be really good, no matter what’s going on, but looking back now I see that it was — hell, the whole trip so far has been — just one astounding thing after another. It’s my favorite thing, I think, when visiting people: the everyday magic of favorite little restaurants, of grocery stores and gas stations, best stretch of sun-dappled road.
I have a handful of achingly clear food memories, the knee-knockers — Left Bank chief among them; the roasted chicken at that little restaurant in Italy with the fateful seafood platter; this past fall’s Godiva sample, the pumpkin creme-filled chocolate so good I had to make Jo wait while I sat on the bench outside of Sam Goody with my eyes closed, savoring; etc, etc. And now, the Humphrey Yogurt.
When we were talking about things we’d do when I visited, Steph had said she wanted to take me for this really good frozen yogurt, and I was like Yeah, sure, I guess, I like frozen yogurt. What she neglected to mention is that by ‘frozen yogurt’ she actually meant ‘arguably one of the single most amazing things you will probably ever put in your mouth, one of the rare and wonderful things in life that is better than you could ever have imagined so while you’re experiencing it you can literally feel your world getting bigger, new areas of your brain wrinkling up, assimilating this, and it might make you believe that heaven is actually real and that it has somehow gotten into the innocuous-looking little cup you’re holding.’
That, all of that? The Humphrey Yogurt is better than that.
It’s their plain vanilla frozen yogurt with sliced strawberries and bananas and red grapes, and honey and granola. It is unlike any frozen yogurt I’ve ever had. It’s tangier. It’s — god, I just don’t even know how to describe it. I like it better than oatmeal. It’s — okay. I’m done. There’s no way you’ll ever believe it. I hardly believe it, and I ate it.
So, afterwards we went to Whole Foods, where I was sort of unhelpful since it’s laid out like — well, like they’d taken my Whole Foods and shaken it up and dumped it back out, which was really confusing. And since I was in a post-yogurt haze of bliss. But we managed to finish up the shopping (and run into plane-guy again, which I think I mentioned before), and then headed back to Steph’s for all of the usual unloading and putting away.
For supper we made a soup with squash and rainbow chard (er, kale?), and roasted carrots and beets and fennel, and steamed beet greens, and it was all fantastically tasty. It was my first time having everything except the squash and carrots, which was wonderful because I love trying new foods now. Especially when they’re made by someone who has the first clue what to do with them — i.e. not me. My quinoa dish was okay but I’m really resolved to quit trying to just throw things together when there are new untried foods involved.
We followed up dinner with chocolate-dipped strawberries. Our first attempt at melting the chocolate in an improvised double boiler was a fascinating disaster, and from then on we used the microwave, which I’ve widely read is far superior to all other ways of melting chocolate. We ended up with a creamy lucious swirl of dark chocolate instead of grainy curdish weirdness separating from something alarmingly watery, so it was yay in our book.
And now I’ve been sitting on this entry for days and days, so I’ll have to bring us up to the possible hangover (and beyond!) another time. And perhaps mention something other than food, at least in passing. Oi.