The Day I Fell in Love with a Cowgirl

hog-island

Last Thursday, my husband and I decided to reclaim the whole day as ours. No work, no chores, no to-dos, just a day to be.

Mother Nature accommodated us brilliantly with a clear, sunny, 72 degree day. What a phenomenal backdrop for indulging a long, meandering walk on a nearly-empty Stinson Beach.  After hours of dreamily wading in the waves, watching the pelicans gliding overhead and the seals playing in the harbor, we contemplated how to get home without breaking the spell in a phalanx of traffic. We opted to drive the coastline north and catch the sunset.

On a whim, we pulled into the Hog Island Oyster Farm.  It was about 4:30 and the bartender let us know they were closing shortly but offered us drinks and let us know it was shuck-your-own-oysters Thursday. My husband gamely went off to get shucking equipment and pick a few shellfish from one of the watery outdoor vats. This was especially impressive since a) he’d never shucked an oyster and b) he didn’t even like to eat them, but did it for me.  To compensate, I ordered some cheese and crackers from the rustic outdoor bar to provide him with something to eat until we found a restaurant somewhere else on the way home.

Little did I know that what would arrive in a basket at our weathered picnic table overlooking the Hog Island Oyster Farm, would rock my world.  Our cheese and crackers were both from a local business in Pt.Reyes Station, just a few miles down the road. The sea salt crackers were crispy and quirky: long and thin, they looked like the cracker dough was cut with pinking shears.  Delicious, but they didn’t appropriately prepare me for the white butcher paper-wrapped small wheel of heaven: Triple Creme cheese.  I’d somehow lived all this time without ever having encountered a Triple Creme cheese. This healthy handful of white-rind wrapped lusciousness looks for a moment like a brie, but is in a class by itself.  One cut, reveals an interior that looks like some dreamy marriage of frosting and cheese — in the best possible way.  And the makers of this Mt. Tam Triple Creme, are seared in my mind and on my tastebuds forever: Cowgirl Creamery.

I fell in love with the Cowgirl on that picnic bench. Forever and ever.

If you’ve likewise lived under a rock, the great news is that Cowgirl Creamery distributes its phenomenal food nationwide.  The Cowgirls that founded this artisinal organic cheese business an hour north of San Francisco have culinary pedigrees at world class Chez Panisse and Bette’s Oceanview Diner. Evidently, customers and investors alike were as entranced with their product as I was: in March, they were acquired by Swiss Dairy giant, Emmi.  Please Emmi, don’t screw it up.

The Triple Creme was mind-blowing with oysters and dry Rose wine as the sun set on our blissed out day.  And it was equally inviting on a slice of hot-from-the-oven banana bread this morning.  And guess it also worked it’s magic right off the spreading knife all by it’s resplendant self. If that doesn’t work for you, here are some recipes from the cowgirls themselves>

Giddy-up!mt_tam_cheese_large

 

 

The Spinach Pie of Friendship

Today, I was reminded of the delightful reward of being present. And of being kind.

It is mid September. For as long as I’ve been a software marketer, every turn of the calendar to September is like the turn of a southern debutante at the coming out ball: backed with hours of meticulously detailed preparation, carefully considered choreography and a mind-numbing amount of work.  Each and every September I am hip- deep in my version of announcing a debutante.  Mine is one in a sea of lovely new enterprise software coding “offspring” that is swanned around the veritable cotillion of technology industry tradeshows, each vying for the perfect blend of attention and social advance.

Caught up in this swirl of work, today I boarded a plane for a quick two-city business trip, to lay the foundation for my upcoming marketing events.  While I pride myself on my ability to constantly juggle and accomplish the ever-changing pile of work to-do’s, inevitably in September I drop a whole lot of other connections.  I almost missed two today on the plane: Jimmy and Janet.

I was looking forward to this flight. Since I was flying Virgin America, I’d made a deal with myself: after two weeks of very late nights of work, if I could manage to finish editing a partner prospectus, I would treat myself to to movie on the flight. Unlike me, I packed headphones and even did advance check-in to get my seat situated.

So, when I got to my row and saw an older woman sitting in my assigned seat, leaving a middle seat between her and her husband, I was a little bummed. But I gamely wedged in between the two of them and their many overstuffed bags of travel items, and set right to finishing an email before the flight. But my seat mates had other plans.  “Thank you so much, sweet, for taking the seat,” said the man. “My wife likes to lean against the window.”

Sure, no problem. And I went back to my detailed instruction to a colleague via email.

“My name is Jimmy and this is my wife, Janet,” he beamed, flashing a broad smile through a very thick accent. “What is your name, sweet?”

The feminist in me prickled a bit at this diminutive, but I explained my name and stuck my nose back into my work.

They became quiet, so I worked away, excited when I still had time for movie. After putting in my earbuds and paying for a movie, Jimmy leaned over and asked how I got the movie to work. I explained the on-demand channel and that it required a credit card. He thanked me. Five minutes later, Janet asked where I got my earbuds.  I pulled them off again and showed her how she could order some for $3.  “Can I give you cash, sweet, for some?” No sorry, but the airline said they only took credit cards.

To my left and to my right, each member of the 50+ year couple, chose to nap quietly instead of fight the array of digital prompts and requirement on their seat back entertainment systems.

When they rallied for a bathroom break, I did too. And on my way back I asked the flight attendant if I might buy headsets for my two elderly neighbors.  She gave me two sets with a smile: “it’s on us.”

I returned with my two cheaply-manufactured offerings and my seat mates responded as if I’d delivered them a lobster dinner. “What, for me? And even some for him? Oh, you are so darling.”

I set each one up with a show.  News for him: “Any stations where I can learn something  new and good about Hillary,” he said with a wink. “Oh, I think a movie, for me,” she said.

Reabsorbed into a romantic drama, I lost track of them both until I noticed lots of rattling packages and whispered comments between the husband and wife, with lots of hand signals. Seemingly, many of the hand signals were pointed at me.

“We thank you. And now, we eat.”  Then from the bottom of their many bags, emerged a bounty : first sandwiches, then packages, and more rustling and rattling…and a bag of pistachios. And eventually, spread across their little drop-down tables, emerged a lovely Greek picnic.

spinach-pie

“Please, eat with us.  Especially this, this is for you, you must try. It is homemade, and you will love it. I made. You try.” And Janet handed me a small hand-held spinach pie, with an entreating smile.

It was at once soft and light, but dense and savory. It was a treat made with care and it tasted of kindness.

And as we broke bread together, a mile in the sky, we broke the barrier of strangers and the chokehold of work and reveled in simply being present.

A gift without measure.