The San Francisco Bay Area is truly a wonderful place to visit and eat, with such a wide variety of choices to enjoy. I rarely get to try new places, because my list of obligatory places and foods is so long, not to mention family affairs. So high on the list of things for which I need to thank my mother is to have had the foresight to have moved to San Francisco in the late 1940’s, for a teaching job at a new college. If she had not done that critical part, then I would not have been able to grow up in such a culturally vibrant, diverse place, developing tastes for different foods at an early age. In addition, my parents moved us to Mexico and Spain for extended periods, with travels all over Europe further developing my cultural and food palate. I remember my mother telling me of her adjustment to the different smells of foods when she moved to San Francisco, especially in the Italian and Asian communities, because where she grew up in Nebraska and Colorado, the use of garlic as a seasoning was so rare. And there truly is a difference in the taste of the sourdough bread, from the strains of yeast that are comfortable in the damp, cool coastal climate. Not to mention of course the wines that are produced locally.
There is a bustling street scene around shops and restaurants, in a city where people walk places or take the excellent public transportation. And yet it makes me think of what is developing in Birmingham, and I find myself looking around here for people I know, as is common for me when I am out and about in Birmingham. The Birmingham area food system is really developing that kind of exciting vibe with local growers, cheese makers, coffee roasters, bakers, chefs, urban farms, community gardens, farmers markets, groups of people who band together to support the farmers through CSA’s; all who are working to extend the season of local fresh food and to bring in new varieties. I think back to the mid nineties when I moved to Birmingham, and the produce was mostly main stream, tomatoes were all red hybrids, and then think back to now and how availability and product diversity have gotten so much better. And that when I go out in Birmingham to experience all of that wonderful food system, I really know this community; the chefs, the patrons, the farmers, the artisans. And I feel great gratitude to the Birmingham community for embracing me; during times when I have had troubles and illness I have felt such caring and love. I especially felt that last year when I celebrated my 55th birthday, and Birmingham was so very welcoming to my family when they came to help celebrate.
But I do hope you understand the pull that San Francisco and its food scene has on me, after all it is also home, as much as Birmingham, and I feel conflicted about the two places, especially around an important event like my mother’s 90th birthday. I am blessed that she continues in fairly good health, still gets around pretty well, and still wants to go along on the forays to my San Francisco comfort food shrines, although she won’t go white water rafting or snow shoeing with me any more for some odd reason. So today we had scones and dark roast coffee at Peet’s in San Francisco, when last June we had coffee and grits at Red Cat Coffee in Birmingham.
Truly for me it is about family and food. So Happy Birthday Bernice! And thanks for letting me be one of your kids, and helping me develop an appreciation of food, people and culture!