Ive been dancing around in the flames of kitchens for thirty two years, from London, New York, Seattle, my home town of Los Angeles, and finally six years ago to the wine country of Northern California. During my travels I have seen many strange and wonderful things occur in and around the world of cuisine. I was fortunate enough to be working in the kitchens of California in the late 1970’s, when baby vegetables, freshly cut herbs and tender lettuces were considered strange delicacies from a new world no one quite understood. Then as time passed I was able to witness a revolution of artisans and chefs embracing the traditions of creating foods in the time honored “Slow Food” methods that have been used for centuries.
Oddly enough, my fondest memories over the years have not derived from my experience and contacts with celebrities, tycoons or self described culinary geniuses, people who in the long run are far too predictable in their behavior ( simply by virtue of their constant need to conform with the contents of their press packets) to be much fun at all.
No, it’s been the eccentric culinary wacko’s and artisans of the world who have provided me with the gastronomic wonder lust and excitement I need. I am talking about the generous souls, whose very lives revolve around the procurement and production of a wide variety of foods and products available on this magical planet of ours. I’m talking about people who take pride in living on the fringe, focused solely on the production or procurement of a perfect product, whatever that might be.
Money and recognition do not concern them, instead it’s the challenge of the hunt for the perfect animal, vegetable or mineral, often in the most dramatic or romantic way possible. It’s the passion for living life and partaking of its fruits, pleasures and inherent dangers, which motivates. Then if financial success does come, the artisan will remain true to his or her craft, the magic of creation will not be lost, and they will find a way to keep perfecting this vision simply for the love of the journey itself.
As I write this article the cool winds of early fall are just beginning to blow through the Dry Creek and Alexander Valleys. The harvest is coming to a close and the smell of crushed grapes perfumes the air, possibly mingled with the aroma of Lou Preston’s wood burning oven baked sour dough bread. While on another stretch of road Charmoon Richardson of Wild About Mushrooms is gearing up for the fall season of foraging, as are many of the Cocora and Porcini loving Italians who have lived on this land for generations. Grape grower Mike Rowan has begun dreaming about his annual solitary duck hunt. The last few weeks of peaches have been picked by Gail of Dry Creek Peach, Soda Rock Farms Tomato Patch is beginning to empty out and the folks at Tierra Vegetables are making way for their pumpkin patch