This past weekend I attended the Foodbuzz Blogger Festival in San Francisco, California, 2,700 miles away from my home. Traveling alone is always a meaningful, reflective experience for me, and over the next couple of weeks, I'll be sharing vignettes that I hope are meaningful to you, as well.
. . .
"Can you tell we're tourists?" the gossamer-haired man asked the woman at the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) information desk after she guided him through the process of purchasing a ticket. He chuckled toward his smiling wife, and they walked over toward the ticket machine.
I walked up to the information desk, wondering if I was about to annoy the attendant by asking a question she'd already been asked a hundred times this morning. Like everyone else I'd met so far in the Bay City, though, she cheerfully offered detailed advice. With some help from the tourist couple who'd gone before me, I successfully purchased a subway ticket and stepped onto the escalator to descend into the rumbling belly of the city.
After a posing a few more clueless questions to kind San Franciscans, I stepped onto a BART train and settled into my seat with a self-congratulatory sigh. We sped off only to hear a robotic voice a few seconds later announcing the next stop: "Montgomery."
Oh. Montgomery? I looked at the map on the wall. I was trying to head to the Mission area to visit the gorgeous, iconic Tartine Bakery. Montgomery, however, was in the opposite direction -- toward Oakland across the bay. Once again I turned to a stranger. "If I'm trying to get to 16th and Mission--" I began.
"Oh, you're headed the wrong way," she said with a smile. "You needed the train on the other side of the tracks." It suddenly dawned on me that of course the trains, like cars, would go in two different directions. I felt a little sheepish.
"Oh, thanks! I guess it's a good thing I realized after only one stop," I said.
"Definitely. You're fine. You're not under the water yet!" she replied.
Her reassurance at once comforted me and alerted me to an alarming fact that I hadn't considered about the trains: they go under the water. Under the San Francisco Bay. Seriously? I could hear my mom's voice in my head saying, "What if there's an earthquake while you're under there?!" I jumped off at the next stop and changed trains, relieved that I didn't have to go under the water until I visited Oakland later in my trip.
A couple of hours later I stood at a bus stop, blissful after devouring a frangipane croissant, a gruyere and black pepper gougere, and a Mexican Coke at the communal table in Tartine. I hurriedly grabbed $2 out of my pack as the bus pulled up, but I had the good sense to pause on the bus steps and ask, "Do you head toward Lombard?"
I expected the bus driver to wave me onto the bus, impatient with silly tourist questions, but again, I was met with generosity: "Oh, you want the 22 that runs on the other side of the street." He pointed to the bus stop across the way. A kind man at the bus stop confirmed the bus driver's words, "Just wait over there and another bus will be along in a moment." Buses, it seemed -- like trains! and cars! and everything else, Julie! -- ran in both directions. Since you might be wondering at this point, I promise I'm not dumb.
I walked across the street, once again redirected by the kindness of others.
Are you plowing ahead on your own power lately? Personally, I never grew out of that independent toddler stage of life -- the one where you're constantly insisting, "I'll do it myself!" There's nothing quite like being alone in a strange city across the country from your home to break you of that intransigence, though.
I found my way to Tartine and then up to the Golden Gate Bridge on Friday because I was willing to accept the generosity and support of others. (And if I hadn't found my way to Tartine, what a tragedy that would've been!)
Reach out for help when you need to. You don't have to handle everything alone. And hey, you're not under the water yet.
. . .
What better way to kick off my California posts than with a gorgeous open-faced California Sandwich? It's just as healthy as it looks, but don't worry -- it doesn't lack a thing in the taste department. In fact, it's one of the best sandwiches I've ever made in my kitchen. It's a fresh, tangy combination of flavors that you just feel good eating. I made it on sourdough bread, which I love -- and how appropriate for all this talk of San Francisco.
Was there a time in your life when you've had to break down and accept the help and kindness of others?
Fresh Open-faced California Sandwich
Recipe by: Adapted from Ezra Pound Cake
Yield: 2 open-faced sandwiches
This quick sandwich is cool and refreshing. The bright California salad is comprised of tomatoes, cucumbers, cilantro, and avocado bathed in lime juice. It rests on a tangy chive spread and a thick, toasty slice of sourdough bread. I was pleasantly surprised at how delicious the finished product was considering how little effort went into assembly. This sandwich would make the perfect lunch or light dinner.
Chive Spread Ingredients:
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives
Salt and pepper, to taste
California Salad Ingredients*:
1 avocado, peeled, pitted and diced
1 tomato, cored and chopped
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
Squeeze of lime juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Salt and pepper, to taste
*This makes enough salad for 4 sandwiches, if you wanted to put a smaller amount on each, but I really heaped it on. I wanted more salad and less bread per sandwich. Yum!
Other Things You Need:
2 slices of thick sourdough bread
1/2 cup alfalfa sprouts
Make the chive spread by mixing the yogurt, mayonnaise, chives, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Set aside. Toast the 2 slices of bread in toaster or in a buttered skillet over medium heat. Lay these out on a plate.
Make the California salad by tossing avocado, tomato, cucumber, lime juice, cilantro, salt, and pepper together in a bowl. Spread each slice of bread with half of your chive spread and pile on half of the alfalfa sprouts. Then top with half of the California salad, piled high. I ate mine with a knife and fork and considerable enthusiasm.