A gift card to Kepler's! I was delighted and overwhelmed at this farewell gift from my colleagues. It was 1999. I had completed my fellowship and was moving on to my first job. Kepler's, iconic independent bookstore in Menlo Park. Absolute heaven for readers. Back then there was a large section on cooking. As soon as the idea struck me, I knew that was how I would use the gift card – on cookbooks! And what a pleasure it was to look through those shelves and select the treasures that I use even today, remembering the friends who acknowledged my great love for books.
"Essentials of Classic Italian cooking" by Marcella Hazan was an instant favorite. Her pesto was a classic, an aromatic, rich and attractive blend of basil leaves, olive oil, pine nuts, garlic, salt, parmigiano-reggiano cheese, romano cheese, and butter. Best when tossed with freshly made pasta, which was how I ate it and served it for years. Until one day, my dear friend Suvir, chef in New York, said to me with authority, "Next time, try throwing in some cherry tomatoes." I did, halving them for a quicker blending of flavors, so each bite would include a piece of tomato and pesto covered pasta. It was transforming. The slight acidity of the tomatoes a surprising complement to the sweet nuttiness of the pesto. Simple and perfect.
The other books I got were “Cuisines of Mexico” by Diana Kennedy, which I haven’t used as much, “Middle Eastern Cooking” by Christine Osborne and “The Moosewood Book of Desserts.” This last, oh, my. As I write, a wonderful memory. Los Angeles circa 1999. I am at my friend Bharati’s apartment in Santa Monica. She is a purist, foodie extraordinaire, the one who introduced me to chowhound.com to find the best eats anywhere. She brings to the small table at which we sit a deep blue ceramic bowl, within it water with some ice cubes, and cherries, deep red and luscious. They taste divine. That memory inevitably brings to mind the perfection of a William Carlos Williams poem.
This Is Just To Say
I have eaten
that were in
you were probably
they were delicious
and so cold