Sunday, August 24, 2008

48 Hours.

The weekend began with an Egg McMuffin and hash browns and ended with pepperoni pizza, with more of the same filling the forty-eight hours in between. I fear my gastrointestinal system will never recover. But I'm getting ahead of myself here; I have to start at the beginning.

Quite early on Saturday morning I was hustled out of bed and into the car, loaded down with overnight bags and coats and books and bottles of water. We just made the ferry to Bainbridge Island, though without enough time for breakfast before boarding. (When I was in high school and we took the ferry every weekend to our cabin on the shores of Hood Canal, we would buy breakfast or lunch at McDonald's before boarding). Our first stop, then, once we got off the (incredibly empty) ferry, was the drive-thru at the nearest McDonalds, for Egg McMuffins all around. (My mother has a deep fondness for Egg McMuffins which I have never been entirely able to understand). Nearly every road trip we take begins this way. Breakfast in hand, we are soon in Port Angeles, checking into our hotel before heading out towards our ultimate goal: Cape Flattery, the furthest northwest point of the continental United States.

Along the way, we stop for lunch in a tiny port town that seems to boast only one small café. Large windows look onto a deck lined with picnic tables, looking over the marina and the Strait of Juan de Fuca beyond. The hash browns have coalesced into a hard lump in the pit of my stomach, or so it seems, and I feebly order the grilled cheese sandwich and a glass of iced tea. The iced tea comes in a larger version of the plastic cups (thick and translucent and finely pebbled) that I last saw in a school cafeteria; the sandwich comes in a bright plastic basket lined with wax paper. The sandwich, too, is like those I last ate in a school cafeteria, white bread toasted (well, fried, probably) golden brown, oozing with molten, bright orange-yellow cheese. Velveeta, probably, which is not so much cheese as a cheese product. (Wikipedia tells me that Velveeta does not qualify for the term "cheese food," as it contains less than 51% cheese). And yet it so good, I wonder why, when left to my own devices, I bother with real cheddar and whole-wheat bread or slices of miche or even my own homemade rustic loaves and good butter or a fine film of olive oil. I save the potato chips that come with my sandwich for later.

The short hike out to Cape Flattery (steep and winding and a bit slippery at times) revives me enough to enjoy my dinner at a restaurant we find by driving slowly around Port Angeles. In the basement restaurant filled with vintage-looking lamps and furniture and shelves of cookbooks, we eat calamari sautéed with tomatoes and onions and hearty chunks of chorizo, good bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and pasta tossed with fish and shellfish in a creamy tomato sauce. I feel my mother's paella with seafood looks much like my father's seafood stew over saffron rice, except the paella is served in a copper pan and the stew is served on a deep plate. The service is so slow I am actually hungry by the time our main courses arrive, and my mother is nearly asleep by the time we finish eating. Virtuosly, we refuse dessert and head back to the hotel to watch more of the Olympic Games in the shadow of the Olympic Mountains.

The next morning brings rain and...wait for it...breakfast at McDonalds. This time I choose a sausage McMuffin, plain sausage, no egg. I fear that I am no longer capable of eating both sausage and egg, nor can I take even a bite of the hash browns that my father proffers. No sirree, not me. It is a low moment. The rain is unceasing, so we head homewards, encountering such traffic near Sequim that we get off the freeway and find some place for lunch. We wind up at Gwennie's Restaurant, which turns out to be one of those cheerfully non-chain family restaurants with handwritten specials on chalkboards and endless pots of coffee. It is clearly the sort of place where locals bring their aged parents for Sunday lunch. I order the crab melt, sourdough bread stuffed with fresh crab and avocado, topped with some sort of cheese (it might be cheddar, but then it probably isn't) and griddled a golden brown. It is very good, but also probably very bad for me.

Several traffic-clogged hours later and we are back in Seattle, too exhausted to stop somewhere for dinner, too exhausted to try and throw together a meal from the contents of the fridge. I call for pizza from the place downstairs (well, technically, I have to go around the corner to get there) and head out into the rain to pick it up. I can't remember the last time my parents and I ate takeout pizza together. Over ten years, probably. When I get to the pizza place my food isn't quite ready, so it literally comes straight out of the oven and into a box and into my hands and swiftly down the street, around the corner, through the back door of my building, up the elevator, and into my dining room. It is so hot it nearly burns my hands, nearly burns my tongue as I eat it. There is salad for my mother and beer for my father and hot pepperoni pizza. I had forgotten what it tasted like, how good it could be. In forty-eight hours I have ricocheted across the culinary nirvanas of my childhood and adolescence, McMuffins and grilled cheese sandwiches and melts and takeout pizza. I think I am too old for them now, but I am glad that I have had them back, for just a little while.

1 comment:

Juanita said...

What a fine post! Thanks for including me in your little journey, which sounds positively divine.