Thursday, August 24, 2006

Little Sacrifices

The Bivalve Mollusk Brigade

Don't worry little oysters, 72 virgins await you in Heaven...

I sit at the Oakland airport, enjoying some fine international airport cuisine and wonder if I’ll be able to chug down my giant bottle of water before my row is called for boarding. An announcement has just been made that solid food can be brought onto the airplane, but with the recent ban on liquids, salad dressing and condiments must be applied before boarding the plane. I fear abject stupidity more than a terrorist attack… Where is the line between rationale thinking and unrestrained paranoia?

As I bite into my “gourmet” burrito, I indulge in thoughts of the meals I’ve had over the passed three weeks of road tripping around Southern Oregon and Northern California. After four days jet skiing, hiking and hanging with friends in Lake Tahoe, and a weeklong reunion in Oregon, I made the long drive down to Sonoma, California to visit mom. Passed cow pastures and cornfields, the smell of hay and dry fennel, which grows wild on the hillside and along the side of the road, filled the air, tickled my senses and reminded me that no matter where I am, this is home...

En route, I called mom and asked her if she would be up for going out to Mexican food, because as any Californian that has transplanted themselves to New York knows, there’s no truly respectable Cali-Mexican food in New York (Rosa Mexican aside, but by California standards, it is preposterous to pay $20 for guacamole). Mom said 'no Mexican tonight', but promised that something better awaited my arrival… My curiosity was piqued.

Upon arriving in Sonoma I was greeted at mom’s house by 4 dozen fresh Tamales Bay oysters, a hot grill and a chilled bottle of Robert Sinsky Vin Gris. Who’s better than mom? Manolo Blahnik couldn’t create a finer pairing... As the embers glowed, my step-dad set to smashing garlic, melting butter and making quick work of red onions and summer squash for the grill; plus a big, crisp, green salad, all fresh from the local farmers market.

The Saucing Committee

For me, grilling is never merely a spectator sport so I couldn’t sit by idly watching as my step-dad set to martyring 48 oysters. I jumped right in and we placed the oysters on the grill; tongs, garlic butter and barbeque sauce close at hand. With a whiz, pop and a little splatter – the oysters unwittingly opened their mouths to reveal the treasure within. We quickly removed their top shells, brushed them with the garlic butter and bbq sauce and pulled them off of the grill. Trying to remove the shell of a hot oyster with tongs (without losing all the luscious juice, or losing the oyster entirely through the grates of the grill) is akin to trying to build a house of cards after downing four Grande Triple Shot Lattes from Starbucks… it just doesn’t work. So I relinquished the tongs and, much to the chagrin of my overprotective mother, began working the oysters with my bare hands (they really weren’t THAT hot) and within a few minutes I had not only taken command of the grill, but earned the respect of the men…

*Behold the Glory*

After a few exploding oysters, we second guessed our earlier mocking of safety goggles but none of us were willing to leave the excitement of the grill to actually go and find a pair… Besides, that would make me feel about as much safer as I feel right now, watching a lovely, frail grandmother pouring salad dressing on her salad at gate 9A, with an inspector looking menacingly over her shoulder… But I digress. In less than time than it takes to say "cavity search" a feast awaited, and nary a thing to wash! We polished off the Sinksy Vin Gris and moved on to an Eden Vale Pinot Noir. The friends that had brought the oysters promised fresh caught salmon and elk steaks for the next nights grill-off... So good to be home. So, so, so good to be home…

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