Nettle Pizza

finished pizza

It’s hard to believe it but once long ago I lived for two years in California. It seems like something out of a dream, a place oddly familiar that you know you’ve been to over and over but you can’t quite place in your current day to day existence. I never quite got over how different it all was. I couldn’t comprehend the dry hillsides and lack of rain. Every bit of vegetation seemed some exotic species I’d never seen before – giant trumpet flowers perfuming the bright sunshine days, enormous bougainvillea bushes in violent shades of fuchsia emerging in the foggy mornings, gnarled, sinewy cyprus trees leaning wildly away from the ocean below, and the enormous senatorial redwoods rising from street corners offering hints of what this land looked like before it was paved over with crisscrossing highways and sprawling homes rising and falling along the profile of hills.

The lack of seasons really threw me off. I never realized how important the seasons were to me cataloging memories. Over the course of those two years, it’s hard for me to say what exactly happened when; it all seemed to stretch together into one long morning where I was too cold that developed into an afternoon where I was too hot but somehow again too cold in the evening. Being stretched thin between grad school and a part time job all while competing at the highest levels of ultimate frisbee didn’t help any. Days really did just seem to run together into one long tired, climatically challenging blur. I do remember, however, the food.

I started to experiment with cooking when I first left college and moved to New York. But the turning point really came when I moved to Berkeley to start grad school and moved into a great little house only a few blocks from the Berkeley Bowl. I used to ride there just to walk the aisles, inventing items I needed to buy so I could linger in the bulk aisle or stand in front of the cheese department smelling every stinky cheese I could get my hands on. Between that and the Oakland farmers market, I changed the way I ate and have never looked back since. Suddenly the lack of seasons seemed like a magical thing. Who had ever heard of buying fresh, local oranges at a farmers market or picking up fuzzy, round visions of spring and holding perfect apricots in your palm in April. The exposure to fresh, delicious fruits and vegetables forever changed the way I approached what I wanted to cook and how I wanted to prepare it. I couldn’t get enough of the farmers markets and would return home laden down with enough produce for a family of four, not one over busy grad student.

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