Every once in a while, like when I’m watching the sun rise over Horse Heaven Hills in front of a fire and a mug of chai on a Thursday morning, it hits me, in what my friend Megan calls a Blinding Flash of the Obvious: my job rocks. In the past 36 hours, with Lara, the photographer for Dishing Up Washington, I drove 4 hours to Washington’s Methow Valley to tour Bluebird Grain Farms, weighing the risks of a wet harvest with owners Brooke and Sam Lucy. I had a smooth, fresh-squeezed juice at Glover Street Market, in Twisp, made with apples, pears, and ginger, followed by an honest, warming chicken curry that shook the rain out of my bones. We shuffled fresh cinnamon twisps, braided discs of puffy dough scattered with honey, hazelnuts, and cinnamon, to the benches outside the Cinnamon Twisp bakery, where they posed like pin-ups, proud of every one of their curves. That was the morning.
Next, we meandered two hours southish, Gabrielle Hamilton‘s voice flowing out of the speakers. She told us about her odd, challenging childhood, and about the first time she beheaded a chicken, and about the time when she was preparing for an end-of-summer celebratory dinner at a summer camp for kids, when the counselors, in an altered state late one night, drowned 30 lobsters in fresh water. We listened until we pulled into Tiny’s Organic in East Wenatchee. There, we padded through the wet grass under apples with names like Hawaii and Honeycrunch and Golden Russet, listening to Greg McPherson, the farm’s owner, tell us about all his new apple varieties. He taught us that the blushing side of the apple is always the sweetest, where the sun hits it, and that sometimes the best place for chickens is an old RV.
I sent photos of three different-colored tractors to G, back in Seattle, which apparently thrilled him. Then we drove, another 2 hours southeastish, to Prosser, one of the state’s best winemaking regions. We checked into Desert Wind Winery‘s southwestern-style inn, and tasted through their wine line-up over dinner at Mojave, the winery’s restaurant. There were chorizo-stuffed, proscuitto-wrapped prawns, and a salad dressing made from merlot seed oil and late harvest wine vinegar, and people, I could eat every single bite.
Lara and I spent the next hour combing through the photo’s she’s taken thus far. There are photos of curious milking goats, and hungry piglets, and cows stampeding, shrouded in dust. There are my recipes, brought to life in Lara’s studio, and visual recordings of the people whose lives have made this state’s foodways so rich. I can’t wait for you to see it.
Today was work, too. First we hit Cherry Wood Bed, Breakfast, and Barn, to sniff out a great herb baked egg recipe. We had coffee next to the teepees before a trail ride through the vineyards and orchards of Zillah, Washington, to a tasting at Cultura Wine. Then we did a wine tasting at Gilbert Cellars, in Yakima, and, on the way home, in Ellensburg, took a spin through Rodeo City Bar-B-Q‘s menu, marveling that a restaurant could blanket its booths in a rodeo-themed fabric that seemed, somehow, completely right.
Then, finally, almost five hundred miles later, we came home. And tomorrow, a little baffled and whirlwinded, I’ll write.
I love this.