Feeling better and I MET JONATHAN GOLD!!!

As some of you may know or have guessed, I’ve been really down in the past week. Most of this has to do with my uncertainty about grad school and the historical profession in general, but a couple of days ago it got to the point where my school discontent was making me depressed about everything. Here are a couple of illustrative lines from my private journal from Tuesday night:

This funk I’ve been in has consisted of my being down about a variety of things, all of which combine to make me feel like a real loser of a person. I was mulling these over tonight, free-drawing representations of how I was feeling and scribbling down random thoughts that came into my head to describe my emotions. After I looked them over they made me so sad with myself that I had to go do the getting-ready-for-bed routine just to get away from my self-pity/loathing.

Well. Not a happy camper, was I? I’m making light of the situation–which I can do now since I’m feeling loads better–but at the time I was seriously miserable. It’s especially hard to TA when feeling like this, but I got through Wednesday morning all right, then I spent some time with the cohort, which lifted my spirits. After that, I drove up to Northridge to see Jackie, and ended up staying with her until just a few hours ago. We had a fun and relaxing couple of days, and I’m feeling so much better, really rejuvenated and back to myself again. I am so incredibly grateful she has moved down here–you don’t stay best friends with someone for thirteen years without melding together like a pair of happy napping kittens!

Wednesday afternoon was everything I needed: namely, it got me to stop thinking about myself. Jackie and I talked a bit, but mostly we cooked and watched Bravo’s Project Runway marathon. (OMG I’m so hooked! Daniel and Chloe are my favorites.) We made rosemary focaccia with garlic butter, and Jackie improvised on Real Simple‘s chicken stroganoff recipe, substituting plum sake for the wine and various other bits and bobs for other ingredients. Dinner was delicious. We wound up the night with more TV, watching In Her Shoes, which was unoriginal and was only made enjoyable by the actors playing the senior citizens. I loved them. Went to bed after the movie and slept very soundly, waking from a bizarre dream about tribal Tibetans at the luxurious hour of eleven a.m.

This morning we had a nice balanced breakfast of scrambled eggs and oatmeal with sliced almonds, then decided on the spur of the moment to spend the rest of the day in search of spices. Penzeys Spices, my preferred spice supplier for about a year now, just opened their first California store in Torrance, so we headed south. After our forty-five-minute drive, we decided to have lunch first, so we tried Gaja, where they’re supposed to have good okonomiyaki. Alas, they were closed, so we went to the ramen bar across the parking lot instead. Good decision! Cute place, big menu, and friendly cooks and waitstaff. I had a delicious, enormous bowl of shoyu ramen topped with an equally delicious and enormous crab omelet — for $6.80. Feeling very happy, we crossed the parking lot again, to explore a patisserie we’d spotted on the way in. I was so full, I wasn’t going to get anything, but Chantilly’s gorgeous (and teeny!) pastries made me change my mind. So Jackie had a cheesecake and I had passionfruit mousse, and we sat down and thoroughly enjoyed our treats. There was one other couple inside, and they too seemed engrossed in their tea and cakes.

Finally, after dessert, we headed to Penzeys, where we spent a blissful half hour or so smelling and choosing spices. (I got Madagascar vanilla beans, almond extract, spearmint, whole nutmegs, bay leaves, fennel seed, blue poppy seed, sweet curry powder, Aleppo pepper, Sicilian and Green Goddess salad dressing seasonings, and shallot-pepper seasoning which smells incredibly wonderful!) After a while all those strong spicy scents made my nose feel tired, so I found the mints and stood there blissfully inhaling the soothing fragrance of peppermint.

There was a man standing next to me smelling some other spices, and I realized he’d been in the patisserie with us earlier. We saw him again near the checkout, and it transpired he was a writer for Gourmet and had been a NYT restaurant critic for ten years. Cool! We hovered a bit, listening in as he told the lady at the checkout what he thought of Ruth Reichl’s latest book, trying to work up our courage to ask him who he was. Then I heard him say that he also wrote for LA Weekly. I only know one LA Weekly food writer, Jonathan Gold, and he’s a very knowledgeable and funny writer and I read his columns regularly. I didn’t think it could be him because he didn’t look anything like what I’d expected, but as soon as the checkout lady said, “Well, thank you so much for coming in, Jonathan,” I knew I had to act. Sure enough, he was Jonathan Gold! Very exciting. He was very nice, and he asked how we’d heard about Penzeys and where we’d had lunch, and we talked for a little bit. I’d always imagined Jonathan Gold as a sexy, urbane, rather food-snobby sort of person because he writes so glibly and knows so much about food, but instead he was so unpretentious and normal- (even eccentric-) looking that my fan-ness was instantly renewed. He’s someone I’d actually want to eat with.

Well, some people get really excited about movie-star sightings in LA, but meeting Jonathan Gold (and finding him so down-to-earth) is about the pinnacle for me. After he left, Jackie and I had a good talk with the lady behind the counter as well, and found out she’s a fellow Northern Californian and pastry lover. Nice people! Jonathan Gold! Yummy cake! Cheap, tasty ramen! Best friends on a fooding adventure! How much better could a day possibly get? Floating on the euphoria brought on by the clash of all these wonderful developments, we left Penzeys and headed back up to Jackie’s place in Northridge.

Our high started to wear off about forty-five minutes into the drive that eventually stretched into an almost-two-hour crawl through rush hour traffic. But it was still a glorious day. Now I’m back in my apartment and back to my usual life, but I feel revived by all the fooding and friending of the past couple of days. I guess it just proves what I’ve been suspecting for many months now: if things aren’t going right, even if you’re stressed and pressed for time, a good (true) break will work wonders.

[This post was imported on 4/10/14 from my old blog at satsumabug.livejournal.com.]