HERMANO SEGUNDO LOST IN LA LA LAND: DAY FIVE/SIX/SEVEN IN SANTA CRUZ
At the end of May, as I sat in Spain ploughing my way through my notes trying to bring some shape to all the adventures that were EAT MY GLOBE, I made a list of places I wanted to return. Mexico was right up there, so was The Philippines, but at the top of the list was Santa Cruz.
In my short few days there during Thanksgiving 2007, I was adopted by a crazily beautiful and beautifully crazy extended family fronted by the then unknown to me Tana Butler*. After the misery of my time in Brazil, I found myself swaddled in the good humour and good energy that can only come from a community that uses the word “goddess” without any sense of irony at all.
There was no way, on this trip, that I was to miss a return visit and with Sybil begging for an opportunity to fumigate the flat, I hired a tiny little Japanese car and pointed it Northwards with only the sounds of “EZ ROCK” to keep me company.
When I arrived at Tana’s house, things were much as I had left them almost a year before. The woman herself was fussing about her house while Logan, her irrepressible grandson, oversaw glorious and bloody battle between his knights in armour “knife guys” and assorted superheroes.
As the year before, my first contribution to proceedings was to cook a selection of Indian dishes for her friends and family. I was far too busy telling people what to do in their own kitchens to take pictures, but there are enough images of my ineffectual attempts to replicate the food of my fathers on here for you to look at if you care to search for them.
In any event, the meal seem to be enjoyed and I was particularly gratified when one of the guests, local chef and restaurant owner, David Jackman invited me and Tana to be his guest at his Santa Cruz eatery, Chocolate, the next day. Chocolate is exactly my sort of place and David my sort of cook. His passion for hearty meals is derived from his training in Italy and, while a dish of Chicken mole was good, it was a special dish of fresh lasagna pasta layered with butternut squash puree, rolled and cut into rosettes that had us wiping the plate clean with our fingers.
Few people in my lifetime have done things in my honour, so I was touched when Tana announced that her friends, Laura and Robert were going to open up their staggeringly pretty garden to host a cook out for around twenty people. It took me right back to the previous year’s Thanksgiving feast as guest arrived bearing trays of food, cakes and bottles of powerful Californian wine. Tana contributed meaty lamb chops, which I marinated in a mix of yoghurt and spices for a few hours before they were cooked to a perfect char on the grill by her husband, Bob. Another memorable night in Santa Cruz.
Amongst all the goodies on offer that night, pride of place went to two baskets of colourful tomatoes and vegetables brought along by Cynthia Sandberg of Loveapple Farm. Being a close friend of Tana’s, she was kind enough to invite us to join her the next day where I walked off my hangover from the night before as she gave us a tour of her property. Cynthia is one of the leading authorities on tomatoes and plucked ripe specimens from the vines for us to sample as we wandered around. In return, we prepared a simple lunch of pasta and a salad using some of her own incomparable produce.
If I can’t think of too many better ways to spend a day, I certainly can’t think of many better ways to spend an evening and to conclude my all too short time in Santa Cruz as I enjoyed a simple family meal with Tana and her husband. A creamy risotto with blood orange zest, roast chicken and courgettes cooked in Lime infused olive oil. As we sat in front of the T.V, food on our laps and watched a tape of the presidential debate, Bob and Tana offered regular barbed comments. I could not help thinking that the world needs more places like Santa Cruz and it certainly needs more people like Tana Butler.
* Amongst other things, Tana is an excellent photographer and all of the decent ones on this post are hers. For more of her work, check out http://smallfarms.typepad.com/