Indigo On The West Coast - Part 2
In the hubbub of the busy roadside café, my mind is elsewhere.
Around me, I've tuned out the mothers, children, truckers and pensioners as they talk, eat, scold and laugh their way through the hottest part of the day. I'm no longer aware of this physical and spiritual cross-section of a small town under shade.
The plate of food in front of me has me in its evocative embrace; a simple meal of rough-cut chorizo sausage with scrambled eggs. The spices sizzle and whisper on the hot dinner plate, and the still-moist eggs bubble gently.
Outside, in the Northern Californian town of Tomales, it's August 2008.
But in the cafe, as I taste my first mouthful of the fragrant dish, I have no idea when it is; the flavours and textures of the ingredients combine to make an experience that forces reality even further into retreat.
Eolist Petite is also somewhat absorbed. My tiny friend sits opposite me, raised up by a few cushions on the seat of her rustic wooden chair. A halo of wet cocoa rings her grinning mouth as she tucks into a bar of dark chocolate filled with raspberry fondant. Normally she'd have a coffee, but this treat provides enough caffeine that she's able to risk a glass of water with ice and lemon. The diamond cubes clink and bob quietly.
Two hours ago, I'm behind the wheel of an awesome car, heading up towards Tomales with Eolist, my eccentric amigo iDifficult, and Yavin the badger. It's been a busy few days. Today, we're heading off in search of a mythical bakery with the best cakes in the State.
As anyone will tell you, I'm not a great driver; I choose odd routes and frequently get lost. I'm backtracking from a wrong turn right now, in fact, but nobody has noticed; as my rear-view of tortured limbs confirms, they're all playing Travel Twister to pass the time.
And indeed, a bit too much time passes; by the time we reach the crossroads of the small town, the sun is high and the bakery – sold clean out of its legendary pastries - has just closed for the day. Yavin and 'Difficult are philosophical about it, and head off excitedly in search of something they're tracking on a scanner, while a parched and hungry Eolist joins me for lunch and shade in a tiny café.
Back in the now, my meal continues stirring up eclectic and seemingly irrelevant memories.
It's 1998, and I'm sitting at my desk in North London. In front of me is a heavily-anticipated sandwich: thick granary bread; plenty of butter; thick salted gammon ham; and two handfuls of strong grated cheddar. Next to me is a cup of tea and a copy of At The Mountains Of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft.
Over the cubicle wall, the marketing department roar their relentless babble at phones, video links and each other. I don't enjoy being near them, as my work requires quiet and concentration.
The sandwich, made for me by the grandmotherly Letty in the staff canteen, awaits. I unwrap the expertly-folded greaseproof paper and, grasping its mighty layers in two hands, take the first bite. The moment - like one of Lovecraft's monsters - defies description, and the chaos of the office fades into distant irrelevance.
Back in Tomales, I realise that it is this exact same feeling. Amidst the herbs, the spices and the veteran grease of this backwater eatery there is something magical to be found.
Very few adventures end in disappointment.
Behind the counter, the pretty Mexican waitress watches me take another forkful and hopes I'll glance her way, but I'm long ago and miles away; there's just the food, the memories, and the eye of the strom. And I have no idea that from the bridge of his broad, weathered hot plate, the house chef sees my enjoyment and swells with pride. He needs no thanks from me; there is pleasure in eating, but far more in cooking for someone with an appetite.
Outside, the daylight is harsh, the street empty. Mad dogs and Englishmen famously go out in the midday sun, but in this quiet little town those are in short supply at any time of day. But today, Tomales welcomes a Mad Englishman and a Badger; outside the window, 'Difficult and Yavin slowly cartwheel by in zero gravity, gently spinning, beyond the notice of Physics.
Eolist contentedly waves chocolately fingers at them, and for a moment I glance up and smile; I guess we've all found something special today.
I return to my lunch, and wait for the universe to catch up with us.
Part 1 - But For Our Olympic Coughing
Continued in Part 3 - Her Words Are Swept Away
This blog entry is protected by copyright © Indigo Roth, 2012