Mama Annie

Some things change a lot over the years. Other things don’t change that much.

I remember coming out of my bedroom in the morning as a kid, and there was my mom — wild haired, rumpled bathrobe, cup of coffee — already cooking. Now, when we go to visit her in Sonoma, my children wake up early and find her, grandma now whom they call “Mama Annie” — wild haired, rumpled bathrobe, cup of coffee — already cooking.

Me and Mama Annie, back in the day

Me and Mama Annie, back in the day

My parents were adventurous eaters, especially for the time. As I child, I ate escargot in French restaurants and learned to say Pouilly-Fuisse, sampled sashimi and sushi at the Joy of Tempura — the only Japanese restaurant in town — and was complemented on my chopsticks skills by old Chinese women at the Twin Dragon. More

In Search of Pliny the Elder

While in Sonoma for a holiday visit, my mother said, “I was just telling Leslie about Pliny the Elder. She didn’t know about it.”

Pliny the Elder, the guy

Pliny the Elder, the guy

According to Wikipedia, Pliny the Elder was a Roman author, naturalist and philosopher, as well as naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire and close personal friend to emperor Vespasian. Why my mother was telling my wife about Pliny the Elder was lost on me. Until she said, “It won best beer in the world!” And I realized she was talking about beer. More

Skinny Girls Roadshow from Sonoma — Hunting the Pine Mushroom

I like the thrill of the hunt. But not one for killing animals or dealing with blood, I mostly limit my hunting to wild mushrooms in the woods and groovy cowboy shirts at thrift stores. It was the former that had my wife and I up to our ears in Sonoma pine duff, hunting the elusive matsutake.

Orange jelly fungus

Orange jelly fungus

“Matsutake” translates as “pine mushroom,” since they often grow in symbiotic relationship with pines. “Take” is Japanese for mushroom, while “matsu” means pine — I have a friend named Kazue Matsunaga. I’m not sure what the “naga” part is, but she’s got something to do with pine trees. She’s a “Pine naga-er,” I guess. More

A Guerrilla in Skinny Girl Country

If you’re going to spend an afternoon with a guerrilla, what better occasion than Bastille Day — a holiday celebrating the storming of a symbol of monarchal oppression by the common man.

The “guerrilla” we would spend Bastille Day with would not be a camouflaged, gun-toting, beret-crowned rebel, but rather our family wine, Wine Guerrilla — and my mother’s long-time partner, Bruce, producer of the wine and himself often referred to as, “The Wine Guerrilla.” More

Thanks. Giving.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. In addition to being the only holiday that is really ALL about food, it incorporates two of my favorite concepts into its title: thanks and giving.

If I were limited to only two values I could instill my children, it might be those two. To be thankful. And to be giving.

One of the most valuable things I can give is my time. And often I do that by cooking. When friends or loved ones come for a meal, they are not merely chewing and swallowing. They are being honored, served and cherished. And they are sharing in my small effort to make the world a more slow, thoughtful, beautiful place — one meal at a time. More

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