I was just in Seattle for a week, gathering my strength. It was as restorative as I had hoped. It was exactly, exactly what I needed.
I flew in early Friday morning, under a generous sun,, and spent a story book autumn day drinking chai, eating smoky kale and sweet potatoes, taking a nap which I never ever do, and going to a writers’ salon on Capital Hill. I got to see many people from NILA. I got to talk about writing without any qualifiers or worrying that I was boring my audience. I basked in the support and love of my weird and wonderful writing community.
Practically perfect days followed the first practically perfect one. We wandered around Pike Place Market. I stocked up on tea and Rachel’s Ginger Beer. We tried to go to three restaurants for a snack, and were run out of all three by the sheer gobs of tourists. This, in itself, was so indicative of Pike Place on a sunny September Saturday that it too was practically perfect.
That night, I visited my old “Cookbook Club” meet up. The theme was “Tom Douglas Recipes.” Tom Douglas is a chef in Seattle who owns a bunch of restaurants, though I’d never eaten at any of them. I think I made a tomato soup of his once, which was delicious with the bite of celery seed, buttery croutons, and a few lashes of cream. On the whole, though, a far more decadent tomato soup than I’d normally make. I expected similarly decadent fare from the Tom Douglas potluck.
There was plenty of that, and also, there were peanut butter cookies. Peanut butter sandwich cookies, rather, with a smooth Skippy peanut butter filling squashed in the middle. It was like eating a peanut butter oatmeal cream pie. It was like eating the idyllic childhood most of us didn’t have in reality, but may remember in nostalgia.
I needed to eat way more of these cookies than I dared politely justify at the potluck, and I had a copy of the cookbook the recipe came from, Douglas’s Dahlia Bakery Cookbook. Incidentally, apparently, the recipe was so beloved by Nora Ephron that the cookies are called “The Nora Ephron” in the book. Also, of course, they were ridiculous: using two kinds of peanut butter, Skippy and a crunchy natural type, requiring a long dough-chilling time, and calling for a “double-pan” baking method. The recipe called for baking only eight cookies per sheet. For a batch making two dozen cookie sandwiches, I’d technically need 12 cookie sheets unless I wanted to be constantly cooling and washing and reusing them. As if.
Next best option, and clearly the only option in this scenario: go to the real live sugar-and-nostalgia-filled Dahlia Bakery before I left Seattle. Which is why the last evening before I boarded my plane back to Minneapolis found Arlie and me speeding downtown in Seattle traffic to try to get to the bakery before it closed at 7 PM. We hadn’t realized it was closing at 7 until approximately 6:13.
It was a nail biting car ride. Downtown traffic in Seattle is terrible most times, parking even worse, but we were being downright cocky thinking we could make it in time during rush hour. And yet, somehow, we only encountered a few snarls, managed to park (somewhat illegally) close to the bakery, ducked in and snagged a dozen Nora Ephron-approved peanut buttery goodness and get back to the car by something like 6:47. Someone must have really understood my feelings about those cookies.
Honestly, there were some non-practically perfect points in Seattle, and during the writing conference I attended in the California high desert during the same trip. Most of these moments involved the usual financial anxiety, unemployment panic, school decision angst. Things haven’t been picnicky for me lately. And yet, I have to think that as long as I have people in my life who are willing to have those ridiculous adventures with me, to screech through traffic just before closing time simply for a cookie, to react to silly spontaneity with open-minded enthusiasm, then I’ll always have incentive to push through the hard shit. If there’s a cookie on the other side, count me all in. It’s exactly, exactly what I need.