An assignment took me out to the peninsula a few days ago. I drove up early in the morning all along the bay up 101. In a blurry photo I snapped through the passenger window, the water, the hills, and the sky form a backdrop, bare trees the foreground. (I always wish I knew the trees better. Are these alders?) The water in the center of the picture is not gray as it is at the edges, but yellow-white and a light orange, subtle and gleaming like holiday dishware, befitting a winter sunrise.
I’ve driven north this way on several occasions but never stopped at Hama Hama Seafood. In truth, I hadn’t remembered that it would be along my way. But here it was, on my right, overlooking the water. And here were the narrow bridges that Renee Erickson and Jess Thomson describe in a profile of the company in Erickson’s cookbook, A Boat, a Whale & a Walrus. I received it for Christmas this year. Having not had the opportunity to eat at one of her restaurants yet, I have been poring over its pages. One morning last week, I sat down and read all the profiles, back to back.
Her mushroom strata waits in the refrigerator for us to bake tonight, a mounded mass of egg-soaked bread, leeks, mushrooms, and cheddar. I bought Italian parsley instead of fresh dill. I put some dried dill in with the leeks to try and make up for it. It’s a regrettable enough mistake (it calls for two cups of chopped dill) that I’ll consider this a dry run and make it again with all the right ingredients before the end of winter. Mistakes make good jumping-off points, anyway. Now I have one less meal to plan, one more to look forward to: the second strata, before we’ve even eaten the first.
I suppose a mistake is a good way to begin a new year. Starting out with a shiny disposition has worked against me in the past. It must be too much pressure, to keep the slate clean. Better to arrive with a stumble and learn to shrug it off, to shed a burden on the spot, before it becomes something too heavy in my hand.
On the way home I stopped at Hama Hama and immediately wished I hadn’t packed myself a lunch. I would have rather sat on a barstool outside at the oyster saloon, looking out at the water. But it was just as well. I surprised my family and picked up some smoked oysters, pickled herring, a bottle of Finn River’s black currant cider, and a dozen blue pool oysters. The oysters made for an easy dinner and a memorable one, eaten raw at the table with lemons and horseradish and a stack of grilled, buttered bread on the side.
Afterward, Brian said that we needed to eat out of shells more often, to avoid doing dishes. It did make cleanup nice but the best part is that my daughter gave me a series of sneak-attack hugs from behind; she loves oysters that much. Apparently I had divined something in bringing them home; earlier that day she had begged for them at the farmer’s market. That’s enough for me.