A Goodbye Ode to Oregon

I’ve put off writing this. Maybe I just wasn’t quite ready to make it all official-sounding and true to its bone, but I suppose before the holidays take hold of my sanity I should just put it in writing already. If not, my ability to do so might get pureed up with today’s pumpkin…
Sooo in January, this Shoofly will take flight, stretch its molasses-stained wings and make its way to the pie-crust colored deserts of New Mexico where Santa Fe shall be its new home.
So there it is. 
True to its bone.

But for this Sunday moment Portland is still home, and though I’m thrilled to rest the Shoofly in Santa Fe, closer to some of my favorite things, like the sun and my mother, it feels pretty surreal to pack it all up.

Photo by Ali Schultz
Why was Portland ever home anyway? Hard to say… The city had been sitting in the back of my head for years before I moved here, whispering sweet nothings – a vague story about coffee beans as I recall. So in 2005 I answered the call of the beans, packed up my tan Buick Century, and moved west into a small, shag-carpeted apartment in the Southeast. Portland eventually felt like home.

Then things change. People change. Life calls us to change and drowns out the nothings that once sounded so sweet and alluring. What can we do but answer?

But regardless of where we go, Portland shall forever hold residence in a chamber of my over-caffeinated heart. To say I’ve met some fantastically talented people does not do them justice. To say I’ve had some great meals would be a gaping understatement. The soils and people of Oregon create what I would call life-altering experiences and food. Sound dramatic? Well it’s also true.

My memory is chock full of vivid food(ish) firsts from Portland. We never do forget a (good) first kiss. So as I set the Shoofly off from its metaphorical nest, let me give an ode to Oregon with a few of those firsts…

-       The first time I made Granola… the day I arrived in Portland was sunny if you can believe it. I was hungry for food, having forgotten to pack any pantry items in the Buick, and hungry for a sense of home. So I pulled out my More-with-Less and set out to the tiny kitchen. On the list: oatmeal bread, granola, apple butter, and egg drop soup. Don’t ask… I know… it’s nonsensical. I immediately burnt the hell out of the granola, but also learned an important lesson about oven temperature and how I experience “home”... In the kitchen. With baked goods.

This year's granola... progress!

-       The first restaurantRiyadh’s Lebanese - Upon my friend Ben’s recommendation we parked our curious and alien-feeling selves at this modest joint. Underneath the tiny beaded lamps that still sit there today, staring at that “Lentil Soup” sign out front, we ate outrageously tasty hummus. And yes, the Lentil Soup deserved that sign. This is not my favorite spot restaurant by any stretch, but even then there was a certain sense that this city was full of spots like this: unpretentious, reasonably-priced, amazing food. Riyadh’s was just scratching the surface.

-       The first food cart… I hadn’t really had much Thai food before I moved here, and I certainly hadn’t eaten it out of a cart. So on my exploration in the now-famous downtown food cart pods, I picked a Thai one, studied the menu, chose the classic, and called my mother. “I’m eating pad thai out of a box sitting on a curb. And it's heaven here.”

-       My first pie... Mere blocks from my first apartment was Uncle Paul’s produce market. Now Kruger Farms Stand. It was fall when I arrived which made for a perfect marriage: Apples were on and I had a visceral urge to bake. So the first pie I ever made was with the apples from Paul and his free recipe handout at the apple booth. I still use it to this day.

-       My first cup of Stumptown coffee...  It was their Hair Bender brew. Now this was life-altering. And it was really a mixed bag because when I took that first sip I knew 2 things:
#1. Holy crap that is the best cup of coffee I have ever tasted. Hands down.
#2. Holy crap… All coffee after this is going to suck. I’m a ruint woman.

-       My first glass of an Oregon Pinot Noir... It was at an office Christmas party in 2006. Rainy night. I was wearing a blue scarf (which I’ve since lost). At the bar I simply said "glass of red wine", and the pinot noir is what he handed me… It was bright and floral, but it didn't push you around with too much fruit. It only got better from there. 

Lemelson Vineyards, one of many Oregon vineyards specializing in Pinot Noir. Photo by Levi Cole

-       The first time I realized I didn’t always need a recipe... This I owe to my dear friend Monica during our Sunday night qigong class. After class we’d all cook dinner together at our teacher’s house. I’d watch Monica sift through Bill's frig and pantry, pulling out the most random of ingredients and with pure grace conjure up honey cookies, vegetarian curries, stews, cobblers. I saw the freedom in just creating, without the need for perfection or an index card.

My dear friend, Monica

-      -  The first time I saw an animal being killed for our supper... See more on pig thoughts here.

Photo by Janan Markee

-       The first taste of pain d’epice – (which is a spiced bread from France.) Robert had invited us to dinner to talk about my book idea. We walk in and he hands us each a slice of this brown bread with a pink spread atop. Pain d’epice with chicken liver mousse. It was so completely and utterly special in its taste. Sweet, salty, spicy, smooth, stunning. Over dinner he invited me to class at the Studio, and put that bread in the trenches of my food memory forever.

-       My first garden – was actually a chia herb garden that sat on my apartment windowsill. Which morphed into large pots of basil and chives which then morphed into tomatoes on the patio which morphed into large raised beds and daily calls to Janan about what squash to plant and where. The rain finally came in handy.

No longer in the chia herb phase!

    The first time I realized that putting love into food makes it better – February, 2009. Admittedly, it was a rough spot in my Portland story. Career confusion, bad breakup, infinite rain… My girlfriends had been solidly wonderful in that rough spot and so for my birthday that year I knew we all deserved a LOT of chocolate. And a LOT of love.

I took that Friday off work and, as meditatively as I could, made a simple lentil soup and 6 chocolate desserts: Milk chocolate mendiants, dark chocolate truffles, chocolate Roulade with chocolate leaves, white chocolate mousse, chocolate éclairs, and dark chocolate fondant lava cakes. After the indulgences, we did not sit around clutching our bellies, wishing we hadn’t eat that last chocolate leaf. Rather we seemed to go into some high-energy euphoria together… there was a pure happiness, an abundant gratitude, amongst us that evening. And maybe it was the female response to that much chocolate, but I like to think it was mostly the love.

The Chocolate Truffles of Love
Me, Mary Clair, and Ash - on Chocolate

I could go on and on, but chocolate seems a good place to pause. So in the coming weeks, you may hear a bit less from me what with all the work of packing up a life. But maybe not… I did just buy 6 pumpkins sooo… yeah. And it's Thanksgiving. So we’ll see what happens there.

With much love from Oregon,
Photo by Ali Schultz


  1. I am so proud of you.
    I love you sister.


  2. Can you never stop writing this blog.......it is a joy.


  3. Thanks dear people... your love keeps me going. :)

  4. Wow what a nice post.I am felling glad on this post.Can you more share with me.I will come back as soon.

    Thanks for more info.....

    Dr. Carl Balog

    1. Hi Carl, Thanks for your comment! Glad to hear you enjoyed it... Please come visit the blog anytime! Santa Fe has brought many things to write about!