Tuesday, 6 January 2009

A culinary cavalcade from Catalunya to California and beyond

The lamb stew i'd cooked up on Menorca had definitely worked some kind of magic.  We'd had a fantastic week camping among the pines and exploring hidden coves, secret beached and various other nooks and crannies.  I knew she was the girl for me, but there was still a lot more work to be done.  The Trangia camping stove may well stand as an exemplary icon of Scandanavian design, a fine example of tessalatory genius, but it alone was never going to win the heart of the girl that introduced me to tequila and champagne slammers!  We returned to England and our day-to-day lives.  Then I took the call, a couple of weeks before the invite showed up.  My pal Max was to wed a texan the following spring, be there or be square.

I planned a trip.  California camping, with a minor (or not so) diversion to Dallas to witness and celebrate the betrothal of one of my oldest pals.  The wedding was fantastic.  It was obvioust that the Texans were not expecting a sassy English woman to show up to a society wedding sporting a pink stetson, but that's a different story altogether.

Camping in California is quite possibly as good as it gets.  We worked our way up route 101, the coastal highway, as far as Sinkyone state park.  The Hidden Coast gets its name by virtue of the fact that the main road is forced by the Rocky Mountains to divert inland, leaving in its wake a spidery scattering of minor tracks and trails, which occasionally lead down to the coast and the amazing unspoiled beached of the Pacific coastline.

I'd been rehearsing the words in my head since we left the San Francisco city limits.  The plan was to stack the cards in my favour by applying the old Menorcan magic.  At various waypoints set among the giant Redwood trees of northern California, we dined on a plethora of Guyrope Gourmet creations.  Lemon and coriander stuffed trout wrapped in maize leaves, ginger marinated lamb kebabs, char-grilled vegetable cous cous.

On Usal beach, i gave it my all.  Producing a couple of centre cut pork chops i'd picked up in a local store on the way in, I marinated them in a melange of ripped basil, fresh squeezed lime juice, chopped garlic and olive oil.  A pinch of coarse sea salt and a few whole black peppercorns really sets it off.  Planning a side of char-grilled vegetable cous cous (it had been a hit a couple of nights before), I realised that the fuel for the MSR stove was running low.  We'd have to settle for plain cous cous, buy it really didn't matter.  Brown the chops on both sides in a hot frying-pan, serve on a bed of cous cous with a few halved cherry tomatoes and some ripped basil leaves to garnish.  A bottle of Bear Ridge merlot comes in handy too.  The meal went down a storm.  I could see my efforts to woo were working.  We ambled hand-in-hand to the water's edge as the sun was going down over the Pacific .... and then I asked her.