Have you ever eaten something so strange and beguiling you can’t quite wrap your head around it? But you keep eating it and eating it because it’s such a curious phenomenon and, eventually, you decide that you love it but you’re not sure why? That’s precisely what happened to me last week when I finally visited SQIRL headquarters down on Virgil after having enjoyed their jams over the past year and a half that I’ve lived in Los Angeles. The headquarters, which is actually a cafe, may be my new favorite secret lunch spot that’s not-so-secret because lots of people know about it.
I think this happened last Saturday, but let’s pretend it was Sunday because “Sunday Morning Kumquat Jam” sounds better than “Saturday Morning Kumquat Jam.” Having made my coffee, and contemplating breakfast, I stared at the leftover kumquats sitting in a mesh bag on my counter. They were starting to wrinkle a bit, losing their potency. I’d been snacking on them all week (when not using them to garnish cauliflower), popping whole kumquats into my mouth and puckering my lips at the ensuing sour squirt. You can even eat the seeds which I did enough times there may be a kumquat tree growing in my abdomen. I thought to myself, “These kumquats would make a mighty good jam because they’re so sour.” Then, before I knew what was happening, I started improvising a jam on the spot.
My love affair with toast hasn’t waned since it began back in May. Sure, there’ve been some breadless mornings where I eat a piece of fruit or don’t eat anything at all, but most mornings there I am in my kitchen, slicing a big slice of bread, popping it into my cheap-o toaster and slathering it with something interesting.
The slathering, as you might imagine, is the most exciting part. That’s why I keep my eyes peeled wherever I go for potential toast toppings.
I’m about to make a scandalous admission, the sort of thing that usually requires a press conference and a disappointed looking wife standing next to you: I’ve been having a sordid affair… a sordid affair with toast.
Now I know what you’re thinking. “Toast? TOAST? You’re having a sordid affair with toast? Couldn’t you have had a sordid affair with something sexier… like, I don’t know, butter? Or bacon? Or butter-flavored bacon?” Hear me out, people. Toast can be sexy. You just have to approach it the right way.
Craig’s cousin Matt came to stay with us this past week and he and his friend (who also stayed with us) had a wild time. Out every night, hitting up the town, they’d wake up bleary-eyed every morning and ask me what Craig and I did the night before. “We, ummm, bought a keg and threw a block party,” I’d lie, ashamed of the truth: that I’d made dinner, we’d watched “The Wire” on DVD, and went to bed early.
And then any credibility I had as a vibrant young person went out the window when they came home one day to find me at the stove next to a pile of cherry pits.
‘What are you doing?” they asked, watching me sweat and stir.
“I’m making sour cherry jam,” I said.
They looked at one another and then back at me. “You’re making your own jam?” they asked, incredulously.
“Yes,” I said and suddenly felt my hair turn gray, my glasses slide down my nose, and my back hunch over. “Oh no!” I gasped. “Can it be? Do I have I.G.S.?”
I checked my symptoms online, consulted a web doctor, and my worst fears were confirmed: I’d caught the bug, and I wasn’t going to get better. Instant Grandma Syndrome. I was a hunched-over jam-maker, and “Golden Girls” reruns and early bird specials were to become my new way of life.