Archive for September, 2011
Here’s one I came up with today: the sign of a good morning is cheese breath. These nine words may actually represent the most important philosophy I’ve conceived of to date (after a baguette a day keeps the doctor away, of course). I’ll illustrate what I mean by it with an account of how I spent this morning.
Working as a barista has inadvertently made me a morning person. When you’re waking up before the crack of dawn several days a week, “sleeping in” means sleeping until 8:30. For me, there’s usually a moment of panic that occurs in those first disorienting seconds of consciousness (Shit! The sun is out! I must be late for work!), but that fear quickly dissipates into the cool morning light as I realize I’ve got the day off. I’ve always enjoyed the morning hours and the calm that accompanies them. They remind me of the summer I worked at a peach stand on the side of the road – of those tranquil moments before an afternoon thunderstorm when time would slow and dark clouds would crawl over the mountains and cast gray-green shadows on the surrounding orchards.
Anyway, today as I rolled out of couch, I decided I was going to savor the morning hours. After I showered, I headed to Dolce Vita, a coffee shop at 43rd and Duval. Book in hand, I got a large coffee and retreated to the porch, where I read and sipped and listened to the whirring of fans as the cool breeze that has settled over Austin this week carried the scent of pastries from the bakery across the street. I got a refill, sipped more coffee, read the New York Times left behind by some earlier riser, and tried to soak it all in, my mind drifting from one thought to the next as I realized that I officially have one week left in Texas.
All summer, I’ve been eyeing Antonelli’s, the cheese shop right next door to Dolce Vita. I’ve admired it from afar, imagining myself on the other side of its door but too intimidated (for reasons unbeknownst to me) to cross the threshold. Drunk off my two cups of joe, I decided finally to venture inside. It’s probably for the best that I didn’t go in sooner! This place was amazing, and though I only intended to take a peak, I lacked the self-control to leave empty-handed (and am actually proud that I only spent $7 in there).
Courtney, the cheesemonger (how cool is that title?) who assisted me, read my ignorance as if it were written on my forehead and immediately began to explain how the cheeses were organized in the case. When I told her I didn’t even know where to start, she suggested – to my extreme delight! – that we just dig in and start sampling. So sample we did! We had a great conversation as I tried about eight different cheeses; I told her about my imminent departure, about my year in Lyon, and she told me stories about her time in Paris, her homemade chèvres, and the intensive training process she went through to work there. I eventually settled on 1/4 lb of delicious pavé de l’Aveyron (my second favorite actually, after the Eposses, which is only sold by the 18-dollar wheel because it’s so creamy it loses its shape). Pictured below, this sheep’s milk cheese has the smooth, creamy texture of Camembert, but with a sharper taste and more pungent aroma. Needless to say, I’m excited to eat it. I’m waiting for just the right moment to cut into it, spread it onto a fresh baguette, and wash it down with a dark red wine.
In all seriousness, I do believe the sign of a good morning is cheese breath is a philosophy worth embracing as I embark on this new journey, because it evokes the following important concepts:
- Initiative: to venture out, to admit ignorance, to ask questions, to strike up a conversation, to learn, to share
- Appreciation/Gratitude: of the local culture, of this opportunity, of the transience of this experience (I’ve only got 7 months to get to know this place!), of the kindness and patience of strangers
- Awareness: of “the little things,” of the small moments,” of the background details (scents and tastes and sounds)
Can’t wait to share my experiences with you and tell you what happens when I put these ideas into practice!
In the meantime, here’s what I did with my afternoon: