Chili dreams.

Tonight I made chili for the first time in my life.  Chili is one of those things that seeps down deep in your soul.  I can never pass it up, if I see it on a menu.  I have fond memories of cracking open a can of Stagg chili when I was a kid, but I have since graduated to ever-soaring heights of flavor with all the fancy-like chilis to be found in diners, cafes, and the like.

But I really wanted to be able to wield this kind of power myself.  I want the freedom of having chili whenever and however I please. 

I love chili so much, that I refrained from eating it tonight (except for many taste tests to make sure it was coming together).  Instead, I'm letting it sit overnight in my fridge, to let the flavors meld together in that magical way stews have of tasting even better the next day.  It's hard, though, not to fantasize about spooning up a bowlful tomorrow evening, topped with shredded cheddar (aged 3 years!) and diced onion, and with a fat square of fresh buttered cornbread to go with it.

I can't wait!  Pictures forthcoming.

On Cities: Why is SF so hard to get to know?

I love cities. I might even call myself a 'city girl.' I love that they are living, breathing entities, dear friends you cherish and lovers you dream about, pine over, and explore. I love their accessibility, their magnitude, their pulsing heartbeat, their inconveniences, their character. Their danger. Well, maybe not so much the danger. But I do love that I can within a half-mile radius find a delicious saltado, a hot steaming plate of curry goat, luscious beard papa, knife-cut noodles, pluots, and pecorino cheese.

I did not grow up a city girl. I was born in the well-manicured heart of suburbia, right next to Disneyland (the happiest place on Earth). I spent 18 years in the same house before going to college in an urban center. I never want to go back.

I'm trying to remember, but I'm pretty sure the first time I really got the taste of a city was right after I graduated high school, on a graduation trip to Europe (10 days, cheesy tour, wouldn't recommend it). The first city I fell in love with was London. I mean, how could I not? It didn't matter that at the end of each day we'd blow our noses and find black snot, and the hotel was so old fashioned the hot and cold water came from separate spigots. It was dandy, it was chummy, it offered itself and its curiosities up to us like a child at show-and-tell. We felt privy to a whole set of confidences and we were sure no one else had ever experienced London like we did. (Of course they had.)

And when we moved on to Paris, I felt in my heart a peculiar longing, an urge to look back with a sigh. I really missed London, like I might have missed a crush I hadn't seen in the lunchroom for a while. And that's how I knew I had fallen in love.

Anyway. In the past 10 years, I had the privilege of learning to love a good number of cities: Boston, with its history and great dear river; New York, where love can be mistaken for loathing; Los Angeles, my wondrous 'urban galaxy' and breathless food paradise; pristine Lucerne; serene Lijiang (ok, those last two are towns really); bourgie boho Berkeley, uncompromising and inconvenient Beijing; gritty, neatly squared Xi'an, mulatto half-breed and delicious Macau, Kuala Lumpur with its juxtapositions and otherworldly Towers, and Hong Kong, the Ultimate City, where you can find absolutely anything your heart desires, at any time of day or night.

I think loving a city doesn't have as much to do with the amount of time you spend there (though that helps). Seems more important the quantity and quality of new things you can discover in it.

What I've wondered for the past two years is why I can't seem to find a rhythm for the city now closest to me, San Francisco. Again, I know it's probably my problem, not the city's. I just don't know why I can't get my brain around it when soooooooooooooooooo many people I know can't get enough of it. Enough of what? Getting there (from the south bay) is a huge bother; parking is a bitch, people are blockheaded and irrational when they drive. I don't feel safe in it--people I know have been mugged, and my brother saw a 22-year-old kid die right in front of him, from a random shot to the head. I walked around Union Square and in one afternoon ran into two people from my hometown--everything seems smaller and more strangely provincial than you'd expect from a great city. And the only food I have seriously craved in SF are the amazing greasy papusas from this Salvadorean place on Mission, just a few doors up from Good Frikin Chicken. Well ok, the seafood saltado at Mi Lindo Peru is pretty fabulous too.

Anyway, I should stop complaining about it and go to sleep. I just can't help scratching my head over it every once in a while, and wonder what it is that I'm missing.