Better Together

Better Together

On this day 23 years ago, we went to City Hall. It was a Wednesday. Did we take the day off from work? I don’t remember, but we must have. It was a different time. There was no Uber or Lyft, and Muni was barely functional.

In a room scarred with a huge seismic crack in the wall, we signed a piece of paper that afforded us a handful of protections as a couple within the confines of the city of San Francisco. It was, then, the most we could have. As we burst out the doors, though, we were, in our minds, married.

We had just moved in together into a largeish one-bedroom apartment in a neighborhood that at the time was fairly sketchy and would later blossom into a cultural and culinary hotspot. We were young, and had little more to our names than a few pieces of furniture and some lingering student debt. We had each other.

The time was raw and fragile. The city still staggered from the effects of the Loma Prieta earthquake. The specter of AIDS still loomed over the community. Yet the city pushed ever forward, becoming the first major city to enact Domestic Partnership protections for same-sex couples in the country. What we did, we did out of love and commitment, but also as a political act.

As our relationship cemented, so too did our rights. In 2004, we signed yet another piece of paper, extending our protections to the entire state of California, at Mailboxes, Etc., followed by a light lunch at Café Claude before going back to work. It was a day both special and mundane. In 2008, we made honest men of each other in a full-on wedding and a legal marriage. That, too, would turn out to be tenuous in the pursuant years under Prop 8.

Through it all, no matter the definition, we remained one thing: Married. Maybe not in the eyes of the law, or in the eyes of strangers, but that’s never mattered. Our commitment to supporting each other remained constant. We are better together.

Today is our 23rd, 12th and eighth anniversary. We’re taking most of the day off. We’re driving up to the Wine Country, followed by a very romantic stop to pick up 100 pounds of tomatoes to process this weekend. Tonight, we’re being treated to a tasting menu at a very nice restaurant by a very dear friend. The day is both special and mundane.

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Amore Per Amatrice

Amore per Amatrice

The news of this week’s 6.2 quake in Central Italy shook me, halfway around the world. The epicenter is close to the town where my great-grandfather came from, Salle, which itself was destroyed in a quake in 1933. In this case, the hardest hit was the town of Amatrice, whence comes one of Italy’s most iconic dishes. The historic center of the town has been essentially obliterated, as well as in two other towns, with hundreds of casualties.

Sadly, this weekend was meant to be the 50th annual festival in that town celebrating that dish, the Sagra degli Spaghetti all’Amatriciana. Needless to say, that isn’t going to happen, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t tuck into a plate of pasta. Indeed, quite the opposite.

Restaurants around the country are rallying, serving the dish and donating proceeds, including newly opened Barzotto on Valencia Street at 24th. Though they do not invoke the name of the dish, the menu simply outlines the classic combination of bucatini, pancetta, tomatoes, and chili flakes. Barzotto makes their fresh and dry pastas in house in plain view in their open kitchen. While there, sample the porchetta, too. Trust.

Update 9/16: Two upcoming events are set to raise even more funds for the cause.

  • SF AMAtrice on September 25 will serve antipasti, pinsa, pasta all’amatriciana, vino, Negronis, Aperol Spritzes, Americanos, dolci, and gelato from several of the city’s finest Italian restaurants. Four seatings are available between 12-8 pm at 54 Mint, $75. Tickets available here.
  • An Evening in Amatrice on October 1 features 18 Reasons’ resident Italians, instructor Viola Buitoni and Baia Pasta founder Dario Barbone, as they showcase the culinary traditions of Central Italy to raise funds for the reconstruction effort. $50 members, $60 non-members. Tickets available here.

Individuals are putting their pasta where their mouth is, too. Mike Madaio proposed an event, where you donate to the cause (Domenica Marchetti has a great list of ways to donate), eat Amatriciana with a glass of wine from Central Italy this weekend, and share a picture with the hastag #VirtualSagra to make it go viral. So why not have some friends over Saturday or Sunday, serve up a big bowl of pasta, and contribute to the greater good?

Guanciale, cured pork jowl, is preferable if you can get it; sometimes Fatted Calf has it. Pancetta will do in a pinch. Purists will tell you that onions are never to be included. Contrarians will say onions are essential. I’m pro-onion, but to each their own. Bucatini is a more popular choice, but spaghetti is what’s served in Amatrice. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure pasta. I posted a recipe a few years back, when I cured guanciale for the first time.

Whether you serve it or order it, please donate, and please help spread the word.

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Meet Giro

Meet Giro

After losing Reese in January, we took a break. We needed time to grieve, and to live our lives dog-free for just a little bit. We had some travel planned, first a week in Mexico with friends, and then a trip to LA and Orange County to visit family and attend a conference at the beginning of April. So, we agreed not to rush into getting another dog until after that was over.

While visiting my mother, one evening dpaul and I were walking her dog. “I miss walking a dog,” he said, to which I replied, “yes, but I don’t miss having to walk a dog.” Still, I knew it was not long before we’d bring a new companion into our lives. It certainly wasn’t.

The entire time from Reese’s passing through our travels, dpaul was actively window shopping, combing the rescues from as far south as the Peninsula and north into Sonoma. We knew we wanted another terrier, generally of the same size and temperament. dpaul kept gravitating back toward black and tans, but I was less enthusiastic about trying to duplicate Reese. I didn’t want a dog that would remind us of her, to keep that wound raw and fresh.

While still in Orange County, he found one on Rocket Dog. Spinner, as he was called, was listed as a Jack Russell terrier and just 18 months old, so we braced ourselves for a frenetic, high-maintenance dog. Even before meeting him we began to fall in love with his picture, wild-eyed, with a tongue lolling out of a wide-mouth grin. dpaul put in the application even before we came home.

On a sunny April morning, we met him and the foster parents in a park in Corte Madera. They had come down from Ukiah. The implication was that, barring anything unexpected, it was a one-way trip for Spinner. An hour later, he came home with us.

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On Purpose and Satisfaction

I’ve been freelance for six years now. It’s not a life for everyone. If you crave stability, regular pay, or the social environment of the office, don’t quit your day job. However, these have been some of the most fulfilling years of my life.

As an independent professional, you have the opportunity to forge your own career path, unlike working in the corporate world, where jobs are defined. In order to know what opportunities to pursue, you must know your purpose. This will guide you toward opportunities that you’ll find fulfilling — and at least as importantly, away from those that will not.

This Venn diagram is adapted from my friend Sarah Dopp’s. I use it as a sort of moral compass when considering my path. To find your purpose, consider three factors: What you’re good at, what brings you joy, and what you can actually get paid for. At the center of that intersection is fulfillment; at the periphery is misery.

Finding Your Purpose, on

For years I was in product management. I was good at it, and it paid handsomely, but it didn’t really spark joy. This ultimately led to burnout. Consequently I always turn back to writing. I am good at it. I am only truly at peace when I am actively writing. And when I can get paid for it, everything falls into place.

When assessing specific opportunities, I use a slightly different lens, courtesy of another friend of mine, who once sagely told me the three reasons we are compelled to work: To make money (obviously), to do cool things, and to work with good people. When all three things are in place, work is fun, and you feel satisfied. The more of those elements are missing, work becomes tedious, and you are resentful.


Finding Satisfaction, on

Another way I use this chart is as a set of levers. Establishing a pay rate as an independent professional is always a negotiation. If I am angling for a project that involves creating something that compels me and people I want to work with, I may be more flexible on the pay scale. If it is a project that does not speak to my heart, or I have concerns about the work environment, I am far more likely to stick to my guns on pay rate.

Related: I wrote about how to calculate your optimal pay rate over on Dianne Jacob’s site. 

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Dilly Bread

Dilly bread

Cooking is one of those things that is never learned in a vacuum. You do not learn it solely from books or blogs or television shows; you learn it from people. They impart their knowledge, their wisdom, and their sense of taste, and you internalize that.

For many of us, of course, much of this wisdom comes down generationally. For those who cook professionally, they learn in a school or on the job. Those of us who are passionate about food tend to learn from each other. It is our bond.

This recipe comes to us from a dear friend, who is in turn passing on a piece of someone dear to her, a colleague named Tom. Tom was an engineer, but also an avid home cook and pioneering food blogger. He would throw lavish dinner parties for his birthday, collecting his crew of fellow cooks to work with him. He was our friend’s mentor both at the office and in the kitchen.

This bread was his comfort food, something his mother used to make for him. He would make it when he was vexed by a problem, either professionally or personally. He’d also make it for friends if they were sad or stressed out. It’s not hard to see why. When this bread comes out of the oven, its aroma erases any cares in the world.

Tom passed away in 2008. We never met him, but his influence lingers on in his friends, in our friend. A recipe from a man we’ve never known has made it into our repertory. The cycle continues.

When Jerry James Stone asked me to participate in Three Loaves, this recipe sprang to mind for three key reasons. First, because it has significance. Second, because it’s delicious. Third, and most importantly, because it’s easy. I am not a confident baker, so I gravitate toward recipes that are, simply, hard to screw up.

The recipe scales linearly. The original makes two loaves, so I’ve scaled for three. According to our friend, each loaf can also be broken out into three mini loaves, though the baking time will be shorter. Serve slices warm, slathered with butter, or alongside a lovely spring salad.

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