Growing up I hated my birthday. Not the actual celebration, what’s to hate about cake, ice cream, and presents?!? I’m talking about when my birthday is, the first week of September, the beginning of the school year. It was always a herald of summers end, back-to-school, and included presents that were almost always back-to-school clothes and/or supplies. I guess it wasn’t as bad as having a December 25 birthday (like one of my lovely nieces! How’d you navigate that one?), but there we are. As a kid, I felt a bit cheated.
Growing older I’ve thought less and less about Birthdays, mine and often other peoples(sorry). Not intentionally, mind you, it just has always been one of those things that’s eluded me and didn’t seem very important. I was terrible at keeping a calendar with all those dates and as time went on I remembered other people’s special days less and less, calendars and address books (remember those?!?) didn’t get updated. I recall even forgetting my own birthday once or twice, until getting a birthday call from Mom. Sadly, hers another birthday I’ve not remembered over the years. Was it the 26th? No, the 29th! Wait, the 28th…? Merde! I’ve got it now, don’t anyone worry!
Some milestone birthdays and celebrations with certain people and/or in particular places (and cakes!) stick with me. Into my 40’s I started feeling a bit more appreciative of each year that I’ve gone around the sun. And, although this year feels like a wash and I desperately want a do-over, my birthday is here. And for the first time in a LONG time, I want the party! I want the song sung, the candles lit, I’ll even take balloons (I hate balloons), definitely cake AND ice cream! I want friends and (some) family around. I wish, I wish…
Unfortunately, I think I will be a bit cheated this year. Now, I’m sure upon reading this my sweet husband, Barry, will probably try to pull something wonderful together in response (I won’t stop you or protest, if you’re reading this!), he indulges me every year and I hear there’s already a birthday outing/adventure planned for later in the month! Sadly, it can’t involve loved ones around, arm slung over the shoulder of one, toasting another with my free hand, and right when I’m ready for you all and miss you the most.
As a kid, one thing we always got for our birthdays was to choose what kind of cake we’d like and what we wanted for dinner. I can’t for the life of me recall any of my choices, but I do recall my oldest brother requesting a strawberry cake one year – that same year we found out he is allergic to strawberries! To this day, I have a love of lemon desserts. If there is a lemon dessert on the menu, I will almost always get it. One year, I made my own birthday cake, this luscious, layered lemon torte that recalled one at a gourmet food shop I worked at in Ann Arbor, MI in the late 80’s - it’s just not the same.
I always make a birthday cake (or pie) for Barry and make a dinner of his choosing, so I do carry on that family tradition. I love when someone else cooks for me, but outside of restaurants this rarely happens, especially now. I’m sure a lot of my fellow culinary folk know this tale all too well. We are going out for my birthday dinner, and someone else will be cooking for me, as one of our favorite local spots is now accommodating SD dining outdoors in their lovely backyard garden– yay!
Blue Plate restaurant here in San Francisco’s Mission District is a leisurely walk from our home in Noe Valley and has been in business for just over 20 years. No longer the shiny new, buzzy, see-and-be-seen place that all of the cool kids love to frequent and post about, I think it remains relevant and consistent in its quality of food, incredibly gracious, engaging and fun crew, and so much welcoming charm and whimsical character in its ambiance.
We used to love to sit at the counter (when indoor dining was a thing) and watching all of the action, engaging with the line cooks and (tongue-firmly-in-cheek) seeing-and-be seen! My years working in restaurants, I found it was all about your regulars, your neighborhood folk who pop in a few times a week or month, book larger tables for special occasions, whose names you know, and whose faces you’re always happy to see. Eventually the cool kids see something shiny and new and need to run to that – buh-bye! The regulars are the people sustaining your business, and its especially important now for us to support these small, struggling businesses.
I LOVE being a regular myself, and when it’s a place that makes me feel all of the feels, like I do when dining at Blue Plate, then I’m all in. Every visit feels like a celebration, especially these days, and calls for a glass of their sparkling Rosé as SOON as we arrive, greeted by name. As usual, we’re off to a great start!
Happy Birthday to me and Happy Labor Day to you all. I hope you all find a way to safely celebrate this weekend in the spirit of the holiday and consider ALL of the workers, past and present, whose contributions add to the character, strength, prosperity, and well-being of our great country. Santé!
Birthday Chai-Chocolate Pudding and Port, yes please!