Aerial Roots

It began like a page at the end of one of those books, with multiple fakes milling about—look closely, one is even reading a Where’s Waldo book (further trickery)—as my sister Kassandra and I walked toward the Ferry Building.


We didn’t much care about finding Waldo, but were very interested in the foodstuffs at the Embarcadero, like this vanilla macaron from Miette.

macaron from miette

Macarons are like San Francisco: beautiful, expensive, available in rainbow hues, and surprisingly chewy.

Kassandra trains with the LINES Ballet headquartered here, which is a very good reason to visit one of my favorite places, and we talked about colorful people as we walked and walked and then hailed a cab to to the Yerba Bueno for the LINES afternoon gala.

kassandra san francisco

Kassandra helped sell merchandise in the lobby, and I wandered in search of wi-fi—

yerba bueno center

and found a small shop with incredibly informative signage.

dangerously delicious

Overcoming a strong urge to sample dangerous deliciousness (and hum that Kelis song), I made my way back to the auditorium only to be moved from my comped balcony seat to the front row.

Moved to tears, I watched the first pas de deux I have ever seen that was a collaboration built on sheer athletic prowess rather than desire and exaggerated emotive gestures. The LINES company is fierce, and I witnessed pure dance.

Later that night, some of the other company trainees gathered in an apartment a few doors down from Kassandra’s for an early Thanksgiving; I think they are all posing as turkeys below (gifted in their ability to strike quick, spontaneous poses, attempt to group dancers for a picture and you never know what they will do).

dancer turkeys

I am certain that Spencer attributed this position to overindulging in the Thanksgiving gelato spread spanning the kitchen counter.


A few hours later, I snuck up to the roof of Kassandra’s building and watched the sun rise over San Francisco,

sunrise in san francisco

sunrise in san francisco

sunrise in san francisco

sunrise in san francisco

sunrise in san francisco

watching as the rows of houses came into view, much like the imagined city covering this vehicle I noted outside the SFMoMA the day before.

city car

city car

One of my favorite things about San Francisco is its ability to surprise, to make me smile as though I am five again, with wonderment at the extraordinary curiosities that appear with some regularity.

The next weekend in Charlottesville, Ben and I gathered friends to celebrate the Beaujolais Nouveau release—a young wine meant to be drunk while it is young—and we all toasted to youth and glorious naiveté over roasted duck, asparagus, and potatoes, baguettes spread with pâté, Saint-Nectaire, and the Morbier Walt brought, Jordan’s dessert tray, and île flottante (an “absurd” dessert made expressly for Will).


Early the next morning, I drove back to Alexandria to metro into Dupont Circle—and almost stumbled over the dangerously deliberate guilt-trippy signs at the first farmers’ market stall.

One of the nicest things about Thanksgiving is that the holiday does not revolve around gifts, as lovely as these paperwhites may be in their containers.


And Thanksgiving cacti? In previous years, these have been marketed (and grown, as my grandfather did) as Christmas cacti. Ah, global warming.

thanksgiving cacti

Seeking wisdom, I stopped for nerotondo (spanish black radishes) with wizened skins and the spicy bite that always accompanies gained knowledge.

elephant radishes

“They look like elephants,” I murmured as the person working the stand came up to me, and turned to see my friend Lee, who laughed and convinced me I needed to take some with me (Clotilde has a wonderful black radish chip recipe if you should happen upon them at market).

lee at market

I bought a bundle of garlic,


wished the Dolcezza sweet potato gelato wouldn’t melt during my metro back,

dolcezza gelato sign

discovered grape kiwis,

grape kiwis

admired the kale,


and bought all the fractal cauliflower left at the stand selling what I came for: Cinderella pumpkins.

Finding both spiraling vegetables and fruit fit to be transformed, I knew my Fairy Market Godmother was with me as I carried the pumpkin onto the Metro, back to Alexandria, in a suitcase wrapped in three layers of bubble wrap (checked, of course, as Cameron pointed out that the inside is gelatinous), and into the kitchen in Atlanta.

fractal cauliflower

(a closer shot of the Fibonacci detail)

fractal cauliflower

cinderella pumpkins

Intended as a centerpiece dish for my sister Katrina, we made a vegetable stock and sauce that was roasted inside the pumpkin with mushrooms and shallots,

carving pumpkin

attended to some emergency pumpkin surgery, and styled the pumpkin in the middle of the food trays, scooping out the soft flesh to top the vegetables and the red wine broth.

pumpkin surgery

It always makes me sad to hear stories from vegetarian friends who attend Thanksgiving celebrations where meat is surreptitiously slipped into all dishes, and I purposefully make sides that rest firmly on their own merits.

I roast brussel sprouts (below, Katrina and I illustrate how sprouts grow)

brussel sprouts

brussel sprouts

brussel sprouts roasted

and asparagus (a perfect snack during final prep) that emerge as caramelized glyphs,



brush sage leaves and cranberries in simple syrup and roll in sugar to top cranberry sauce,

cranberry sauce

and make smashed Yukon Golds, mustardy pearl onions, and a straightforward stuffing that are all appropriate for those abstaining from turkey (all but the potatoes and onions are also vegan).

thanksgiving sides

Kassandra swept in to help make pan gravy as I braided the lattice crust for an apple pie,

kassandra cooking

and a few bottles of Domaine de la Solitude Côtes du Rhône later, we three were ready to “Walk It Out,”

walk it out

but soon ceded the dance floor to Grandpa, who proved he could really walk it out.

The next day, Katrina and I celebrated Black Friday by spending an afternoon in conversation about life and light, and she showed me how to add and subtract light with my camera as we sat in the great Atlanta dive Eats.

katrina taylor at eats

Katrina has a talent for finding the unusual angle, while I am still focusing on detail—

in window

her half-smile and shadow,

katrina taylor

strong cheekbones,

katrina taylor

a stray dread,

stray dread

the branched veins in her hands we have inherited from the women in our family.

branched veins

We also share a love for moldy cheese (like the Tomme de Savoie and Selles-sur-Cher below)


and constantly exchange small gifts. Katrina grew my finishing salt collection with a festive Hawaiian red from Star Provisions that we sprinkled over buttered pieces of baguette and leftovers that night.

red salt

I thought of her, and the salt, and how thankful I am for granular gifts as I roamed the market last Sunday, pausing at lettuces lined up together—the frilly next to the smooth above feathery bundles of mizuna—

lettuces at market

and at purple cauliflower I picked up to discover had regular patterns I never noticed,

purple cauliflower

the soft, silvery catkins protecting the next generation of growth,


the unique shapes of the same vegetable,


and the ruddy roots of watermelon radishes that indicate the red center hidden inside.

watermelon beets

Another name for this radish is “Beauty Heart,” a name that lends itself to contemplation of lines and lineage, maternal and matriarchal patterns, and the aerial, adventitious roots that tie us to each other, and bind this new kthread to the kthreads that have come before and those that are yet to be…

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