This, this is downtown Seattle, some non-descript buildings, just South of Pike Place.
And this here's the view to the West, toward the Port, and Alki, and all points beyond.
Prior to last week, I'd only ever experienced these scenes as blur, situated as they are off the Alaskan Way Viaduct. Now, I don't normally snap phone photos while driving. Actually, I never snap photos while driving.
Thing is, I wasn't driving. And hadn't been, for some time.
We were sitting, had been sitting, for the better part of five mintues, on the under-deck of the Viaduct, stock-still. We'd run through six episodes of Chickenman, were well into the seventh, and hadn't moved an inch. So with nothing but brakelights ahead and behind, I turned left, tapped the screen, and went vigilant again. Then waited. Nothing. Tapped right. Nothing, nothing. And so it went, for 2 1/2 hours. 150 minutes, during which time we traveled a whopping ... 13.53 miles. (I checked.)
Forget the suggested 60 mph. Six would've been an improvement.
I would like to call it a particularly bad jam, but it wasn't, not really, just bad timing. I'd tried to cross downtown during rush hour. I knew better. Know better.
Got schooled, again.
When asked where I'm from, I still say, will always say, Seattle, 4+ years in Ohio notwithstanding. I was born there; raised there; schooled there; married there; hatched ducklings one, two and three there. It's home. And whenever I answer, people invariably ogle and gawk and ask after mountains, and oceans, and skiing, and sailing, and and and...
And I think: Yes. But.
Seattle's not perfect. Far from it.
House prices are fierce. The culture, sometimes precious. Sprawl, a steady, sticky drumbeat.
Mass-transit's about four decades overdue. Sidewalks crumple like hopeless first drafts. Moss grows on mailboxes. Slugs eat household pets. Traffic is appalling.
Kidding, about the slugs.
True story, the traffic.
There's that glorious zoo. An aquarium to lose an afternoon to. Vast parks with old trees and splish-splashy wading pools and observatories that give Needle-worthy views, for free. Enormous erasers and salmon galore and people who plant roses and poppies, for kicks.
(I love poppy people, they who take on tiny medians and abandoned weed patches, unasked, unthanked, just understanding. Rogue poppies, and roses, and wildflower ambushes, solve not one of life's Real Problems. But that unnecessary effort, that generous gesture, can turn grump, yawn and mope on its head, in a flash. Maybe not a Big Solution, but a start.)
It's got raspberries big as strawberries, sweet as candy, that conveniently come ripe whenever we're in town. Days as opaque as cereal milk, even in ostensible-summer. Fifty-eight degree dungaree mornings, just as all July days should begin. It's got that loooong stretch of high summer light, starting near four, not ending till ten. I'd nearly forgotten, and suffered some scant nights, but golly, on balance, it's pretty fine stuff.
Plus, Seattle's home to some of my favorite people on the planet.
And that dratted ocean, in the middle of everything, rolling right up against all that urban. Those exquisite tide pools. That extravagant sea life. Like mudpuddles, run a-mock, and stocked to the gills. Right there, in the open, free for the roaming.
What's a little traffic, in the scheme?
Unlike Seattle, I can't cite one reason why you should make what follows. Can't argue in its favor, can't queue up pros and cons, because I wouldn't believe a syllable.
Because were you to offer this glass to me, I wouldn't accept, wouldn't even listen. You could drape it in adjectives, wrap it in exclamations, embroider it with your finest prose and praise, and I wouldn't give you, or it, the time of day.
Sorry. I'm not rude, really. It's just that, green smoothies?
Go, scat, get out.
I've had them. Many. Much to my dismay. I've wanted to love them, tried to love them, only ever loathed them. With a vengeance.
Which is why I can't imagine what possessed me to give this one here a whirl. But I did. And I fell, goose-egg hard. I first whizzed up a batch ten days before we left, and downed it, and found myself craving another. So I made one the next day. And the next. And nearly all the nexts, right up until we skipped town. And I honestly thought I'd fallen under some spell, which would vanish, once I had a little distance from the stuff.
Instead, I found myself wishing for a glass nearly every day we were away. Then worrying that, when we returned, the luster would be lost; the carriage, a pumpkin; the taste, that of all awful ogre-green smoothies.
It didn't. It tasted just as I remembered, only better. (Probably that whole absence-fonder deal. Possibly too many fish 'n chips.) Softly sweet with almonds and almond milk, with a deep caramel edge from one date, blitzed to bits. A smudge of coconut oil brings richness and flavor, all out of whack with its small size. A handful of ice cubes chills all to the core, and makes the whole thing addictively frosty.
And then there's the kale, that leafy thick kale, which I love with abandon cooked any which way, but don't especially prefer raw. It pulls a Houdini, escapes its tough shell, blends into a bass note that rocks this glass. In such mild-mannered company, the kale gives up its edge, and becomes this smart, smooth plucky backbone. Its adds a wonderful, necessary rumble to what would otherwise be a flyaway thing, a one-dimensional simpering quaff, paltry and thin, unmemorable.
This one, I can't forget.
And here's the weird part. I don't drink juice, don't go in for cleanses, don't (for goodness sakes) de-tox. I don't drink or eat anything because I should, because it's shiny-halo Good.
I eat what I love, drink what quenches, fill myself up with what tickles and delights. And given the choice between this and a milkshake? I'd choose this green glass, hands-down, any day.
True as traffic. That good.
Not that I expect you to try it, ever. (I wouldn't.)
And yet, if you do? Let me know.
Almond Coconut Kale Smoothie
adapted from It's All Good, by Gwyneth Paltrow
Yield: 1 generous serving
Equipment: powerful blender
I've tweaked the amounts here to suit my tastes, and, critically, added ice cubes. I find their frosty chill essential. Unrefined coconut oil, widely available, is the sort that tastes of coconut, sweet and creamy, and is what you want here. It provides fantastic flavor. Paltrow suggests soaking the almonds several hours to release nutrients; I never remember, but do, if you think of it. Soaked almonds keep one week in the fridge.
Years ago, I worked long and hard to earn a VitaMix blender, and I'm endlessly glad. It's a powerhouse, and one of my most beloved kitchen tools. If your blender balks at whole nuts, substitute almond butter instead. Either way, blend long and well.
1 packed cup torn kale leaves, thick rib removed (5 large curly kale leaves, or 7-10 Tuscan leaves)
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
15 almonds (unsalted; soaked or not)
6 ice cubes
1-2 teaspoons honey, to taste
1 medjool date, pitted
small spoonful unrefined coconut oil (2-3 teaspoons, to taste)
Combine all ingredients in a powerful blender and blend until no green flecks remain, and until completely smooth and creamy, 2-4 minutes, depending on blender. Taste, adjust sweetener and blend again if needed, and drink immediately.