Eastside Road, October 12, 2011—I'VE BEEN TRYING to think of just when it was we first ate pesto, and how we may have learned of it. Certainly I never had pesto in my childhood. We had garlic, of course, though usually in the form of garlic salt. (That in spite of the fact that Dad always good-naturedly scoffed at his brother-in-law the Hungarian George because when they met George worked in a "garlic factory" in Salinas, and was something of a social outcast.)
No: I'm sure I met pesto fairly early in my married life. I don't know if it was served in Lindsey's childhood: her father was born in Piemonte, not that far from pesto's Ligurian homeland, but I don't recall her mother ever cooking particularly Italian. We probably met pesto, Lindsey and I, through reading Elizabeth David. Or maybe a little earlier, from Irma Mazza: here is her Herbs for the Kitchen (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, the 1947 tenth printing), with Lindsey's name on the flyleaf, and the annotation "Christmas 1961." Two bookmarks: one for meat loaf; one for general pasta-cooking instructions. There in the index, though, is Pesto di Basilico, and the entry, on page 309, reminds me that our first involvement with pesto was as a garnish on minestrone, usually the canned minestrone from the Habitat label, as I recall.
Irma Mazza was a Berkeley girl, I read in a nice little piece online; early in our marriage she lived in a brown clapboard house on Walnut Street, only a block or so from Chez Panisse. We may have met her: I'm not sure. In addition to Herbs for the Kitchen she wrote an earlier cookbook, Accent on Seasonin: we have them both, consult them rarely if ever, would never part with them. In those days there were few cookbooks — Moe's used book store, for example, up on Telegraph Avenue, had only a small case, no bigger than the computer hutch I'm looking at at the moment; I'd check it every week or two, and if there were a cookbook there we didn't have, I'd buy it if I could. The result is in the photo above, which doesn't include the working books, the ones we actually do consult, which are in the kitchen. (One of these days I'll put a bibliography here; it might be amusing.)
Today we had fusilli con pesto, with basil from the garden — there's nothing like pesto made absolutely fresh. (The way I make it is described, with photos, here.) Alas we don't have our own pine nuts at the moment: maybe I'll try to harvest some next week. Mazza ignores them altogether, which is probably preferable to using those from China.
What else: Oh: lunch today: toast and those wonderful rillettes of Franco's, with celery and tomato; afterward, the last cantaloupe from the garden, one of the most flavorful we'd picked — and they were all full of flavor.
Tempranillo, Terranal (Yecla, Spain), 2010: a little coarse at first, but quickly ingratiating, sidling up to the garlic