Sunday, July 29, 2007


Jim and I went to last night and today's baseball games. The Giants versus the Florida Marlins. Barry Bonds is on the verge of tying Hank Aaron's record of 755 career home runs. Last night was exciting and full of good hitting. Today's game was not so good. And we're still waiting for Barry to hit one or two balls for the record books. Games in San Francisco are all about contrasts. I freeze during foggy night games like last night, or roast in the sun like I did this afternoon.

Baseball games are not just about the game that's unfolding on the field. It is about watching the crowd, too. Everyone cheers and chants when Barry Bonds comes to bat, they boo-ed when ex-Giants pitcher Armando Benitez took to the mound, they got all warm and fuzzy when the team from 1987 was honored before today's game.

Baseball games are also about eating stuff you'd never put in your mouth at home. Cotton candy? Cracker Jacks? Peanuts in the shell? Grilled sausages smothered in grilled onions, sauerkraut, and mustard? Garlic fries? Is there ever a good time to eat any of these things? Only at the ballpark. We always intend to bring lunch or dinner with us. Save our cash for the extremely expensive souvenirs. Somehow, only peanuts and apples ever wind up in our backpacks. Last night we devoured peanuts during the first half of the game. Dry, empty shells littered the concrete beneath our seats. It is the only time I feel no remorse for littering. I miss the days at Candlestick watching the hot dog wrappers and plastic bags whip around in the wind and fog, tumbling across the outfield. Umpires would pick up the trash in between innings. The new stadium doesn't have the same wind currents so the trash tends to stay in the stands.

Today we snacked on pistachio nuts. We finished the peanuts last night. I usually buy nuts at Trader Joe's and thought pistachios would be a nice change of pace. Jim and I opened the bag during the first inning. We cracked handfuls of nuts while watching Barry hit foul balls. The shells started to pile up under our feet. Unlike peanut shells, the pistachio shells don't crunch nicely underfoot. They sit there like small, hard pebbles. Tasty, but the shells are a pain. Then you get the unsplit nut that won't come out of the shell. Completely useless. On to the ground with it.

I can recall the first time I ever had pistachio nuts. It was the mid-70's and I was a little kid. My mom had bought a bag of them at Torn Ranch, a store in downtown San Rafael. Torn Ranch specialized in dried fruit and nuts and sweets. Things you might find at Cost Plus today. They also had a crepe café and juice bar. The shop was next door to my dad's clothing store. I remember my mother giving me a pistachio nut. I loved it from the first bite. Mom explained that these nuts were very expensive because they only grow them in the Middle East. These nuts were from Iran. They came in cool colors like red and green or natural. I ate them only on special occasions because my parents didn't buy them often. They were too much money.

Not too long after that experience, I had my first political food revelation. Pistachios were even harder to get and even more expensive. The Iranian hostage crisis and ensuing embargo of Iranian goods cut off the supply of pistachio nuts! This is bad on all fronts. Coincidentally, U.S. production of pistachios began in the late 1970's. California has the perfect climate for pistachio trees. They like the same type of climate as almonds and olives.

We have lots of pistachio nuts grown here in California today. They also grow them in Turkey and throughout the Mediterranean. Recently I have even found nuts from Iran. My local produce market Parkside Market has it all. They have amazing produce, a feta bar with five types of feta, an olive bar with eight kinds of olives, Turkish tea, and pistachio nuts in many flavors from all corners of the earth for only $5.00 a pound.

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