I've left my brain somewhere along the foggy California coast north of San Francisco or possibly nestled comfortably among the mossy roots of the redwoods south of Eureka. We got back last Wednesday after twelve days of roadtripping through beach, wine, and redwood country, and I'm not adjusting particularly well to the desert heat. In fact, I'm pretty ready to pack up my things and move up north permanently so I can be reunited with my brain which I assume is currently living in a yurt and subsisting on wild blackberries, barbequed oysters, and wine.
We didn’t stay in any yurts, and I never actually tasted a barbequed oyster while in California although we passed millions of places that offered them on the way to wine-tasting opportunities. As for the fruit, a few days into the trip, near one of our campsites, we found a tiny peach and apple orchard gone wild and plucked bruised, juicy peaches from the little trees. Raphael gorged on them in the orchard – they were so sweet - and I tied my jacket into a bag and collected enough to cook down with sugar and cinnamon the following day. We ate them by the fire with hot Italian sausages and canned biscuits for breakfast. It's early in the season for blackberries, but I did manage to forage enough of them to cook up a cobbler in my trusty skillet over the fire near the end of the trip.
The second day of our trip, we got lost in San Francisco because after eight hours on the road I was all like “screw it, let’s take a shortcurt”. (Stop judging me! I was tired, I was hungry, and the map clearly showed the existance of a shortcut!) (What I neglected to account for was the fact that we were in San Francisco. And there are no shortcuts in San Francisco.) (You should write that down somewhere.)
Long story short, an hour - or maybe days - later, one of us broke down in tears on the Golden Gate Bridge. It was Raphael. Okay fine. It was me. But we weren't supposed to have to cross the Golden Gate Bridge at all. THAT WASN'T THE PLAN.
In the end, it’s cool that I can say I’ve had an emotional meltdown on an iconic bridge, I guess. Or presumably it would be cool if I could be sure I was ever really on it. Between the tears and the fog, I couldn't tell you what the bridge looked like at all. I can only assume that we were on it at all based on vague signs that seemed to indicate that an important bridge was present somewhere in our vicinity. It could've been the Zombie Apocalypse on that bridge, and we wouldn’t have noticed. There was that much fog.
Happily, we finally made it out of San Francisco and got into our campsite late. There were only about two sites left. We parked as quickly as possible and settled in to have dinner by the light of Raphael's trusty propane lantern.
I'll tell you what. Isn't this the way life goes? One minute you're finally relaxed, unwinding, delicately eating a hot dog, reminiscing about that one time when you successfully evaded hordes of invisible zombies on the Golden Gate Bridge, and next thing you know, there are raccoons in the car.
I'm not sure what else we expected, after ten hours of driving, getting lost in San Francisco, and then leaving the car windows wide open while innocently consuming hot dogs at ten o'clock at night. The only logical conclusion to such a day is that raccoons wind up in the car and eat all the vanilla sandwich cookies and contaminate the pasta.
They had also gotten into the expensive sandwich bread before I went to get something from the car and caught them at it. Up until that point, we'd been trying for discretion and quiet since the families around us had already begun getting into their tents and turning out the lights. But when raccoons are in the car, it's no time for silence or any other sort of graceful, zen-like behavior.
"Raccoons!" I shouted. "Are in the CAR!" Or maybe I just shrieked and kicked desperately at the door. One of those things happened, anyway, and then Raphael came along and starting pounding on the car as well. The raccoons grabbed a few more handfuls of cookies and went off to fight violently in the bushes nearby. (Raccoons aren't nearly as subtle as the Undead.) We apologized to our neighbors in the morning, but it turned out they had had raccoons, too, so no one seemed too distraught. In other campsites, later on, it was skunks, so probably we were lucky.
This post is getting too long. I've heard you people have short attention spans. We'll revisit California, though, because we have to. It's a big place and, even though it made me cry, I think you should go there; I have a lot of helpful suggestions for how to navigate it now that I'm an expert and have stopped sobbing.
Meanwhile, you'll be relieved to know that I remembered to marinate the tofu and also put it in the cooler, and I thought it made a great on-the-road snack that would work just as effectively on a roadtrip through, say, Pennsylvania. Or Idaho. So I'll leave you with the recipe for it. Use it well.
Baked Marinated Tofu
Two 19 oz blocks of tofu
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 Tablespoons sesame oil (or vegetable oil)
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon Chinese Five-spice powder
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Stab the tofu gently with a fork a few times on each side. Place the two blocks of tofu in a ziploc bag and dump in all the remaining ingredients. Smush it around a little so that the ingredients mix together and then place the bag in the fridge for 5 hours or overnight, turning the bag over occasionally so that the marinade can soak in well.
Preheat the oven to 350 and prepare a cookie sheet. (Make sure it has low sides, rather than no sides.) I line the pan with parchment paper, but the original recipe calls for you to oil the pan. Follow your heart on this one.
Slice each block of tofu into five rectangles. Each block should be thick - between 3/4 of an inch and 1 inch. Place the tofu blocks flat on the sheet so that there is some space between each one. Spoon some of the marinade onto the tofu and bake in the oven for an hour. Spoon more marinade over at least once while baking. Flip the tofu and spoon more marinade over. Bake for another 20 to 30 minutes or however long it takes for them to dry out to your liking. Remove and cool. You can slice the tofu and eat it as a snack or put it on sandwiches or use it in stirfrys. It should last a few days in the fridge.