First, there were the blowtorch winds, then the sirens, gas tank explosions, burnt plastic smoke, terrified conversations, and finally the surreal call to evacuate my home in Louisville. I had never pondered the necessity before in my suburban ‘hood.
Following 20 minutes of denial and a slice of microwaved deep-dish pizza, the chunky ash in the air made me move. I’m not sure why pizza seemed appropriate at that moment. I grabbed financial documents, my computer, glasses, phone, prescriptions, clothes, and an odd assortment of other necessities. It’s curious what you bring when you face the imperative: “Take what’s important.”
Heading west on South Boulder Road I saw the desperation in the drivers’ eyes gridlocked in the other direction. Over the crest of the hill past an already blocked McCaslin Boulevard, I pulled over to text family members that I was safe. As the sun set, I watched flames consume homes on a familiar hillside that looked like it had been carpet-bombed.
I grabbed the last room in a Boulder hotel and watched the media coverage. I couldn’t stop thinking about what I could have lost and what I had NOT taken with me.
I thought about the letters and books written by my father and grandfather, and 100-year-old photos and other artifacts I planned on passing along to the next generation. I remembered the recipes in my mother’s handwriting, the heirloom dishware, the big pasta pan I inherited from my maternal grandmother and the antique spice grinder my grandfather used to make Italian sausage.
My brain pondered the potential loss of the plastic bins containing the entire archives of my culinary and music-writing career, most of it unavailable online. I counted my historical collection of hundreds of Boulder and Colorado cookbooks I expected to donate some day, and a 40-year collection of pie-related books, recipes, and memorabilia destined for the hoped-for American Museum of Pie.
That moment of self-indulgence and sentiment didn’t last long. Eventually I was reassured that my home and neighborhood had been spared from the firestorm. I deeply appreciated the expressions of love and concern from family and friends locally and across the nation that hugged me from afar.
Mostly, I thought about the hundreds of families who had lost everything that gave them a sense of belonging, including the many recently opened Christmas presents and a lifetime of keepsakes that cannot be repurchased. In this cold and melancholy new year, I wished I could feed pie and coffee to those who had lost so much and supply a measure of “okay.”
There were so many residents who own and work in the food businesses in Louisville and Superior that had survived the COVID misery so far only to be impacted by a conflagration. Many of their homes were damaged or destroyed.
Of the eateries in Superior and Louisville, The Rotary and Subway on Dillon Road were destroyed and Chuck E. Cheese and Misaki on Marshall Road were damaged along with shops in Superior Marketplace. Many other eateries received smoke damage and will only slowly reopen as circumstances permit.
The Community Foundation of Boulder County is spearheading the major fundraising effort. Meanwhile, the food community—the chefs, farmers, caterers and bakers— are doing what they have always done. They immediately came together to make sure those impacted by the fire can at least get a warm meal.
FEDBoulder is serving up free organic, locally sourced meals in Louisville. Chef Jose Andres’ World Central Kitchen has contributed. Free grab-and-go meals are available at the Louisville Recreation & Senior Center.
Dozens of Boulder restaurants are dishing free meals for the affected families, and Community Food Share is offering free groceries. Long after we settle into the post-disaster normal and the fire recedes from our attention, Boulder County’s food people will still be feeding folks. Food is love. Do what you can to support the Louisville and Lafayette eateries as they reopen and start serving again.
Local food news
The 25th Annual Lafayette Oatmeal Festival, January 9, is finally taking place in a limited fashion but still includes a race and the famous hot oatmeal breakfast with a big toppings bar from 8 a.m. to noon at The Gatehouse in Lafayette. Outside tented seating will be available . . . Because of pandemic challenges, Boulder’s Barchetta pizzeria will only have patio dining for the time being plus delivery and takeout . . . Isabelle Farm will keep farming but will not operate the farm and barn at Thomas Open Space in Lafayette this year. A new farm family is expected to take over the operation.
Oats top Google’s trending foods
I’m pretty sure I didn’t search for any of the ten most-searched foods globally on Google in 2021, except, maybe “birria tacos” which came in No. 1. Indonesian fried rice, or Nasi Goreng, came second on the Google list, followed by a viral recipe of baked pasta with tomatoes, olive oil, and a block of feta. Surprisingly, two dishes involving oats—baked oats and overnight oats—made the roster. Filling out the list were a potato soup, charcuterie boards, shogayaki, teriyaki amberjack, and tonjiru. If you can’t identify some of these culinary items, you know what you must do.
Words to chew on
“Candy might be sweet, but it’s a traveling carnival blowing through town. Pie is home. People always come home.”— From the TV series Pushing Daisies
John Lehndorff hosts Radio Nibbles at 8:20 a.m. Thursdays on KGNU (88.5 FM, kgnu.org).