There’s a vibe, a northwestern sensibility, that requires deep green stands of pine, hand-planted gardens with carrots and daisies, and cherry orchards. The vibe is more prevalent in places where is rains, like coastal communities. It requires the old, and the even older, but is has to be spiffed up and made presentable. If it’s your grand mother’s china cabinet it has to be waxed by hand. If it’s clothing, it has to be feminine and fluffy, with lots of lace and tulle, but it must be paired with high top leather boots, so it’s no longer sentimental. If it’s food, it might be slow roasted and hand-made, and minutes from the field and farm.
I’m deep in the vibe; in an elegant dining room of a family-owned restaurant, that’s just north of McMinnville, Oregon. My family is here: my brother and his wife, their two adult children, Grandma, and me. We are celebrating my niece’s graduation from college and her magna cum lauda achievements.
The dining room walls are the color of fresh cream. The leaded glass windows shimmer behind the white lace curtains. The windows frame the highway outside, and the light of the automobiles dance across the glass like rumors. The chairs and tables are of old wood and host white linen and real silver. The wine glasses are luminous and deep and filled with a mighty Syrah, although the kids opt for root beer.
So here is what we eat: braised lamb shanks for the boys and grandma; roasted coastal salmon with a lemon sauce for the girls. They come with fresh veggies, which are as beautiful as they are tasty. At some point, a lemon sorbet comes round to cleanse our palates. I slurp up the last of that because I refuse to let anything so exquisite be wasted.
We’re on our best behaviors in our best clothes, part of the crèche that will form Mackenzie’s memory of her brilliant graduation. The jokes are gentle, silly, sweet. We’re not so far from our days of not-so-much money that we’re still adamant about being grateful—and vocal about that. We complement our chef and tell him how much we loved his work. His wife, our hostess and our waitress—we tease her a bit, my brother’s contribution—gets a generous, grateful tip. It’s for everything—the blueberry bushes outside their backdoor, for the perfectly prepared salmon and the succulent lamb shakes, and for the beautiful memory, most of all, for the memory.