The Well

This is where William Randolph Hearst stored many of his treasures while his castle on the hill was being built. It looks onto the Pacific Ocean, waves lapping on the beach just feet from its doors, all the better to unload shipped goods directly into its locked walls. It sits empty, save a few stacks of building materials and many piles of guano. It is not open to the public. I got to see it because I was on a press trip last week. Plenty of things I do as a food writer that sound super fun to other people don’t end up being nearly as great as one would think, but once in awhile I get to do something that excites even my jaded self.

I went on the trip for the abalone farm (see my visit here), but found delight around nearly every corner, from a singularly focused (some might say almost crazed) Frenchman bent on making the “perfect Cabernet,” to a farmer with a preternatural ability to find the silver lining (“we lost our peach crop to a late freeze last year, but all that energy that would have gone into the peaches went back into the trees and we got tremendous growth!”), to a family of grape growers turned wine makers with a fine tradition of layering Tellegio on their polenta before topping the lot with spicy beef stew. And, of course, I walked through the space pictured above which, despite a truly objectionable smell of guano and mold, was wondrous. You could sense the cool stuff that has spent time in its colonial mission-style walls, with recessed windows and a bell tower (all the better to announce that help was needed down at the dock) and custom-made locks. It is a singular place, which stands out in an increasingly cookie-cutter world.

For the last two months I had been feeling as overloaded as my cookbook shelves. I’ve had so much work on my plate at such a constant rate that I frequently felt like a deer in the headlights, unable to move or think, confused at what item on my to-do list could possibly be the most pressing. Spending a few days around people so fully engage in what they do, having a few hours away from the screen, being out of doors for more than half an hour at a stretch—it all worked together to start to fill the well. I hadn’t even acknowledged how dry my creative well felt (although my utter inability to come up with a single thing to write about here should have been a sign) until, all of the sudden, it wasn’t. It’s not overflowing, by any means, but at least I can remember that it’s there.

Between the few days in the green hills of the Central Coast and seeing how much more valuable and useful my cookbooks are after having been culled by over 30%, I’m going to take a leap and do something different here at The Dinner Files. The picture-story-recipe format isn’t exciting me anymore, and I think it shows. I’ll still be posting yummy and often painfully easy recipes over at Local Foods. (If you like my cooking style I encourage you to check over there frequently—I put up new stuff all the time: sign up for my weekly seasonal cooking newsletter, like the About Local Foods Facebook page, follow @aboutlocalfoods on Twitter). Other, usually food-centric projects will be coming this way.

Posts here won’t be as frequent, but I think they are going to be way more interesting.

It’s funny, just when things seem all tight and locked up, as secure as a well built warehouse:

They tend to open up:

If I ever own lots of treasure that needs to be stored, I can only hope I will have the decency to give it such views.