PDX, Stumptown, Beertown. In broad strokes (ahem, I’ve been here for a week and a half) Portland feels like Brooklyn on half-time. In place of Manhattan you have monstrous sequoias, pine trees, rivers, bikes, b*tches and beer. The people here are very vocal about putting their money where their mouth is. The city has become a nexus for organic eateries, gluten-free bakeries, and vegan and vegetarian everything (cookies, condoms, leather and lollipops). I’m not particularly prone to labels and imitations – on my food or otherwise, but it’s damn refreshing to be in a place where quality and conscientiousness are part of the baseline.
Until a few days ago I had nothing to say about Portland. Other than it’s raining again, there’s a housing shortage, and we’re homeless in a city with adorable homes. We were living out of our car, roaming the tree-lined streets and admittedly peeping in people’s houses. Of course our intentions were completely harmless, i.e. “Can we live with you?”
The residential neighborhoods here are full of candy-colored victorians and colonials and lawns exploding with plants. In Portland landscaping seems to mean “I planted this here and it grew.” Zoning and plots allow people to communicate in a neighborly fashion, “if your newly renovated garage falls on my property can we share the driveway?” With these more relaxed expectations for neighborhood feel, all sorts of edible weeds and plants flourish on sidewalks, lawns, in cul-de-sacs, and on people’s porches.
We searched high and low for houses, but Craigslist was a total wash. We were still determined to stay within the city of Portland. After days of search and a few weeks of road tripping and living out of our car, we were feeling grubby and disillusioned. We started teasing each other about our accidental vagrancy. “You might be a vagrant, if you….” smell like cat piss and to mask the smell you simply don more clothes… you spend time dreaming of what it would be like to live in other people’s houses… you sleep on the ground and keep yourself warm with lots of extra clothing… you find yourself squatting and cooking in a zone where dogs relieve themselves… you cook your breakfast in a parking lot… you worry that others might question whether or not you are a vagrant.
I am happy to report, although it is still raining, we are no longer vagrants. In this makeshift city where people apparently work it out and live happily and communally, we have an apartment! We’re living with an awesome couple – friends of a good friend of ours – and their three adorable dogs. There is a movie theater in the basement (shhh! I’m not joking).
All good stories end with food, so here it is: our christening meal. I mean seriously, if you want to make a place smell like home, just cook a good sausage and some garlic. Works like a charm.
Hot Andouille with broccoli rabe and tomatoes on brown rice
This is a common recipe seen over pasta, but I much prefer using comfy brown rice with a little dollop of ghee.
1 Andouille or other raw sausage of choice
A bunch of rapini (broccoli rabe), about 10 stalks, washed and cut once or twice
1 clove garlic, sliced thinly
1 tomato, diced
1/2 cup brown rice, rinsed and soaked overnight in water covered by 2″ (if possible)
1 1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon ghee
Place the rice in a pot with the water and bring to a boil. Turn down to simmer and cook, lid cocked for 20 minutes. Turn off, cover completely and let sit 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and stir in the ghee.
Turn a pan onto medium and cook the sausage, turning twice, about 8 minutes each side. Remove from pan, reserving the fat. Let sit on a plate for 5 minutes, so the juices settle. Cut into 1/2 inch rounds. Meanwhile, steam the rapini for 5 minutes until al dente. Strain.
Add a bit of olive oil, ghee, or butter to the sausage fat and turn on to medium. Saute the garlic for a few minutes, add the tomato and saute a few minutes more until it’s softening and letting out some of the juice. Add the rapini and sausage and cook a couple minutes more. Season with salt and pepper. Serve over rice, making sure to get some of the tomato and fat juice into the rice. Mmmm.