Saturday, March 10, 2012

A poignant indicator of the passage of good things

Like certain people, there are those special places you come across in life that hit you in the heart like a ton of bricks (in the best possible sense) and leave you bleary-eyed in love, in lust, and in awe of the unbearable beauty and simplicity of good things. And when that happens, when that first impression is made, it's like walking on air, bathing in sunshine, feeling ticklish inside from a glass of champagne. I recently experienced this giddy head-over-heels crush over a venue at the inviting little gem that is FOOD+LAB in West Hollywood. The heart-fork-plate-knife-happy face logo pretty much sums up the vibe of this place, and the vibe you get upon leaving it. Not to mention the delicious food. Mmmmmm, the food...and the sweet teas and chocolates and homemade caramels.

But perhaps what left the biggest impression on me was, upon my exit, coming across the b&w photo postcard of the mother-and-son owners. He as a wide-eyed infant and she as a stunning, smoky-eyed model and new mom. The photo said everything: it encapsulated beauty, love, life, and time. It made me think about what remains despite the passage of time: style, grace, and passion. And I left with a postcard and my bag of goodies, thinking about this treasure of a place and motherhood and infancy and food and love. I knew I would not be back for a while, but I was comforted just to know that such a lovely place exists.

Coming back home to Berkeley, I continued to visit my favorite local spots. This one in particular had charmed its way into my heart and pulled me back for more...

and more...

and more....

Until it closed its doors two days ago and left this devastating note for its many lovers:

Cafe Fanny--also something of a mother-child affair as twenty-eight years ago Alice Waters named both the cafe and her newborn daughter after the heroine of Marcel Pagnol's Marseilles triology--with its intimate space, delicious poached eggs on toast, the best granola on Straus Family Creamery yogurt, and, of course, the cafe au laits, was a treasure trove of yumminess and warmth and fond memories that held a special place in my heart. Most recently I've been bringing my daughter there for cocoa and a bite of muffin or cookie before school. Her favorite treat was the lavendar chocolate chip cookies. My favorite treat: the time spent there, in cozy quarters and good company.

It's hard to say exactly why I feel the need to write about this--about my new cafe love and my former one--here in this place dedicated to clothes and vintage. Surely it has something to do with the arresting photo of Esther Linsmayer looking like a chic Madonna figure in a black cashmere sweater, with her darling baby, Nino, leaning into her cheek with total abandon. And the thought of Alice and her own daughter, and the influential role of Pagnol's epic tale of desire and romance on the foundation of a beloved cafe that is suddenly and tragically no longer.

Mostly, I'm reminded that nothing we love is forever. It's such a hard lesson...knowing that something exquisite is gone, accepting that temporal pleasures pass. In a way though, isn't every act of love and falling in love a belief in the good things that are and that might be, and a testament to the good things that have come before?

A cette pauvre, Cafe Fanny. Thank you for the opportunity to fall head-over-heels in love.

(Photo: b&w is by Food+Lab)