I Left My Heart in San Diego

by Jen Wanous

Safely nestled in Annie’s apartment, I waited out the monstrously destructive Hurricane Irene (note: read sarcastically) by enjoying Dark and Stormies made with fresh ginger beer. From this day forward I will come to regard all natural disasters as an opportune time to consume drinks that are closely associated with some environmental catastrophe. Mud Slide, anyone?

I almost didn’t make it home for hurricane cocktail hour as I am freshly back from a trip to visit my family in Southern California. With my shiny new “Chef” title, I thought that I would be asked to whip up meals for my near and dear but turns out; I hardly picked up a knife. Instead, I was still just “Jeni” to everyone back home and was thusly served lovely home cooked meals for much of my visit.

Living 3,000 miles away from my California heart is hard. People are going through hard and momentous times alike, babies are turning into kids and kids are turning into teens. I left feeling a longing, like I didn’t do quite enough catching up with friends and family. The days flew by and I savored all that I could, mostly through meals. There were BBQs, dinners, my mom’s pancakes and, of course, Peppertree, my high school stomping ground for the best chocolate peanut butter shake ever.

My life is very different from the lives of my friends who sling kids from their hips, juggle careers and manage a mortgage. One friend asked me about my Food Network audition, her eyes big and full of curiosity. After I told my tale, I asked about her due date and how she will balance having two children. Who can say what path is better? We each have our own unique life to live. Ideally we should all be able to commit ourselves to following our passions along the way, in both little and in big ways. As I write, I am reminding myself of this.

So many of us are away from loved ones. We communicate in our individual, meaningful ways, whether through thoughts or prayers, phone or Facebook. We all are connected to a broad network of people who care for us. I am so thankful to be a part of my particular network. I trust that the many ways we stay connected will fill each of us with the hope and courage it takes to follow our hearts in this world full of obstacles.

Fig, Arugala and Goat Cheese Salad with Balsamic Reduction Vinaigrette

Here is an easy end of summer salad for your next BBQ or family affair. My mom and I hosted a BBQ on the beach and I made a version of this salad. This is a Trader Joe’s friendly dish.


1 bag washed arugala

6 oz goat cheese, crumbled

1 pint fresh figs, quartered

1 bag of salty and sweet pecans


½ cup balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons brown sugar (or maple syrup)

½ cup good olive oil

Generous Salt

Fresh ground pepper


To make the dressing, combine the balsamic and sugar in a small saucepan. Simmer over low for 15 mins, or longer, until the consistency is like thick syrup. Pour this mixture into a bowl, then with a whisk and a slow drizzle, add in the olive oil. Whip vigorously. Add S&P. Toss with all other ingredients.

One Comment to “I Left My Heart in San Diego”

  1. You are my favorite! Glad tidings and all goodness to you.

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