In 2007, the year Judah was born, I was sitting in our little book-lined office in our condo in Lititz, PA, surfing the internet, clicking away on our giant Dell desktop computer, and I stumbled upon a blog called Orangette. I’d never read a food blog before, but I knew immediately this blog was special. I loved the quiet, crisp photos. I loved the descriptions of food. I was instantly compelled to jump up and try one of the recipes: stove top black beans with onion and cumin.
That began my love affair with food blogs and also sparked a desire to learn how to cook simple, tasty food from scratch, and I’ve followed Molly Wizenberg on Orangette from time to time through the years since. When her first memoir, A Homemade Life, came out, I devoured it.
This year her second book came out: Delancey, named for the pizza restaurant she and her husband opened in Seattle. I mentioned it to Pat over email when we were planning our trip and she said, “Delancey is in my neighborhood!” Sure enough, the little restaurant and it’s next door bar, Essex, also owned by Molly and Brandon, are just a few blocks from Pat, Cathy, and Annie’s street in Ballard.
David and I both read Delancey before we came, and we loved the book, not least because — believe it or not — there are some similarities between starting a restaurant and starting a church. I laughed my way through the memoir because in many ways, Molly and Brandon’s marriage feels like David’s and mine: both the fun and the exasperating parts. And so it was that on Thursday night the seven of us walked to Delancey for pizza.
This week I asked Pat if she had to choose one ethnicity of food to eat for the rest of her life, what her choice would be. And she said it’s an impossible decision because so much of the food we’ve tasted is the memories surrounding the meal — where we were, who we were with, what season of life we were in. You can’t pull the flavor of the food out of its experience.
I thought of that all week, thought how right she is. Our meal at Delancey was magical, not just because I love pizza. It was everything. It was discovering Orangette seven years ago as a brand-new mom who could barely cook a real meal. It was reading Molly Wizenberg’s memoirs and coming to think of her as one of my favorite writers.
It was getting on a plane and flying thousands of miles across the country to Seattle, which I’ve dreamed of for so long. It was staying with Cathy and Annie in their actual house — which we’ve only ever seen pictures of. It was all of us strolling together down the sidewalk right in their neighborhood and standing in front of a restaurant I’ve read about and seen photos of.
It was the heirloom tomato and basil salad and the ice-cold glass of Washington hard cider and the 12-inch pizza pies, simple with the thinnest, crispiest crusts, with all-local toppings (the grilled zucchini and anchovy was my favorite). It was sitting in the little dining room, surrounded by laughter and smiles and friendly staff, remembering stories of plaster-scraping and pizza-oven assembling, and cement-floor staining that went awry. It was seeing Brandon Pettit walk out from the kitchen to laugh with friends sitting two tables over and feeling so proud for him, for what he’s done here in Ballard. I wish him and his family all the best.
Our dinner at Delancey is truly one we’ll never forget.