Thursday, December 13, 2007

meat & markets

I don't eat meat. I've never had a fast food hamburger, finding them repugnant from an early age (when the family went to the park&order A&W in Watsonville back in those way-back days I ordered the fries; later, @ McDonalds, it was the fish sandwich and hot apple pie. But good meat was prized by my family, and especially by my immigrant grandparents. At holidays, a special case was made for buying meat, particularly the prosciutto and other 'cold cuts' from what was the best market in their town: Petrini's. Buying the meat from Petrini's Market was a hallmark of holiday gatherings. My grandmother would walk down her driveway to get to the market for prosciutto until she was quite aged. In the late 80s, the market was sold and is now no more. My grandmother died. I stopped eating meat.
But that name and the signature "P" on the store's facade is indelible in my mind. When I think of Petrini's I think of my Croatian grandparents, drives up the coast at Christmas to their house, and eating the salty meat (along with vegetables from my grandmother's garden) which I don't miss so much as get nostalgic about for its associations.
And so this is how I found my new dentist. A friend recommended "Dr. Petrini" when I was asking around. I heard the name and simply had to go to that dentist. Today I walked up Sutter St. for my check-up thinking maybe nostalgia was a silly way to choose a dentist. Fortunately, Dr. Petrini knows as much about teeth grinders like me as his grandfather knew about picking meat (turns out the dentist gives training on teeth guard making!). Before sussing out my cavity-free but clench-weary teeth, he told me stories about how his grandfather hand-selected meat at the markets that used to populate the base of Potrero hill "They called it Butchertown then," Dr. Petrini said, "and it smelled terrible but everyone would go in and hand-stamp the sides of beef they wanted." And also, sadly, how his grandfather chose to sell the market when he realized he'd outlive his son.
The chefs at Zuni may have had grandparents like me and Dr. Petrini.
Post joyful Songsalive! gathering at Trieste, gigs and work, Jacqui, Art, Michael, Alex and me repaired to that hallmark restaurant, for beverages, and in some cases meat. "There's just something a burger can do that nothing else can," JN remarked, biting into her Zuni burger. I didn't dig in but I was happy for the crew, a Zuni burger being to a Big Mac, what Petrini's prosciutto was to Safeway's. It was a lovely night, the moon a sliver in the cold, cold air, the shows were happy, Zuni's piano was capped by a twinkling Christmas tree and I was with friends.
Life is good in the city of SF right now, I thought. Post dentist, I walked back to the office and smack into a Farmer's Market at Crocker Galleria where my meat-free, vegan-nearly-raw-self picked up some greens, beets and apples for the day ahead.

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