Handmade: Lavender Sugar

Raw sugar from Enterprise Plantation, Jeanerette, LA

Raw sugar from Enterprise Plantation, Jeanerette, LA

I spent all of yesterday with my friend, Sarah. She’s in the Bay Area for a few days before she heads up to Seattle where she teaches.  Saturday in San Francisco means a trip to the Ferry Building farmer’s market so I met Sarah at the BART station and we walked over. It was a beautiful day–sunny, but with a chill in the air–and the market was bustling with post-holiday shoppers.

I didn’t go the market with the intention of buying anything. My only desire was to be with my friend–to hear how her life is unfolding, what she imagines for herself in the new year.  And Sarah, who lives in New York, was just as happy to surrender to whimsey. “All I want to do is sit in the sun,” she said, so we decided to wander around for a bit, then buy a cup of coffee for her and tea for me, and find a bench overlooking the bay.  But there was lavender for sale at the first stall we passed–bundles of pale dried stems wrapped in tissue paper, linen sacks of loose buds piled in a galvanized pail–and I couldn’t resist. So I bought a bundle. I would have been happy to bring it home to display just as it was, but I saw that the vendor was selling jars of lavender sugar too.  She asked if I’d like a sample, and of course I said yes.

I always appreciate the products of other peoples’ creativity, but rarely do I see a beautifully woven garment, or a hand carved wooden bowl, or a finely crafted leather good, and say to myself, “I can do that.”  I know better.  I know how many thousands of hours it takes to get good or even decent at something.  I know the commitment required to master ones craft. But when I tasted the lavender sugar, the thought that came to mind was, “I can make this.”  The question was, where could I get the sugar? Then I remembered the bags of raw sugar my friend Peter gave me on a recent visit to Louisiana. We were at his house for a photo shoot and after dinner, Peter gave each guest a paper bag filled with sugar from his family’s sugar mill.

What makes me so happy about my latest culinary project is that it combines so many good memories.  It takes me back to that day in Patouville when, in the company of good friends, I was lucky enough to get a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into making beautiful photographs. A long day of cooking and prepping, arranging and re-arranging to get the perfect shot before the sun slipped behind the cane fields. It reminds of my leisurely day with Sarah. A day spent wandering the city, and cooking together, and never running out of things to talk about. The perfect blend of two perfect days. I’m very grateful for these reminders of how sweet life can be.


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