Sister's Trip to Portland, OR - Honey Walnut Granola
Sister's Trip to Portland, OR
I backed out initially. My middle sister, Emily, wanted to go to Europe. I said this wasn’t the summer for a big trip for me. Will and I had just come back from Morocco in May, only months prior. And we were slammed every weekend in June. I couldn’t do Portland. It was too much. But I felt a sudden urgency to make it happen and booked tickets. We made accommodations at a nicer hostel, The Northwest Hostel. It seemed like a quaint bed and breakfast (minus the breakfast) in a charming row house in the center of the city. I was glad I had a change of heart to go on this adventure with her. We both needed it for different reasons.
The trip was significant in a number of ways. I love traveling and exploring. You forge a bond with fellow travel companions that’s unbreakable and indescribable. I’ve had these bonds with several people I’ve traveled with in Southeast Asia in 2011 and in Israel in 2105. You’re vulnerable and exposed when you travel. It changes you. New cultures and religions and tastes and feels. You share stories. I’ve had this with Will and my best friends form high school. But never with Emily. I wanted this travel bond with my sister. It was also the last trip I took prior to being engaged. I felt like I had stories and sentiments saved up that I wanted to share with Emily. We needed to have a block of time together—just us.
When we look back, we agree that there was one day, one moment, that defined the trip. That was the turning point. In our relationship, in our friendship, and in our ability to travel together. It was THE tree.
We woke up early on July 3rd, mentally braced for an adventure. We agreed it would be an adventure day. And it was adventurous. We woke up early and scoped out to Ken’s Artisan Bakery for breakfast. We needed fuel for whatever was to come. The bakery reminded me very much of Paris. The smell, of freshly baked croissants, the open kitchen. I was keen on ordering a jamón and cheese sandwich on a buttered baguette because it was nostalgic. Memories of Paris. But, when Emily ordered a bowl of house made granola with milk, I ordered that for myself as well. It was so satisfying. Made with Portland’s freshest, highest quality ingredients. Sweet and hearty and buttery and nutty. It tasted of maple and hazelnut. The closest I’ve come to recreating, or making a similar granola, is when I made honey walnut granola. The recipe was adapted from a pastry chef. And you could tell. It reminded me of a rendition of Ken’s granola. A French, bakery edition granola. And, along with the baguette and a damn good ice coffee, we were off.
We rented road bikes and were truly set on finding a beach. The guy at the bike shop, recommended Sauvie Island. The only accessible beach, he assured us. About 18 miles away. I’m beyond inept at directions. An accepted fact. So naturally I led is across the bridge that you’re not supposed to cross and onto a oneway highway, in which we were going in the wrong direction. Additionally, since we didn’t know you could change gears—since we’ve never used road bikes before—we felt incredibly unsteady, going painfully slow, doing far too much work. We had no idea where were going. We headed back to the bike shop to regroup. Once we learned that yes, there were gears, and yes, they were useful, it was pretty life changing. Upon getting back on the bikes, with a new sense of direction, literally and figuratively, we set off. Take two. We biked about four miles across several railroads down an industrial road. We practiced my struggle with storytelling. Emily is quite concerned I’m awful at telling verbal stories, since I very easily lose my train of thought. She taught me the “mom” rule. She advised, “If you go to an event, go home and describe the event to your mom in one sentence.” There were freight cars along the road, yet it was peaceful. We then reached a highway with a generous bike lane between a valley. We biked six more miles and finally saw a sign for Sauvie Island. The island was a farmland haven. Along the Columbian River was mountains in the background among lavender fields. Emily described it as Sweden in the Pacific Northwest. It was like nowhere we’ve experienced.
A little while down the road, we came across a farm stand. A massive one. Pick your own berries, pick your own flowers, they were grilling hamburgers, sausages, and corn on the cob.
As we were locking our bikes I got stung by a bee. A kind family at the picnic tables happened to have a first aid kit and gave me a Benadryl and an ice pack. Emily ran inside and got boxes of cherries, raspberries, and blackberries and two grilled corn on the cobs.
Pure and absolute bliss. We sat under the tent at the picnic tables, in the middle of the farm, and ate far too many berries.
Upon finishing them all, Emily had a work call so we went back out to find the supposed beach. A couple of wrong turns later, it was nearing the time for her call, so we pulled over under a massive tree, surrounded by lavender trees overlooking a mountains. The scenery was picturesque. We took off our shoes, laid out our towels. Emily took the call, and I took it all in. I closed my eyes, completely at peace. At ease. We talked about everything. We decided we wouldn’t seek out the water, because with the breeze and the shade, life just didn’t get better than this. We had our minds set on the ocean. We had to find the water. Because we were told we were supposed to see the coast if we were in Portland. But, with our minds so emotionally set on finding the beach, we found something better. Our tree was perfect for that moment. In a field of yellow flowers overlooking a massive mountain. The warm air, the breeze. It was ours.
It made the trip worth it. When we finally set back home, the ride back seemed less treacherous, as we were in the shade. The breeze felt better than the water. It was 100 degrees, but felt like 115. It was one of those moments where I felt I was living. And felt surprisingly stable on the bike.
The decision felt symbolic. I have everything planned out, so pre-decided, so overthought. Usually, I just have an idea in my head, and then plant a seed when I’m with a person having already thought of the proposed action. But the tree seemed spontaneous. Just what we needed in the moment. The trip was everything we needed—one on one time—spur of the moment decisions. The best was when one of us proposed an idea, and the other was immediately on board. I was so used to traveling with Will, that traveling with Emily was a transition. Different stops, different priorities, different conversations.
I still firmly believe you learn more about a person traveling with them than living with them. Traveling is so telling. I missed this trip when I was already on it. I deemed that a good sign. So I'll continue to make this honey walnut granola to remind me of it.
Honey Walnut Granola
Serves: A lot!
4 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup walnuts pieces
¼ cup sunflower seeds
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
¼ packed cup brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
2 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. cinnamon
½ cup raisins
Preheat oven to 275 degrees
Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until butter begins to foam. Do not let burn!
Pour in separate bowl, add brown sugar, honey, and vanilla. Mix well.
In a large, separate bowl, combine oats, walnuts, sunflower seeds cinnamon, and salt
Add butter, sugar mixture to oat mixture, and combine thoroughly
Spread out granola on two prepared baking sheet
Bake for about 40 to 50 minutes, tossing only once, halfway through
Let granola cool on baking sheets
Break the granola into large clusters, mix in raisins, and transfer to an air tight container
*Recipe adapted from Cassandra Shupp, Bon Appétit (2014)