Rooted in Oakland

Dragging a top-heavy and overloaded suitcase behind me, the path beyond the main gate became unexpectedly treacherous. Every tiny crack grabbed at the flimsy wheels, threatening to send us both tumbling into bone dry patches of bamboo. Sharp, pointed sticks poked out like spears, waiting to catch my fall. Stumbling forward in the blinding midday sun, the reward for all my efforts was a slap in the face: The key didn’t work.

I had just arrived at my new AirBnB a day before classes were scheduled to begin, and I was locked out. No amount of twisting, jiggling, or forcing the key would convince it to cooperate. No one was home. No one was answering their phones. Or emails. Or text messages. Anxious enthusiasm for the start of my new adventure faded away until only the anxiety remained, and I sat down, staring at the giant tree in the backyard dripping with crusted sap, and cried.

That was my introduction to Oakland, four years ago. Such a tiny blip on the radar now that it’s barely worth retelling, this moment stands out in my memory with new importance in hindsight. As far as I can recall, it was the one time I ever felt shut out, unwelcome, or for whatever reason, excluded. In this politically tense atmosphere, increasingly sensitive, often divisive, and blisteringly judgemental at times, where we celebrate diversity yet resist radical change, this is exceptional. I am the ignorant millennial, ruinous gentrifier, the ugly American, invading in a treasured place where I do not belong… And yet, from the moment my new landlord returned home from work and we finally got that front door open, I’ve felt like I do. Bundled along with that mailing address, I gained a network of neighbors, making a true community. Some filter through quickly, passing by in search of greener pastures, while others have set down roots that go deeper than the old oak trees themselves.

We smile and wave, stop to chat, catch up like old friends while out on the street. Everyone knows each others kids, parents, grandparents, and dogs- Even the stray cats are accounted for, taken care of in rotating shifts. When the summer heat beats down on unforgiving pavement, bowls of water appear for four-legged friends to stay hydrated. Little libraries proliferate with reading material as unique as the residents of each block. Gardens swell and overflow onto sidewalks, freely offering the overabundance to passersby.

That’s how I found myself loaded down with giant green zucchinis and explosively ripe orange cherry tomatoes. At peak ripeness, a fresher bounty could not be found, and thanks to my neighbors, it practically landed on my doorstep. Glowing orange orbs as smooth and round as glass marbles, sweeter than candy, Sun Gold tomatoes in general need little more than a touch of salt for balance. Honoring the fruit means doing as little to it as possible.

A true flash in the pan, the edible gems are seared until their skins bubble and burst to create a sauce of their own juices. Zucchini noodles are tossed into the hot mixture, just to soften, but not cook, retaining a more toothsome bite and fresh flavor.

No longer a mere AirBnB, I’m still in exactly the same place, but it feels much more like home than any other place I’ve been. I’d like to think I’ve finally put down roots of my own.

Yield: Makes 1 Serving

Golden State Zoodles

Golden State Zoodles

A true flash in the pan, the edible gems are seared until their skins bubble and burst to create a sauce of their own juices. Zucchini noodles are tossed into the hot mixture, just to soften, but not cook, retaining a more toothsome bite and fresh flavor.

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes


  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1 Heaping Cup Cherry Tomatoes (Ideally Sun Gold, or Some Other Orange/Yellow Variety)
  • 1 Tablespoon Nutritional Yeast
  • 1 Teaspoon Ponzu
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Ground Turmeric
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Medium Zucchini, Spiralized
  • Thinly Sliced Chives and/or Fresh Basil (Optional)


  1. Heat the oil in a small skillet of medium-high heat. Add the cherry tomatoes and cook, stirring periodically, until the skins blister and burst, forming their own sauce, You can use the back of your spatula to crush them and help the process along if needed.
  2. Add the nutritional yeast, ponzu, trmerc, pepper, and salt, stirring well to incorporate.
  3. Turn off the heat before adding the zucchini noodles. Toss to combine and coat thoroughly with the sauce.
  4. Transfer to a plate and top with fresh herbs, if desired. Serve immediately.


Fresh lemon juice can be used instead of ponzu.

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Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 216Total Fat: 15gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 642mgCarbohydrates: 17gFiber: 6gSugar: 8gProtein: 8g

All nutritional information presented within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information on should only be used as a general guideline. This information is provided as a courtesy and there is no guarantee that the information will be completely accurate. Even though I try to provide accurate nutritional information to the best of my ability, these figures should still be considered estimates.

11 thoughts on “Rooted in Oakland

  1. You won’t believe this Hannah, but I just mentioned this story to Tony last night! We’ve been using airbnb intermittently with hotels in Europe and hadn’t had a problem – until last night. It wasn’t as bad as yours, but it made me think of this story from when you told it to me. Ours was the just showing up to some issues, the host refusing to fix something and basically just calling us idiots and saying there is nothing wrong. Tony found a fix, but it still soured us on the whole airbnb thing. It could have been worse though. We could have been locked out :)

    1. Oh no! I must say that issues with AirBnB are rare, but when they happen, they’re all pretty gut-wrenching. It’s just hard when you’re traveling, seeking shelter, and don’t get the relief that you expect. There was also an experience I had out in the wilderness of LA when I got locked out, no one was home, and I was stuck in the rain for over an hour…

  2. Oh poor Hannah, what a difficult beginning you had in Oakland, but luckily everything turned fine after that first difficult moment. You write beautifully:)

    1. You’re too kind! Luckily, this was barely a tiny bump in the road on the longer journey. Everything about the home base has only gotten better since that false start.

  3. What a beautiful piece. My partner and I had rough beginnings in Portland 23 years ago too, but it has become home in a way our childhood state never did. In today’s “globalist” world, I think rootedness has become underrated and even demeaned, but it has given me an invaluable sense of safety I lacked for most of my life.

    1. 100% with you on this. I never fit in where I grew up and spend so many years trying to find where I “belong.” It’s so much more about the people than the place, but luckily, it seems that like minds are flocking together to find one another. Portland was also a very close front-runner when deciding where to make my move. :)

  4. We have this exact same photography background… great for those orange beautiful tomatoes. Super simple dish with loads of flavor and low carb too. Love it. As for airbnb have mostly had good luck, sorry this was not the best for you.

    1. While not infallible, I’m still very much a fan of AirBnB! It’s my first choice whenever I’m traveling, anywhere in the world.

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