Driving along the 101 and wallowing in the bottleneck of the 405 interchange, it is easy to imagine I’ve driven into a movie clip. A taco truck idles to my left, a transport truck with damaged police cars that look like they have experienced some high speed pursuits is inching ahead of me, a woman is eating a sandwich to my right. I imagine what my story is in this picture, a small clip of my life. I am stuck, but what is my destination? What twist of fate will be the catalyst for a beginning middle and end in this particular script? The palm trees loom to each side, defying the dry heat and barren mountains. What is the essence of California?
In other parts of the country, people joke that it is its own country, spearheading movements like recycling and forward thinking environmental policy. It is Hollywood, the hub of entertainment and media. It is Silicon Vally and computer technology. It is the peace and love protesters of the 60’s and 70’s that have evolved into New Age people who practice reiki, meditate and wear only organic natural fibers. Some cities are a haven for the “wacky” and “weird” that may not so easily find acceptance elsewhere. It is the home of Yosemite and Big Sur and the rugged California coastline ever dotted with enthusiastic surfers that seem to epitomize the meaning of cool. It is Organic. Eco-friendly. Sustainable. Fresh. Local.
Traveling to other parts of the US can be a bit of a shock when it comes time to go buy some groceries. It isn’t always so easy to find local food or have so many organic options. After living here, it becomes something you take for granted and then are grateful for when you venture out.
Growing up in New England, I became accustomed to the Native American names assigned to towns and local rivers. In California, I had to get used to the Spanish names given to roads, cities, restaurants and regions. I did indeed make some embarrassing blunders in the beginning of my time here. I also didn’t have much Mexican food before heading out this way. With the abundance of specialty ingredients available like fresh tomatillos, Adobo, Chipotle and Tamarind it is easy to whip up something very authentic at home.
I like to prepare a spread of fillings that can be used for burritos or tacos and put them all out for people to distribute on their own. You can roast sweet potatoes with some olive oil, cumin, salt and a touch of chipotle. Saute some onions and peppers and cook your rice in that. Do the same with some black beans and also add some cumin. Mash up some fresh guacamole. Make some salsa with ripe tomatoes, fresh jalapeno, red onion, lime juice, a pinch of salt, some chopped green onion and a big handful of cilantro. Put some tamarind sauce and plain Greek yogurt out along with some shredded cheese and mix and match to your heart’s content.