There are two kinds of people in this world : people who put on a spa robe and relax and people from the south.
Those spa regulars put on that robe and it just works. They look like more relaxed versions of their former Gucci-wearin' selves. Of course, they probably started their day with 2 valiums and breakfast in bed served by Jeeves, the butler. The rest of us can barely get that one-size-fits-all tie-belt around our boiled-peanut lovin’ bodies. And I’m not sure if it’s due to our Puritanical roots (South Carolina was one of those original 13 colonies, you know) or the more recent colonization success of the tithing Southern Baptists but either way, we have a severe fear of being nekkid. Even if we have a robe partially covering our naked selves, we have to keep ever vigilant in case a rogue body part pops out at the worst time. How can you possibly walk around all jiggly-like sipping tea and “relaxing”? Parts that shouldn’t be touching each other are rubbing together with abandon. You have to walk extra careful and with your feet wide apart just to keep your thighs from chapping each other.
Then you've got all of those environmental hazards to worry about. I don’t care how much chamomile you add to it, that tea is hot. Lord knows what would happen if a spot of that calming tea hits one of my exposed body parts.
Why is it that everyone I meet tries to take me to a southern cookin' restaurant? Not a day goes by out here in Napa that I don't have complete strangers hear me utter one or two words and then immediately direct me to the Fremont Diner
for southern fried chicken and waffles. (If you ask me it's the milk shakes that are to die for.) I have never in my life actually been served fried chicken and waffles (other than at the Fremont Diner.) I don't know which part of the south that particular meal comes from, but apparently I've never eaten a meal there. And I have lived in NC, SC, TN and Florida which is the real south, not the fake south like Texas.
Why would I travel to some place new and want everything to be just like the place I had left? If you travel to France, do you spend most of your time trying to find a McDonalds? OK, maybe that's a bad example. Come to think of it, I might just have a hankerin' to find a McDonalds once I got tired of all the fried snails and under-cooked frog legs and such.
But back to me and my California surroundin's. Just think about it, I know what southern food tastes like, for gosh sakes. It's what I grew up eatin'. I don't need to go to some high-priced replica of a southern restaurant in the middle of San Franciso to see what that's all about. Chances are pretty good that whatever poor excuse for southern cookin' you're gonna serve me is not going to be as good as the fried chicken made from my own Momma's little ole cast iron skillet. Fried chicken is something best not tampered with by people who just don't know any better, especially if they aren't serving boiled peanuts as an appetizer.
If you want to try some fancy experimenting with brussel sprouts, y'all go right ahead and knock yerself out.
I just went to dinner at one of them fancy restaurants "up valley" in my neck of the woods. It's in a little town named Yountville (don't you dare say "Yowntville" if you happen to visit, they'll know you're not from around here and charge you double. It's called "Yontville".) So I was runnin' a quick eye down the menu searching high and low for something I could pronounce, when my eye hit upon a little item called "Polenta Under Glass." Next to said item was a price tag of $15. Now, I have learned to hold my tongue about a lot of the foolishness that goes on out here but this was too much.
I don't care how many of them fancy mushrooms you add or how much of them fungus sniffing pigs it takes to root out the stuff that goes into that fancy truffle salt, there is nothing you can do to make an order of Grits in a Jar, cause that's what these folks were sellin', worth $15. I understand you need to pay for lots of orange Christmas tree lights to put behind that fancy light-up desk full of rocks, Mr. Restaurant owner, but come on. (And I know how much those Christmas tree lights can run you. I've heard tell the people in Pelzer
can barely afford pigs feet this time of year, what with all of them lights they're wearing and paying for....) And I know it takes extra time to buy yer grits out here, cause you have to first find yourself a Whole Foods (wonder who sells the Half Foods) but then you got to wander all over the store looking for the grits. Once you find them labelled "Polenta" (cause they wouldn't be caught dead selling Grits), they're in one of those big ole plastic vats, with a funny little shovel on a cord. Then it takes you about three or 4 tries to get the grits to actually get in the little bitty plastic bag. And then you got to be careful how you walk away, what with all of them spilled grits all over the floor. But still, it's grits.
I should have known I couldn't afford to live out here when I saw those ads in the Pleasanton paper for Basset Hounds. In California it'll cost you $650 to get yourself one of them big eared bundles of love, slobber and all. My lil ole South Carolina hound only set me back $150. Near as I can tell, the ones out here aren't even a tiny bit more energetic or the least little bit smarter. But then again, maybe these California hounds have learnt how to tell the difference between a $15 plate of Polenta Under Glass and a $1.99 serving of Grits in a Jar.
I knew I was gonna have trouble with those vegans and such out here in California with their weird food requirements. But exactly who told all the skinny people that fried foods are the root of all evil?
And now there's that guy on TV trying to get all of the little school children to start eating healthy. Hey, chicken fingers have real chicken parts ground up in there with all of those additives and stuff.
But let's talk about vegetables for a minute.
If it weren't for the deep fat fryer, there is no way I would have ever come within ten miles of a piece of okra. But I tell you, once you dip those slimy little buggers in a pan of corn meal and dunk them in a vat of hot oil, they turn into something amazing. Don't knock it until you try it, mister fancy TV food guy.
And I'm sorry, but asparagus is one vegetable that could use a little batter and bacon grease. And a dash of Horsey Sauce (that comes from Arby's, if you aren't in the know). Next to brussel sprouts, asparagus is about the sorriest tasting thing I've ever eaten. Even my dog won't eat it. I just don't get the attraction.
Try serving asparagus to a bunch of starving children after an hour of recess, Mr. TV man. I think they'd rather eat a handful of sand.
When you try to tell people in California about beach music, they think you're talking about something from the Beach Boys. (These are the same people who think Texas is in the south.)
But I just attended a West Coast Swing competition and I have to tell you. They do everything different out here. They took our little ole Shag dancing and made it sexy. I think the South Carolina version of the dance was created for Baptist conventions because it involves very little touching and very little hip action. This West Coast thing looks a lot more serious. There a whole lot of hip sliding and gyrating going on with these steps. And the people who dance it - they must be doing lots of Yoga to get their bodies moving that way.
But they were dancing to some of our songs - I heard "under the boardwalk" at least once. Maybe we have more in common than I thought.
Apparently, selling San Quentin is the state of California's latest plan to solve the budget crisis. So who in the world would want to buy a prison, anyway? Maybe some members of the mafia might have an interest in buying the keys to a few jail cells, but other than criminals, why would anyone want to own a prison?
Can you see the conversation at your next dinner party? What do you do for a living, Joe? "Oh, I own san Quentin. I go down there on the weekends for some good food and entertainment. I'm thinking of switching to a time-share model. People can buy ownership of individual prisoners, or adopt-a-prisoner and give them as gifts for the holidays."
Before the San Quentin thing, there was talk of selling Alcatraz too. Now at least that's an empty prison with some 360 degree ocean views.
I'm starting to think these people in California just don't like to incarcerate people. Good grief, what's next? Legalized marijuana?
The people in California are really getting freaked out about this whole Swine Flu thing. I just don't get it. I mean, what's your beef? It's not like y'all have a bunch of pigs runnin' around in your front yard. I haven't seen any livestock farms in my neighborhood lately, have you?
I think you need to take a cue from the folks in Myrtle Beach, SC and head on over to the Piggly Wiggly for some barbeque therapy. And buy yourself one of these t-shirts while you're there. I'm wearin' mine in protest to all the crazy panic. Gettin' lots of funny looks from the surfer dudes.
The Other White Meat - who's with me?
I thought fatigue wearing gun slingers who chew tobacco and shoot things were a southern phenomena. I just found out there are some of those types out here too. Not sure if they wear Berkenstocks when they head out in the woods and they probably eat veggie burgers in the deer stand but they hunt all right.
I haven't seen any o' them Bass Pro Shops out this way though, so they must be kinda secretive and sneaky about their hunting. Come to think of it, I haven't seen very many hunting dogs either. Unless you count those little yippie dogs that get carried around in a Coach purse. Some folks think those dogs are essential for sniffing out the best deal on a new pair of Uggs. I guess they think that is hunting.
But I was down in Carmel Valley over the weekend and heard tell that ground squirrels are a big nuisance in that area . The trick is to get you one of them mean ole cats and let it do the dirty work for you. I just don't get the whole cat thing. Never have liked cats and don't expect to change my mind, but I guess I could be convinced to get one and let it go in the woods as long as it didn't climb up on my counter, I could tolerate it.
Speaking of being in Carmel Valley, there was a bunch of wisteria up there - it almost made me feel like home - without the humidity and those big giant cockroaches.
So I went to a fancy party in the middle of Napa Valley. I was terrified someone would find out that I didn't fit in. Didn't grow up pronouncing french and didn't know which fork to use for what.
Everything was fine when it came to drinkin'. They had champagne to drink so I knew what to do with that. It was a little hard to drink out of them skinny glasses but I managed. And then came the appetizers. That's always scary 'cause I remember the time we went to visit these people in Washington, DC and they served all of us kids a big ole platter of crackers, cream cheese and blackberry jelly. Now I love blackberry jelly. So I put a big blob of it on one o' them fancy crackers and proceeded to enjoy.
But somethin' just wasn't right about them blackberries. Now somewhere in the back of my little ole brain it occurred to me that there were actual people who dined on fish eggs and they called that stuff caviar. These blackberries were pretty darn salty and slimy so I put 2 and 3 together and got 4. This here was Caviar! Not blackberry jelly. And so help me, there was no way that with this new knowledge I was gonna manage to swallow this stuff.
And then I looked to my right and noticed my older sister. Apparently she was wise to the appetizer situation and was watchin' to see what I was gonna do about it. If you have ever tried to spit a mouthful of slimy, salty, black fish eggs into a tiny cocktail napkin, you know what I was going through. If not, let me tell you - it wasn't pretty. Apparently those unhatched fish babies were plottin' an escape cause they kept oozing out of different sides of that napkin. My sister was turnin blue tryin not to laugh. The rich kids must have been talkin about their latest polo victory cause they didn't even notice.
But I am now wise to the appetizer challenges and never eat without first knowin' what I'm gettin myself into or at least havin a couple of spare napkins handy.