Wednesday, August 12, 2009

California Changes

Justin and I expected our food escapades to change when we moved across the country, but I don't think either of us really anticipated how much. When we last lived in California, we were poor, we couldn't cook, and we really weren't that discerning about what we put in our mouths. Pad thai from a box? Sure! That's a staple that we should make once a week, at least. Pita bread with store bought deli meat and medium cheddar cheese stuffed inside? Mmm, sounds like dinner. For three nights in a row. We really didn't notice or care what sort of stuff was available at the supermarket.

I'm not sure what it was about Ithaca that made us interested in cooking. As I mentioned in a previous post, part of it was our addiction to Mexican food, and Ithaca's complete lack of such cuisine. Part of it, I'm sure, was the long, cold winters. It became totally and utterly normal to spend an entire Sunday indoors baking bread. We're talking nine hours straight here. And the more we did this sort of thing, the better we got, and the more fun it became.

So, the first thing you'll need to know about Modesto, the town we just moved to, is that it's in the Central Valley of California, which puts it smack in the agricultural center of the state. Considering California is one of the big agricultural centers of the world, that's saying something. Modesto itself is fairly suburban, but if you drive in any direction out of town, you hit farmland. Justin's folks grow almonds on their farm, which is about fifteen minutes from us, and their neighbors grow peaches, plums, walnuts, all sorts of stuff. My in-laws also have an acre or two of land where they grow fruits and vegetables for personal use, everything from nectarines to grapes to eggplant to pumpkins. You name it, they're growing it, plan to grow it or have grown it already.
We've gotten our fair share of food from the farm, including a big bag of nectarines that we split with some friends. But even without this resource, just walking into the produce section of the grocery store is redonkulous: bags of limes for $2, huge ripe peaches for a dollar a pound, and the tomatoes? Justin ate a piece of one a few days after we moved here and swore he hadn't eaten a real tomato in four years. Yes, they're that good. We basically don't know what to do with ourselves.

So that's the backstory for this adventure. For the last couple weeks we've been gallivanting around, painting our house, hauling furniture back from IKEA, and eating fresh everything. The only thing I haven't been able to find in grocery stores here is arugula, which is a shame, but it's also not the end of the world. Plus, I'm convinced we'll find it somewhere. And if not, well, those tomatoes can make me forget just about anything.


nancy said...

Yummy pics! Even though we've grown tomatoes at home, I'll bet a fresh California one tastes better!

Alex Solla said...

growing Arugula is cake. get some seeds, water, eat. That simple.
same with kale and a lot of other greens.

I think the REAL reason you enjoy food more...
is because you have kick-ass pottery to eat it in! YOURS!

Kirsten said...

Way to represent!

Christopher Kempf said...

This is maybe the most aesthetically pleasing blog ever. And yeah, WTWTA...f'in cry.

Dana said...

Nancy - homegrown tomatoes are awesome, no matter where they're grown. But yeah... there's just something about the Central Valley that makes them spectacular.

Alex - totally going to grow arugula now! I hadn't thought of that as an option. We need to get going on this gardening thing.

Kirsten - thanks for not lurking, and for showing us an awesome frozen yogurt place.

Chris - most of the photo credit goes to Justin and his fancy shmancy camera and lenses.

Antonio Tahhan said...

great blog! I was drawn in by the beautiful tart you posted earlier and couldn't help but comment when I read about Ithaca - hooray for Ithaca & inspiring people to cook one blizzard at a time :)
I just graduated from Cornell in '08 and never thought I'd miss this place so much. I'm visiting Ithaca now for 6 days to work on a small project with one of my professors. I can't wait to hit the farmer's market this weekend, which is sure to be the highlight of my trip.

Dana said...

I miss Ithaca, too - terribly! I'm very jealous that you're going to the farmer's market. Hoping we'll get a chance to visit soon.