Archive for July, 2013

Oh bread, where art thou?

A comment that gets made relatively often when uninformed acquaintances hear that I’ve been to (or was planning to go to, or have gone to) the US, is ” but the food is terrible!”. I never really understood where this came from and I disagree.

I still disagree. I disagreed the first time someone handed me a pulled pork sandwich, the first time I ate a buttermilk biscuit and the first time I ate chili, philly cheesesteak , grits, a veggie burrito.. I’ll probably keep defending American cuisine ’til the day I die (although I reserve the right to condemn certain things such as kimchi burritos, which sound absolutely terrifying). At the same time, while I am a fan of much American food, I have to concede one point to critics of American cooking and eating:

There is a fair amount of stuff for sale here that you can eat, but that isn’t actually food. This applies in particular to bread.

So far I’ve visited Safeway, Trader Joe’s and Lucky several times and have opted to obtain something resembling bread every time. And every time I end up sad. It has a two-month shelf life, even though not freeze-dried or even sealed. When you eat it, you taste salt and / or sugar. It doesn’t get stale. It doesn’t mold. It has bubbles like a sponge. It doesn’t have crumb. It has a crust, but it has no crunch. It’s supposed to look sort of bread-like, but based on the ingredients it is mostly added-back-vitamins, HFCS, vegetable oil, sugar, salt and preservatives.

So, off to a fancy bakery we went. We paid four dollars for something slightly larger than a paperback. Which was blackened on top and was covered in coarse, brown flour. This bread  had no crunch and a level of chewyness that to me, indicates that the bread is very stale. While I tasted no sugar or salt (yay!), I didn’t taste much else either. Then, elsewhere, we paid another two-and-a-half dollars for a’ baguette’. No crunch, no soft, doughy inside. Just chewy, poorly leavened bread, covered in anise seeds (so I can’t comment on the taste, because ANISE, ANISE EVERYWHERE).

The plan is to buy a bread making machine for making bona fide fresh bread. Simple tastes-of-dough bread with crunchy crust and soft insides. Once I get it, hit me up if you want a sandwich, because I found some lovely avocado and tasty tomatoes (and turkey breast so cheap the the guv’ment  must be subsidizing it).

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A roof

Some walls, a handful of windows and a smattering of doors.

A counter top, a bath tub and a thermostat.

A fridge, screen doors and carpet.

Blinds.

It’s where we live now. It is, for all intents and purposes, ‘home’. It’s a sweet place. Nothing special (other than that it’s an apartment in a safe area in the East Bay that is priced well below market rates and hence affordable, which is Pretty Bloody Rare), perhaps, but certainly not as bad as Craigslist and Padmapper and Better in Real Life’s Lauren’s posts about finding a new place had made me fear.

Frankly? I really like it. I like that we’ve effectively lost 45% of the square feet we previously inhabited. I like that its sort of blank and bland and that painting is not allowed. I like that I don’t have to worry about window dressing and floors.

I also really like that we only slept on the floor for one night before arranging for a bed. Because jet lag is bad enough when you do get sleep at night.

On to the meat of the matter: let’s have some pictures!

Click the photo to go to the gallery of pictures.

mumble, mumble, flying, mumble

Photo by Jason Maggini under a Creative Commons License

In which to say: has it really only been eleven days since my last post?

I owe you a post on quite a few things, but considering the circumstances I may leave them be and make this post a summary of all te things I’d write more about if only… mumble, mumble, flying, mumble.

There was, for instance, the goodbye party, for which many different folks showed up. Two colleagues from the pet shelter – puppy in tow. A random assortment of aunts and uncles. Some former colleagues from the publishing house. Some friends of mine, some friends of Beloved. It was one of those lovely chaotic moments with too many people to really talk to anyone. It was a worthy farewell. And people were lovely. We’d requested no presents and people really worked well with that. We received some small packets of flower seeds, a basket of lovely edible specialties from our home country (which was presented to us by the ever-thoughtful Amanda) and my pet shelter colleagues gave me a small key chain with a picture of one of my favourite dogs. I admit it. I cried.

Another story, certainly post-worthy, is that of the actual departure and journey. In which there were check-in troubles, delayed flights and trying to clear a transfer desk, security, customs and immigration on a less-than-one-hour layover. In the end, we arrived in San Francisco with a 90 minute delay and crashed in an Oakland hotel to lay our jetlagged heads. It’s funny to realize that I changed my legal status to ‘permanent resident of the USA’  in an Irish airport while frantically fidgeting and hoping not to miss our connecting flight and didn’t even realize it until the next morning.

On a related note: I’ve not been refused entrance, am now a green card holder and am allowed to live here despite my political leanings. Great 😀

Perhaps I should also mention that somewhere between Rotterdam and New York, sails a ship called the Destiny (how fitting) that holds well over a thousand books, some clothes and all my baby pictures. I hope she’ll come in safely. Nothing but good about our moving company, by the way. They’re not cheap, and I think we’re not their usual kind of customer, but they’re efficient, quick and well-organized. Once our little library hits the New York harbour, I hope to hear when and how we can expect our stuff on the west coast.

Seeing as that time flies when you have fun, but flies even more when you’re jetlagged and intensely busy, I’ll continue blogging about what we’ve been up to post-July 10, leaving the rest of the previous eleven days to my befuddled, time-warped mental morasses.

The Alphabet Game

So Tania Elizabeth, owner of Varekai, invited me to participate in the latest little blogging game. And who am I to say no?

Here are my 26 choices, alphabetized:

A: Attached or Single: Attached, I suppose 🙂
B: Best Friends: A precious few. Maybe just the one, really, but I know of some people who really have my back, so I’m a lucky woman regardless.
C: Cake or Pie: count me a provincial European, but I still don’t know the difference. I’ll have appeltaart any day, though. It’s my favourite. The next best one is rijstevlaai.
D: Day of Choice: Sundays.
E: Essential Item: my laptop. Although I make a point of having unplugged holidays (and love them), I’m growing more dependent on the little box now that the rest of my life is in boxes. Must have cat pictures!
F: Favorite Color: purple
G: Gummy  Bears or Worms: worms, because the bers are just so tiny you need to eat six of them at a time.
H: Hometown: Suburbitown, Suburbia, pretty much. 70’s brick and concrete housing, labrador retrievers and kiddie bikes.
I: Favorite Indulgence: chocolate, cheese, whisky.
J: January or July: July, because it’s when all the other people leave and I can have a little space. Also, long, long evenings filled with light and barbecues.
K: Kids: Nope. It’s interesting to see how the people around me are starting to work towards becoming parents and how strong te desire for children can be. I’ve seen parental love up close and it is a magical force that I admire. Still, I consider myself child free and can be a little defensive about it if I feel that people don’t accept that.
L: Life Isn’t Complete Without: Travel. Walks. Books. Talks.
M: Marriage Date: November 25.
N: Number of Handbags: zero. I have a ratty messenger bag, affectionally called ‘The Magic Bag’ (because it contains everything and always has room for more). I should find a replacement soon.
O: Oranges or Apples: apples. They’re easy and so tasty.
P: Phobias: spiders. Things with too many legs that move too fast for their size.
Q: Quote: “If writings did not exist, what terrible depressions we should suffer.” Nagiko – The Pillow Book
R: Reason to Smile: dogs playing.
S: Season of Choice: spring – the first day you no longer need a coat.
T: Tag 5 People: Logeerbuik, Fading gender, USherewecome, Foxes in sockses, eh..
U: Unknown Fact About Me: I’m allergic to certain non-precious metals.
V: Vegetable: spinach. When lazy and alone my dinner just consist of heated frozen spinach with a little cream cheese and fine herbs.
W: Worst Habit: nervous fretting, overanalyzing, anxious pacing and other neurotic behavior.
X: X-ray or Ultrasound: only had the one X-ray in my life, to check for tuberculosis.
Y: Your Favorite Food: vegetarian burrito bowls, pulled chicken, home made vegetarian lasagna.
Z: Zodiac Sign: gemini / pig (water).

The visa interview

It was an average Tuesday morning on which husband and I took off for a trip to the local US Consulate. We’d been ‘camping’ in our home since the weekend, because all our stuff had been picked up and moved to people in need. Not that we didn’t throw things away, but compared to the boxes and boxes of plates, pots, knives, and the bags of pillows, blankets and actual furniture, we really only discarded the most used up things.

So, we got up off our mattress on the floor, used our two remaining knives to make some breakfast, grabbed seven inches of paperwork and left.

We were early. When we arrived, no one else was there yet. Fifteen minutes later a long line had formed, and by the time the consulate opened, there were some 30 people present. They let me in first (preparation is key: bring your appointment letter, bring _NO_ electronics and prepare to take your shoes off and leave all your bags at security) and I entered a tiny little building. There are no private interview rooms. First, you get called over to one window, for fingerprinting, passport checking (you won’t get it back) and general red tape. Then, another window, for the actual interview. The consular officer was done with me in five minutes, after asking me about Beloved’s name, our wedding date, where we’d move to and what I’d do there and the story of how we met.

A passport lighter (and about half a gallon in sweat because I was nervous), I stepped back out, wishing some people still in line the best of luck.

The next day, the mail man arrived and asked me to sign for my passport and the notorious brown ‘envelope’  (it’s the size of a street tile and weighs about as much).