Monday, February 22, 2010

Cross Country Excursion Part 1

With my departure from Portland and the chef's life over a week behind me I've traded in the little burns and nicks on my fingertips for an aching back; the result of endless hours behind the wheel of my trusty Subaru. She carried me west almost five years ago, so now we get to see some new parts of the U.S. together on the return trip. My itinerary is loose, to say the least. After I hit Albuquerque a few days from now where I will stay with an old friend from the days in Boston (thank you once again, Facebook), I'm not too sure where I will go next. The goal is to make it to Maryland where I will stash all my worldly possessions while I see the world. Let us hope that I do not get sidetracked along the way, or worse yet: lost in Appalacia.

I made my way back to Portland after a brief getaway to the Oregon coast for mere moments before splitting town. I took only that evening to pack up the car and see some friends last minute. At four the next morning I was up and haphazardly loading the debris from my apartment floor into the few remaining inches of car space. Coffee from the 24 hour Dutch Brothers at the base of the Morrison Bridge and I was off! I was in Eugene before the sun came up. What can I say, I was antsy. If you're wondering, staying up very late and then rising early to drive all day did not pan out well. Frequent stops for power napping were necessary that day. At the California border I had some tangerines confiscated by the fruit patrol. Special Agent Orange (moniker provided by me, of course) assured me the fruit I had purchased at New Seasons in Portland was definitely grown in Florida even though it was not labeled as such. The color - I swear they were orange, just like all other oranges - is what tipped him off. Only citrus grown in California can be brought into California according to the border agent, which seems exceptionally strange if you think about it visually. It occurred to me at the time that this is fruit confiscating shenanigans is something akin to Mexican drug cartels bribing law enforcement to shut out the competition. I know better than to argue with the law, though. I let him take my contraband oranges, but I laugh last. Those were only decoy fruit. I held back on revealing the other bag of tangerines in my cooler and the Washington grown Jazz Apples below that. Once again border agents are left befuddled and standing akimbo by my subterfuge.

I made it to San Francisco later that day and immediately received not one, but two parking tickets at the same time. Only in California could one get fleeced by the government for traffic fines and fruit in the same day. What more can we expect from the state that gave us Ronald Reagan, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bay Watch? SF wasn't all bad, though. Chinatown there is no joke and the city streets are steeped in history. I'd like to get back there and spend some more time. From San Fran I moved on to Santa Barbara to stay with some family. I'll spare you the envy-inducing details, but the picture above is taken from the balcony of the guest room I'm staying in. guest room has a balcony, with a sweet view. Tomorrow I press on to Las Vegas to see another old old friend from days of yore (Facebook strikes again!), before New Mexico. As I pass through different cities and town I've gotten to pondering what motivates people to patronize certain restaurants and love the food of certain chefs. One thing that's clear to me is that people are wildly different from locale to locale. It would follow that what accounts for their respective likes and dislikes differs as well. Of course, I'm always on the look out for where I might land next for work and it interests me greatly whether or not a formula that worked in Portland could work somewhere else. The more personal questions is: as a chef, what motivates me? Could I work and exist in a place where diners don't want to be challenged by food or may not notice or give a damn when care and love have been put into the product? Or, is personal satisfaction in a job well done enough to keep me going? The battery on my laptop is dying and the power adapter is lost in my car somewhere. I'll pick that little question up at a later date...

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