It's my first semester after college and officially in the working world, which means there is no nearing "Christmas vacation" to speak of. I will have two days off for Christmas, two days off for New Years, and then it's back to reality. It is clear that four days is simply not enough to fully appreciate the good tidings and cheer of the holidays.
To address this dilemma, my friend and I started brainstorming several weeks ago. We needed to have a low-key celebration for the ages, one that would end 2006 with a jolly good helping of food and some drink to toast the coming new year. We planned it for a Saturday night, since I work Saturday mornings at the farmer's market. I was to work the market, pick up any fresh market goods that struck my fancy, and head down to his house.
I must say, I gathered a particularly delicious array of farmer's market loot that day. Among the culinary booty, there were fresh tomatoes, potatoes, and onions from Jacque the produce vendor, amazing hickory and chile lime almonds from Andre (who recommended these flavors as his favorite with beer), fresh sea bass from Marvin the fisherman, and German bakery cheese bread from Eddy.
To go along with the food, I picked up a selection of craft beers at Hi-Time Liquor (a Costa Mesa legend!), where the staff gave me some friendly advice about their seasonal (winter ales) and all-season favorites. (My favorite ended up being The Three Philosophers by the Ommegang Brewery, a Cooperstown, NY based brewery that makes Belgian style beers. I have heard this brewery is a mecca for beer lovers, so naturally I am already planning a trip in my future.)
I tried to make a cheese dip with my "Cooking with Beer" book, an impulse buy I snatched up while waiting for a price check at the grocery store. The dip turned out horribly (I secretly knew it would), but there was plenty of other good food to go around.
The great thing about the night was the spirit behind it--good friends and good eats. It mattered little if there were a few flops in the kitchen. We stole our inspiration from Thoreau: "Live each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each."
At the end of the night, we ended with some chocolate kalua cake, made by the cake company I work for. It was the perfect late night snack, but not as good as my early morning, on- the- way -home A & W Root Beer Float. As I changed lanes to pull into the parking lot and slowed to the drive-thru ordering spot, I fully acknowledged that this craving was ridiculous. But then I thought to myself, it's never too early for a root beer float. It's five o'clock somewhere. Mostly it reminded me of how different my lifestyle is here in the United States versus when I lived in Denmark. Surrounded by the metal heap of my Volvo station wagon, I am at one with my American roots, slurping away at my sugary-soda concoction. I pause at a stoplight, and think "My dear readers! What would they think if they were here with me, patroning fast food establishments while driving around in my not so fast '88 Volvo??" I have taken a picture for you all, to appropriately capture this very stereotypically American moment. It's at times like these that I am reminded how much I miss wandering the streets of Europe and interacting with people outside of the constraints of a moving box. While I have the convenience of personal transportation and fast food here, I miss the contact of the outside world, and the pleasure of being free from an automobile.
Someday I will go back to Europe. But no matter where I am living, my worlds will continue colliding in American-European fusion. As I drive along the 405, I often get the urge to hear the sounds of Europe, and I reach back to grab my Danish listening CD's. The next day, I use the French ones. And in January, I'll attend the Scandinavian film festival in Los Angeles, crossing the barrier from Orange to LA County in none other than a Scandinavian made automobile. Fitting, no?