Thursday, November 22, 2007

Monday, November 19, 2007

This Means War

Interesting to Note:

This past weekend I visited my friend Chantal who now lives in Charleston, SC with her adorable husband and two little boys. Being the gracious hostess that she is (Chanty lived in Dallas for most of her life), she took me on a horse-drawn carriage ride through the city's historic downtown. It was on this tour that I learned the crescent that appears on the SC flag is intended to represent not a new moon, but a steel collar designed to protect soldiers' throats in battle in the 17th Century--a piece of armor called a gorget. True.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Trade Offs

As I've mentioned before, there are few things I'm as attached to as Fall on the East coast. It's always a shocker for me when Halloween rolls around here in SF and it's barely cold enough to wear a jacket. And with no leaves crunching under my feet, how am I supposed to know that Thanksgiving is coming up, other than the fact that my fun foodie friend has sent out the evite for his annual deep fried Turkey feast?

Back home, there would be seasonal clues such as "football weather" and the first hints of that smokey fireplace smell wafting from neighborhood chimneys. Here in SF, my only tool for time reference is an Arctic Outdoors calendar that hangs on my bedroom wall. When it changed from Alaskan Musk Ox to Thelon River Caribou, I knew it was now November. (Note to self: get another arctic-theme calendar for next year. Reason: If I'm ever feeling indifferent about the upcoming month, I turn the page and see this period of time will be dedicated to, for example, the Snow Fox or the Polar Bear. Somehow, I then feel much more positive about things.)

Although SF has nothing on NJ when it comes to Fall (oh, and Summer), Napa may just hold its own in the seasonal boxing ring. I was up there with Dayle and Larry for a baby shower this weekend, and discovered that the vines turn all sorts of autumny colors in November. Ok fine, so they're vines and not trees, but so what? It's still foliage, right?

The three of us paid a visit to a small, rustic winery in the mountains between Napa and Sonoma. Standing near a wood-burning stove in a cozy little tasting room, we looked out on endless rows of golden vines. As we traded impressions of each wine that was poured for us, I found myself getting over the fact that Fall for me is no longer synonymous with football weather. The truth is, I don't even like football...or beer for that matter. At that moment, I mentally traded in my bottle opener for a cork screw and raised my glass to California.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Let There Be Pig

The Spring before I started college I got a letter requesting my attendence at a regional event where I would meet other soon-to-be Freshman at my university in the fall. The theme of the event was to be "Southern" in a weak attempt to prepare the NJ, NY and CT kids for what awaited us in North Carolina. "Oh good," I thought to myself. "Maybe there will a be a mechanical bull."

A few weeks later, my parents and I arrived at a beautiful private home somewhere in CT. I walked in to find about forty 18-year-olds milling around nervously half chatting with their parents and half scoping the scene. Well coordinated staff served mimosas to the adults and an impressive spread of bagels and lox (score!) had been displayed elegantly on the terrace. The event felt like anything but a down-home Southern BBQ. In fact, was that Giuliani by the fruit salad?

Eventually things loosened up a bit. As the afternoon unfolded, the parents began to indulge in fancy wine while chatting with one another about their jobs in "the City." Meanwhile, we kids played the name game about our potential shared friends from various New England and Tri-State summer camps and soccer/hockey teams. No one really seemed to notice that there was a pig roasting on the back terrace. Everyone's attention was focused elsewhere--namely on the Yankee game. Each time someone would report in with the score, a passionate rumble would break out. This group was about as Southern as a snowman...wearing mittens from L.L. Bean.

And so the stage was set for my four years in North Carolina. Although I loved that warm sunshine and those road trips through the Louisiana Delta with my dear college pals born and bred in the Bible belt, I never really took to the whole Southern thing. Yeah, I ate my fare share of hush puppies and knocked back a respectable amount of moonshine, but hell if I was going to pick up an accent or buy a new outfit for airplane travel (in retrospect, I still find that practice extremely curious). No siree--I had debutantes to mock and 18 years of Jersey pride to uphold. And as for pig pickins? I left those to the locals.

Fast forward 13 years. I'm now living in California and my time in the South is long behind me. It's true that few things make me as happy as the sweet tea from Memphis Minnie's in the Lower Haight. And if forced into it, I might be willing to admit that I prefer magnolia trees to California eucalyptus any day. Nevertheless, I'm done with pigs and onto bigger and better avocados. Enter Rick and Zetta Reicker.

In celebration of Rick's 35th birthday, his wife Zetta (aka Champion Pumpkin Carver) had decided to do something extra special. No doubt inspired by her man's deep and unwavering dedication to bacon, Zetta announced that she would be hosting an all out pig roast in his honor.
Next thing I knew, in came the evite indicating, "We'll be roasting a tasty 68 pound pig from Heritage Farms. He lived a happy free range life and he has given himself to us to celebrate this Saturday." And then up went Rick's IM status message: "And the wife said: Let there be pig." And soon after, across town went all their friends to partake in the roast.

On my way to the birthday event, I thought about those pig roasts from my past and how they were never really that much fun. But the minute I walked in the door to RICK's pig roast, it became clear that I just hadn't been approaching them the right way. Apparently, the way to make a pig roast REALLY fun is to:

As it turns out, y'all, pig roasts are way more exciting than I had given them credit for. Perhaps I need to reconsider other Southern traditions, under the leadership of Rick and Zetta. Maybe next year they'll throw an incest party...and I will know better than to cast doubt.