Today is the 20SB Blog Swap! JacquelineParis and I are talking about summer on each other's blogs...so read her post then swing on over and check out my musings about my favorite season!
I Know What I Did Last Summer: Tales from Summer 2010
California. Always wanted to be a “California girl”. When I was a senior in high school and looking at schools to apply to, I automatically flipped open Princeton Review’s tab to “California”. That’s all I wanted. Pepperdine was by the beach, and students at UC Santa Barbara surfed in between classes. Is there any school in California not within walking distance of delicious soft sand bliss and crushing waves?
Turns out there is. Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA. Turns out it’s much more “Pebble Beach chic” than “Cali surfer dude”. When I moved to Monterey last June to help my boyfriend (now the fiancé yay) move into his first non-Naval Academy abode, and effectively play house for six weeks, I discovered the best parts about California had nothing to do with the beach.
Do you know the water is freezing? It’s all glacier water from Alaska trickling down the Pacific Cost. You need layers of thermal body armor, or “wetsuits”, to even think of venturing in.
Not to mention the sharks. The plentiful kelp beds and plethora of fragrant, vociferous blubbery seals lining the coast of Monterey Bay breed ideal feeding grounds for great white sharks. No way I was going in that water. Just watching Shark Week gives me chills. These beaches were all a far cry from the crystal, warm waters and sandbars of Cape Cod that I have loved all my life.
My new major activity to do was avoid the routes to the beaches. Traffic was always clogged with fishermen heading to the marinas to take their boats out, or fearless divers armed with oxygen tanks and spearguns, or even a family of tourists who had clearly picked the wrong region of California for their vacation, but were determined to hit up the beachfront anyway.
No, what I wanted to do was cook. Anyone who’s known me for more than an hour would faint with shock at that statement. I was the one who wasn’t allowed to be left alone in the house if there was a pot of sauce on the stove-not ever since that incident with the fire department when I was sixteen. I still carry the physical reminder of my culinary ineptitude from the time our yellow lab devoured my dad’s birthday cake when I was supposed to be guarding it, so I panicked and hastily threw a batch of brownies in the oven, dramatically burning my left thumb. I never had any desire to learn how to cook, and never needed to. There was always someone else to do that for me. Even when I moved away to college, I sustained myself with enormous bowls of cereal, microwaved pizza, or options from the dining halls and local takeout. I was intimidated by a stove, and even suggested the idea of asking the RA about trading the stove for a dishwasher in my dorm room.
But when I arrived at the quaint townhouse in Monterey, I soon realized that cooking is not only easy, but can be enjoyable. Hanging out in the kitchen chopping onions and tomatoes while listening to music can actually be soothing. Watching a pot come to a boil while enjoying the mouthwatering aroma of a simmering Bolognese sauce can actually be romantic. Successfully completing a recipe from the Barefoot Contessa cookbook, from start to finish all by myself, can actually be rewarding.
So I grumbled when the beach traffic on Highway 1 interfered with my daily trip to Whole Foods. I was more excited to pick out the fresh ingredients to create a dinner from scratch for my own little “family” of the two of us. I jumped with joy when the basil and rosemary in my garden were thriving. It made me feel like much more of a real “California girl” than laying out on the beach soaking up the sun.
Now, post-graduation, I’ve relocated to Monterey for real. I’ve experimented with tons of new recipes, courtesy of my recipe-themed bridal shower. I’ve also branched out into the cookbook realm of Giada, Skinny Italian, Fabulicious and my new favorite, Gwyneth Paltrow’s My Father’s Daughter.
I set a goal for myself to try at least one new cooking adventure a week, and while the results aren’t always picture perfect (note to self: don’t trust that the man at the fish market will automatically understand you want boneless filets of salmon), the endorphins I get from no longer being terrified of saucepot on the stove have made this little townhouse feel like our first home.
Beach photo courtesy of visitusa.com
Monterey photo courtesy of montereyworld-guides.com
Onion photo courtesy of goodhousekeeping.com
Basil photo courtesy of howtogrowbasil.com
Gwyneth Paltrow photo courtesy of abcnews.go.com
Sauce photo courtesy of flickr.com
Before you run into the kitchen to get cookin', go learn about why I love summer at JacquelineParis' blog.