Feels Like Home

14 May

haemonic’s post yesterday about Flunk Day has me thinking about my own alma mater (the first one). Has me a little bit nostalgic.

I spent my entire life up til age twenty-two living in Upstate New York. The ‘burbs around Rochester, to be specific. And while I have grown to love northern California for it’s particular charms, there are a few things that I miss from New York.

1. Proper Seasons

Seasons. You know: winter, spring, summer, fall? Here in the central valley I joke that we have two seasons: wet and dry. Fall seems to just melt into cold rain and then suddenly spring flowers are blooming in February. My first year out here I saw a daffodil blooming on Valentine’s Day and stopped in my tracks. Daffodils are for April! And while I honestly don’t miss dealing with snow (shoveling it, wearing a parka and a scarf and gloves, brushing off the car) I do miss seeing snow. In my head snow= winter. Christmas needs snow! The handful of years I’ve stayed in California for Christmas it throws off my whole seasonal clock: “It can’t be March, we haven’t had Christmas yet.” I also miss proper fall colors. The leaves do change out here, but later, around November. And then they typically all fall off in a big whoosh in one day after a cold snap. Here the fall colors are in November, instead of September when it is proper!

The trade off is that I’m regularly out and about in the sunshine on weekends in March when my family is still socked-in with snow. So you know, not entirely a bad thing, different climate.

2. Proper Deli

Delicious noms

Now THIS is what I'm talking about


This one was baffling to me when I first moved out here. On the east coast, especially the Northeast with NYC and Philly, people are serious about their delis. Our neighborhood grocery store had a deli counter that is easily three times the size of any I’ve seen here in a grocery. (You see that photo up there? That is a proper deli counter. It extends beyond the woman in green.) The discrepancy was even more obvious to me because I spent time in college working behind one of those counters. We had eight kinds of ham, nine kinds of turkey, three varieties of roast beef. We had olive loaf and head cheese and liverwurst. Five varieties of Swiss cheese. If someone new came up and said simply “give me a half pound of ham” we’d have to ask them three or four questions and probably give samples to determine what they liked. Out here, there are typically two varieties of ham, four kinds of turkey including the “fancy” flavored ones, and two types of Swiss. Plus, everything costs more because it’s California. Disappointing!

3. Proper Bagels

Bagels are a big deal in the Northeast. Families will buy a dozen every week. Everyone I knew had bagels on the weekend, had bagels in the breadbox or the freezer. Toast pales in comparison to a bagel. A real bagel that is. Here’s the deal with proper bagels: you have to boil them first. Boil, then bake. That’s what gives them that characteristic “snap” on the outside surface. It is also what makes them harder to chew. Classic bagel flavors are all savory: garlic, onion, pumpernickel, sesame etc. I have no problem with the sweet ones like blueberry, cranberry and whatnot, provided that they are actually bagels.

Somewhere along the line, it was discovered that many Americans have no clue what a bagel is supposed to be like. And so they cut out the boiling step and just bake the darn things. I like to call these abominations “round bread”. Panera is definitely guilty of this. I think most of the pre-packaged bagels like Thomas’ are the same way. Now don’t get me wrong, the things that Panera sells as “bagels” are delicious. But they are not really bagels.

I think that Noah’s Bagels makes them properly out here but I haven’t had any in a while. Now that I’m doing the low-carb lifestyle thing it’s mostly a moot point, but it would be nice to have the real thing for a treat once in a while.

delicious noms

Mmmm, carb-y goodness

4. Thunderstorms

This may seem like an odd thing to add, but there is something magical about a thunderstorm to me. Watching the lightning streak down in perfect bolts, counting for the thunder. There have been exactly two thunderstorms in the seven years I’ve lived here. I know that it is exactly two because I immediately dropped what I was doing and went and watched both of them at the window. The first one also made me cry because it made me homesick. We had thunderstorms every summer back home. Usually on a hot August evening. It rains year round back home, you see, unlike here where May arrives and it stops raining until November. I miss thunderstorms. I remember being a kid with all of us sitting around the window, holding our breath, waiting for the next spectacular bolt to arc and split the sky. We’d shut off all the lights, the fans would be running to air out the muggy summer air (no central air in those days), all four kids quiet for once. Free entertainment. Mother Nature puts on a good show.

5. Songbirds

Now, don’t get me wrong, we have songbirds out here. They just aren’t the same ones I grew up with. The most obvious absence is the Northern Cardinal with his brilliant red feathers and distinctive chirp. We’d often see matched pairs at my parents’ feeders, the brilliant male and the dun-colored female. Even the female has red accents though, and they make a handsome pair in the trees. I also miss Blue Jays even though they are actually quite obnoxious at the feeder. I love the little crests on their heads and how they’ll crack whole peanuts with glee. Blue Jays have an obnoxious squawk instead of a chirp, but it was a sound I was familiar with.

Out here we have the Scrub Jay instead. While they are quite pretty as well, and they also squawk, the squawking is totally obnoxious to me. It is like nails on a chalkboard. Before I knew what they were called, I derisively referred to them as “Squawky Birds”. And they were everywhere, making a racket.

Other noticeable differences: fewer spring Robins. The goldfinches are a different species (Lawrence’s vs American) and there are no purple finches.

All of it combines to make being outdoors a different experience. We do have chickadees and sparrows, but the difference is more obvious now when I do return home and hear all those bird songs again.

What are your “home things” that you miss?

What about you? Have you moved away from “home”? What do you miss most? Is it a place? A food? The weather? Have you moved a lot and gathered little favorites from several places? Share your story in the comments!

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4 Responses to “Feels Like Home”

  1. Bika May 15, 2011 at 8:06 pm #

    I miss cloudy, cool days, the smell of rain and graceful firs & pines. I miss the green things everywhere, the local produce, walking in the woods, not needing central air.

    When I move back, I’ll miss GA for the spectacular storms and the ability to gloat when it snows everywhere north of the Carolinas while I’ve got blue skies and 70 degree weather.

  2. Caulle May 16, 2011 at 1:37 am #

    The things I miss from back home are more things that I miss from Canada in general. Stuff like Tim Horton’s. I know Seattle is supposed to be the capital of coffee in the US, but nothing brews at home better than Tim’s IMO.

    Other rarities include Ketchup chips, Oreos (we use a sugary icing in ours, not wimpy cream), MacIntosh toffee bars, Crunchies, Hickory Sticks, St Hubert’s, Laura Secord easter eggs etc. Mind you it’s all junk food I don’t need. But every time my mom or sister come to visit I always put in an order with them and it’s just a nice reminder of home.

  3. Jen May 18, 2011 at 4:29 pm #

    I moved from New York City to Seattle about 6 years ago, so I know exactly where you’re coming from. Proper delis, proper bagels. I was so happy when we discovered Noah’s Bagels. Proper pizza, too.

  4. Jason May 23, 2011 at 11:23 pm #

    I grew up all over, and when I moved out 8 years ago kept that gypsy lifestyle and have added a few places to those I enjoyed when I was a kid.

    I lived in NJ for a while, in Monmouth County when I was a kid, and there was a pizza place there called Giovanni’s, best pizza I’ve ever had, little mom and pop place in Oceanport. We moved to MD after that, and there’s a couple places there I really liked a lot, but one was a pretty plain jane hot dog stand called Anne’s Dairy-Creme. The waitresses have never written an order down, and never gotten one wrong either as far as I know.

    From there, I jumped off on my own to AL for a few years, and found a couple of ethnic places; Korean and Thai. Yes, Korean and Thai food in Montgomery, AL. Who would have thought, right? I skipped out after 6 years, which seemed like an eternity, winding up in Texas for a few months, and loved the heck out of the awesome mexican that was all over the place there, but mostly this little taqueria/bakery place. Awesome pastries and even better tacos. Moved to Ohio after that stint, and found yet another awesome little hole in the wall mexican place in downtown Dayton, along with a chain BBQ place out in Columbus. But my favorite by far is a little family run hole in the wall restaurant with a 3-star chef on staff south of Dayton, called Christopher’s. Can’t say enough good about the place.

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