Well that’s an existential question, indeed.
But literally and physical I’m in …Los Angeles. Better known as SoCal.
Being back in LA is a strange experience – I went to college here (in Orange County, actually and yes, there is a difference and yes, people down here care about that distinction) and I’ve been back only once, for a quick weekend trip for my twenty-third birthday. And as I got to thinking about it, that was quite a few years ago, which actually, is amazing. Three years feels simultaneously a lifetime ago and then again, just yesterday; it’s funny how life work that way.
Coming back down the grapevine, the geographic division between Northern and Southern California, I started to get a funny feeling –for years I took the seven-hour drive down South and, towards the end of that period of time, became increasingly sure that I was much too NorCal to be able to live in SoCal. (And people wonder why there are constant wars over what seem, to an outsider, like innocuous regional differences). It wasn’t so much that the place was unbearable. In fact, there are many redeeming qualities – the beautiful weather, the ocean, the great food (not only Mexican, but also a general interest in eating good quality, whole foods), the abundance of exciting things happening that you can only get in a big metropolis – to the greater Los Angeles area, but I was pretty sure that if I stayed, all the negative things would probably end up sucking out my soul. You see if you’re not careful, SoCal can get you thinking that things, rather than people are what matter most. You might end up thinking that having a sexy car is important because your car, of course is all about your identity. You may end up thinking you’re not thin enough, well-dressed enough or blonde enough. If you have a tendency, as I do, to getting caught up in aesthetic, it can be a slippery slope.
This isn’t to say that it doesn’t happen in my neck of the woods, but when you’re shopping at WinCo every week, it does have a tendency to keep you grounded in the reality of a variety of different lifestyles.
All that being said, I’m looking at this as a bit of a test. Decidedly, four years after having graduated from university, I’m pretty different.
Well, at least, I’ve a had a lot of experiences that have grown my perspective: seeing so many corners of the world, good relationships, bad relationships, new friends, hobbies, health issues, employment, unemployment, and disappointments. A lot has changed. And all of these things have altered my worldview.
So I’m interested to see how much more the me now can stomach what the me then found so utterly unappealing. It’s an intriguing question, the factor of perspective on our emotional response. I’ll be interested to see what things that irritated me then will pop right back up to the surface and which ones will make me that, nah, it’s not so bad after all.
I’m only here for a week, but it should be plenty of time to get a feel for it again. And, of course, see some friends who unlike me, have managed to maintain a semblance of class and a down to earth nature, despite the potential negative. But what can I say? They must be better people than I. So, we’ll see how the week goes.
12 ounces orzo (rice-shaped pasta)
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cups crumbled seasoned feta cheese (such as basil and tomato; about 6 ounces)
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
3/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives
1 cup chopped tomato
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Cook orzo in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite. Drain. Transfer to large bowl. Combine lemon juice, vinegar, garlic, oregano, mustard and cumin in small bowl. Gradually whisk in remaining 1/2 cup olive oil. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper and add to warm orzo. Allow to cool slightly.
Toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add crumbled feta cheese, chopped bell peppers, Kalamata olives and tomatoes.
Add dressing to orzo mixture and toss to blend. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 6 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)