Porking My Way To My Past

Okay, before you all get your panties in a bunch over the fact that I used the term “porking” in the title of this blog, consider first what I do not mean. For one, if you were thinking I meant I was going to “pork” all kinds of people from my past, that’s obviously not going to happen because I’m married and the husband doesn’t usually look kindly on infidelity. If you are thinking I’m going to be going all Lord of the Flies on some pigs in their natural habitat, you are wrong on that as well.

No, when I say “porking my way to my past,” I mean eating. And, unfortunately, I mean a lot.

For those of you that don’t know me well enough, I grew up in Chicago. Well, the suburbs of Chicago to be precise. From my bedroom window every night, I could always see the glow of the city lights and faint outline of the buildings in the distance. Its lifestyle, its culture; everything about it made me who I am today.

This is probably why so many people hate me here in California. I am not, nor will I ever be, a California girl. We live in suburbia and I am most certainly not a suburban girl. For a few years, we lived in the LA sprawl, but this was absolutely nothing like what a real city is supposed to be. It’s just another suburb with bigger buildings, lots of smog, and more people. But more than that, no matter how often I wear flip flops and lose bits and pieces of my Chicagoan accent, I am just not a part of the Californian culture.

For one, Californians are very fast-paced people. They aren’t just fast-paced in the sense that they move quickly, but they actually cannot sit still. This is not always a good thing, though, for some of these people can’t even sit still long enough to enjoy life in the moment. I think my husband is one of these people – most of the time he has a hard time just being. He has to be doing and looking ahead, rather than looking around and seeing what we have now. Californians pride themselves on being forward-thinking people, but there are downfalls in this in the sense that they often move so fast to the future that they forget to appreciate the present. I am nothing like this at all. I think that living in the present and letting life slow down is one of the most important things a person can do for themselves.

For two, as a result of their fast-paced lifestyle, many Californians are very self-centered and judgmental people. I don’t mean this to be a negative comment, although it often comes across in a way that is a little off-putting. The majority of the Californians I have encountered act as though life in general is focused on them; and that their way of thinking is the way in which everyone should be thinking. The old stereotype of LA being comprised primarily of somewhat snobby people is true; and while there are definitely pockets of genuinely wonderful people (my friends among them), it’s sometimes hard to weed through all the narcissism.

For three, the food California has to offer is total and complete crap. I know I’m probably in the minority in thinking this, but it really is. On one side, you have an entire cadre of “authentic” ethnic foods, most of which is not really authentic in the least bit. Californians pride themselves on embracing these wonderfully exotic cultures – Brazilian for lunch (in a restaurant owned by a couple of guys from Nebraska); traditional Italian fare for dinner (again, somewhere owned by people that probably don’t even know where Italy is). All the while, California girls are embracing French couture, rambling on about how much a crepe is like a pancake, and updating their Facebook statuses with pithy cliche French phrases they saw on the side of a billboard; and California guys are shouting about drinking some cervezas. But not only is it all fake, it’s crap if you ask me. I mean it literally tastes like crap. Everything is over spiced, undercooked, and I sometimes have a hard time finding anything that doesn’t come crusted or layered with cheese. (Don’t get me wrong, a lot of food in Chicago is drowned in cheese … but it’s nothing like in California. In California it just makes no sense at all.)

Why my local Denny's ever thought putting mozzarella sticks inside a grilled cheese sandwich was a good idea, I will never understand

So in exactly two months from today, I’m going home to Chicago for my first trip in over eleven years. Don’t ask me for all the reasons why I haven’t yet been, because to be honest I’m not entirely sure myself. There were a few times I planned on going back but other things just got in the way. And recently, my ultimate misery in California has prevented me from going back because I know just how hard it will be to come back to this sprawl.

One of the things I have missed the most about Chicago (beyond the city, the friends, the family, the seasons, the Bulls, the baseball …) is the food. For all intents and purposes, I have not had a decent piece of pizza in the entire time I have been away. Same goes for hot dogs and the spaghetti; even the Mexican food in Chicago is better (irony? …I’d say so). Thus, it’s needless to say that when I do head home in two months, eating decent (and in many instances, healthier) food is on the top of the priority list. But while in some instances it is healthier – less covered in exotic cheese and spices that are currently eating a hole in my stomach – in most cases, it is a recipe for disaster – so much so that I’ve tripled my weekly trips to the gym, added a daily 15 minutes walk, and cut back another 500 calories in preparation. The last thing I want to do is turn into a blimp because my body has gotten used to not eating that much (since I really cannot stand California cuisine, yet cannot stand cooking even more). While I fully intend on porking my way to my past, I’d like to avoid that whole Simpsonian rag on stick scenario.

Next on the Homeward Bound docket: how hipsters in California have made me lose all faith in humanity.

8 responses to “Porking My Way To My Past”

  1. You’ve been away far too long, my dreary deary. For your heart’s sake, I hope you don’t stay long enough for your rose-colored veneer to get peeled away. I lived in Chicago and its neighboring burbs for 80% of my life, and most recently less than a year ago. I moved to SoCal to get away from all of the things you ascribe to the locals here and not a day goes by that it isn’t reaffirmed that I made the right move. Maybe it was just my proximity to Naperville, but regardless – there’s a reason that city is synonymous on FARK for self-centered, self-aggrandizing, shallow, impotently insecure, helicopter parenting douchebags.

    Here’s a joke a union carpenter friend told me once: “What’s the difference between a million dollar home in the city and a million dollar home in Naperville? The one in the city has furniture.”

    p.s.: Portillos is over-rated and over-priced.
    p.p.s: You know they have a store in Buena Park, about 90 miles from here, right?

  2. Northern California and Southern California should be two different states, with the Bay area as the border between them. They should be two different states, because they are such very different states of mind and ways of life. I lived in SF for a while and loved it there. But not much love from me for the LA area. A lot of people really are self centered there, and sometimes to a ridiculous and obnoxious degree.

    • I’ve heard that, although really haven’t spent much time in Northern California. I can’t stand LA – anything about it and I agree with you about the self-centeredness to an obnoxious degree. It’s absurd actually.

  3. I’ve never been to California and I think you’ve sold me on being ok with that. I can’t stand that fake crap. Growing up in a very down to earth place (Alaska) and moving to a place where women don’t leave their houses without caked on make-up and where money is meant to be wasted on socially “impressive” goods (Dallas), I can relate a bit. It’s funny how most people here don’t even realize they have that reputation or that there are other options. I imagine it’s the same for many in California. Maybe they know nobody else but other Californians would put up with them so that’s why they stay.

    • I think in California they are aware of it, but can’t accept that to themselves. They make every excuse they can imagine to stay in California for that reason I think. It’s sad, and yes Californians will not leave their homes without being perfectly groomed and make-upped.

  4. Good lord girl- we’re long lost sisters! I was born in Parkridge and grew up near Schaumburg!
    I lurv me some Italian beef, not EYEtalien mind you. Just good ol’ Portillos Italian beef and some Lou Malnatis pizza. Oh, and hot dogs with tomatoes and celery salt. why are they soo good??

    • HAH! That’s insane!! But it actually explains a lot of our eye-to-eye thinking.

      So I grew up in what is now Homer Glen (it was Homer Township at the time) and went to Lockport for high school (right across from Joliet). My dad worked in the Sears Tower for most of his career, but at the end before he retired worked in Sears’ corporate office right around Parkridge in Skokie. I just had a conversation last week with one of my old friends about how you cannot find good Italian beef anywhere outside of Illinois. When we moved to California, I became a vegetarian for the first five years in part because I couldn’t handle not being able to have Portillos haha!

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