Vacation Report 6: Chicago Food versus California Cuisine

So I’m pretty sure I have mentioned this before, but prior to our vacation to my sweet, home Chicago, I essentially starved myself for the months preceding so that I could eat whatever I wanted without worrying about returning to California in a hefty bag (for lack of any fitting clothing). While here, though, I realized that I actually eat better and weigh less when eating in the Midwest for a few reasons, though: (1) I don’t eat many sweets; and (2) I don’t indulge in emotional eating to make myself feel better about how unhappy I am in California.

While on this trip, I’ve made it a point to ask more about what makes food in the Midwest so much better. And unlike in California – where asking a question of your waiter or cook is a recipe for looks of annoyance and a pithy response like “it’s in the sauce,” many of the people I’ve asked have indulged me in my inquiry.

Chicago Food: Delis

In Chicagoland area, you have a lot more locally owned restaurants or local franchises that you won’t find in other areas. Sure, there are a lot of your run-of-the-mill Subways and Taco Bells, but right next door you almost always have a local and just-as-cheap alternative.

One thing that is amazing about the Chicagoland area is the deli meat. In California, I often notice that the deli meat is sliced thick and often “smothered” in something to make it a thick, meaty experience. In Chicago, though, it’s usually sliced very thin, which bodes for a lighter and more satisfying experience. Jason’s Deli is by far my favorite local spot for a sandwich or wrap.

Chicago Food: Flavorful

Another thing I have realized about Chicago food, is it is often about the flavor. I would argue that a lot of the food we eat in California is flavorful, but often the emphasis is not placed on the synthesis of flavors or enhancing the natural flavor of the food, itself. In particular, meat is not usually enhanced quite in the way that it is done in the Midwest, and I am sure this is in large part due to the fact that so much of the meat you eat in the Midwest is local.

The pizza is more flavorful as well, which is what makes it so popular. In California we use dry milk and bitter sauce. In the Midwest, though, emphasis is placed on the flavor of the crust and the sauce to eliminate those dry and bitter elements.

Now I rarely eat red meat, but when I am visiting home I do indulge in a little. Particularly noteworthy was the meatball sandwich I had a few days after arriving – it was (by far) one of the greatest sandwiches I have ever eaten.

Chicago Food: Fluffy

As I mentioned above about the deli meat, Chicago food is often sliced thin and fluffy-like. It goes beyond just the deli meat, though. The pizza almost never has gobs of cheese on it, which I find is a big problem with food in California – too much cheese. And while I would never recommend actually eating the food at White Castle, the shakes are another great example of the fluffiness of the cuisine in the Midwest. Whereas at In N’ Out on the west coast we have very thick, heavy shakes, the milkshakes at White Castle are so fluffy you can taste the bits of whipped air.

Chicago Food: More Interactive

Something else we don’t realize on the west coast is that our food is not terribly interactive. Oftentimes, you have little input in what goes in your food. You can request something to be “minus this” or “add that,” but then you get a lot of attitude and it is usually done wrong anyway.

In Chicago, though, your food is more interactive. You get to know who is cooking it – whether it be a restaurant owner, a waiter, or a friend or family member. You have more input and more options as well. Just the other day, we went to an Asian fusion place in the city and were able to head to their stir fry bar to select every piece of our meal. There are not many places in California that such an option exists, except (of course) your own home.

As a result of this, I have come to one conclusion – something I knew all along, but that was reiterated on this great trip home:

Chicago Food: Amazing

California Cuisine: Crap

Need I say more?

Vacation Report One: Misanthrope Does Not Stop at Los Angeles

I really and truly thought I was just a misanthropic, foul-mouthed bitch because of my surroundings. As much as I knew (and people told me) that the underside of humanity exists everywhere – not just L.A. – I hoped that as soon as I broke free from the western waters I would find myself less annoyed by people around me.

I was terribly terribly wrong. So wrong that I now realize this vacation is going to teach me a lot – mainly about myself and what has happened to my conceptions of the world since living in California.

Thus far, I have experienced the following “characters” during our 44 hour scenic train travel (that’s right, I’ve been on a train for 44 hours … no shower, plenty of sleep in our sleeping car, lot of sights):

(1) Most annoying lady on the planet

That’s right, I have found the most annoying woman on the planet. Maybe she’s just representative of annoying, middle-aged women everywhere; nonetheless, she was on the trip. Her annoyances included: talking so loudly during dinner the first night that we decided to take our meals in our sleeper cars lest we be forced to sit near her again; bitching in the middle of the night about the fact that the train was running about an hour late; and the icing on the cake, banging on the bathroom door while my 8 year old Pookie was (as she calls) “taking a whiz.”

(2) Kid who was lucky he got off when he did, because I was about to punch him

You know, in movies you see people traveling and there is always some annoying kid running around screaming like a maniac and hitting people. You think “haha, funny stuff – glad that doesn’t happen when I travel.” Well, somewhere around Albuquerque, that little asshole got on the train and was placed in the sleeping car next to us. The highlight was when the kid loudly sang a song in the Pee Wee Herman voice about his recent bowel movement.

(3) The Amish belcher

In the sleeper cab behind us, a man and his wife got on the train around Fullerton (California) and have been there the entire time. One thing to note is that they are Amish. Not like the colloquial application of the term and just out of date with their clothes and 1990s cell phones; these people are for real Amish. The husband apparently had some sort of intestinal issues, though, for I have never heard someone blow things out of the various orifices of their body as this guy did.

So we have about four more hours on this train, and while the experience of traveling across the country in it was amazing, I will probably never do it again. It’s just so long, and this bitch needs her shower time. Nonetheless, I have spaced out for the last two days and feel totally relaxed. Next stop, home sweet homecoming.

Planes, Trains, and B(itch)Mobiles

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles was such a great movie. Goddamn it was. It might be my secret love of Steve Martin – ever since Saturday Night Live and LA Story, I have always had an affinity for him. More likely, it’s the fact that seeing that movie over and over again has made me realize that no matter how awful my travel experiences have been, they could always be worse.

Today we had a major pre-vacation debacle, so I’m settling in for the night to watch the film yet another time in hopes it will make me feel better. For those that didn’t read my post a few days ago about our trip to FedEx, we had to ship the majority of our clothing because the train portion of our trip has no checked bag service. Since we’ll be gone for three weeks, this obviously made shipping our clothing a necessity. Well today, we received a call from FedEx informing us that the one box with all of my clothes was damaged and won’t be returned until well after our trip is over. Add in the fact that I just gave a huge portion of my clothing away to the rescue mission and it’s looking like I’ll be wearing potato sacks and hotel bathrobes for the majority of the trip.

So what else am I doing to make myself feel a little better this evening you ask? I’m scheduling our transportation to downtown Los Angeles where we will embark on this epic adventure of complexity,  cross-country sightseeing, and our own series of planes, trains, and automobiles. This brings up another set of my idiosyncratic biases, though, for I find something wrong with shuttle-type transportation in almost every way possible.

Heather’s Bias #1: Roadrunner-style shuttles are driven by people with issues

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but when I was in college I worked at a pharmacy as a Pharmacy Technician to pay the tuition bills and keep me on some form of health insurance. While there, I can remember helping a great number of people that drove Roadrunner and Roadrunner-type airport transportation shuttles. They all had issues. I don’t mean that they were all getting psych meds or anything (well, some were), but they all just were weird. One woman told me all about her boyfriend problems every single time she came in. On one occasion she asked if we could get coffee after my shift and talk more. Another time there was a couple that both drove those shuttles and there was some problem with their insurance that I handled, so they brought me a “Thank You” card. But after they signed it, they asked if I could ring it up for them on the cash register because they had found it in the store and hadn’t bought it yet. Then, after buying it, they asked if they could have it back with some White Out because they wanted to reuse it.

And I won’t even get into the last airport shuttle I actually rode in, where the driver had a sign displayed by his dashboard that read “accident-free for 8 days.” Just what happened 9 days ago? There will be no vanpool-style airport shuttles in this lady’s future.

Heather’s Bias #2: Taxis are loaded with STDs

Have any of you faithful blog followers ever watched Taxicab Confessions? Holy mother of God that show is awful. I remember one episode, actually many episodes, where people did it right in the back seat. That’s right, they had sexy times right there – with the camera on them and everything! And then at the end, the cab driver always asked if it’d be cool that they sign a form to be on the show and the people could never wait to sign the shit! Who knows what people with such low levels of inhibition have got going on down there!

This is why I don’t drink too much (when I’m out of the house, that is). Having to call a cab makes me feel like spraying Lysol all over my ass and praying to God I don’t catch a venereal disease just from sitting on the seats.

Heather’s Bias #3: People that ask for rides to the airport annoy me

Why would I want to be annoying in return? I used to not mind when people asked me for a ride to or from the airport. We used to live about three miles away from LAX and it was very convenient – until someone asked me to drive 45 miles to pick him up to drive him to that airport that was just three miles away from my apartment. Yeah sure, I have a never-ending gas budget to waste on driving you around. Shall I wear my chauffeur hat as well?

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind doing favors for my friends. But as with all things, there is a line where things go too far. I know that if I asked someone for a ride I would have to ask someone to go out of their way for me in such a way that some (often me) might consider annoying. I don’t want to be that person.

So what’s left? Airport-type parking for three weeks would be absurd in cost. After hemming and hawing for some time, now, I have come to the one conclusion that seems both affordable and the logical consequence to my terribly narrow-minded biases: a B(itch)mobile. That’s right, we’re taking a limousine. The most high maintenance, pretentious thing a person could ride in on their way to a lavish three week vacation. But a three week vacation can be considered by some to be a pretty pretentious thing too.

And let’s be realistic here: I’m the most high maintenance thing next to that expensive Jaguar parked down the street. I’m a diva too. A misanthropic diva with a foul mouth. It almost seems wrong not to ride in a limo. So it’ll be all champagne and rims in the back of a stretch b(itch)mobile for the automobile portion of our trip. Just a few days to go and I can already taste the champagne bubbling in the back of my high maintenance throat.