Friday, July 27, 2007

California barbecue

Had lunch with Nikos today and Johnny today. Johnny with the white maid. (Incidentally, the Krog Blog was his title) Nikos is a born and bred Californian and those types are always a different style. They're never...committed to anyything. There's nothing tethering them to a greater community. No...shared foods or childhood traditions or...anything beyond collective apathy and occasional annoyance. White wine could possibly be the throughline, but Californian families don't give chardonnay to their 6-year olds, so even that bond is broken. Tacos...MAYBE. If there's an earthquake or the Lakers win a title, people come together for about two weeks, but then those bubbles fizz out like an oldCoke.

When you grow up on the East Coast or in the Midwest, many, many things foster that sense of community. That idea that we're all in this together. Lenten fish frys, scraping your windshield on a December morning eating white corn in the summer, scratching mosquito bites, watermelon on sale for 19 cents a pound, that 66 degree day in March that makes you think spring is early followed by three more inches of snow the next week. It's getting a little too precious and poetic in here, so lemme just say...all that shit we all go through together. It brings us all closer.

California just doesn't have it. If you do something two years in a row, that's enough to qualify as tradition. Do something five years in a row out here and you have a lineage to rival the Vatican. Do something ten years in a row and you don't live in California.

That brings us - eventually - to Nikos' lunch. He ordered the barbecue brisket. The sandwich, like any piece of barbecue, comes with cole slaw. When Johnny and I asked why his slaw was sitting there so virginally, Nikos noted that he doesn't like cole slaw. He thinks. And this - THIS! - perfectly sums up Californians and their utter lack of honor for tradition.

How do you even attempt to eat barbecue without cole slaw? The cool, sweet crispiness walking down the aisle with smoky, soft meat? My GOD do those things go together. Only a native Californian would eat a barbecue sandwich and leave the slaw untouched. If you were from Atlanta, you would eat the slaw even if you were allergic to mayonnaise. Even if you KNEW eating slaw guaranteed a date with the epi pen. Why? A respect for tradition.

I explained to Nikos that eating barbecue this way is like listening to all of your music in mono. So he tried the cole slaw, liked it, loved how it went with the sandwich and chomped away.

I'm sure by next week, he'll be back to ignoring the shreds. So Cali!

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