Andy Hinds | Parenting
When I was a senior in high school in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, there was this seemingly cool girl who had just moved to our area from California. She had interesting hair, wore a biker jacket with long skirts and ran with a clique that I sometimes deigned to hang out around, despite their failure to recognize that Minor Threat was far more culturally relevant than Depeche Mode.
One night we were all sitting around a campfire at a party in somebody’s field, when this girl just started sobbing. All her friends rushed to comfort her, as she unloaded about how miserable she had been since leaving California. She missed her friends back home, and the beach, and “the scene,” and … the food.
The drama that flared up at every high school party always made me feel simultaneously fascinated and awkward; but my reaction to this was new. I was repulsed and angry.
“How DARE you,” I thought. “I can (and do) disparage the place where I live whenever I want – because I’m from here. But you! YOU! With your big stupid California ideas and California friends that are better than us and your beaches and your California food?
“Do they really have different food there? I mean we have Wendy’s and Roy Rogers. What else do you need? Screw you and screw stupid California too!”
I didn’t really say any of this, of course, but rather simply edged away and joined another conversation already in progress, probably concerning pickup trucks, avoiding the California girl for the rest of the year.
My wife and I have lived in California for 13 years now, and we know that there’s no turning back. Our daughters were born in San Diego and there are countless reasons that the idea of moving away is just too heartbreaking to even contemplate. This town is a kids’ paradise without parallel. If we had to move to the Midwest or some other non-coastal suburb, our girls would become the insufferable California kids that complain about everything.
What’s more, I’m afraid they would stop eating.
Yes, our 4-year-old twins are food snobs. They never had a chance to be otherwise. My wife and I, like most from Uptown, are pretty particular about what we eat. But we grew up in other parts of the country, and have traveled to and lived in far-flung places where you couldn’t get four different varieties of delicious avocados for a buck apiece – gasp – and tacos came in a kit that included a stack of brittle tortilla “shells” with a seasoning packet that smelled like musty armpits. So we understand that we are spoiled, and we try not to be too smug about it.
During my wife’s pregnancy and well into her breastfeeding tenure, she had an insatiable (and uncharacteristic) appetite for Bronx Pizza. A mother knows what she needs; and if she needs pizza, it might as well be the best in town.
When the kids started eating solid food, it was homemade purees of fruits and vegetables from the Hillcrest Farmers Market. And when their chewing skills developed, they were weaned on – in addition to home-cooked meals with organic ingredients from Sprouts, of course – Bread & Cie croissants and fish tacos from Mama Testa.
Now, they are practically regulars at local spots like Urban Solace, Buona Forchetta, Wang’s North Park, URBN, Señor Mango’s and Cantina Mayahuel, just to mention a few. When we’re on a road trip and have to eat at a rest stop Chipotle, they’re like, “What the hell is this supposed to be? I guess I’ll just eat the chips and drink some water.”
It’s not just the great Uptown restaurants that have ruined our kids’ chances of ever assimilating into an area with a less vibrant food culture. It’s also the produce. When my sister visits from Montana (a lovely state with a short growing season), she never fails to marvel at the mountains of nectarines, plums, apricots, melons and other fresh fruit that clutter up our kitchen counter.
“Oh, that?” I say when she expresses her envy and disbelief. “I guess we do have pretty good fruit around here.”
It’s getting more and more difficult to remember when I lived in places where fresh strawberries were a big deal. But my kids will never know such hardship. I don’t think they’ve ever even eaten one of those bland, mealy, grocery-store tomatoes before.
When we moved to San Diego, it was supposed to be temporary. But we got sucked in, as many do. And besides, if we ever leave San Diego what will the poor kids eat?