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Jul 7, 2006 07:42 PM

Debate: The Best Home Chow is in CALIFORNIA

I just ate lunch at home, Pacific Time you see, and I'm convinced: The best home chow is in California. I remember living with sad food on the East Coast and anticipating wildy that first taste of wild strawberries or white peaches or wild baby arugula when I made it over to my friend's apartment in Paris for part of the summer.

But now I don't anticipate. The strawberries here are just as good as in Europe. The white peaches make me moan. I'm drowning in baby arugula. Wild fennel. Zucchini blossoms. And on and on.

I know, I know. This claim raises issues. Local versus Global. Regional differences etc. Farmers markets here and there. Do chains like Whole Foods make such differences obsolete? Will they? (No.)

You may have your favorite singular things, regional things, and you home chow them well enough where you are. But my bet is that in the United States, across the board, the best home chow is in CALIFORNIA. Maybe I shouldn't say this, because then you will all move here.

We know what California restaurants have done for eating in this country. But my home chowing life has been completely transformed since arriving here.

I haven't even gone to Europe in the summer for two years. And don't tell me it is because the flight is longer now, its easier to go there from the East Coast, all that. It's because the best home chow is in California!

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  1. YES! I do agree! I am also a transplant -- to Los Angeles, and some of our most quality foods have been enjoyed at home, especially the wonderful produce available here.

    There are many week nights that we mention going out for dinner, and then we immediately agree that eating home can be just as or even more exciting and delicious. It is often easier, too, because the produce is so good, nothing really needs to be done to it!

    1. I can't say if that is true as I have not been to California much in the last several years.

      But I would like to offer Portland, OR as another contender.

      I have been twice in the last 2 years and the farmers markets there are amazing.

      1. It's true, the berries available in the summer in Portland are truly amazing, and cheap too. However, I wonder what it's like in winter compared to L.A., produce-wise?
        It seems like nothing really tastes quite as good as it did when I lived in Paris 23 years ago, though, but that's probably just nostalgia.
        By the way, Trader Joe's has some really sweet orange-fleshed honeydews at the moment -- worth a try.

        1. "Maybe I shouldn't say this, because then you will all move here."

          I promise you: I will never, ever want to move to California.

          Thankfully with what Minnesota has to offer, I don't feel compelled to move for lack of "home chow".

          4 Replies
          1. re: MSPD

            I'm going to have to back MSPD on this. In all of my years of living in California, I never tasted a strawberry as toe-curlingly sweet as the wild Minnesota strawberry I enjoyed a couple of weeks ago.

            Besides, isn't it cheating to call what grows in California "home chow" if the water you need to grow it is brought in from elsewhere?


            1. re: The Dairy Queen

              Well, most of the water comes from Northern California. I agree that the persistent raising of enormous metropolises in the middle of the desert (LA, etc.) is less than brilliant and certainly not responsible. To wit, Phoenix is now experiencing humidity because of all their frickin' golf courses.

            2. re: MSPD

              Ditto. I was offered a very nice job in the LA area and absolutely couldn't imagine living there. I moved to Boston instead and love it here.

              I do envy Californians the long growing season. But farmers markets everywhere have excellent produce. I just picked up some mizuna and red oak-leaf lettuce for dinner. We're having grilled lamb from a farmer we know. We finished the baby arugula two days ago and the romaine is almost gone. Strawberries which we picked ourselves were at their peak about 2 weeks ago so we came home with 20+ pounds. I'm looking forward to tomato season so I can slow-roast a big batch to keep us going through the winter.

              We should all celebrate our favorite, local foods. There's no need to boast about being better than anyone else.

              1. re: MSPD

                No one I know would ever say that I am incapable of cooking fabulous home chow because I can't get good produce. While 'buying farm fresh' is a phrase I can only use during a limited time each year in MN with regards to what I buy, commerce makes it simple for me to enjoy good produce year round. Whether it comes from the market stall at our local farmers markets or from the grocer, it's still from the farm. I can still make wonderful chow. More importantly than where your food comes from is the ability to tell what constitutes the good from the bad. You can find bad quality produce anywhere, from CA to MA and all areas in between. A perfect peach exists not only on the edge of the grove in CA or CO, but in a box in my grocers as well and as long as I know how to spot it, where it comes from or how far it travels is irrelevant.

              2. "We should all celebrate our favorite, local foods." Let's celebrate.

                "There's no need to boast about being better than anyone else." But it's fun to boast!

                I'm sorry, I'm being flip. I do sense a philosophy in your last two sentences, and I would normally agree with it.

                But, debate: California is different. It isn't just a long growing season.
                It's something like ... the extremity of regions and climates and kinds of land like you have in Europe packed closely together? It is ... ?