"So a lot of us raced around the rat exercise wheel, to get good grades and positions, to get into the best colleges and companies, and to keep our weight down. Most of us have done fairly well in our lives. We've learned how to run on that one wheel, but now we want a refund.
At best, seeking [your] own truth is very nice, but it's beside the point. At worst, one would worry that [you are] beginning to resemble a native Californian."
- Anne Lamott, Stitches
Moving to a new home in a foreign place is a lot like going on a very expensive but terrible vacation. It’s exciting! And stimulating! What an adventure. But that whole ‘relaxation’ thing is lacking. And every time you turn around you feel like you've been pick pocketed.
Boxes. Broken appliances. Ants in the bed, ants in the cat’s food dish, ants on the walls.
I keep having a vision of a giant, round tub full of water, with holes all around the side. The giant tub is leaking everywhere and try though I might, I simply cannot cover all the holes at once. Owning a house is expensive.
Much like a holiday, though, I'm learning a ton. It's immersive learning, done without much planning or effort. In two weeks, I've learned the names and markings of at least two dozen plants: the haunting red bark of a manzanita; the outturned leaves of a sunburst aeonium; the colourful sparks of the numerous native buckwheats.
Not to mention the fruit trees! I am happy to report we now own a fig tree, which evidently bears its crop twice a year. And if I can just sort out their watering regime, we should have five thriving citrus trees in no time flat. We are proud parents indeed.
As with travel, I've also gained new habits and obsessions. We are waking earlier, working less and reading books for the first time in years. As I adapt to this new space, I'm beginning to take in the locals' eating habits: meyer lemons, wildflower honey, divine greek yogurt from LA.
My sudden constant craving for coconut water has me thinking I could easily disguise myself as a native Californian. I've become rather a connoisseur of the stuff — quickly distinguishing between the more and less delicious varietals. I simply cannot get enough coconut! I've even taken to these ridiculous dairy free coconut ice cream bars. After decades of failing to follow a lactose free lifestyle, suddenly in California, if it has coconut in it, I'm interested. (And so, I might report, is the cat!)
It was not surprising that I found myself trying to substitute coconut oil when attempting to mimic the delicious (but expensive) local wild sesame honey granola. The package also listed 'quinoa flakes' which had me scratching my head and searching the aisles to find what on earth these were. The rest of it was rather straight forward, as was the tweaking. Flax seeds seemed a suitably healthy, Californian addition, as did meyer lemon.
At least where the food is concerned, it is proving easy to blend in.
In time the rest of the house will fall into place and it will begin to feel like home. At some point, I'll stop staring up at the palm trees wondering where the hell I am and how the hell I got here.
We will learn how the irrigation system works, and avoid the literal draining of money from a leaky hose. We will replace the futon with a proper couch and remove our mattress from the floor. We will figure out where on earth to put the cat's litter box in 1500 square feet of endless space. And perhaps most pressingly, we will learn how to step outside without getting burnt.
In time, I too will resemble a native Californian!
Sesame Seed Granola
As with all granola, ratios and exact ingredients are flexible and can be adapted to your preferences. Use as a guide! Makes around 2 quart + 1 pint jars full.
1 + 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup quinoa flakes
1/2 to 1 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup flax seeds
3/4 cup pecans, roughly chopped
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 tsp coarse salt
zest from a large (meyer) lemon
3 to 5 tbsp honey
1/2 cup coconut oil
1 to 2 tsp sesame oil
1 egg white, whisked briefly
1. Preheat oven to 300 if it takes that long. I use my toaster oven so it doesn't.
2. Combine dry ingredients + lemon zest in a big bowl. Add coconut oil, sesame oil and honey (potentially whisked together first but they didn't cooperate for me too well) and stir to evenly distribute. Add whisked egg and stir some more.
3. Put in a baking sheet that's rimmed (ideally). Press down on the granola with a flat flipper/spatula to increase granola chunk-y-ness.
4. Bake for 20 minutes. Turn over the granola once to cook it evenly the press it back down again. Bake for another 20-25 minutes until browned to your taste. Remove from oven, press down some more, let it cool.
5. Store in an airtight container for 2 weeks (if it lasts that long! I already started eating the chunks while it was cooling in the pan. Oops...)