We spent yesterday in the car touring “gold country” in Northern California on yet another search for the perfect place to set up our new nest. This was a really successful trip. Beautiful area, affordable housing, small historic downtown areas, shopping centers within reach, and glorious forested mountains as a backdrop. My internal vibes were singing a happy tune.
Not wanting to leave any stone unturned we headed back up into the hills to explore all the surrounding areas, at one point stumbling upon Rough and Ready, California which was a small town with big historic significance nestled in a beautiful wooded area. Now by small, I mean that the sign welcoming you to the community and the one reading “Goodbye, Come Again Soon”, were nailed on opposite sides of the same post. It had a wonderful rural charm but I need a little more city mixed in with my country, but that’s just me. Basically, I love being out of the big city but I, at the very least, need a Starbuck’s, a Walmart and a grocery store within a ten-mile radius. That for me is whittling it down to the bone.
For years I functioned in traffic that took me two hours to travel twenty miles and never blinked an eye, because I was used to it. When I moved to the south and found myself setting up house in a small lumber town in Arkansas that had a Walmart, a Foster’s Freeze, a small diner, a grocery store, a bait store/movie rental/Post Office as it’s list of amenities I went through a total culture shock. Where were the malls, the restaurants, the theaters? Just a note, Foster’s Freeze, although producing an excellent cheeseburger and crispy fries, does not include a caramel macchiado on its list of selections. What?? I mean, what?? After getting used to breathing the incredibly heavy, damp, hot air that is indigenous to that area of the country, and finding myself able to function outside of the air conditioning without sucking at the air like a distressed guppy, I began satisfying my curiousity about my new surroundings.
Lush, green vegetation was the first thing that struck me. It was everywhere. Trees were covered in it, surrounded by it, it crawled, crept, climbed and existed everywhere I looked. A ripe, not wholly unpleasant, smell emanated from these dense areas of foliage. This was due, or so I was told by the locals, to the fact that a quick dousing of rain appeared every day as if on schedule, as though a benevolent God knew those in the region were suffering from the midday heat and in a moment of compassion sent down a cooling bath. The water doused the top layer of leaves and then wept through to the layers below. This, it seemed, created sort of a mulch effect, if you will, causing the lower layers without access to the heat of the sun to rot creating the pungent aroma. Thank you, Susie, probably more information about the region than I’ll ever need to glean, but appreciate the time you spent on it.
This, for me, was my first experience with true rural living. As I transitioned, and became used to the fact that everyone from the butcher to the clerk in Walmart said to me at one point or another, “You’re not from around here, are you?”, I embraced it. A slower pace, most definitely, a different lifestyle entirely for me. I’m not sure when it happened but I can remember just feeling the stress loosen up my joints and my mind and felt myself relax and sloooooooowww down.
Don’t misunderstand me, I love all that the city has to offer. New York, Las Vegas, Vancouver, Montreal, San Francisco, Atlanta, Boston and their kin all are fascinating and I would go there again in a minute if a trip was offered, but I would want a quiet place to come home to. This time on the trail of a new home I’m looking for a great kitchen, a nice view and friendly neighbors. Cross your fingers.
I digress. Yesterday we took our fourteen year old granddaughter along for the ride. It’s getting toward the end of the summer, boredom has set in, and even a day with her grandparents looked good apparently. Our route took us along Highway 49 and, as I said, directly through “gold country”. This, kind of naturally led to a conversation about the history of the area and the California gold rush. I brought up what California must have looked like to the first pioneers as they guided their wagons over the hills. A pioneer, to Lizzie, is someone who had to struggle with the hardships of a black and white TV with only 13 stations and no remote, and a phone that was umbilically connected to the wall. During our conversation I began to wonder if they even taught history or geography in the classroom anymore or just started with Steve Wozniak in his garage and proceeded from there. As I went on about there being no drive thru’s and if you wanted meat you had to shoot it, skin it, and cook it over a fire, the look of sheer horror grew on her face and I’m sure she was convinced I was making all this up just to mess with her mind. Smile.
It reminded me of a girl I worked with fresh out of college who asked me if Maryland (pronounced like Disneyland) was in South America. I think I might have formed an incredulous expression which prompted her to say, “oh, sorry, that’s right it’s in Europe”. Really? The same girl processed our mail every day and emailed on one occasion to inquire what the significance of the PA was after Pittsburgh. Good thing she was pretty. Once I was discussing Canada with a co-worker and said I was from Halifax, Nova Scotia. A lot of people aren’t clear as to Nova Scotia’s whereabouts on a map, so I explained it was located on the far east coast above Maine when asked. He was completely shocked. It seemed he thought Canada’s landmass only extended east from British Columbia to above Montana. Well, I must admit with all the new countries sprouting up all over the world, I get confused at times myself.
At any rate I’m in a brisket kind of mood. Since I’m packing and have young company I’m doing one in the crockpot. This is quick to put together and great at the end of the day.
Crockpot Brisket Sandwiches with Cucumber Dill Sauce
1 3-3 1/2 lb. beef brisket
1 Tbsp. Hungarian paprika (regular can be used)
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1 large onion, sliced thin
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 14.5 oz. can stewed tomatoes
1/2 can Rotel tomatoes
1 14.5 can beef broth (reduced sodium)
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp. Liquid Smoke
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
8 Kaiser rolls
Cucumber dill sauce
Spray 6 quart crockpot with cooking spray. Place sliced onions on bottom. Season brisket with salt and both peppers. Place brisket on top of onion slices. Mix together all remaining ingredients and pour over top. Cook on low heat for 10 hours. Remove meat from sauce and shred with two forks. Place back in pot and coat with sauce. Remove with slotted spoon and serve on browned rolls topped with cucumber dill sauce.
Cucumber Dill Sauce
1/2 large English cucumber, peeled and sliced thin
1 cup plain yogurt
1 1/2-2 Tbsp. dried dill (taste as you add)
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
Chill sauce for one hour to allow flavors to marry.