Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The California Diaries: A Well Stacked Breakfast

Ok, so the walk was really great. Seeing as it's Sunday morning, and Mami's out of town, it's time to get breakfast the man's way - go to a restaurant.

We drive out of Saratoga, and make our way through Cupertino. There's a whole slew of little towns around here - Cupertino, Palo Alto, Saratoga, Mountain View, Campbell, Los Gatos and so on. They house the people who rake in the moolah at San Jose (guess what? they pronounce it "Hoseiy") and San Fransisco. People here are tech-oriented, highly educated, very smart and snazzily rich - you can see Silicon Valley written all over them.

Crossing into the town of Campbell, we make for its Downtown. Mama explains that each of these towns have a Downtown section, a place where all the commercial activity takes place viz. where all the malls and restaurants are. We're headed for Stack's, a very popular All-American breakfast and lunch joint. We park at a turning ahead of the place. The sight of at least 8 people standing before us at the entrance marks out both Stacks' popularity and the wait we're likely to have, having come past 10 am on a Sunday morning. The guy at the entrance tells us we're gonna have to wait around an hour at the outset. As we walk around outside to kill time we're pleasantly surprised at the sight before us.

It's Sunday, and the Downtown Road end has been let for a farmer's fair. The street is filled with stalls of people selling fruits and vegetables (processed and raw), meat, fish and food products like jam, pickles etc. The first stall is a hot dog stand, selling 4 different old favourites. Going down we see a bagel joint, a fishmonger of sorts, and a fruit-seller. The man sells plums of a variety that look and taste like apples. I forget what he called them.

We come across this almond vendor. 50 types of roasted and treated almonds - honey roasted, stir fried, plain roasted and so on. He's got a set of 7-8 jars that have these almonds in 'em, and you can try a sample. Mama ppoints out one, and we all take a couple from it. Hey, the flavouring is some sort of exotic Mexican thing, but it' s exactly like masala. And the almonds add a richness you don't find in peanuts. I happily tilt the jar again and take around 8, before Mama reminds me that these are free "samples", and in the US, there is an unspoken definition of a "sample" as being way less than that!!

Further down, more stuff and more people. There's this old African guy with a space to himself. He's got a mike and a banjo, and is making the most of both. A couple of mid-40's ladies are helping him out with the vocals. I suddenly notice, the guy's also got percussion plates attached to his legs or knees. For a second he reminds me of Dick Van Dyke from Mary Poppins.

We're at this preserves shop. The sign says "Preserved Apricots and Honeyed Products" or something. Mama doesn't notice and moves on. I take notice, not of the maal being sold but of this semi-Mexican girl with brownish hair there. Smooth skin, round face and incredible suntan. Very curvaceous figure. Thick black hair that goes around the face like Eve Mendes'. My cousin stops at the stand next to it and picks up a packet of fresh strawberries. He points them out. My mind however isn't on strawberries or apricots. With all deference to any girls or ladies who might read this, it's on another fruit altogether!!

Anyway, about half an hour has passed. We make our way back to the restaurant, deciding to take pot luck. Another 40 minutes, but it's possible somebody with a reservation (made half an hour ago) might not show up. So we wait. Conversation revolves around California as a State. I am freaked at leavingthis place. I'm heading off shortly to a place with 6 months of -20 degrees winter. What in God's name am I doing, leaving this land of milk and honey behind (pun intended, btw) ?

While waiting inside, I see more clearly, and comfortably, the female forms amidst those waiting and those helping out at the restaurant. It's summer, so places like these would be hiring a lot of students to do stuff. And unlike India, cafe waiters do not belong to the bottom social rung occupied by domestic help (Hell, in US domestic help occupy a very high social rung).
There's a lot of young girls around. I see this white girl with her family ( Should I have said family with this daughter? ). She has brown hair, greyish blue eyes and a rare smoothness of skin colour (Oh yeah, a hell of a lot of Americans tend to turn spotted and pinkish in the sun. Being from the tropics definitely helps the complexion). First thing noticeable are her shorts - they're called Daisy Dukes - cutoffs that end, quite beautifully, way above her knee. Way way above. And to make life better, she has slim muscular legs, worth an occasional letch. Again, all deference to those girls and ladies who might read this. Anyway, my eyes work their way up, and when her top is reached, "Stack" is less of a cafe name and more of an aesthetic theme for the surrounding environment, like a Firefox skin.

I sit and ogle comfortably, turning back to join in the conversation in between. I ask my cousin out of faint curiosity "Do people always dress like that without the least self-consciousness ?" He looks at the subject in question, grins and replies in the affirmative. Apparently, they have to impose dress codes at school to prevent this there. God's Own Country.

The waiter takes our orders. My cousin's going for a burrito with eggs, and my uncle for pancakes. I decide to try something unique. "Belgian waffles" I say "Banana and Pecan nuts" I say Pecan like Bacon. Mama tells me its pronounced "payk-aun". More work due on pronounciation. Here, 'how' isn't pronounced "How", but "Haaouw", so it rhymes with "Hu Jintao"!!!

While we're waiting, my roving eye now falls upon the girl at the cash register. This one's slim too, with Emma Watson-esque hair, and very cute spectacles (wtf am I saying?). She's very animated, moving about telling other waiters and waitresses what to do, taking bills, punching cards and stuff. My cousin tells me she's probably a college student. Interesting, not just her figure and looks, but also the idea of summer jobs there vs. here.

Belgian waffles are incredible. They're covered with whipped cream and fruit. Terrific eating. One word of advice, however. Don't eat the fruit first, and then the waffles and cream. The mixture is terrifically rich. So rich, it starts to make you green around the gills a bit.

Mocha coffee follows to wash down the meal. I sigh in satisfaction. Cool weather, brilliant sunshine, hot girls and great food. What more can life really offer?

Monday, August 07, 2006

The California Diaries: A Walk in the Park....

Jet lag still not worn off... majorly unable to sleep in the morning. Got up at 5.30 am, waited in my room till about 10 minutes, and got out. Moped about the house till Mama made tea. Tea major disappointment. You'd think the tea here would be some sort of ambrosia that had the flavour of rainbows and tasted like lightning and actuall had the effect you see on TV. No such effect. More importantly, the tea's just Brooke Bond. Damn. Globalization sucks the exotic out of everything.

Mama's house is a bungalow. Its got a lawn with automated sprinklers, a lovely entrance gate, and a garage door that opens with a remote. Walls are made of wood. All around are similar houses. Variety of colours and sizes. Typical suburban environment. Haven't met any Brees, Edies or Gabrielles as yet, though.

Went for an hour long walk in the hills. Freemont Older Open Space Preserve. One of the more impressive things about actually planning out your suburbs, and in the process, keeping specific designated forest areas, is that you can have both developed living area with all the frills and thickly forested nearby hills for the simpler pleasures. Drove there (Get in on the right side of the car when not driving - need to get used to this. And to fastening your seatbelt whenever you drive). Incredible place. Twenty minutes from Saratoga's Stewart Court suburb, though I have no real idea as to the roads taken. Another impressive factor about this preserve - it's big enough to hold deer, and their population is so high as to cause them to migrate into the suburbs at times (I actually saw one en route). Most impressive of all - its all clean grounds and woods, with no plastics, glass bottles or Kurkure packets. This really is God's own country.

Hiked upto Maisie's Peak, within that Preserve. Lovely view from the top. You can see the central Spire of Stanford University, and this huge baseball field which, I think belongs to UC Santa Clara (This is Santa Clara District btw). The city of San Fransisco is within this huge bay, into which the Pacific flows. The bay is surrounded by hills, and kind of cut off as a geographical feature. As it's a bay, the district is called, the Bay Area.

Came back home.......

Will describe breakfast on my next post.