Now that we’re settled in to a semblance of daily life, I present a collection of small epiphanies regarding life on the East coast.

1.) I’ve been doing pasta wrong my entire life. My mom taught me how to boil noodles when I was a wee lass; instructing me to cook it until al dente at the stove on Heil Dr. She explained that it meant “to the tooth” and described it as “having a sort of bite.” Once out on my own, I was frequently frustrated by the difference between box instructions and the time it actually took to cook until “stick to the fridge” doneness. Ten to twelve minutes, my ass.

I’ve since nailed down my pasta home game, and was further validated by similarities with wonderful dishes at reputable Italian restaurants in Chicago. Then we moved to the East coast. Suddenly, all the pastas are showing up underdone. People wolf it down like it’s the best thing to happen to them. Professor X and I politely eat, then loudly complain in private about stomach problems for the next 24 hours.

Inspired by these experiences, I recently cooked some pasta shells according to the package instructions. The test piece emerged soft, yet retained that small sliver of “bite” in the middle – better than restaurant al dente, but not as pliable as usual. I figured it would be okay, but it was two shades shy of horrible. Since I refuse to adapt to undercooked pasta, my way, which is apparently overdone, will remain. At least it doesn’t smell like wet dogs and resemble mashed potatoes like the pasta in Paris.

2) We’re still working out the kinks in our grocery routine, but H-mart is our weekly go-to so far since we’re smitten with the place. Unlike many specialty grocery stores, H-mart is designed to be a one-stop shop. You can get paper towels at a reasonable price, as well as staples like milk, flour, and sugar. The store is clean. The produce, meat, and seafood are gorgeous and affordable. There’s also a bakery – Tous Les Jours – where you can pick up a coffee and macarons for the ride home. Do try the lemon yuzu “beauty-ade;” a bracing drink of yuzu juice, lemon ginger tea concentrate, and San Pellegrino topped with a lemon. Not entirely sure how it contributes to beauty, but I wake up craving it in the middle of the night. Should you arrive hungry, H-mart houses a banging food court too. Professor X likes the mapo tofu from the stall closest to the vegetable section.

3) Autumn seems to fall quickly on the East coast. One day it’s all swampy cicadas tomato and basil. With the flip of a switch, it’s slanting light crickets plums and squash. I’m accustomed to commercial venues prematurely pumpkin spice-ing since fall has become a highly marketable season. However, I couldn’t fathom either a hot drink or a jacket until mid-October in the Midwest. Here, it’s definitely on the wind.

That said, the Edison Target is a shonda. So is the Burlington Coat Factory. WHY ARE THERE NO COATS? Did I miss something since fall turns early here?

4.) After slow experimentation, I’m pleased to announce that I most likely did not develop a mid-life shellfish allergy. When Professor X and I moved to Oregon, we were excited about being so close to the Pacific and all the expanded seafood options that came with it. It was fine for a year or so, but my system took a turn that climaxed on my 40th birthday. After a pleasant lunch at Local Ocean, I suddenly knew the answer to Imodium’s existential query – “Where will you be when diarrhea strikes?” (On I5 heading north to Depoe Bay.) I suffered the entire weekend, and in varying intensities thereafter – definitely every time I ate seafood – for four months. After a particularly scary moment that involved sweating, vertigo, and a tingling sensation on the inside of my mouth, I went to the doctor. She found nothing, and, after latching on to the fact that I’d been to India, diagnosed travel related IBS. My acupuncturist in Corvallis, however, gave me some herbs to treat parasites. I improved slowly over a few weeks, and could eventually eat outside the house without incident. Seafood remained a problem, so I just stopped ordering it. Since the ocean’s bounty was too expensive in Oregon to cook at home, the problem was temporarily settled.

I refused to accept that I’d developed a seafood allergy, so I started tests with East coast seafood almost immediately upon arriving here. Tuna and salmon rolls at Haruka were delicious, and devoid of disturbance. I tried rigatoni alla diavola at Stella 34. There was a small, queasy moment on the train home, but it was definitely the undercooked, er, al dente pasta; not the lobster. Atlantic salmon from H-mart was fantastic, so I threw caution to the wind and bought shrimp to make a red curry. Professor X sang its praises, and I continued my life incident free. Oysters in the half shell will be my final test, but for now I have concluded thusly:

It’s not me. It’s you, West coast.

 

 

 

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