Monday, June 25, 2012

Dinner in Berkeley

It's been 3 weeks since we came back to the States and life is slowly but surely starting to settle in. That entails going to friends' birthday BBQs, cooking healthy delicious dinners, thriving on California's amazing produce, getting fit with yoga, swimming and bike rides, escaping the city with ever-entertaining weekend trips. One thing I came to realize at the end of our trip: there's no place like home. And California is now the place I call home. After exploring the world, I can truly say it's one of the best places to live in. Its wide-open spaces, abundance of nature escapes, mild weather, and overall sense of well-being are some of its perks that should never be taken for granted.

And then the trip really never ends. Every week and weekend are so full of interesting events and adventures, that both Anne and I decided to continue posting in this blog.

Home is where your friends and family are. I guess I am fortunate to have two homes, on two different continents. My entire family lives in Romania, and whether I want it or not, half of my heart beats for that place. All my childhood memories, my upbringing, traditions, customs and family ties bring me back to that place.

Megan is one of my best friends in San Francisco and last Wednesday a small group of us got together at her boyfriend's house in Berkeley to cook up a delicious birthday dinner for Megan. This post is dedicated to her and this special day.

The other half beats here, in California, where I spent the last 9 years of my life. I am fortunate to be part of a wonderful, quirky, fun and loving group of friends. For a solo immigrant like me, they've come to represent my adoptive American family. They've taught me new words, slang terms, hip terms, taught me about pop culture, laughed at me whenever I say things differently from them, or when I involuntarily act as a foreigner. But above all, they're creative, passionate and inspiring. Together we have more fun than most people do, and that is really what holds us together.

 Above: Corina, the bombshell from Norway, chopping veggies for one of the best shrimp ceviches I've ever had.

One thing I missed while traveling was fresh produce. There's a severe lack of fresh vegetables and salad ingredients around the world. Being back, I appreciate the luxury of having such a wide variety of vegetables and fruit available at our fingertips all year round. Megan's birthday dinner was a celebration of fresh, organic, locally-grown food. Her roommate Cole picked up all the ingredients from the famous Berkeley Bowl market and cooked up a delicious Latin American fiesta. Bossing the kitchen like a pro, she delegated veggies choppers, peelers and dough makers.

Above: all the dishes are now ready to eat. On the menu: sopes (thick corn-flour tortillas pan-fried in butter), ground beef chilli, red coleslaw, grilled chicken, pan-fried plantains, cotija cheese. A real fiesta indeed! Good friends and great food - some of the best things in life. With the risk of sounding like a California hippie (which I partially am), such moments fill me with gratitude for what we have here, in this moment of our lives, for being healthy and surrounded by people we love and who love us. Despite the fact that we live in the midst of one of the most consumerist societies in the world, some of us here live our lives in the simplest and most rewarding way possible.

Below are a few more photo captures from Megan's birthday dinner.

Cole's dog, Becky, likes to stare a lot. So we had a stare-out.
Bailey's delicious strawberry, blueberry and peach pies.
The best shrimp ceviche ever known to mankind.
Veggie shopping basket.
Fried plantains.
There's no friendship like Anne and Megan's.
The hot couple visiting from San Diego.
Feeding your boyfriend little scoops of ceviche = love.
Cole killing it in the kitchen.
Warm sopes and fried plantains.
What a babe!
While everyone else is in the hot tub, we talk about Edible City, Andrew's new documentary.

Bailey making pies.
Fresh plantains.