There was no Jell-o salad; however, there was a pink-tinged whipped cream fruit salad.
The pinkness came from the added maraschino cherries. Maraschino cherries: they aren’t just for cocktails in Minnesota. But, I like the occasional maraschino cherry mixed in with the rest of my fruit and cream. Just like I enjoy eating white or brown bark dipped pretzels. What is that stuff anyway? It doesn’t matter. It’s all tasty and festive.
We arrived back on the island only a few short days ago during one of the lovely 48-hour rains, and it just doesn’t stop surprising me how the concept of ‘place’ or ‘home’ to me now is really a flexible one that is constantly changing.
It was only the second time back in Minnesota since we started living in Mauritius and this time, just like the last time this past summer, it was like seeing everything that was old and familiar as new once more. And what a buzzing kick of youthfulness that is.
This time, in particular, the wide and open space of Minnesota really hit me. Every time we got into the car and drove somewhere, it felt like we were driving to the moon and back.
These were trips into the big city from the suburbs. Exact journeys that I had driven so many times before, but this time it just felt like the highways and roads went on forever.
And what highways! And bridges and traffic lights and road barriers! Stunning, really. Amazing works of engineering and construction made with materials that were solid, smooth and ready to handle massive amounts of traffic and congestion.
And so well-lit! The exact placement of glimmering, matching light posts every few feet, made driving – even during the few big snowstorms that occurred while we were there – a safe and sure experience.
In my head over and over I just kept repeating to myself, “Wow. It’s incredible. I love these roads. I love these lights. I love America, and I wish I had a big bag of bark-dipped pretzels to stuff my face with while enjoying all this awesome scenery.”
In fact, driving and shopping were my two favorite activities during this visit. And I didn’t even have to buy a thing to get a little joy. I was dazed by the sheer amount, the incredible bounty of selection and quality.
People didn’t have to pick through the rotten onions to get to the good ones; and my checkout transactional processing experience took less than 15 seconds to complete. I get giddy now just remembering it.
However, there were a few reactions of the non-love sort.
In the grocery stores, the shelves were stacked high with all sorts of items that humans probably really don’t need to be consuming. Pre-made this and pre-fab that and I experienced a new reaction. It didn’t really look like food to me at all.
Perhaps, this new attitude was due to the French, food-centric cultural influence that I have now been exposed to in my daily life. Or maybe it’s because nothing here is really pre-made. Sure, there are the few bits of frozen pizza imported from Europe and there are numerous frozen pre-made fish balls, but it’s nothing like in America.
And food seems to be everywhere back in the States.
Near one of the exchange lanes at one of the big outdoor adventure stores, there was an entire corner devoted to only energy and protein bars. Floor to ceiling shelves filled with boxes and boxes of wrapped items that said they were super good for you.
A college-aged, probable vegan woman was reading off the long list of ingredients to her fellow co-shopping companion. After finishing, she placed the bar back in its box and said, “And almost everything is organic.”
I’m all for organic foods and snacks, but if an ingredient is listed that I’ve never heard of before – whether it’s organic or not – I’m of the mindset now to just assume it is a bi-product of some other sort of food processing or crop harvesting.
It’s probably healthy enough and will make you super jolly if you consume it while hiking along the paved lake paths, but charging over $2 for a tiny bar of packaged glop? Why not just pack an apple instead and enjoy the mini-energy buzz along with the fact that you won’t have a wrapper to toss away.
And if it’s that wonderful and great for the human body, ship a couple million cases of it over to Africa.
Checking out the produce sections in the grocery stores in Minnesota, I realized that I had forgotten what it was like to be able to purchase whatever you want, whenever you want.
It doesn’t matter what time of year it is or what region you live in, in America you can get any fruit from anywhere at any time. No problem.
But, when did the fruit start becoming other fruit-like?
A friend of mine from Minnesota came to visit me in October and while I was picking out some bananas at the local market, she remarked, “They are so tiny!”
Indeed. And I think the size of the bananas here are the actual size of what a banana used to be and is supposed to be. Same thing goes for the pineapples, carrots, tomatoes and practically everything else.
The fruit part of a pineapple that is grown locally here will be no larger than almost the length of my hand. They are tiny and packed with sweet deliciousness. And I am very happy that I was fortunate enough in this lifetime to have had the chance to savor them.
The pineapples I saw back in the States were as large as my forearm and while this used to be my normal pineapple reference, it now just seems so jacked out of whack.
But, I guess this is what it takes if you want fresh pineapple in the middle of winter in Minnesota. And maybe this is one of those unspoken gifts of being an expat on an island for a while. We are passively gifted with the knowledge to boldly proclaim, “America, size down those pineapples! They have become jacked out of flavorless whack!”
I still want to wrap my arms around America and just give it a bunch of big, wet, sloppy kisses…with all the lights on…driving to nowhere in particular…riding high on energy bars….tossing the wrappers out the window with confidence because I know some highway clean-up crew will eventually pick them up at some point.
Happy New Year. Cheers to 2010.