I've recovered from my profound culture-shock experience, and I'm now very much enjoying life here in the hills of Western Pennsylvania. I think it is a simple matter of relaxing, letting the sweet familiarity wrap 'round me like the patchwork quilt on my bed. (My grandmother made that quilt.) Summer is the best time to be here. I think summer is the best time to be anywhere.
American food still is not agreeing with me, but I've come to terms with that. I relax and let 'em bring me 16 tons of meat, cheez, sauce, pasta, rice, bread, butter, beef, or whatever (except alcoholic beverages, which might corrupt my morals or harm my health). I can eat what I want, and have them wrap up the rest in a styrofoam box to take home and put in the fridge to continue eating for days. It's how things are done here. Restaurateurs live by the dictum of "If you don't get 16 tons of food on your plate, you're not getting your money's worth."
Lots of people here are, indeed, very overweight. I am eating moderately, but I think I can still feel myself putting on pounds. It is inevitable. Food is such an important part of every day, weekend, holiday, or celebration, and we are a people regaled with messages to "bake someone happy!" or "enjoy the taste of America!" or "load up at the all-you-can-eat, family-pleasing lobsterfest!" We have breakfast meetings, muffins, clubs, sandwiches, buffets, bars, cereals... even Prayer breakfasts. Lunch is fast food, or salads heaped with cheese and oily dressings, or juicy, cheesy sandwiches and chips and big glasses of sweet iced tea.
And dinner. Dinner is social hour. We had dinner out last night with my Aunt Esther and Cousin Barbara. Italian, the southern, red-sauce kind of Italian: rigatoni baked in ricotta cheese, angel hair pasta swimming in aglio olio, Chicken breast wrapped in capicolla, breaded and fried. (We had tons of Italian immigrants here, so we have regional restaurants...even three generations later. Polenta to die for.)
Meet a friend you haven't seen in a while, and you do it over a pizza. If you're from Pittsburgh, it's got to be a Vinnie Pie (like this spinach-red pepper-anchovy beast I ate with my old bud Jeff), or maybe one from Mineo's in Squirrel Hill. Pittsburgh's identity is tied up in pizza, pierogies, kolbassi, and Primanti deli sandwiches, consumed in massive quanitities in the parking lot outside a Pirates or Steelers or Penguins game. Massive Food Is Us.
And We Is Massive too.
The Scott family reunion happened today, an annual picnic at Crooked Creek Park. About 50 relatives showed up, and every one brought a dish of food to share. Brownies. Potato salad. Fried chicken. Baked beans. Sausage and saurkraut, coconut cream pie, pumpkin rolls, potato chips. OMG. Delicious, fattening, and totally Us. Hugs from cousins I don't recognize any more, great gossip, and melted marshmallows.
The food thing really is dominating my impressions of this visit. Maybe it is the most obvious difference between my two Homes. I head
back to Spain on Friday, where the diet is somewhat different.
I am ready again for a dinner of roasted red pepper and a nice little trout, grilled. With his head still on. I might even risk a glass or two of vino tinto -- or go crazy and split an entire bottle with Paddy!
Just veg, and a fish. Nothing more.
And after that a long, long hike. With dogs.
I wonder how long my stomach will take to adjust.
BTW, Spain just beat Germany for the European Cup in futbol!! Yeehaw! I am missing all the fun, but I am told hundreds of Spanish football (soccer) fans pledged to walk the Camino if their team won. Next year oughtta bring us an interesting crop of hikers.