The first full phrase I learned in Finnish was “kuppi teetä, kittos,” which means “cup of tea, thank you.” It was really the only phrase I needed. I’d slide my little tray down the cafe line, pick up a pulla from the case and order my tea. After counting out my euros and lamenting the cost a bit internally (upwards of eight American dollars for a tea and a pastry) I’d sit and take in the quiet, cool Helsinki landscape. I don’t remember much about what I would think or how long I would sit, but it was my favorite moment of the day.
In graduate school I convinced a professor to work with me on a 5 credit independent study where we got up at the crack of down to drive to small Minnesota towns and make pie with old school ladies in diners. It produced some of my fondest Minnesota memories.
Part of the project ended up being me interviewing my mom in the University radio station on Pie. Here is everything you’ve ever wanted, the uncut track of Kelsey & Kathleen talking pie. For Mother’s day I am, of course, making my Mom a pie.
Hyvää Äitienpäivä! Rakastan sinua. Kippis!
My high school music teacher was a verbally abusive and disgruntled human being (he once turned to my section and said “What’s going on over there? It sounds like a Mongolian cluster f***,” causing the international student FROM MONGOLIA to promptly stop coming to choir) but the man did like accolades so my sophmore year he recorded and submitted tapes of all “his” singers to be considered for Washington state choir. I was the only one selected, for which said music teacher took credit (nevermind years and years and dollars and dollars of private voice lessons that had positively nothing to do with him).
Anyhow, Washington State Choir took place mid-state in Yakima. As I did not drive yet my Mother woke me up early one morning, packed me a few snacks and dropped me off at the Greyhound station to take the bus to Yakima. I was given cash and directions to take a cab to the fair grounds once I arrived, if possible, I should find someone else going to state to split the cab with (more economical, and we are a practical people).
I felt so grown up heading out on this adventure. I’d never traveled anywhere independently before and it all seemed very mature making sure you were back on the bus at appropriate times, listening to my book on tape via Walkman, and gazing with purpose out the window at the increasingly boring Washington landscape. I don’t remember having a cell phone, maybe I did, but I don’t think I called my parents when I got to Yakima. Thinking back on it now I have to imagine that putting me on the bus that morning was a touch scary for my parents. But I admire their willingness to facilitate independence. I remember so much about this trip and experience precisely because I felt so gloriously grown up, trusted and alone.
After arriving, I quickly determined that State Choir was just a bigger version of school choir, complete with a verbally abusive and disgruntled director. Checking in to our hotel that night, positively overrun with musical teenagers and not at all like a scene from Pitch Perfect, I delighted in receiving a cookie. I really felt like I’d earned the cookie and I’d never stayed at a DoubleTree before so I did not KNOW about the cookie and it appeared to be a very FANCY cookie.
I trundled up to my shared room with my cookie and music and bag where I met my roommates (all Mormon, one adopted from China). I was thoroughly informed on the grand Mormon Choir tradition as I got ready for bed. I felt really proud of myself for working through whatever anxiety I had about meeting and sleeping with strangers. As I got ready to brush my teeth I remembered the cookie. I retrieved the cookie from my tidy pile of belongings and sank down across from the sink in the closet of the hotel room. The satisfaction of being alone and doing well in my sampled adulthood, rested with me while I dug in to that cookie. It was chewy and substantial, inexplicably crunchy and soft. Downright complex for being a hotel giveaway. I felt amazing crouched in that closet with that cookie staring at my fifteen year old self in the mirror above the sinks. I knew I was going to have a weird musical week, but I also knew I was an awesome adult now and I would be fine. And I was.
Fast forward fifteen years. I am again headed to Eastern Washington to stay at a DoubleTree. This time I drive. This time I have to get MYSELF out of bed early to make the trip. This time I pack my own snacks. I am still listening to things on tape but instead of library books on cassette it is NPR programs and instead of a Walkman it is my iPhone. When I checked in for the work conference I was attending, I felt nervous. I’d never participated in a professional event with these colleagues before. What would it be like? Who would I eat with? Did I pack the right outfits? More importantly DID THEY DRINK COCKTAILS?
The first night I’d not connected with anyone I knew and was headed out for dinner on my own. As I was walking to the restaurant two colleagues whom I deeply respect saw me and invited me to join them. With a moderate level of hesitation (I mean I was going to eat somewhere GOOD, where were they headed!?) I said yes.
Thankfully, the restaurant was excellent, I ordered smoked trout on toast (WHAAATTT yum). And they OF COURSE drank cocktails. And we talked about work; they offered career advice, providing camaraderie for the challenges we all face as women in our profession. We spoke candidly and honestly and I felt so very lucky to be held under the wing of these women, and to be advised by them as I trotted ideas and perceptions forward. I felt suddenly professional and very adult and very lucky.
That night, snuggled back in my hotel room I remembered theDoubleTree cookie I’d been handed when I checked in. After confirming that I had enough calories left in my daily quota to eat it (yes you read that correctly,GAH being an adult is not all it’s cracked up to be) I sat in my pajamas and watched bad MTV reality programs while eating the cookie. The satisfaction of being alone and doing well in my current adulthood, rested with me while I dug in to that cookie. It was chewy and substantial, inexplicably crunchy and soft. I knew I was going to have a great week, but I also knew I was indeed an awesome adult and I would of course, be fine.
I do a lot of Internet research. On, well, everything. I trust I come by this honestly because whenever I eat dinner at my parents at the end of the evening my dad succumbs to his ipad to conduct his own obsessive hunting on the items rolling around in his brain (often home goods or vacation rentals). For me this takes the form of food research usually on the odd Saturday where I am alone and find myself still in my pajamas surrounded by empty cups of a tea and a glowing screen at 3pm.
However, these searches are far from futile. They produce excellent results and lists and pins galore that can be recalled wherever there is cell service for researched, pleasant and successful changes of plans. Many a glorious trip or purchase are the fruits of these many hours, and for me that is satisfaction. The research extends the pleasure of the moment and I like being able to escape to my plans, trips and desires on a regular basis.
Last fall all Internet efforts were trained on Disneyland for a trip I was making with my sister for her bachelorette party. I was planning (because I must) but wary of over taxing my sister who perhaps rightly finds plans a bit stifling. So like a cat waiting to pounce on a ray of sunshine I made many plans and waited for opportunities to act on them. Most importantly, I planned food.
There are many sources on the Internet for what to eat in Disneyland. I read them all and I think I owe it to the Internet to add a few RAHRAHRAHS for my favorites and to call BULLSHIT on some of these “must eat” Disneyland items. Fine dining, not included. That is a WHOLE other story. Stay tuned.
Trader Sam’s: Trader Sam’s is straight fun for adults. It’s a restaurant theme park for complete with water effects. I found this very charming, but I also grew up post Trader Vic’s popularity so the whole Trader Sam’s Tiki vibe is fun and kitschy and not some weird throwback for me. However, be warned there are a number of throwback individuals in this bar feeling their oats so to speak.
I found the signature Uh Oa! drink (intended for four) to be positively charming with it’s table side flambé and sound effects. It also was a damn good drink – rum, tropical juices, lime, cinnamon, astoundingly not too sweet. For the sake of transparency I should mention I was the only one in my party of five who liked the drink (however I was also the oldest member of our party, draw what conclusions you will about refined pallets)…but on the other hand, as the only one who truly liked the drink, I drank the majority of the Uh Oa! (served in what can only be described as an Easter Island soup bowl)…so my perception may be a touch addled.
Everyone did agree the Panko-crusted Chinese Long Beans lived up to their reputation as delicious and worth the walk to Trader Sam’s. We ordered these as part of a Pu-Pu Platter that included a slaw and wings that exceeded expectations. I’d go back to Trader Sam’s for the Pu-Pu Platter (and the Uh Oa! OBVS).
Matterhorn Macaroon: I am skeptical of white chocolate as a general rule (why? why? I just don’t understand why) but the Matterhorn Macaroon convinced me that white chocolate does have a place in pastry (jury is still out on whether it has a place in salads). The macaroon itself is dense, toothsome and avoids the cloying sweetness of many of its brethren. This treat is something I will seek out on all future trips to Disney and if they ever start carrying decent tea the whole experience could be quite transcendent.
Corn dog: Although this was the longest line we waited in over a three day stint in Disneyland, this dog was worth it. The sweet corn batter crisped up perfectly and provided an appropriate batter to dog ratio – better than any corn dog I’ve had to date (and I, well, really like corn dogs). I almost had an aneurysm waiting behind someone who ordered ten (they are made to order…so…) but the other girls talked me down. For your own sanity, expect a wait.
Ghirardelli Sundae: When the bar at Ariel’s Grotto was too full, our group went to the San Francisco Wharf at California Adventure for late afternoon ice cream and margaritas. I’ve never been to San Francisco so this is as close as I’ve come to Ghirardelli Square. The Ghirardelli Sundae is simply excellent. They extensive sundae menu (YES SUNDAE MENU) is sure to meet even the pickiest of sundae needs. The sundae looks as good as it tastes and will likely draw margarita goers off of their tequila – that’s how delicious we are talking.
Churros: Simply put these are not special churros. Everyone, everywhere on the Internets says these are special churros. They are not. They are like any other churro except you eat them in mouse ears.
Dole Whip: I consistently read that the Dole Whip is like pineapple soft serve, which sounds INCREDIBLE, no? However, the reality of the Dole Whip is much more sinister. Your first clue that Dole Whip is not all that it is cracked up to be is the cavalier nature in which this supposedly frozen dessert does not melt. That’s right, DOES NOT MELT, which one would think means IS NOT FROZEN, but no – the dole whip defies this paradox. See ingredient list for reasons why. It would be one thing if the Dole Whip really were outstandingly delicious in which case I could overlook its other questionable attributes (Cheez-Its fall in this category for me), but alas, the Dole Whip does not. The Dole Whip leaves a lingering sting of pineapple and chemical sugar in the back of your throat. Suggested alternatives are the pineapple juice, delicious and still comes with a tropical paper umbrella and the Carthay Circle Coconut-Pineapple Semifreddo,what Dole Whip should be; light and tropical.
Mickey Ice Cream: Here is my fundamental problem with this bar; the chocolate shell is too thick, to the point you think you may lose a tooth or two. I realize this is to prevent mess amongst children, but for adults who like to get after frozen treats the fortress of chocolate shell is a bummer and potential dental risk. Shell out a few extra bucks for a Ghiridelli Sundae people. Worth it.
Pumpkin Beignets: I was so pumped we would be in Disneyland in the fall so I could eat not only a Mickey shaped Beignet but a PUMPKIN Mickey Shaped Beignet. My expectations were not met. The gummy beignets arrived a bit cold and the pumpkin flavor did not stand up to the level of zeal expressed far and wide across the all knowing Internet. A little bit of canned pumpkin does not a delicious beignet make. However, sitting in the 10am sun listening to Disney-fied Jazz music while the elderly band leader threw beads at us, was great. Go for the Jazz, skip the beignets, something I would never say of true New Orleans.