California was the last frontier for the adventurous American (mostly recent immigrants from Europe) who wanted to make their fortunes in the wild west. The idea of manifest destiny was popular in the 1800s, a form of expansionalism, unpopular these days. It was the belief that the United States should spread from the Atlantic seaboard to the Pacific Ocean. And eventually it did. Which is why I can say that I am from California instead of from what was there before, Mexico. Manifest = readily apparent. Destiny = inevitable course of events. It was my manifest destiny to be a nomad. My immigrant (and slave) ancestors were on the move. The Irish, Scottish, German Jews among them, traveled west and ended up in Seattle. My African ancestors couldn’t trace their roots but eventually ended up in the same place. Then, when I was about 10, my mother moved me and my little sister to California. And I have moved from West to East (California to London and other points on the European continent), retracing my footsteps in the opposite direction, in search of my fortune.
I love the idea of being expansive, and seeking adventure, even more so. California is the perfect representation of these big ideas. It is a place where people have gone to make their dreams come true. Even now (although LA is filled with a few too many dreams of people who are waiting tables while waiting to become famous actors). California Dreamin’ is the title of the Mamas and Papas song from the 60s. It tells of the man in a cold winter landscape longing for the warmth of California. I’ve always had a longing, but it has never been related to weather. Rather it has been a hunger for something bigger, deeper, more… I can never put my finger on it, and yet it is driving me forward from one adventure to another.
My latest adventure is this secret restaurant, here in Central London. I’m a California girl though, in almost every sense of the word: the dreams, the fusion and melting pot culture, the entrepreneurial spirit. California gave birth to and cultivated my nomadic spirit. When I tried to think of the cuisine that best represents California I was stumped at first. Yet I wanted to show people a little more of myself. But what did we eat in California? Or more importantly, what do normal Californians eat? OK, so I’m not sure about other people but I do know that I was raised on Mexican, Chinese, Japanese and Italian food. I guess there is no such thing as California food, because nearly everyone there is from somewhere else. When thinking back, I remembered that as a child we went to the garlic and artichoke festivals. There’s a hint. California produces half of the country’s fruits, nuts and vegetables (and I don’t mean these as metaphors for types of people!). So it stands to reason that we would eat a lot of vegetables there, which we did. I went onto wikipedia and voila, I found that, as I remembered, California cuisine is actually fusion food. So, in fact, that is what I grew up on. No surprise then that fusion is all that we do here at the Nomad Chef. When I think of food I’m dreamin’ of California. And when I am on a new adventure California is dreaming in me!
Come join us on Wednesday, the 19th of May, for the Nomad Chef Secret Restaurant’s dinner: California Dreamin’