Hey foodies, do-it-yourselfers and all others strangely obsessed with the 'I can do it so much better for so much cheaper' attitude.
Hell, this will probably apply to environmentalists, greenies, locavores, anyone interested in very passive civil disobedience and probably a few cultists, too. (Cus let's face it. My atheist commune plans are something of weird urban legend here in the bay area. )
I am one of those people that finds a keen sense of satisfaction in the fine things in life. I'm an afficiando of a million different interests. For the last few years, I was able to afford some major luxuries simply because I lived overseas in country with a favorable exchange rate. It wasn't just with food and drink, either. You know those fancy bath products they sell at the mall? The ones cleverly designed to look like they are made from the ground up moss of some exotic substance and wetted in the last tears of an endangered species? The ones that are insanely expensive, but only contain like.0000043% of the product the marketing scheme is themed around? Well ok. I was out LIVING in the jungles where this stuff comes from, and literally buying the whole plant matter as cheaply as we buy baking soda. Hell, my housekeeper would actually make me face-masks and lotions out of native plants and coconut oils and leave them next to my sunken in stone bath tub like a self re-stocking spa in my own home. Every week was a new surprise. I never had to ask. Things just magically appeared based on what she thought I was needing. It was like having spa fairies.
So now that I'm in the U.S and slaving away as a bay-area wage monkey, I've had to evolve. No more in home spa. Hell, I'm lucky I can afford a place with bath tub, not just a stand up shower. (Though I must admit. There are a few 'modern' conveniences I'm getting used to again. Hot running water in the kitchen, for one.)
But there are good things about being back.
One is our incredible beer and wine scene.
San Francisco has arguably some of the best microbreweries in the WORLD. Our mixed-immigrant background is so diverse, we are the testing ground for fusion recipes and funky extremes. If exclusiveness is your style, I know of places that sell just a few thousand bottles a YEAR.
And I can get them for cheap.
It's amazing what we've learned and how far we've come in our own personal brewing. We provide 100% of our own beer needs.
Imagine that. Never having to make a beer run again.
Yeah, suck on that court-appointed-religion-via-AA.
Oh. And we also do it a ton cheaper.
There are two adults and three taps in my kitchen.
At any given time, we have five varieties of beer on hand. Our bottling "facility" isn't that state-of the art, but it's good enough. We are having fun making clones from our favorite beers we experienced in their locals around the world just now. Seriously? Belhaven's Best like you can ONLY get in Scotland...nom nom nom.
I'm not even going to get into wines. It's a thing we are just starting to explore. But let me tell you something..California Wine country easily ranks up there with some of the more picturesque villages we drove through in the United Kingdom. Our wanderings through the heart of England and to the little villages so far north they still speak Gaelic brought us to some incredible little communities. I dare say that Napa and Sonoma are serenity on earth, but American Canyon and Novato, Sonoma and Vallejo offer some incredible bed and breakfast escapes that could easily rival anywhere else in the world in terms of 'quaintness.' Many of these places have their own vineyards attached. People make wine just for their friends and family here. It's like chili. The same amount of work goes into producing it on a personal scale as triple that. Might as well make it a big batch!
There is also this incredible produce scene.
Again, influenced by our diverse immigrant community, the farmer's markets and even mainstream corner stores are carrying a wide range of formerly 'exotic' produce on a regular basis. There is a DEMAND for it. All the culinary skills I picked up in Thailand, all the amazing colors and flavors can now be re-created here on my home soil with 100% accuracy. Also, restaurants have no excuse NOT to use the authentic types of peppers and other specialty ingredients in making traditional dishes. I swear, for all the times I got jalapeños in my Mongolian Beef here in the U.S.....Never again!!!! Neighborhood ethnic restaurants in Hayward and Concord offer you the feet-still-on experience if you know where to go. Chinatown still has some tucked-away back alleys that remind me of places I got lost at and ended up drunk in Asia. Sure, you know you're still IN America, but the ghosts of the place don't know that. There is a history there that they earned all their own. Generations of families that came as basically slave-labor on the railroad tracks. There is an ancestral tradition as old as any Caucasian claim. There are places that haven't been blinged by tourism, where you can get far more than a knock-off purse.
I feel that I do the culture credit when I'm true to their recipes. Don't get me wrong, I'm a local. I dig the fusion movement as much as the next person, but traditional food, timeless recipes? Those are all comfort foods for a reason. Sometimes dusting off the tried and true as a reminiscent fall back is more about the memories the sights and scents and flavors provoke, and less about the quality of food itself.
That's why I'm also taking up smoking.
(Yes, there IS an incredible marijuana scene, but I'll get to that in a minute.)
I mean a good old fashioned, thick sliced bacon that was smoked on an applewood slab dusted in spices and cured with maple syrup? Oh. And you can control the nitrate content if you're worried about health. How about local caught trout, deboned, stuffed with herbs and cold smoked for ten hours before being tossed on a hot grill. How about home-made basil and garlic stuffed pork links and logs of salami that cost less than 2.00$/lb. to make? Right. But a lot of time has to go into it. And who has time to do all of that?
Well, no one, though my husband and I are sure trying.
We live in a suburban area in the bay area and we are trying to cut our cost of living down as much as possible while maximizing our enjoyment as much as possible. Not because either of us feel that money is important, per se.
But it does allow us the freedom to do yet more stuff we enjoy :)
Our hobbies are not cheap.
Fortunately, some of them are multi-purposed. I can eat the vegetables from my gardening hobby AND fresh produce that is also locally grown and organic totally checks the box on a few of my other major interests. The freshest, most local possible is my own back yard. That means the things I grow should be for consumption. Even the flowers I plant are good for basic skin-care. (I make these cute little 'bath-teas' that are just fresh or dried herbs/rose-petals/lavender/whatever I throw into one of the old hops bags I claimed from beer brewing. (You'd be amazed how many base items are interchangeable for do-it-your-selfing. The yeast vials also make great little weed storage containers that look all cute lined up and labeled in my medicine cupboard. I'm like a living tips album from Real Simple Magazine.) Look, I'm not claiming this is as good as the stuff that was being made for me in Thailand, and it's a whole different sort of plants anyway, but it's better than chemical-based-mass-market stuff of questionable origin. And my skin does look good. Really good. So no complaints there.
I'm just saying..I make a lot of cool stuff.
Not particularly valuable stuff.
But things I find fundamental to my happiness. Things my husband finds fundamental to his.
And I know first hand there is a whole community of other people out there that do, too.
I wonder how difficult it would be (and how legal) to recreate a barter system.
The magical interwebs is wonderful. Hell, just ebay organizing auctions you didn't have to be physically present for in REAL time is a HUGE concept.
What if some like-minded individuals did the same in the interest of neighborhood trade?
Nothing on a mass-produced level.
That would defeat the purpose and anyway I'm sure there would be some serious issues with Health & Safety, the FDA or whatever it takes if you sell food or drink.
Though technically we wouldn't be selling anything. We'd only be trading. No money changes hands, only goods and services.
Lordy, now that I think about it, ATF could get involved for anyone offering a six pack of microbrew for a few dozen eggs from his neighbors chickens.
But Hmmmmm....it's a thought.
A commune of trade.
All the benefits.
None of the property-sharing issues. :)
This would be nothing more than saying:
Hi! These are my hobbies: xxxxxxx This is when I'll have a surplus:xx/xx/xx. This is how you can get in touch with me: XXXXXXX
Thoughts? Opinions? Suggestions?