Having lived in Los Angeles the past five years, I’ve inevitably met a handful of people who’ve relocated to the Golden Coast from back east. And while these people are absolutely lovely individuals and generally wonderful friends, they have some very strong opinions about California as compared to the east coast. Which, I can fully empathize with. I’m not an LA native and I completely share the frustration with Southern California traffic, unrelenting heat and having to hear half of cell phone conversations about the entertainment industry that are invariably shouted at near-foghorn volume. One line of commentary that I have zero amounts of patience for however is the snarky, unwavering zeal for east coast junk food. I’m sorry, but people from New York, Philadelphia and New Jersey are so self-righteous about their precious pizza and bagels and sandwiches it’s hard to believe they ever left them to begin with. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard someone say “This is the only place in LA that has decent pizza” or “This is NOT an Italian sub”, I’d probably have enough cash to keep a condo in Dubai.
Los Angeles seems to have a reputation for being a culinary wasteland, which I don’t personally find to be true. Sure, people here don’t seem to be as receptive to experimental or ultra haute-cuisine, and many people would probably be happy eating tire tread as long as it came with Israeli couscous and was served from a truck by a vaguely ethnic looking kid in their late teens that took payment from a Square card-reader attached to an iPad, but by George I think we have a lot to offer in the national food world. But nevermind “haute-cuisine”, we also happen to have gorgeous looking produce that’s in season virtually all year long. It might not be the absolute best produce in the world, but you can have it whenever you want! And biting into a ripe California avocado (which is how I eat them, I don’t know about you) is just one of the best things in life and let’s just all quietly acknowledge that. And as far as I remember, I’ve never been able to pick a juicy Meyer lemon from a tree while walking the streets of New York but maybe that’s just me.
So, when I hear people go on and on (and on) about how no one in California can make a good bagel because of our water or whatever, I kind of just want to push them over and go get a melon salad or something. Maybe it’s because I’ve never lived outside California, but to me — IT’S JUST A FUCKING BAGEL! I would strongly urge you to get over it. It’s round bread that people eat because it’s heartier than the granola bar at the craft service table. And to be clear, I’ve had New York bagels and New York pizza. This was more or less my reaction —
I suppose the juggernaut of signature east coast food and beverage institutions would be the ubiquitous Dunkin’ Donuts. And again, am I missing something? Because I’ve had their coffee, I’ve had their donuts, and I’ve probably had more revelatory experiences at the DMV renewing the registration on my Nissan Versa. I suppose they captured the nuance of fried, doughy, frosted fat rings, but I wouldn’t exactly lose sleep if I never saw one again. And yet, when they launched the new LA debut of Dunkin Donuts, there was a hysterical frenzy and a line of 300 people. I guess people were craving the dull, sugary coffee somethin’ fierce!
I get it, nostalgia plays a large part in this. People from the east coast are used to their standardized comfort food that they’ve had since they were kids, which I don’t want to begrudge anybody. But could you please take off the taste-arbiter hat and accept that you’re in a new place now with new stuff to offer? Really, it’s not so bad!