Thursday, December 14, 2006

Christmas Gifts from Trader Joe's

I spent way too much money yesterday on Christmas gifts, but why not? I only do this once a year anyway. And they were all foodie gifts, too! Chocolates and truffles from Trader Joe's, plain and simple. And the presents aren't even for people down the street.

There will be three presents going out. One goes to Grove, Oklahoma, on the beautiful Grand Lake of the Cherokees, in the northeastern part of the state. This one is for former landlords that I had when I live for a few years in SoCal. Specifically, it was Redlands, the most, well... OK, so there's nothing special about Redlands. It's most famous for two things: its part in the massive citrus industry, and its most (its only) famous son, US World Cup soccer star Landon Donovan. Redlands also has a Trader Joe's, and when I lived in Redlands (and before that in Riverside) there were no Trader Joe's in the Baltimore area. So for Christmas when I came home to visit, I always loaed some goodies trom TJ's in my suitcase and voila! Instant Christmas presents on the cheap! Well, we now have TJ's in two places in and around Bawlmer, but none in Grove. So, guess what my ex-landlords are getting? Chocolate Truffles from TJ's. I also bought some seafood seasonings from Hometown Girl & Company in Hampden, so they'll be getting lots of stuff both from Bawlmer and through Bawlmer.

A friend of mine told me about these landlords when I was living with the recipients of the second gift. They live in Mexico, of all places - Morelia, to be exact. This capital of Michoacán state (home state of new prez Felipe Calderón) features a language school in its San Nicolás de Hidalgo University. This was a Spanish language program jointly run with University of California. Only this Spanish school is run with UC; they teach nine languages, from French to English to Japanese to Purépecha (the indigenous language). And like all good language schools, they maximize the exposure to the language by putting you with a family. The family I lived with had a very nice house, with four baths and three floors - much nicer than any I have ever lived in! And they exposed me to much of the local culture, including the local bowling alley, the local hamburger joint, the local soccer team the Monarcas, and a young relative's quince años (another relative we visited made this delicious blue crab soup, by just breaking apart the crab and throwing it in shell and all). Well, I grew attached to this family and keep in Christmas card contact with them! And guess what I'm sending 'em? ¡Correcto! Chocolate Truffles. Also sending some of those great Chocolate-Covered Orange Jelly Sticks, the first thing I ever gave them. You see, they have no Trader Joe's in Morelia, either. But I think they have a Wal-Mart.

The third does go back, in fact, to SoCal, and to a friend of mine in Yucaipa - a small, podunk little town outside of Redlands where every other front yard has a wrathful Biblical passage posted in it. Not the nice ones like "Do unto others" or "He gave His only Son," nooooo, but more of the "God will smite the wicked" kind of passages. I visit about every 6 to 8 months, and often bring a Maryland wine with me - well, until the last time I flew, which was the day of that big British liquid bomb scare. So the wine that I wasn't allowed to bring on the plane with me that August day is part of the gift this holiday season. Don't think I'll bother with the truffles, though. He lives 15 minutes from a Trader Joe's. He can get his own damn truffles!