from California

tea and coffee, waffles and burgers

My jobternship is now over. Here are four of my paragraphs with which I am tolerably pleased. I ate or drank something at each of these places, which I decided made writing much easier since it enabled me to have a specific descriptive sentence or two highlighting a certain dish. Plus, I got to consume some tasty edibles.

The Silver Teapot

Ever wished to experience an authentic English tea without crossing the Atlantic? Step inside The Silver Teapot to be transported to a magical place where tea and crumpets still exist in all their scrumptious glory. Seat yourself in comfortable, covered chairs at a clothed table at which every place setting includes, besides properly placed silverware and plate, a spoon rest, an ornate tea strainer, and a unique floral teacup and matching saucer. Select your tea from an entire menu devoted solely to that purpose. The tea, at $4 a pot, is served in beautiful china teapots and poured, still steaming, through your strainer directly into your teacup. All imaginable flavors, complete with accompanying descriptions, are categorized by tea type – black, green white, oolong, decaf green, herbal, and fruit tea. The 21 black tea options include Irish, English Breakfast, Peaches and Ginger, Pumpkin Spice, and a delightfully accurate Chocolate Mint tea. Strawberry-kiwi fruit tea presents both a particularly striking bright color and bold flavor. After choosing your tea, order a selection of tea sandwiches or perhaps some imported English crumpets or scones with to die for lemon curd. Stay for lunch and partake of a sandwich of raisin bread with cream cheese and green apple or grilled ham and cheese. Dress up and have your own tea party with the girls! But, do not fret if you forget your hat and pearls, The Silver Teapot has an entire wall of hats, pearls, bows, and feather boas, which you can don for the occasion. If you cannot drink enough of the delicious tea during your time at The Silver Teapot, never fear! Many of the teas are available for purchase in the gift bou“tea”que area of the parlor. Drop in for a lovely, tasty experience at The Silver Teapot, Thursday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Bean & Leaf Cafe

As its name implies, Bean & Leaf Café has been serving both fragrant coffee and tea to its loyal customers for 15 years and counting. This local coffee shop has stood up against the inroads of national chain coffee shops with its outstanding hot and cold drinks. Their chai is the best you will ever find; it is the perfect blend of creamy sweetness and warm spices and is an ideal beverage for sleepy, early mornings or chilly evenings. Besides dozens of coffee and multiple tea options, from mochas and lattés to chilled chai – all customizable according to your preference – Bean & Leaf Café offers salads and sandwiches, which are so tasty they won it Best Sandwich Shop of Manteca 2011.
Consistently utilizing quality ingredients, Bean & Leaf Café brews Equator Estates coffee from San Rafael, named 2010 Roaster of the Year by Roast Magazine. Their house-made dressings, sauces, hummus, and famous bagel chips keep everyone happy and returning for more. Fresh daily baked goods such as heavenly cranberry orange scones and chocolate muffins come from Modesto. If you are in a hurry but still want to grab a bagel with house-mixed flavored cream cheese and a house-blended tea, call in your order ahead of time to 239-BEAN, a sure success as Bean & Leaf Café also was voted Best Takeout of Manteca 2011. Stop by some Saturday evening when a local band is playing to delight both your ears and belly. Fun and friendly owner Heather Elkins can frequently be found barista-ing behind the counter. Bean & Leaf Café appeases hunger and captivates taste buds seven days a week, from 4:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays.

The Waffle Shop

The Waffle Shop, voted Manteca’s Best Waffle in 2011, serves wonderful waffles as well as numerous other breakfast options to satisfy any morning meal preference. Their perfect waffles, slightly crisp on the edges while fluffy and soft inside, come with multiple fruit and nut toppings and combinations, most for between $6 and $8. Fruit toppings are piled in the center of the waffles and ringed with heavenly mountains of whipped cream. Inside the cherry-almond waffle, crunchy almonds add texture to the waffle itself and complement the cherry topping, which is comparable to cherry pie filling in both flavor and appeal. If you cannot decide between the waffle options, you can always try an American breakfast of eggs and bacon, sausage, pork chops, or steak. Choose from more than a dozen omelets overflowing with fillings to suit for everyone’s tastes – carnivores to vegetarians – served with a buttery, flakey biscuit drowning in rich gravy, hash browns, potatoes, or toast. Sandwiches and 1/3-pound burgers with fries, soup, or salad are available for lunch, but the breakfast food is so good, it is definitely worth eating any time of day! Service is fast, attentive, and friendly. You can even order to go. Skip your morning cereal and stop by for a hearty breakfast any day from 5 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Cherry-almond waffle.

Chubby’s Diner

Deservedly voted Manteca’s 2011 Best Restaurant in the American food category, Chubby’s Diner is the place to find quintessential American fare. Though the menu is overflowing with various classic breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, burgers are the main draw. These massive, meaty affairs combine the freshness of house-made hamburger buns, creaminess of a special sauce, and heartiness of a juicy, perfectly proportioned beef patty with lettuce, tomato, pickles, and onion in their basic burger that encompasses everything a burger should be. Of course, you can always add to or subtract from your hamburger by ordering one of the variations on the basic burger. Try something from the “Blue Plate” section of the menu for $6.19, like a guacamole Swiss burger – the basic burger enhanced with a liberal spread of guacamole and a slice of Swiss cheese melted over the burger – served with excellent French fries. For breakfast choose between waffles, pancakes, breakfast combination dishes, and dozen different omelets. A burger is obviously recommendable for lunch or supper, but numerous hoagies, salads, and chicken or steak dishes populate the pages of the broad menu. For dessert a milkshake is definitely the best bet as Chubby’s Diner also won Manteca’s Best Milkshakes in 2011. Chubby’s Diner is literally open all day, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and until 3 p.m. on Sunday; with such comprehensive hours, there is no excuse for neglecting to make a pit stop for some quality, stick-to-your-ribs American cooking.

Guacamole-swiss burger. It was so large, they served it with a steak knife.

One note on the veracity of the ridiculous excess above: The hot chai at Bean & Leaf really was the best I have ever tasted.

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southward again

I believe I may have neglected to mention that I am going to Guatemala. Well, I am, and now you know.

Grandma and Grandpa L., with whom I have been living these past several weeks, had already planned a trip to the fine Central American country to visit my aunt, uncle, and cousins, who live there. When it became apparent that my jobternship would extend up until their departure date, they invited me along. I happily accepted the proposal, but, naturally, had to come up with some sort of constructive activity in which to participate in order to convince my dear parental units that I would not be without employment during our 10 days there. Uncle Tom, eternal spring of volunteer and travel ideas for tourists like myself that he is, promptly discovered and secured a spot for me to help serve – and perhaps prepare! – daily lunch at a senior center. Although the place is run by expats, I shall doggedly refuse to relinquish my rather unrealistic hope that the only language spoken there will be Spanish.

We begin our treck tomorrow after lunch, when we will start leisurely driving to San Francisco. After a scheduled stop at IKEA for furniture perusal and bit of window shopping nearby, we will spend the night in the city and fly out Wednesday morning at a reasonable hour. I am looking forward to speaking some Spanish again and seeing some of my bilingual extended family. Have I ever mentioned that all of my cousins – on both sides of my family – are bilingual? They are. (Of course, I do only have five first cousins.) The boys and I are the odd monolinguals out, a tragic fact I am attempting to remedy at least on my own part.

communication

Communication is a rush. Knowing that the other person is human with a brain brimming with thoughts, emotions, and desires expressed in synapses in a language that is completely natural to it but entirely foreign and incomprehensible to me – that is an incredible reality. In the same way my brain thinks in English, that brain thinks in another language. And when I can grasp the tiniest understanding of just a piece of that language, that mental existence, what a thrill! Suddenly the palpable but invisible shroud that separates my mind from the other is drawn aside ever so slightly, just enough for me to glimpse those thoughts, desires, emotions, the brilliance I know must be and is there in that mind, just out of my reach, just beyond my comprehension. We communicate! For an instant I can see the world from that other perspective, and we stand on the same plane of muddled, muddy confusion that clears in sudden bursts of glorious understanding before clouding once again. What a rush! What a thrill to hesitantly form words to which neither my brain nor body is accustomed. What breathtaking embarrassment to fumble mid-sentence, frantically searching for that elusive word to complete my simple thought. What bounding, glorious excitement to see the confusion turn to comprehension in the eyes of the other person! What wonder to share the experience of mutual understanding, the brief moment of clarity between two very different – and yet not so different – people, both with the same raw emotions, feelings, wishes, only differing in form when given a voice in the beautiful song that is language, the marvelous dance that is communication.

At the food pantry on Friday I signed to a deaf woman. It was just a sentence and a fragment – all I could manage with my single community college beginner class knowledge. It was thrilling! And then it was over. She was standing right there but so out of reach.

olive oil and chocolate

I can’t say I’m really thrilled with how these first two effusive, excessive little paragraphs have turned out. I would much prefer to be perfectly honest and critical. However, being permitted to compose a more candid review would only change the chocolate write-up. Everything I say in the olive oil one is my true opinion, albeit embellished and exaggerated. That, people, is what I must write: super preppy, happy, positive descriptions or no descriptions at all. So, read on and laugh to yourselves at the thought of any of this coming out of my mouth, because you’ll never hear it in real life.

 

The Olive Oil Pantry and Tasting Room

This fine boutique offering an incredible selection of olive oils and balsamic vinegars along with specialty food items will enthrall foodies and occasional cooks alike. Head over to The Olive Oil Pantry to receive an education for your palette from enthusiastic owner Arnie Kaufman. Sample and purchase any of the 28 aged balsamic vinegars or 24 extra virgin olive oils available. Besides olive oils from Greece, Chile, and three olive-growing regions of Italy, The Olive Oil Pantry offers herb-infused olive oils including such as rich oregano and basil flavors. The flavor experience of the olive oils extends beyond herbs to garlic and mushroom, jalapeño, and lemon olive oils, just a few examples of the broad range of flavor options. As if the olive oils were not sufficiently impressive, another entire wall of The Olive Oil Pantry is lined with balsamic vinegars in every type of fruit flavor imaginable – apricot, fig, pineapple, passion fruit, orange, pomegranate, and more! – along with an incredibly thick and sweet traditional balsamic. The fruit flavors are so uncannily perfect you will want some flavored balsamics to pour on pancakes. You will never go back to the bitter, uninteresting taste of an everyday grocery store balsamic after you have sampled these. Both the olive oils and balsamic vinegars are hand-bottled before your eyes in the store in a shapely glass bottle in a size of your choosing, priced at $5.95 to 19.95. In addition to the olive oils and balsamic vinegars around which the store revolves, The Olive Oil Pantry offers a wide variety of sauces, salts, pastas, honeys, and tapenades, as well as soothing, organic olive oil lotions and soaps. Stop by The Olive Oil Pantry and Tasting Room from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. any day.

 

Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory

The glorious aroma of chocolaty air washes over you in wonderful, tantalizing waves as soon as you walk in the door at Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, only hinting at all the deliciousness contained within this chocolate lover’s heaven. A wide range of chocolates and chocolate covered delights fill the shop. From chocolate dipped pretzels to fudge to chocolate covered nut clusters and fruits to caramels and creams, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory offers all you need and more to satisfy your most intense chocolate cravings. Their widest selection of flavors – more than a dozen – are available in truffle form. Their ancho chile truffle’s little kick of chile pepper lingers with the smooth chocolate ganache filling, while the pumpkin spice truffle evokes visions of grandmothers’ home cooking on crisp fall days. Most of an entire display case is devoted to sugar-free versions of select sweets – including toffee, truffles, and nut clusters – from their wide traditional selection. Do not forget to try one of their enormous, house-made candied apples crusted with almonds, mini chocolate candies, marshmallows and caramel, or other delectable topping options. Choose a decorative box of pre-selected chocolates and a bouquet of red foil-wrapped chocolate roses for a beautiful, tasty gift that will not fade, or select chocolates you know your valentine will love for a personalized, scrumptious gift. Drop by the store Monday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

my dream jobternship

When the lady in charge at the Convention and Visitors Bureau finished outlining her ideas for my jobternship, I informed her, “This is like my dream internship.” It’s true.

She gave me a list of all of the restaurants and specialty food shops in town, highlighted a few important ones, and let me loose to galavant through town, sampling food and scribbling florid, verbose, descriptive sentence fragments on a miniature yellow legal pad according to my whim. What freedom! I like it.

The Convention and Visitors Bureau here is attempting to add a food section to their website, something they have wished to do for some time but never actually accomplished; other more immediate items have taken precedence. That is where I enter the scene. I am writing the brief, positive blurbs about restaurants in the area. Eventually, the little paragraphs will be all in one place on the website where tourists and locals alike can read about food places around here before deciding where to eat. Both the write-ups and the website section are and will be patterned after Oakland Convention and Visitor Bureau’s Food and Drink pages.

Thus far I have visited and written paragraphs about an olive oil shop and tasting room and a chocolate store. Today and tomorrow I have scheduled visits to a coffee shop, sandwich place, and a tea room.

I call each location and set up a time to meet with with the owner or manager. It makes the whole experience much less awkward than just marching in and declaring my mission. I spend 15 or so minutes wandering around, inspecting the food and menu, and taking notes. If I think of any questions about where ingredients come from or what special menu options are available, I inquire. If possible I sample some of the fair. If not, I sometimes purchase some to take home and try. The Convention and Visitors Bureau will reimburse me within reason. Before I leave I hand over the business card – upon which I have written my own name and email – of the lady I am working with at the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

I really am enjoying myself.

focused on peripheries

In theory I am in California to participate in my jobternship. Other volunteer opportunities should be peripheral, filler. However, during the two-week interim between my arrival and the commencement of my jobternship, I focused on those additional items. I will continue to participate in them as I am able during my jobternship.

Love I.N.C.
I mentioned in an earlier post that my grandparents had located a non-profit organization where I could volunteer. At Love I.N.C. – Love In the Name of Christ – I spend my hours arranging the first quarter newsletter.
Love I.N.C. is an organization that, in a perfect world, would take calls from people in need and refer them to churches or other organizations with programs to meet their need. Instead of Love I.N.C. having a food pantry or free beds to give away, they would refer people to the churches that would. Of course, this is not a perfect world, so Love I.N.C. here does sometimes provide items such as beds or coats but also refers people to some churches that do indeed provide items or services like soup kitchens. Love I.N.C. is a clearing house that helps churches help people. With all of the help they offer, Love I.N.C. requires both volunteer, prayer, and financial support. For that to happen, the people must be educated! That is where I ride in on my amicable horse, newsletter in hand.
On my first day, January 25th, Mr. Parsons, the passionate executive director, supplied me with a template for the newsletter on Word, and we overviewed content goals for the newsletter. With ideas and some content with which to commence constructing the newsletter, I stared to wrestle with the stubbornly immutable template. Since then, I have returned to Love I.N.C. twice to work on the newsletter for about two hours each time. Mr. Parsons and I always discuss my suggestions and his corrections and additions before I glue my face to the computer screen to type up lists of volunteer names and compose little paragraphs detailing ways to donate to Love I.N.C. It has been enjoyable watching the newsletter come together thus far.

Food Pantry
The food pantry at church is my other regular volunteer position. Every Friday from 1pm to 3:30pm, I take the papers from the intake workers, remove the paper clips, put the weekly forms in a stack, place the permanent files in an alphabetized organizer, call the food recipients’ names, and introduce them to the stockroom workers to whom I give their name and the number of people in their household. That list makes my job sound much more complicated than it really is. I am just a little step in a gloriously well-organized, reasonably efficient, food-providing system.
Long before I arrive, volunteers – some of which stay the whole day Friday and help with everything – unload food trucks and pack and shelve 75 to 100 large paper grocery bags full of food. These bags do not all contain the same quantity of food; those labeled with a yellow dot are for single people; ones labeled with a blue dot are for families of five or more people, and so on. Fresh fruits and vegetables, if some are available on the given day, are set up outside. In a long outdoor breezeway – which turns into a wind tunnel on chilly, blustery days – folding chairs are lined up along the walls. People begin to line up long before our 1pm opening time. Around 12:45 we open up the seating area. Every person receives a number and an information form to fill out. Kirk collects the forms and brings inside to the processing area. One of my fellow paper-filing ladies finds the files of returning persons in the filing cabinets and creates files for new people. She hands the stapled papers to Carol who reviews the form filled out just for the day, compares it to the permanent file, and writes a note so the intake person will know what items on the form, such as monthly income or name spelling, to confirm. Kirk takes the forms back outside and returns with the corresponding people. Each person sits down with an intake worker who checks the items Carol has suggested, inquires if anything has changed in the person’s situation since their last visit, and prays for them if they would like. The intake worker hands the file and the person’s laminated number card to me. I place the number in my number pile and proceed with the rest of my job. The two and a half hours pass by quite quickly.

Crab Feed
Though it was only a one-time event, volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club Crab Feed Fundraiser must be included in my summary of my non-jobternship endeavors. Jay, one of my grandparents’ friends from church recruited me, on the recommendation of Grandpa, to help him with the crab feed. He was in charge of the servers for most of the tables at the 550-person dinner. I was the his second in command.
I arrived, as requested, at the Boys and Girls Club’s kitchen at 4:30pm. Jay was not there. So, I helped line bread baskets with paper napkins and fill bowls with sour cream. I and the other volunteers ate our share of the supper – bread, salad, baked potato, and crab, in that order – around 5pm. Between 5:30 and 6:45, Jay and I wrote down the names of the volunteers, mostly teenagers, as they arrived and assigned them to tables on a master plan of attack. At 6:45 precisely Jay gave out instructions to the mass of servers. I passed around the master plan board so people could view their table assignments. Everyone lined up in preparation to take out the bread, which they did at 7:00 exactly.
During the first fifteen minutes or so of the dinner I answered the occasional question from the servers and kept an eye on the counter stocked with a few extra bowls each of butter, sour cream, lemon slices, and cocktail sauce, plus napkins. As the servers brought out the salad, I noticed the stock of butter was waning with disturbing rapidity. It then occurred to me that the baked potatoes were slated to be served momentarily. That meant people would want butter, lots and lots of butter. I grabbed the first knife I could find, half of a take-away box to serve as a cutting board, some more styrofoam bowls, a 4-pound chunk of butter, and began furiously slicing little pats of butter. Within ten minutes I had already fallen behind. A five-server line formed next to me, all of them waiting for butter for their table. Then we ran out of sour cream. I shoved the butter and knife at Jay and ran for the gallon jars of sour cream in the walk-in kitchen. I slopped sour cream into small bowls and shoved them at the waiting servers for five minutes, until the gym full of diners must have finally been sour cream saturated and the demand slowed to a trickle. For the rest of the evening until my 8:45 departure, I contented myself with keeping the supply corner stocked with piles of napkins and little sanitizing wipes for the messy crab eating. It was a fun, crazy evening.

Besides continuing to work on the newsletter at Love I.N.C. and the food pantry, I am looking forward to another fundraiser dinner. Jay, one of his granddaughters, and I will be cooking the Valentine’s Dinner, a fundraiser for the youth group, at church on the 11th. We will be cooking and serving stuffed pork loin with a side, stuffed flank steak with new potatoes, a salad of some sort, and baked apples for dessert. I cannot wait! These peripheries are fun, fun!

finally, my jobternship

jobternship (job’turn·ship) n – a temporary arrangement whereby a volunteer simultaneously participates in a job shadow and functions as an intern at a specific organization or company

Claire L. “Jobternship.” Claire’s Common Dictionary. 5th ed. Vol. 3. Isolation Point: Claire L., 2012. 471. Print.

 

Today, two weeks after I arrived in California, I met with a lady from the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau of this town to arrange how my jobternship is going to work and to find out more about what I will be doing. This is is Plan D of [general] Plan C.

As I mentioned previously, my original jobternship – for which I flew out here two weeks ago – was intended to be, according to the woman organizing it, “building website links on the internet and writing articles and blogs regarding the business.” After accomplishing the required fingerprinting on Wednesday the 17th, I waited around for a meeting to be arranged with the business. On Tuesday the 24th, however, my jobternship organizing lady called to inform me that the business could not do it. There had been communication confusion. The business was looking for local kids to have as interns and subsequently hire. They had not thought to ask the organizing organization nor had it occurred to my lady to mention my non-resident status in California. Furthermore, the business is in the process of changing office buildings and will be working out of a coffee shop for the next two months or so. Both the business and my lady felt really bad about the whole thing. I shrugged and listened for secondary options.

The thrown-together jobternship opportunities that presented themselves were either working with the campaign of a local politician running for city counsel or helping a lady who publishes a monthly advertising periodical, basically, an ad pack. Helping out with a political campaign sounded marginally less uninteresting to me, so I selected that option as Plan B. Of course, a few days later it became apparent that there would not be much to do with the political campaign since the election is local and not until November. Plan B transformed into Plan C: namely, jobtern with both the ad pack and the political campaign in order to meet the 36-hour goal set by the organization setting everything up.

This past Friday the 27th I received an unexpected call from my jobternship lady, who relayed yet another possibility for a jobternship – the best yet! A plan was made for me to meet someone at the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau on Monday at 12:30. That is what I did today. Our meeting solidified my role at the Bureau: For four to six hours on Wednesdays and Thursdays I will make suggestions and help with their social networking enterprises and also interview select local restaurant owners, perhaps after sampling some of their food, in order to write up one to two-paragraph blurbs about the restaurants. I will also help out with the huge Women’s Conference in mid-February. My homework before I start on Wednesday is to look at the websites of other Visitor’s Bureaus in the area to find anything I think would be helpful to add to their website. It is perfect! I am looking forward to it.