Boca happens to be thick with Jews, many of whom are transplants from New York. These wandering Israelites brought with them their general pushiness – honed from years of fighting for one square foot of personal space on crowded streets and subways - aggressive driving habits – a yellow light means speed up before the signal changes to red, the exact opposite of what traffic planners intended - and food preferences - lots of bagel shops, delis and Chinese restaurants. One is left to wonder, did the Chinese independently follow their own migration southward, or were they drawn in a symbiotic relationship by their Jewish customers?
I spent this year’s Yuletide at a once-prosperous fishing town in Oregon, Astoria, on a peninsula of land where the mighty Pacific Ocean meets the mouth of the equally mighty Columbia River. Our charming boutique lodging, jutting right out on a pier over the water was retrofitted into a former cannery and named, logically enough, The Cannery Pier Hotel. Astoria, like most natural-resource dependent burgs in the Pacific Northwest fell on hard times in the transition over the past half-century to an information-driven economy. However, thanks to its spectacular natural beauty and relative proximity to Portland and Seattle, the city has slowly begun to recover, albeit in a gentrifying fashion. Upscale restaurants and trendy shops catering to tourists have begun to spring up in the tidy, compact downtown, where the newest buildings appear to date from the Eisenhower administration, and those a block or two from the main drag have fallen into disrepair. Fishing protein from the sea as a collective community enterprise is slowly being replaced by fishing credit cards out of hipster wallets in return for locally sourced, creatively inspired meals accompanied by appropriately paired craft beers.
We had dinner on Christmas in such a restaurant, The Astoria Coffee House & Bistro. Our meals were outstanding – I had a Portobello sandwich Santa himself would have enjoyed - but they weren’t Chinese. My wife thought the local Chinese restaurant near our hotel seemed to be still stuck in the 1950s in terms of décor, ambiance and possibly even soy sauce supplies. As she’s gotten older, her digestion has become more delicate, and so she was understandably reluctant to risk her health simply to uphold an ancient Jewish tradition, even one passed down from Moses at Mt. Sinai. Our kids, of course, went to the local kosher Chinese restaurant with their grandparents. Oh well, they say sometimes traditions skip a generation.
My next challenge: staying up until midnight on New Year’s eve.