All right, equal time here. I’m Lisa, the-ahem- “Ms. Morning Sickness” of this blog (John’s got some ’splaining to do). I was going to wait until I felt better to start writing, but then I realized I don’t gag too much when I recall past eating experiences. Speaking of the past and the focus of our blog, I have to admit I wasn’t always a big fan of South Jersey; when I was 17, I ran screaming from it.
South Jersey suburbia in the 1980’s resembled something like a cross between the whole of The Stepford Wives and the musical lawn mowing scene in She’s Having a Baby (complete with housewives dancing with lemonade over unnaturally green grass). It seemed to me an alien place that stifled the soul and was culturally dead, especially where food was concerned. Sure, you could occasionally find a good, upscale Italian place complete with a dessert cart. Once, the famous Callahan’s of Fort Lee even franchised out a location in Toms River for a too-brief moment of glory (the “So Big, So Good” hot dogs… God, if you think the Windmill is something, check out this link and make a pilgrimage). Sadly, it was only months before the owners decided to change to lower quality ingredients in order to cut prices, and it was tastier to stay home and boil up a package of Ball Parks. Beyond the arrival of a few chain restaurants (Ground Round, Garcia’s-remember them?), there wasn’t much going on.
After attending college “up north” (Rutgers) followed by working in New York, I had discovered a joyful new world: gourmet coffee joints, Indian, Thai, Malaysian, real brick oven pizza- you name it, it could be delivered to your doorstep. I was sure I’d never look back! Then the end of the nineties arrived, and it came time for John and me to transform our hip, live-in couplehood into a marriage. Though we dutifully wrote and recited our own romantic vows, we secretly promised to live in urban sprawl, forsaking TGI Friday’s and all SUV-like vehicles. But, suddenly, job circumstances changed, and the big event, a baby, rocked our smug little world. With childcare a huge issue and relocation closer to family a must, we found ourselves —you guessed it— back down in South Jersey. After about a month, I became ashamed of my extreme prejudice. This is my home turf, it’s the Jersey Shore, how bad could it be? I decided to approach friends and neighbors, asking about the best places to get a bite in the area. After a few rollicking discussions on the least fattening item on the Applebee’s menu, I almost gave up. But slowly, surely, John and I did eventually make some amazing local “discoveries” (well, at least for us they were) : Bruno’s Salumeria, Surf Taco, The German Butcher, Rich’s Ice Cream, some menu items at The Original Portuguese Grill, just to name a few (of which we will be writing about in detail shortly). And when our friends from “up north” tried to sympathize about our sad location in “the boonies”, we tried to tell them, “ No, no, no— it’s so different, things have really changed here!”
But I’m going to share our dirty little secret: we really love it here. The beach, lakes and hidden parks; the people who don’t know you but sometimes say hi anyway; that local family farm where we pick strawberries every June—maybe I always loved it. In fact, I’m starting to wonder just how much of my surroundings have changed versus my own attitude. It could be that I finally know what I value and I’m taking the time to discover it around me.
So here we are. We’re glad to be back. We still don’t drive anything close to an SUV. But if you know of any good Thai places opening up in the Lacey area, drop us a line, OK?