Try as we may, we simply cannot view Orange County with the same attitudes we bring to, say, Nebraska. We lived next door to this crowded, exuberant, county for ten years, from 1970 to 1980, and gew quite familiar with the major Sights at the time, like Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm. We've also visited the Nixon Vietnamese Fast Food Presidential Library and the Crystal Cathedral.
But places change, and on this trip we encountered a vibrant Asian community in Westminster and Garden Grove, not far from our hotel. The culinary payoff was visits to Thai, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese restaurants. Korean food is kind of fun, because they place a dozen or so little dishes of pickled vegetables on the table in addition to the main part of rice and meat. Of course you have to develop a taste for the pickled vegetables. The pickled cabbage is known as kim-chee, and inspired a lot of stories brought back by soldiers during the Korean War. The Vietnamese like a lot of noodle soups, by which they mean a big lump of thin noodles in the middle of a bowl filled with broth and meats and vegetables, which you eat with a combination of chop sticks and an oriental soup spoon. And there's plenty of opportunity to set your stomach on fire by adding as much red stuff from one of the dishes of condiments on the table. The Thai food has peanuts and mint and lemon, and is probably our favorite Asian cuisine. But even the Chinese food we had in Garden Grove was a whole lot better than the typical steam-table all-you-can-eat Flowers for the Tet festival Chinese buffet that has infested American small towns.
Little Saigon demonstrates the impressive prosperity of the local Vietnamese community. Next door to our restaurant was an array of tents with flowers and gifts for the New Year festival of Tet, and a huge shopping center with one jewelry store after another, where customers try to bargain the sellers down in price. We're lucky that neither of us is a big jewelry fan, so we saved our money. But the bright colors raised our spirits, and we were impressed with the art work and the Buddhist shrines with joss sticks to light for a prayer.
We made several visits to Bob's ailing aunt, who always manages to be in good spirits. She's doing as well as can be expected, and has some good nurses and care givers from a local hospice, along with many old friends from her apartment building, paying her visits.