Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Flinstone's Rib

On our way south to Los Angeles to visit friends, we drove through the central valley of California where the road is straight as a string and fast for hundreds of miles. Spring is the perfect season for this drive as the soft, round hills are brightly green and the almond trees are all in bloom. The trees make a huge cloud of white when the sun shines brightly, palest mauve when there is high, thin cloud, and softly lavender when a heavy cloud sails over. It's an amazing sight to see the huge blocks of white stretching away from the road with a square wooden beehive at the end of every other row to insure pollination. Negative thoughts about the follies of monoculture are crowded out by the sheer beauty of the landscape.

About halfway down, Harris Ranch awaits the hungry traveler. This is carnivore's heaven, the only stop for miles in either direction that actually has good food. On the way south, you pass the stockyards where the soon-to-be dinner cattle are being fattened in pens that stretch on for perhaps a mile along the side of the highway. We arrived in the late morning before the lunch rush to find two huge rib roasts of beef being cooked, untended, on an open barbecue, wafting that incredible scent out across the parking lot. No other inducement was needed; we decided to eat in their more casual dining room, idly watching Danica Patrick in NASCAR trials running silently on the inevitable mammoth-screen TV.

When I ordered "the ribs," our waitress had to clarify that it was going to be just one big rib. She said people expect small ribs and are surprised by getting just one. The beef rib was enormous, at least eight inches long, and very meaty and tender. It was served over a foundation of beans cooked to smoky perfection with real bacon and shaved garlic in the sauce. No "smoke flavoring" was needed - these had obviously been cooked over a smoky fire and they tasted subtly of it. I could only eat about half of it, so we boxed the rest for dinner that night and continued on our way.

As we drove south, the panoply of agriculture continued with orange groves, tangerine stands and nut trees labeled for the passing drivers, punctuated by bright green fields of winter wheat and pastures full of grazing cattle and sheep. The ribbon of water that feeds Los Angeles and the farms along the way winds beside the road, now beneath the road, and the enormous power lines that link north to south swoop along between erector-set poles beside the highway. Eighteen-wheelers lumber up and down the road moving produce and goods between the two cities and from far away. This corridor is truly a lifeline.

The farmers along the way are engaged not only in agriculture but in lobbying, too. Frequent signs along the highway, "Congress created dust bowl," attest to the water wars being waged between the fishermen and the farmers as they vie for use of the most precious of resources in California. At this time of year, the signs are not very persuasive, as the valley in spring is anything but a dust bowl, but perhaps they will be more meaningful in the summer when irrigation is necessary to encourage the abundance of this amazing valley.

The valley ends at the Grapevine, where one climbs and climbs up in the mountains, sometimes encountering snow in the highest elevations, before dropping down into the basin of the San Fernando Valley and, ultimately, Los Angeles, where our friends awaited.

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Blogger dancingmorganmouse said...

Ahh, water wars, we have them going on here too. What's the river?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010  
Blogger 妝狂 said...


Wednesday, February 24, 2010  
Blogger Greg said...

I have never eaten at Harris Ranch but have stopped there for a break. My son played traveling soccer and that is the exit to go to Lemoore Ca.where they have a big soccer complex. It seems at night like you could drive for hours and go nowhere.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010  
Blogger cookiecrumb said...

One huge rib! I'm glad to hear it was good eating. I could never eat there; the stink of the feedlots puts me off.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Morgan, it's more the ground water and the meltwater from the Sierra Nevada than a single river we fight over. This is going to be the biggest issue of the next century - and it's already heating up.

Asian person, more unreadable spam that I refuse to click on. Shame on you!

Greg, yes, it's out in the middle of godawful nowhere but we always enjoy stopping there - clean restrooms and good (if pricey) food.

Cookiecrumb, luckily, the wind was in another direction. But you'd hate it anyway - just too much meat.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010  

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