Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Granola Chronicles

2007 marks my 20th year living in Santa Cruz county. Yes, 20 years— more than half my life. Popsey has lived here much longer, since he was 9 or so, but I spent most of my early years in the conservative, lily-white (at that time) suburb of Irvine.

Way back in 1987 I was anxiously awaiting for responses to my college applications, one of which was sitting on a generous administrator’s desk in the admissions office of UC Santa Cruz. She read the essay about my amazing accomplishments, and observed my reasonably good grades (except in chemistry). She gave me a few extra points for sweating through those honors classes, and pondered my passable but not too impressive SAT scores. I imagine her nodding approvingly when reading I was copyeditor for the yearbook (a well-titled position whose duties were a mystery to everyone, including me…there’s not much copy to edit in a yearbook if you haven’t noticed...but this was before spellcheck of course...that was a loooong semester) and wrote for the school magazine (she had no way of knowing my articles were mostly fluff, better suited to a blog). Then she changed the course and fate of my life forever by shuffling my application into the accepted pile. I can picture this so well because I spent a summer after graduation working as a temp in that very admissions office, printing out certificates of acceptance and letters of rejection while the regular lady was out on maternity leave.

I had never been to Santa Cruz, in fact, I had never heard of it before applying to college there. In talking with peers about college plans, I vividly remember someone remarking disparagingly “Santa Cruz is full of granolas.”

“What the heck does that mean?” I wondered innocently. I would soon find out.

My dad drove me up for the orientation, and we stayed at a AAA-approved motel on Ocean St. with a kidney-shaped pool surrounded by bars in the shadow of the freeway. I was already beginning to panic that this place was not what I had hoped, but my dad managed to appease me.

The next morning we embarked on our journey up to campus by way of Mission St., the main artery through town. On Mission St. I looked around at the traffic, ugly, faded, flat-roofed buildings, and sagging power lines, and started to cry. I was accustomed to Irvine, a city where every rock, every blade of grass, is carefully planned out, not like some thrown-together monstrosity city.

But as we drove up the two-lane road that leads to UCSC, past dilapidated barns and cows grazing in meadows, I cheered up considerably. The campus is beautiful, and I was won over immediately. Even seeing a long-haired, bearded guy dressed in rags, who looked like he hadn’t showered in weeks, riding a bike up the hill, did not deter my growing enthusiasm.

“That must be a granola,” I thought, and decided maybe I’d have to give these granolas a chance, if they didn’t smell too bad. The rest of the orientation was a blur of shuttling around in mini-buses through winding roads and forests, and meeting people who were friendly! and smiled! I ended up falling in love with Santa Cruz.

For 20 years now I’ve befriended these granolas, hung out in their buses, and eaten their trail mix. I've tried to comprehend their conspiracy theories, listened to them strum the same Grateful Dead songs on their guitars over and over, and gagged on their patchouli. But I realized only a month ago, after reading a blog post about making granola, that I’ve never actually tried making granola.

So, in celebration of 20 years in Santa Cruz, I made granola. Then I made it again. And again. And then Popsey said, “You should write about this in the blog—this stuff is good." So here I am.

The recipe is endlessly flexible, fun to make, and incredibly easy. The hardest part is making sure you don't burn it, or fending off your significant other who might be hovering around warning you not to burn it, fretting about the evils of carcinogens. I've even gotten to hear some new "back in the day" stories from Popsey, including one about his buddy Big Carl who used to be a granola baker at the Breadshop, who fed the day's burnt granola to his pet pig Luau.

I won’t reprint the whole recipe here because you can get the jist of it from this link. Be sure to read the comments for some variations. Don’t forget the salt. The original recipe is from Mark Bittman in the NY Times, which you have to register to read, and if you do the free registration, print out the recipe because if you try and go back and read it again they want actual money (the nerve).

Granola—it’s not just for Santa Cruz anymore.


  1. That would be a great marketing slogan!

  2. You're all a bunch of damned granolas.

    Mmm... granola.

  3. I lived in Santa Cruz for a maybe a year. It's great, granolas and all.