I am a proud California native, perhaps obnoxiously so.
My family has been cattle ranching on the Central Coast for 7 generations.
WHAT?!?! California has more than just surfer bros, Kardashians, and Google?!?!
Why yes, we do. MUCH more. Thank heavens for that.
Yes, there are things about it that I don't miss (like the cost of living and lack of Cracker Barrels), but I will forever be a champion for the beautiful golden state. It has something for everyone whether you prefer big cities, rural farm life, sandy beaches, snowy mountains, or barren deserts. The agriculture is abundant, landscapes are stunning, food is delicious, wine is divine, and the weather is just simply perfection (most of the time).
I have a confession to make though... California I'm cheating on you and there is another state that has recently stole my heart. When I moved here for work about six months ago I had no idea what to expect, and whatever few expectations I had were completely blown out of the water. Nestled between eight surrounding states, the Bluegrass State of Kentucky is an absolute gem and is wildly underrated. It undoubtedly has a piece of my heart, and here are just a few ways it stole it.
I quickly learned that my California definition of barbecue and the southern definition of barbecue are VERY different. To me barbecue is a verb and a noun. Anything that you barbecue on a grill is called barbecue. Kentuckians basically told me to swerve, "You crazy Californian, you've got it all wrong. That's just grilling. If it ain't slow roasted, it ain't barbecue." Well, you learn something new every day, don't you? My only request is that Kentucky join the west coast in our love for tri-tip beef because I'm having massive withdrawals. I know that some people will argue about Kentucky being the best state for barbecue, and to them I say, "Sorry, give me a sec. I'm busy stuffing my face with delicious, tender, slow roasted brisket."
I'm a wine lover through and through and a sucker for German beer, but the heavenly delight of that golden fluid... I CAN'T EVEN. I've only scraped the top of the bourbon barrel, if you will, but I'm aspiring to Pappy Van Winkle levels before I die. High hopes, I know. The only thing that leaves me perplexed is this "dry" county nonsense.. Prohibition was soooo last century. And what the heck is a "moist" county? It is rarely ever okay to even use that word as a descriptor... for anything.
Fireflies/Lightning bugs Whatever the heck those majestic glowing creatures are called.
My coworkers were BAFFLED by the fact that my first time seeing fireflies was my first day in Kentucky. Sure California has the beach and God's gift to mankind (aka In-N-Out Burger)... But no fireflies. While people here probably get over the hype by age 10, with no shame in my game at first sight I was a full grown adult giddy like a little kid on Christmas morning. Bucket list item: √Check. Thanks Kentucky.
Maybe you've heard that Kentucky is the horse capital of the world? Did you know that Kentucky is also the largest beef cattle producing state east of the Mississippi River? As a hub for both horses and cattle, there is some beautiful pasture ground across the state, and it is SO GREEN. Crazy what rain can do, right California?
Listen, I know it might be weird, but one of my favorite parts of the horse and cattle country here are the fences. The wooden plank fences in the rolling hills of the lusciously green Bluegrass GIVE ME LIFE. And don't even get me started about the old rock wall fences, especially the ones along Paris Pike. It's like classic southern charm with a dash of European and I am in love. I do miss the abundance of classic old rusty barbed-wire back home, but you can't have it all.
Y'alls and Drawls
As endearing as "hella" and "right on bro" are, I think I prefer southern drawls and Kentuckyisms much more. I'll admit, I'm still trying to break my California habits like saying, "Shut UP!" when I hear something that surprises or excites me. Baby steps.
I am slowly learning the "correct" way to pronounce things like Louisville (Loo-vull) and finally got over feeling the need to cringe when pronouncing Versailles (Ver-sales). Even when you are insulted here it sounds like the sweetest thing you've ever heard. I know by now what "bless your heart" REALLY means, but I can't help but want to sincerely respond with an "Aw, thank you. That's so sweet." I'm secretly hoping that the southern accent will wear off on me, because I don't think I will ever get sick of it. Y'all are fixin' to make this Californian never wanna leave!
I don't know if I'm actually obsessed with Kentucky, or if Kentuckians are so obsessed with Kentucky that it's contagious. Either way, I'm hooked. And PROUD. Kentucky has a surprising 120 counties (CA is more than 4x the size of KY and only has 58, just sayin') and each one is as unique as the spots on a Holstein cow. Kentuckians don't identify with their hometown, but their home county. I finally caught on, "Hi, I'm Kiah from Fayette county." Am I doing it right?
I live in Lexington, so yes, I tend to favor UK blue. Is it because I'm a huge CATS fan or because I don't want to be the ONLY Lexingtonian not representing on game day? Let's just say I've invested in some spirited garb to blend in with the locals. When I walk into a local store I find it hard not to want to buy every Kentucky themed item there is. Do I need a Kentucky shaped cutting board? No, nobody does. Unlike the perfect cutting board shaped state of Colorado, a Kentucky cutting board is awkward and narrow at one end with inconvenient funky ridges. Do I need to spend $40 on a burlap pillow that I will never use just because it has an adorable Kentucky patch on it? Probably not. But I WANT IT. Because, well, Kentucky y'all.
One of which is Jennifer Lawrence, who I just really want to be friends with. #goals
But in all seriousness...
Southern hospitality is most definitely a thing. A real life thing. The people here are INCREDIBLE. I moved here knowing 1 person but I felt at home almost immediately because the people are generous, welcoming, and sincere. You know that at-home feeling you get when you're in the town you grew up in and you see 12 people you know on a short trip to the grocery store? It feels like that, but everywhere. As a total people person, I LOVE that waving at people and striking up conversations with total strangers is a normal everyday thing here. The casual hour long conversation I had with a preacher the other day while getting my tires changed was nothing out of the ordinary, and that's awesome if you ask me.
Being away from home is hard, that's a fact. I hate having to miss family functions in sunny 75 degree weather while freezing to death in a Snowpocalypse.
I will forever preach that "West Coast = Best Coast," but I thank God every day that fate brought me here, the wonderful state of Kentucky.