The only bucket list I have that includes New Jersey is the “Avoid at all Costs” list and New Jersey is number one. I’d driven through it too many times. I never stopped. The “Garden State” has always held more aversion than interest for me, and yet, it has been my home for the last five months and certain to continue to be for the next six or more. I admit it, I was dead wrong. New Jersey is an extremely pleasant place to live, if one can afford to forgive its cost factor.
My initial residence was a sprawling farmhouse in the north mountains. The commute to work turned out to be four hours a day and clearly not sustainable. When not stopped in traffic, the ride was a death-defying high-speed car chase. I’d arrive at work needing a nap or a straight jacket. After seven weeks, I relocated to Morristown and a ten-minute commute. An existence reduced in grandeur but one that returned me my sanity.
Folks in New Jersey take their food very seriously and that puts me in good company. Going to the supermarket, I have two favorites, is the high point of each week. The seafood, meat, and produce sections are fastidiously stocked with the freshest best of everything. In-house bakeries provide really delicious cakes and breads. Unlike the highways, drivers of shopping carts are always courteous. “Please, after you”, is the rule of engagement, and check-out clerks are equally friendly and speedy at their task.
Unique restaurants are everywhere and their many decades’ longevity a testament to the consistent quality provided to its guests. I enjoy Arthur’s Tavern for lunch on Saturdays. Their 24 ounce Delmonico is a work of art and the leftovers feed me for several days. Rod’s Steakhouse is my Thursday evening treat. They always greet me with a polite, “Hello, Ms. Stetson,” and the piano player plays my favorites without prompting. The Committed Pig serves the best burger on the planet, Millie’s the best meatballs, and Urban Fire cranks out a nine-minute Napolitano Pizza that makes you believe you’re in Italy.
All things considered, I can’t find anything to complain about, which makes New Jersey a unique location among the many countries and cities I’ve lived in over the last few decades. A good food environment neutralizes the aggravations suffered by crazy drivers and a cost of living that tops the chart. Just goes to show that assumptions are foolish and expectations very much subject to change.