Although there is a university here, Valley City is not a college town per se. Absent are dingy cafés serving slightly burnt coffee and overly-toasted bagels, sleazy dance clubs, or head shops. We don’t have any interesting ethnic restaurants, or art house movie theaters, or any movie theaters at all actually.
There are a few times of year however when for the few of us involved in university activities feel like, just maybe, we live in a college town. Last week, graduation, gave us reason to celebrate.
We were invited to a graduation party hosted by two foreign exchange students and a guy from Florida, which for all intents and purposes might as well be considered a foreign exchange student here. I don’t think its a mystery to anyone who is familiar with human nature to understand why a Mongolian, a Ghanan, and a Dominican from the South would be friends here in Little Scandanavia.
When you’ve made the commitment to leave your family so far behind to study and make something better of your life it is that much more rewarding to achieve your dream. They were proud, like chests puffed out, dressed to the nines proud. And so were their families. Everyone’s parents came, from Mongolia, Ghana, and Florida as well as relatives from all over, Minneapolis, Chicago, and beyond.
It’s intoxicating all that love and happiness and untapped potential. It took me back to the days before children, and marriage, and career when you had your whole life spread out in front of you like a gigantic blank slate ready to be scribbled over. Life was so freeing back then, all that blankness, you could stretch out your arms and twirl around Sound-of-Music style. Life is just as fulfilling now but in a more nuanced way, your slate gets crowded once the scribbling begins, you don’t have as much room to move around.
Of course the best part for me was the food. Everyone brought their favorite dishes, there were baby back ribs, Ghanan rice and peas, dumplings from Mongolia (literally from Mongolia, his grandmother made them and brought them over on the plane). There was this incredible mouth-igniting coleslaw that was kind of like kimchi but sweeter. There was fried chicken, grilled chicken, and big chunks of juicy pork butt cooked with tons of sweet peppers and garlic. We ate goooooood. It was the best party I’ve been to in four years.
The next day, still drunk on all that joy, I wanted to make something that symbolizes all the love I have for my family and what says love better than roast chicken? Especially one stuffed with fragrant lemons and fresh herbs. And if you’re making a roast chicken why not make two? Spread the love, invite some friends. Which is what I did, and which is why the photographs show two chickens, while the recipe just calls for one. I appreciate you in advance for your understanding.