Wednesday, March 31, 2010


"Christian Militia"

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

New To Me and Reallly Good!

I had a Caesar salad today at Tin Roof Bistro, Manhattan Beach. Normally I avoid the croutons which are generally day-old cubed bread, but the odd shape of these intrigued me so I ate one. A smile of pleasure rocketed across my face -- they were chewy. Our waiter said, "That's fresh Italian bread, hand torn and sauteed briefly in olive oil." Now, if they'd just rub the crusts of the bread with raw garlic before tearing them....outta sight! (Motto: too much garlic is just about enough.)

At The Dentist's Office - New-Fangled Things and Sticker Shock

I get my teeth cleaned every three months. "My" dental tech got a new, comforter-style pad for her chair. It's thick and soft. If I hadn't had to keep my mouth open, I could have fallen asleep.

Before she even asked me to open my mouth, she took my right forearm and Velcro-ed what looked like a huge watch onto it. "Taking your blood pressure," she murmured. "What? You're measuring patients' terror levels now?" I asked.

What a blissful change from the vise grip clamp of the other way. How can they get a true reading with a patient writhing in pain and stifling sobs?

She has pina colada-flavored gum numbing gel. Previously it was "banana" which I hated. No reason to fear teeth cleaning with these gels. It took at least half an hour post cleaning for my lips, throat and tongue to return to their previous settings.

Did I want to have any deep pockets in the gums lasered? I declined with some alacrity! I don't want someone waving a laser around in my mouth, thank you very much!

Dental lasers have been in use since 1994, but while the FDA has approved them for this use, the American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance has so far been denied them. Naturally, dental offices that do use them are pushing them. A laser costs between $39,000 and $45,000; a standard drill goes for around $600.

Next she summoned in The Dentist. He sauntered in, humming a catchy little tune. Astounded, I asked if humming was typical? Astonished, he replied, 'Haven't you ever seen a happy dentist?" Frankly, I can't remember any...

After everyone looked at my x-rays (including a tech from the next cubicle) I was informed I needed to replace three crowns. The Dentist said the front desk would give me an estimate (I almost said, "Don't flush the radiator this time.")

The estimate? With a senior discount of $441.60? Brace yourself: $4,416.00. I could probably buy a used car for that kind of money! For sure, we could visit Paris and Tel Aviv flying Business class!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Being Mean...

"I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti" by Guilia Melucci Grand Central Publishing 276 pages $23.99

Melucci is a proud product of Brooklyn. She must be nearing 40 because her age seems to be a state secret and I've looked. While she's lived with a least four men (didn't finish the book) for periods of up to four years, she's never succeeded in marrying one of them.

She prides herself on being a very good cook and loves nothing better than cooking for the insert-name-here currently taking up space in her life. I read carefully (to about the halfway mark) and came to the conclusion that she's one of those most dread creatures -- a smotherer!

Interspersed in the story line are a number of recipes. Consider the personality of a person who writes a 276 page book about how she can't keep a man. Yes...a very long read from someone who can't learn from her prevous mistakes. And I really hate when that happens.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Why Didn't I Think of That?

"Brunch! 100 Fantastic Recipes for the Weekend's Best Meal" by Gale Gand Clarkson/Potter Publishers 208 pages $27.50 (lots of color photos)

Gand is, to say the least, a brunch advocate. Admittedly, I enjoy it, too. And if the words "champagne Sunday" are added, I'm heaven bound.

This is the recipe for her White Hot Chocolate:
3 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup heavy cream (make mine 4 cups 2% milk, please)
8 oz. white chocolate, chopped
1 teas. almond extract
Optional: six strips of orange peel, 1 in. x 3 in.

Combine the milk, cream and orange peel and heat until boiling. Add the chocolate and stir until it's absorbed. Add the almond extract and fish out the orange peels. Stir again.

Take two of the saved orange peels, cut into thin strips and garnish the poured cup.

Why Didn't You Think of This?

Well-meaning people, friends of mine, are boiling over at the rules and regs of the new health care reform package. Petitions rain down on my computer on a near-daily basis. As I'm tired of typing and sending this response, you read it here:

Cyberspace petitions are worthless. For a true petition, you have to print your name, sign your name and include your full mailing address.

(Opinion: I doubt these things go any farther than the desk of the lowest on the food chain at the politician's office. If you want to get your opinion out, use the Letters to the Editor section of your local paper.)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Local News

Saturday, 3/27/10 from 1 to 4 p.m. at 100 Int'l Boardwalk, RB Pier --Clam Chowder Cook-off!

Your $7 fee goes to The Wellness Community, a cancer patient support facility. You get to taste five chowders -- New England and Manhattan and vote for the one you think is the best.

Tasting starts at 1 p.m. and ends at 4 p.m. We're going because Richie loves chowder. He's a former clammer and his brother and his two sons are clammers to this day. Clams in the blood you might say...

Happy Birthday!

Ms. Verena Robertson, of Carson, CA, was 104 years old yesterday. She told the reporter, "A good life is a life with nice people. And I have good people in my life."

I liked that and whole-heartedly believe it to be true.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Making Do With Whatcha Got

Richie reads the Trader Joe flyers and makes a shopping list. He gets caught up in their prose just like a lot of other folks do. Last night he wanted to eat one of his purchases, the Trader Joe's Manicotti with Wild Mushroom Marinara Sauce for dinner.

I had about 6 oz. of hamburger meat leftover and told him I'd make a sorta Bolognese sauce with it to go with the manicotti. Got out two strips of bacon and cut them into 1 in. slices and started them br0wning. Diced a couple of slices of onion; peeled two garlic cloves and minced them. Threw all of the above into the skillet and turned to the refrigerator to get the hamburger.

Except "my hamburger" had turned into leftover beef sirloin strips (which hadn't worked out at all well when I first used them - tough.) So I threw them out. I got out the "Better Than Bouillon" (which isn't - salty) and, adding hot water, made about a cup of that. I added it to the mixture and let it simmer down and thicken.

The bacon, onion and garlic blended right in with the mushrooms -- kind of an earthy taste -- and it was all good together.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


I finally finished the roll of film in my Nikon. Let's see what I got...(which means, if I can get them from somewhere deep inside the computer to right here)

Top: the Dim Sum Devil Top : Lunch with the Mafia
Middle sort of: During My Ailment Someone lost a shoe in the parking lot
Last: St. Patrick's Day Parade

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Glow of Getting What I Want

Some time ago (translation: I can't remember when) we were enjoying a convivial glass of wine at Bob and Pat's house. Pat set out crackers, Brie and chopped liver. The chopped liver was wooonderful!

"Damn! This is toothsome! Where did you get it?"
"Bristle Farms" she replied. Bristle Farms is not the real name; trying to avoid lawsuits.

Then and there I vowed to get me some. About a week later, I went to Bristle Farms, Riviera Village. Not finding it, I asked a store person. He went straight to the pate section (they have an exensive one) but there it wasn't. He inquired at the meat counter and the butcher told him, "The shipment didn't come in. We usually get it on Tuesday and Saturday."

One week later, I marched up to the butcher and asked for, "Some chopped chicken liver." He nodded, smile and bustled back into the butchery (?) returning with a small paper bag. I thanked him and scurried off like a cockroach. It wasn't until after I paid for it that I realized the sack felt ... funny ... to be holding a container of chopped liver. So I looked. It was real chicken livers! (Arghhh!) Apparently the butcher hadn't heard the "chopped" part. I returned them.

Time passed. We were in Manhattan Beach so I skipped into the Bristle Farms there and asked for it. They were out. I said, "THe hell with it" to myself and walked out of the store.

Yesterday I got my chopped liver. We took our tax stuff in to the accountant and had lunch (as we always do) at Factor's Famous Deli. What better than a Jewish deli for a Jewish delicacy? After we ate, I went to the deli counter and there sat an enormous bowl of chopped liver. I could see the bits of hard-boiled egg gleaming yellow and white... a lovely sight. I bought a quarter pound ($6.24) and two big fat dill pickles ($1.89.) Ah, happiness.

So -- once I buy the Easter ham, I'll be set for both Easter and Passover. Y'all come on over!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Problem and Possible Solution

A married couple for many years has a slight problem. He's an avid golfer; she's not. She would love to visit Italy; he wouldn't. So I suggest they both read "The Italian Summer; Golf, Food and Family at Lake Como" by Roland Merullo A Touchstone Book 259 pages $24.99

Merullo writes for Golf Digest, Golf World, Links, Travel + Leisure Golf. He's an American of Italian descent and loves all things Italian. He and his wife took their little girls to Lake Como for the family's summer vacation.

Merullo describes the traffic (horrendous,) the food (delicious) and several golf games (hole by hole) which I skipped.

The husband will enjoy reading about the courses, game played, players, etc. Apparently if a golfer is into it enough, they will read with joy someone else's account of a game. The logic of this escapes me.

Men, in my limited experience, all seem to like food. The wife will get a true feeling for the country and its people. And perhaps they will both get their wish - he to play golf; she to visit Italy.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Man and His Dim Sum

Much like Brooke Shields and her Calvins, you do not want to get between this man and his dim sum.

Now we've all read of personality changes -- "From gentle lamb to roaring lion" - that kind of thing, but what I saw with my own eyes Friday positively blew me away. A man that I know to be a sophisticate suddenly turned -- right in front of my disbelieving eyes -- into a ravening beast! He'd been his usual urbane self -- until the dim sum began hitting the table.

He began barking "Give me that..." "I'll take some of that..." These were not polite requests. There was a sense of menace thick in the air... A man of accomplishments and grace was suddenly ... He Who Must Be Obeyed.

And it must be said that for a short man he has an uncanny ability to turn into a particularly large octopus. Chopsticks and arms were everywhere!

"Give me some more of that..." The rest of us chatted amiably enough, but his conversation consisted entirely of rapid-fire food orders punctuated with the odd groan of satisfaction. The man was insatiable!

Foolishly, I thought that he would subside as his belly filled. Clearly I had under-estimated that organ's capacity. He had become an eating machine! The servers ran as they fetched more and more carts and rolled them out to us at speed. The table top was crowded with empty pails and the tower of dirty dishes grew higher and higher. Still he ate on, requests now a little muffled as he chewed on yet another shrimp ball, sticky bun...

Finally, finally the feeding frenzy gradually subsided into torpor. A look of glazed sleepiness drifted as gently as moonrise across his face. Sluggishly, he sipped at his tea and looked at the littered table top, much like a general surveys the field for fallen enemy solders. Finding nothing of further interest, he said, "Let's go - I need a nap."

In the sense of fairness that hopefully graces all of my works, and since I've dissed him unmercifully here -- "He" is the noted writer Robert F. Brodsky, PhD, with four books to his credit. These are available at

"On The Cutting Edge (Annals of Engineering)" which covers atomic bomb development, the early guided missile age and space age from his personal point-of-view.

"A Pilgrim Muddles Through (Annals from a Life)" Essays essentially which cover legal windmill tilts, religion, morality, sailing and much, much more.

"The World In a Jug (The Love of New Orleans and Dixieland Jazz)" A purists view of the genre.

Out-of-print for the moment: "Songs My Mother Never Sang To Me" 172 rather risque songs from Cornell, barrooms, fraternity houses, the Navy...

Saturday, March 20, 2010


Since when does a major vote come on a Sunday? It's not like they're doing anything all week long...

Something New

Yesterday, six of us rendezvoused at Szechuan, 2107 PCH, Lomita 310-534-2280 for lunch. Which is all that is served there -- 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily. This is a dim sum restaurant and we'd never eaten that. Our friends - Bob and Pat, Morris and his daughter Janet and our friend Tony -- all had. We were the newbies.

Richie asked what it was driving over and I explained that it's a series of "small plates" much like Danish smorgasbord or Spain's tapas or, well, China's dim sum.

The restaurant is good sized, with a big main dining room, several spacious private rooms (two of which were in use) and a seafood tank-lined long hall out to the parking lot behind the building. White napery and substantial chairs give a formal tone.

The carts began rolling up to the table. Food is served from them in metal pails. Each cart has a big sign on the front, listing the delicacies* in that particular cart. Unfortunately, our servers had a habit of turning the cart so the sign wasn't visible to the table. If we asked, they replied politely enough but all had thick Asian accents. "Shrimp" came out as "shlimp." Vigilance!

We ate our way through: beef meatballs, pork ribs, black mushroom buns, sticky buns, steamed bbq pork bun, steamed shrimp balls, stuffed egg plant and spring rolls. The spring rolls were the normal serving size until the waitress reached over with a pair of long-bladed scissors and snipped them in quarters! There were no knives at our place settings, only a fork apiece. Chop sticks are brought on request.

The servings are priced by size/portion amount. Small is $2.50 each item; Medium is $3.65 and Large is $4.85. Example: Small - 4 beef meatballs (portion) @ $2.50 each = $10.

I enjoyed the food (the sticky buns were particularly tasty) and it was a novel way to eat. Very much family style - "Would you pass me the ..." "Could we have some of that sauce over here?" At the end of lunch, the table was covered with empty metal pails and piles of dishes. The bill was totaled and we each were assessed $10. Of note - tea is 95 cents per person. I'd always thought it was free.

* My palate is not sophisticated enough to relish: chicken feet, steamed bean curd skin, turnip cake, lotus seed paste bun or mixed beef tripe to name a few.

Friday, March 19, 2010

No, I'm Not With the Band, BUT I KNOW THE AUTHOR!

"Portia's Incredible Journey" by Emma L. Price ELP Books 140 pages $9.95

Portia is an 11 year old diagnosed with diabetes. Price best explains her situation on the back of the book: "You want me to stick myself with a needle? I can't! It's not fair! Why me?" (Portia to her parents.)

Portia is not only faced with self-injections but a series of family crises as well. A tornado figures in the mix! Portia remembers her grandmother's words -- "Life's a succession of storms that makes us grow stronger" but that doesn't begin to explain her situation to her.

Price is a retired elementary school teacher as well as a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother so she knows children! She read the book to us (the South Bay Writers Workshop,) chapter by chapter, and her book -- written for children -- kept a roomful of adults captivated. That's how strong Price's writing style is.

In fact, you can meet her at the up-coming LA Times Book Fair where she has taken a booth.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

You've Got Mayle

NEW: "The Vintage Caper" by Peter Mayle Alfred A. Knopf 223 pages $24.95

Mayle, justifiably famous for his books on Provence, has attempted to capitalize on his non-fiction fame by writing fiction. This book's plot involves the theft of priceless vintages from an L.A. wine cellar, food and drink in Paris and Marseilles and a "cute" plot.

I was reading along, trying to remember of what writer's style he reminded me and P.G. Wodehouse came to mind. Clever dialogue, no sex and A Problem. No one ever seems to worry about money in Mayle's fiction unless the hero, for plot reasons, must begin his story broke. An okay read, but I'm glad I got it out of the library. I'm such a Mayle sucker I might have (in a very weak - nay, delirious - moment) bought it.

"Acquired Tastes" by Peter Mayle Bantam Books 229 pages $11.95

Being very wealthy has a lot of ins and outs and a wise person studies them before or during making a vast fortune. Mayle gives us a snob's tour of "Things One Must Have - "bespoke" (merely means custom-made) shirts, suits, shoes; caviar in all of its grades, private jet etiquette, vintage wines, second homes.

It's best read as a bathroom book -- it has short chapters and the theme begins to cloy after a time. I got it at a library book sale for $1. Poor Mayle, he'd go broke if I were his only customer...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

May your blessings outnumber the shamrocks that grow...
And may trouble avoid you wherever you go!

Monday, March 15, 2010

(Temporarily) Dashed Hopes

I was hoping for a bloodless Shootout at the OK Corral at yesterday's jazz club event. It didn't happen, but here's what did happen ...

We (the nameless) privately call the resident good dancers the Dancin' Fools or Fools for short. Yesterday they faced a challenge -- new members who are slicker'n calf slobber on a door knob.
Promptly named "the Newbies."

From ringside -- First out are the Fools -- they're swooping, gliding; see how he smiles as he turns his head to Just the Right Angle... they bow appreciatively as the music ends and they return to their table.

But wait! What comes nigh? It is the Newbies! Their steps are slow, deliberate; they gaze intently into each other's eyes. Wow! I can't believe the move she just busted on him! As she stepped backward, she hooked her knee behind his -- just for a nanosecond, but it was bawdy beyond all belief! The music ended and he slung her Apache-dance style across his hip and slooowly done his leg toward the floor.

We have contendahs!

All through the afternoon, the couples alternated on the dance floor. Emboldened by a passionate curiosity (and well-fueled with Stella) I said to the male Fool, "I was expecting a dance-a-thon! (growl) a mano a mano!" He merely grinned.

Now none of this superlative dancing had gone ignored. The band struck up a lively number and two new couples took to the floor! Hand in hand, they did a sort of schottische (at speed) around and around the floor! This should let Them know they aren't alone on the floor!

Caught up in the madness, Richie insisted we join them. Richie's dance style has been most aptly described as "frog in the blender" so let's draw the veil...

The Fools and the Newbies never were on the floor together ... but as the Newbies slid sexily along across the floor, I noticed the Fools practicing a new step in the back of the room ... To Be Continued, post April meeting.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Hermosa Boo - Hiss

This year and last, the City of Hermosa Beach took over the St. Patrick's Day Parade. We liked it a lot better when the promoter ran it because his firm provided for a food court as well as free bus rides to and from the event. Hermosa in its wisdom apparently thinks it's better for several thousand people to try to get into 14 restaurants at the same time. Even with a food court, the restaurants still did a landslide business. As there is no parking in Hermosa, a lot of people probably said, "Fuhgeddaboutit" and stayed home. Bad for business.

I snarled when I read their oh-so-cheery advice - "Hike, Bike or Car Pool to the Parade!" As if!

We were lucky enough to get a table at Cafe Boogaloo. By the time our food came, the place was packed. What amazed me was that at least half of the 100 patrons present were kids, age 10 and under. One Father of the Year came dancing past us - baby cuddled in one arm, beer bottle in the other hand. Yes, lovely.

A server told me that many of them were there after a little league game and the rest were probably relatives or fans of the band (which consisted of two people.) Wouldn't it be a little more appropriate to take the kids for pizza rather than to a jammed bar?

Later on at the Poopdeck a young lady offered us plastic shamrock necklaces and/or to take our picture. We declined both and then she said Budweiser hired her to do these things. It hadn't been clear in her manner that working was what she was doing... I thought she wanted to sell the necklaces and the photos were for her ... collection of some kind.

Richie asked why the Budweiser Drill Team (men and women wheeling hand carts of cases of beer in formation) hadn't been there? She replied that the City told them not to show up -- bad influence on the kids.

I told her to take her camera over to Cafe Boogaloo and shoot all the kids cavorting in the bar for the Budweiser suits to present to the self-righteous City Council.

In thanks, she brought us a free pitcher of beer and vanished, presumably heading for Cafe Boogaloo.

Parade Pictures

What the Shriners had to do with a Viking boat I'll never know.

The Big Green Hat is actually a disguised skip loader.
DeLoreans on parade; mechanic runs along behind them (kidding)
Now a camel and a Shriner, this I can see...

Saturday, March 13, 2010

How True...

"I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do, because I notice it always coincides with their own desires." Susan B. Anthony, American feminist (1820 - 1906)

Friday, March 12, 2010

Be the Font of Wisdom at the Water Cooler

"LA's Graveside Companion; Where the V.I.P.s R.I.P." by Steve Goldstein Schiffer Publishing 192 pages $19.95

There is a sub-culture that enjoys visiting cemeteries and seeing the final resting places of famous persons. When Richie retired, we explored a couple of them as a diversion. If I'd read this book first, these expeditions would have been a helluva lot more interesting!

* Peter Lorre was on his way to divorce court when he upped and died of a heart attack in 1964. His widow (apparently still his legal wife) seems to have been the type to not waste anything, is buried next to him. She died in 1971.

* Hattie McDaniel was the first African-American to win an Oscar in 1939. She and her husband were segregated from the larger audience at a small table in a room set up just for them.

* Jayne Mansfield was NOT beheaded in the car accident that killed her. (Damn! There goes a good story.) Some photographer got a shot of her blonde wig stuck to the windshield.

* Anthony Quinn married a daughter of Cecil B DeMille. Their son Christopher Quinn wandered away from Grandpa DeMille's house to a nieghbors. W.C. Fields had a fountain with little toy boats in his yard. The three year old was intrigued by them, fell in and drowned. Fields was devastated and had the fountain immediately removed. Lily Tomlin is said to own the Fields house now.

* Jack Benny was born on Valentine's Day. Before he died, he made arrangements for his wife, Mary, to receive a single, long-stemmed red rose every day of the rest of her life.

* The man buried above Marilyn Monroe is buried face down on his direct order. He didn't want to have his back to her through all eternity. Not an urban myth, verified by his family -- and the undertaker who flipped him!

* Telly Savalas didn't get into acting until he was nearly 40 years old. He was also Jennifer Anston's godfather.

Web sites of interest:

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Erin Go Bra-Less!

Made you look! To the Smut Police: there is no Erin in this blog, with or without her underwear.
I wanted to get your attention for St. Patrick's Day.

Corned beef and cabbage are always served (and only one of them is any good in my opinion.) How about trying something new? Bon Appetit suggests Irish Soda Bread and gives us the Ballinalacken Castle Country House & Restaurant recipe for Mrs. O'Callaghan's Soda Bread.

Nonstick vegetable spray for the baking sheet
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teas. baking soda
1/2 stick of butter, cut in cubes
2 cups buttermilk

Set the oven at 425. Spray the backing sheet.
Whisk the flours, sugar and baking soda together then cut the butter into the dry.
Add the buttermilk and stir it in.
Turn the dough (lumpy) out on a floured surface and knead it 10 times. Shape it into a 7 in. round on the baking sheet and then take your knife and cut a big "X" across the top.
Bake for 40 minutes, peeking to see the color (deep brown is desirable.)

This is easier - thank you,

4 cups cake flour
1 T baking soda
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup raisins (optional - some people add caroway seeds)
1 cup cold milk

Sift the dry ingredients together, cut in the oil and then the raisins and milk. Knead it, shape it and bake it. I forgot to jot down the oven heat so put it in at 425 but keep an eye on it. It should be a smaller loaf than Mrs. O'Callaghan's because it has less flour.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


We Love Lumpia!
That would be our friend Tony and myself. Richie doesn't go into spasms of joy at finding it on a menu (generally Hawaiian restos.) Lumpia, sometimes spelled "loompia," is a Filipino specialty. It's like an egg roll - with meat or a taquito - with vegetables.

When I spotted them in the Albertson's freezer section, I grabbed a box. Visit for more information.

Naturally, I couldn't wait to e Tony - Lumpia at Albertson's! In return, he e'd me the recipe for the traditional dipping sauce.
White vinegar, Kikkomen soy sauce, a minced clove of garlic, one bay leaf. Mix the vinegar and soy capful by capful until you have enough for your lumpia. Add the garlic and bay leaf and you're set to go.

Tony also said that frying them is best for a crispy shell; this brand can be baked which I prefer.

Cultural Differences or This Would Be a Good Time to Invade France - They're Distracted
French newspapers and now our own are reporting that President Sarkozi and his third wife, Carla Bruni-Sarkozi have taken up with others! She apparently left first and is said to be living with a musician in his Paris flat; he "sought consolation in the arms of" (I love that!) his Ecology Minister! The marriage is two years old. You may recall that they had a three month courtship before tying the note (loosely it would seem.)

All I can do is laugh. She has had a long string of, er, engagements - including dumping the father for the son (dipping into Cougar Country?) and he is known for hedging his bets -- he courted his second wife while still married to the first.

All well and good in licentious France; imagine the howls of outrage if this item concerned the Obamas. Americans aren't very good at adultry -- in public, that is.

Still in Shock
Yesterday afternoon, I took a friend for dessert at our local Denny's. Naturally, I scrutinized the menu just in case old Greedy Gut here was missing anything. My eyeballs nearly blew out of my head when I saw a new menu item -- five or six sausages lying spoke-like in a three egg omelet -- with a fried egg on top of the omelet! Paramedics optional, I guess.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

An "If...Then" Question

"Best of International Cooking - Over 365 Recipes from 64 Countries" by Annette Wolter and Christian Teubert

I doubt that this book is still available commercially. I bought it for $1 at the Palos Verdes Library book sale. It was first published in Germany in 1982; the 2nd printing comes to us out of Tucson, AZ, so the book itself doesn't even know where it is.

I assumed it would be a compilation of various countries' perennial favorites and turned with interest to the section on the United States. Imagine my shock and horror -- the first recipe listed was for a shrimp cocktail! One of the desserts listed was: a Cranberry and Cream Cheese BOMBE! Now which is it? If we are what we eat, then what are we? Are we shrimp or terrorists? Conversely, the only recipe listed for Iraq was (drum roll) a date and NUT cake.

Based on what I know of Italian and French cooking, it is most favored recipes and the ones that most tourists would expect to be served. Thus, if you are planning a trip to any of the below... you've been alerted.

Ecuador - Tomato Soup with Bananas plus 2 T grated coconut
China - Hot and Sour Soup
Bulgaria - Roast Duck with Sauerkraut
Bolivia - Avocados Stuffed with Shrimp and Cooked Chicken
Belgium - Apple Fritters which makes me think of Denmark and Abelskivers.

The book presents all kinds of possibilities and you may be sure you'll be hearing more from it. We need to solve this "If, then" question.

Blog #470.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Vignettes on a Sunday

Thoughts of sauerbraten, red cabbage and potato pancakes had been floating rather often through my head, so yesterday Richie and I went to Alpine Village, Torrance, for their Sunday champagne brunch.

We were seated within easy striking distance of the long tables covered with food. The Champagne Lady filled our glasses and we were set. Once I had made a couple of passes at the various buffets, I was content to take a rest.

I noticed the older man, seated to my left; he must have been a regular as he and the omelet chef were having a grand old visit (in German;) the omelet station being about four feet from the man's table. He showed the familiarity of a regular as he rather fussily said as he waved off the Champagne Lady, "No -- I'll have a cup of coffee -- but not right now -- with my dessert."

He was beautifully dressed in khaki pants, a shirt and tie with a navy blazer with a crest on the breast pocket. He carried a cane but got up and down the two shallow steps to the food without trouble.

Time passed and he got up to leave. He picked up his cane, adjusted it to his grip and I heard him tell his server, "If I go home, there's no one there (nod at the tables) but here I have people." I thought of the contrast; a gray, rain-threatening sky, a dark house, the lights waiting patiently to be turned on ... and this restaurant, napery glowing whitely, the hum of peoples' voices and the clatter of serving pan lids...

The three of them came in, gliding along as stately as sailboats in full rig. They may have been a husband and wife and sister-in-law; they might have been a pair of widows and a kind gentleman. All three were resplendant in glossy black skins and well-schooled hair. The ladies wore sausage-skin tight cocktail suits with glitter around the collars. Despite their bulk, (and it was considerable) they were both wearing 5 in. stilettos!

The man looked sharp -- black shirt, pants, shoes, a black fedora perched jauntily on his head. His jacket dazzled the beholder's eye -- it was a black and white houndstooth check.

They quite probably did just come in from church; duty to God completed; duty to stomach about to begin. But I prefer to think of them as a retired pimp and his last two ladies, prosperous and comfortable in their skins.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Oscars! (yawn)

Nearly 30 years ago, "the Oscars" as we called them were fun. Crazy Suzanne, Louise the Tease, Patty the Lawyer and I would gather in one of our apartments to drink wine and critique the performers. The more the wine receded in the bottle, the more raucous our comments. We looked specifically at these categories: apparel; alcohol on board; probable drugs ingested and had a wonderful time. We were, of course, experts on all three...

Today I'm doing good to recognize Sandra Bullock and/or George Clooney. We haven't been to a cinema in years! And I don't miss paying through the nose to have my brains blown out of my ears at the volume at all. Our library has an amazing collection; until recently we had a Blockbuster very near and we've got cable TV with 5,000 channels...but more than anything else, given the state of "entertainment" today, I prefer to sit and read a book rather than be insulted senseless at the quality on offer today.

Which is not to say I'll ignore tonight's festivities. Not by a long shot. Richie is a marvelous person in many ways, but a gossipeuse he is not. Tonight, he'll read and I'll watch the Oscars ... and miss Girls Night In greatly.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Near and Far...

Nothing exciting going on this weekend except "intermittent rain," but that's okay because next weekend is going to be great!

Saturday, March 13th - free! The Hermosa Beach St. Patrick's Day Community Parade. It begins at 11 a.m. (don't worry if you're late; they've never started on time) at the intersection of Ardmore and Pier Avenue

This parade definitely looks "made at home by loving hands." Bagpipers in kilts skirl along; Irish setter owners tie green bandanas to the dogs' collars and march; local dance school moppets "dance." For years there's been a group of ... well-nourished... older ladies who wear full skirts and petticoats, peasant blouses and clogs. They wave their skirts around more than they dance, but hey! It's the spirit of the thing!

The black lady who dresses up like a native American and rides a chestnut horse was missing last year; hope she makes it back this year. The Budweiser Drill Team marches in formation pushing hand carts with (empty) cases of Bud. "Green Elvis" on a go-kart amuses and many of the "floats" (aka pick-up trucks) toss out hard candy to the kids along the route.

Traditionally, the HB hi-rise fire truck closes the parade, but the City has torn up the middle of Pier Avenue (to put in planters or some such damned nonsense) so perhaps the truck will have to zigzag so that all can see them?

Sunday, March 14th - monthly South Bay New Orleans Jazz Club meeting.

My cousin Daniel Kamas is making a solo appearance (free!) at the annual Austin South By Southwest music festival. SXSW (as it is less formally known) is a Very Big Deal.

Daniel will be performing at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 20th at Guero's Oak Garden on Congress Street.

You can watch Daniel perform right in your very own home. He's a handsome devil! Just Google "Daniel Kamas" and visit any of his several sites.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Just Another Friday Afternoon...

We'd run errands and were headed home. Ricchie pulled into the lot of the mini-grocery store on Aviation - Rockview Farms, in case you know them. He went inside and a moment later, he came out, ignored the car and went around the corner of the building.

Seconds behing him, the young manager came bolting along, dialing 911 as he ran. Richie said that a guy in a blue Bronco came around the corner too wide and ploughed into the back of the building (stucco and chicken wire construction from what I could see. He just missed a huge complex of water pipes.)

I heard the manager telling 911 that he knew the guy - he was a frequent customer. Of the guy? Not a trace, not a blue paint chip or chrome fleck on the wall.

The Gift
Our mail lady, Joanne, brought a package. I knew what I'd ordered on the sly had come in.

Last Sunday, Richie clipped a bit out of Travel, LA Times to show me. It was a sort of security stole with four pockets and a pair of straps to anchor it to your belt or pants loops. The smaller pockets are for your cell phone and iPod; the bigger pockets are for your passport, cash, checkbook and keys. These pockets zip shut. He is delighted with it! Their Website is

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Seafood SUPER Market

Captain Kidd's, 209 N. Harbor Dr., Redondo Beach 310-372-7703

Captain Kidd's is not a dress-up place. The entrance has long glass counters on the left with either seafood on ice or steam tables with soups plus a fry kitchen across the aisle. The dining rooms have stout tables and benches. There's a patio outside with umbrellas. Big parking lot, too. This is the place where the yacht staff comes to pick up dinner while the owners lounge on deck, swilling champagne.

You can order a sandwich (choice of fish) or a dinner. While they cook it, you pick out the sides you want with it - salad (choice of four dressings,) potato or macaroni salad, cole slaw, pasta salad, French fries, rice pilaf, hush puppies and more.

"Exotic" fish are listed separately -- Fiji albacore tuna or wahoo; New Zealand Orange Roughy, Oregon Sole. Some of the not-so-exotic are: San Diego Tlapia*, Idaho trout or Morro Bay shark.

Platters include shrimp, squid, clams, oysters, scallops -- and chicken strips. Becuse they've got all the ingredients on hand (47 kinds of fish!) they also make cioppino (small, medium, large and a take-home quart) and paella. They'll cheerfully steam littleneck clams or New Zealand mussels. There are seven different meals for children.

I walked along a cold counter and admired the lobsters on offer. They were Maine, local spiny and Australian. The Australian tails are dense with meat -- our American lobsters looked.. well, skimpy.

I was surprised to find a wine list with 17 wines plus three house wines (all Crystal Lake.) Prices are really reasonable -- three of the wines are $19/bottle, but the rest are priced down to $16/bottle. A glass of the bottled wines runs from $4.25 for 9 ounces to $7 for 12 ounces.

Some names amused me -- Menage a Trois White, anyone? It's a blend of Chardonnay moscatro and chenin blanc. Perhaps you'd prefer a Smoking Loon Chardonnay? I was delighted to see two old friends - Liebframilch (Dillman) and Gewurtztraminer (Angeline.)

Proof there are bargains here? Their shrimp cocktail is five huge shrimp, positively glistening with freshness, a chunk of lemon and a cup of sauce for $6.50. Restaurant shrimp cocktails start at $12 and go up. 'Nuff said ...

* It's tlapia, not tilapia. The "i" was added only because American's can't pronounce "tlapia."

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

An American Ambassadress at Work

We visited a doubly new market -- it's four months old and we'd never been there.

El Segundo Farmer's Market in the Plaza El Segundo (just north of Rosecrans on Sepulveda.) Every Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. It struck me as odd that this market is located right in front of a Whole Foods. Richie says Whole Foods sponsors it which doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me.

The farmers ween't having a very prosperous day; the sky was overcast and it felt like it was going to rain. Thus there was a sparse attendance. Basically the two of us and a pair of women.

A booth selling dried fruits (Spicy Mango, anyone?) dried nuts and dried vegetables as a snack was manned by a pair of young Mexican lads. I bought a bag of dried, sugared ginger ($4 - picture Ginger-Pineapple cookies with REAL ginger!) and we chatted.

I asked if they spoke Spanish? (Yes!) Would it be okay for me to try to use mine? (Yes!) So I haltingly conveyed the fact that it was a poor day for the market (pobrecito mercado!) and they responded fluently.

The cuter one (and the other one wasn't so bad either) said that he tries to learn a new English word each day. "I want to improve my English." In my turn, I explained that it's polite to ask if someone speaks a foreign language and not assume that they do. They both agreed, nodding their heads sagely. I assume a prissy air, drew myself up and said, "I am very Politically Correct!" and when they giggled, I mimed smoothing my hair and gave them the bird. They howled with laughter! And kept laughing as I walked away. When we passed them on the way to the car, they both waved and said goodbye. If you go to this market, tell my new friends "Hi" and buy something, hey?

As for you, Miz Hillary -- take it on down the road, huh?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

What Were They Thinking?

I subscribed to Bon Appetit for another year. As an enticement, they promised to send me a cook book. A 30-page flyer with eensy-weensy type arrived with almost more title than substance. "Fresh and Easy Dinners in 30 Minutes or Less." Slide your tongue down the table of contents with me and if anything sounds appealing, go to and print it out. Below are dishes that didn't exactly set my hair on fire...

Crab Hush Puppies with Curried Honey-Mustard Sauce
Radish-Chive Tea Sandwiches with Sesame and Ginger

Egg/Breakfast Dishes
Matzo Brei with Tomatoes and Salsa
Buttermilk Waffles with Cherry-Almond Sauce

Pork Chops and Sugar Snap Peas with Mint Juilep Glaze
Lamb Chops with Dried Cherries and Port
Grilled Shrimp Satay with Peaches and Bok Choy
Buttery Steamed Mussels with Sake and Chiles

Vegetarian Black Bean Chili with Orange and Cumin
Crispy Black Bean Tacos with Feta and Cabbage Slaw
Mango-Radicchio Caprese with Basil Vinaigrette
Orzo, Green Bean and Fennel Salad with Dill Pesto

Monday, March 1, 2010

Fast Food and a Frenchman

Richie has fallen in love with a new TV channel. It's called "Create" or some such and at 5:30 p.m. they run a cooking program. First time he watched it, the chef was a woman who over-salted. Last night, who should pop up in our living room but Jacques Pepin whose cookbook I'd been laughing at two weeks ago! (The book looked mid-'70s vintage.) I was fixing our dinner when I heard "Jacques Pepin" and blurted out, "My God! Is he still alive?"

He is and doesn't look much like his book jack photo any more. Gone is the hair, added are some pounds. He is promoting "fat food" his way (read: cans, bottles.) For a French person, he seemed inordinately fond of a can (yes, can) of lima beans. The frozen are far superior. He advocated using chicken broth to make French onion soup! Quite mad.

Any road, he made me think of "fast food." Last night's dinner is an example. I sauteed baby asparagus in olive oil and finished them with a splash of balsamic vinegar. I got the big skillet going while I trimmed the fat off of a t-bone steak and used it to grease the skillet. I started the spaghetti water and make a quick sauce of olive oil, with sauteed chopped garlic and chili peppers.

I finally figured out how to cook steak properly. Get the skillet nearly white hot. Put the meat in, five minutes for the first side, three minutes for the second and turn the burner off. Let it sit until you're ready to serve it.

Tonight's dinner turns out to be timely -- it's National Pig Day -- and we're having leftover pork loin roast, chopped with barbecue sauce and chopped onions added and baked beans from the brown can. I add maple syrup, smoke sauce, garlic powder and habanero chili powder to the beahs. I will have bought a small container of cole slaw at Guiliani's and dinner's on the table.

The plastic tub of dried, sugared pineapple chunks on the counter kept looking at me reproachfully. Knowing that ginger and pineapple go together quite amiably, I bought a sack of sugar cookie dough, ready to go and made Pineapple Ginger Cookies.

The sack instructions call for a softened stick of butter and one egg. I beat the egg, added the butter and began gradually putting in the dry mix. Each addition, I also put in two teaspoons of ground ginger. When the dough was pretty much mixed, I added about 3/4 cup of chopped pineapple - wet your knife blade, this stuff is sticky.

You can roll out the dough and use a cookie cutter (too labor intensive) or make drop cookies, which I did. Since I didn't really do anything, I can say that they are very, very good! 10 oz. tub of Mariana Pineapple, Trader Joe's. Purists may, of course, start from scratch and make their own sugar cookie recipe, by my way is faster! Au revoir, M. Pepin!