Saturday, December 31, 2011

Gimme Another Year Just Like Last Year!

Because 2011 was basically pleasant. We got stuff done around the house; we saw our friends and family on a regular basis and we're in good health as are almost all of our friends, family and our pets. We have enough money for the odd splurge on an expensive meal ...and while none of these things are unusual in any way, it's just the comfortable rhythem of every day life. And I'll take as much of that as I can get!

Hope you're the same and a very happy, healthy, prosperous New Year to you!

Please remember that tonight is "Amateur Drunk Night" and plot your course accordingly.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Tournament of Roses Trivia

On Monday, January 2, 2012, millions of television viewers and quite a few in-person, on-the-ground spectators will have a chance to watch the Tournament of Roses Parade, one of the bigger total wastes of time, money and effort in the entire United States.

There will be:
43 floats competing for 24 awards, sponsored by corporations and various California cities
21 marching bands
18 equestrian events involving 400 horses
500 gallons of glue used to attach 18 million flowers to the floats.

The Tournament of Roses is the largest consumer of flowers in the world. One square foot of float covering requires: 20 daisies or 30 roses or 36 marigolds. It takes 60 volunteers working 10 hours a day for 10 days to decorate one float.

And then there is the small matter of dissing God Himself. Which is more beautiful in your eyes? Flowers as they are naturally in a garden or vase or flowers used to construct such as:

A working roller coaster
A car that turns into a spaceship
A group of dinosauers standing around a 20 ft. volcano that spews flames 10 ft. into the air
A nearly 100 ft. tall Twilight Zone of Terror

If you voted for these dubious-sounding floats, you will probably have sufficient time to study them in their infinite detail -- one or more floats always break down, spewing pollutants (and sometimes fire) and wasting gas as any others behind the break-down sit idly, engines on and running.

Thursday, December 29, 2011


I got curious about the number of tourists Redondo Beach gets during the Rose Bowl events. The Crowne hotel always has buses out front at this time of the year and I'm sure that taking the tourists to Pasadena is their job.

I must say tourists are cute to see --dotted all over the sand, in their little shorts and beach tops -- shivering.

I put a line out to our councilman Steve Diels to see if he has any city figures and when he gets back to me, I'll get back to you.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Jacques, You Don't Know Jack About Making Chili!

The Jacques in this instance refers to Jacques Pepin, noted French chef. I believe the rest of us already know what "jack" stands for, don't we?

Richie's newest enthusiasm is for Jacques' recipes. I came across "Essential Pepin" by the above and it claims to have more than 700 all-time favorites from his life in food. What follows should be removed from the book ...Look at this list of ingredients ...


2 lbs. dried red kidney beans *
2 lbs. beef stew meat, cut into 1-in. pieces
8 oz. bacon
2 large onions, diced
8 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped
2 T jalapeno pepper, chopped
1-28 oz. can of whole Italian tomatoes and juice**
2 teas. coriandor seeds, crushed ***
2 teas. ground cumin
2 teas. dry mustard
1 teas. hot pepper flakes
1/4 cup chili powder

* The International Chili Society contest rules order NO beans or pasta in your chili.

** I was horribly dismayed to learn that the Society accepts canned or bottled tomatoes. As it happens, I can't stand canned tomatoes and I truly don't think they belong in chili.

*** After we went to the supermarket where Richie bought a bottle of coriandor, and was about to try to crush them, I finally saw the lightbulb and looked up "coriandor" which is nothing more than cilantro flowers! He could have used his frozen cilantro cubes from Trader Joe! And, in fact, when the coriandor proved impossible to chop or to be turned into dust in the mini-Cuisinart, he did.

Stewing beef is not an appropriate meat for this dish. Hamburger would have been a helluva lot more palatable.

Despite 1/4 cup chili powder, there was no "heat" at all. In fact, it was vaguely sweet tasting and I put that down to the beans.

Pepin is French. Despite living in this country for many years, he apparently has never tasted real chili, and simply scanned winning recipes and then put together what he THOUGHT went into chili. I believe many of the good citizens of the great state of Texas should band together and send him a bowl of real red (and soon - Pepin isn't getting any younger.)

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Wonder of Children at Christmas

An All-Around Good Christmas

We woke up at 6 to sunshine (and 44 degrees.) Since it was Sunday, I had both crossword puzzles (NY and LA) which is a never-failing treat every Sunday.

The bird was still sleeping, under her cover, when Richie picked up a music box of Santa twirling to "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" and started it playing. From under her cover, Lady Bird began to warble along with the music box! (Naturally we then uncovered the cockatiel.)

Richie likes to make Sunday breakfast and his pancakes were their usual good selves and really well done bacon is good for you - something about the carbon. We got good presents; useful, fun, interesting things. Then we straightened out the house for an Open House from 3 to 7 p.m. We had a good turnout - 12 in total, but not all at once which is the best part of an open house. Arrivals are magically staggered.

I followed Michelle's dictum that you always have something salty with drinks and loaded the coffee table with:
Pretzel crackers, water crackers and grissini-sized bread sticks for the two cheeses.
Brie with dried cherries or a dab of fig jam for it.
Tinterm Welsh cheese which has leeks and scallions inside it and an Edam-like green peel-off rind. Slightly sour back taste; could be creamier but overall, good.
A bowl of mixed olives and dried cherries
Peppered salami slices, jars of cashews and peanuts.

Half of the dining room table held: Spice Thai Shrimp Bao (didn't sell at all well, but they're very good)
Bacon-wrapped scallops (only one left)
Shrimp Corn Dogs - went very quickly. Children like them, too.
Feta and Onion Pastry Bites
Crab Rangoon won tons - they're even good cold the next day!
Mushroom Raviolis in a Mushroom-Truffle Sauce.

Why, yes! I did have my head in the oven most of the afternoon! How did you know?

The other half was for dessert (which we totally over did, sadly)
Richie's Pumpkin Pie with Pumpkin Ice Cream and chopped candied pecans (one taker)
Cannoli (none left)
Buche de Noel, the French caken - went over well.
A chocolate-covered panneton with a cream sauce running through the cake underneath - no one!
A couple of trays of mixed, decorated holiday cookies (and kids like them, too)
A dozen vanilla or chocolate macaroons - I think maybe three are left.
A Whitman's double-decker Sampler and a box of chocolate-covered cherries.

CATERED BY TRADER JOE'S except for the candies.

I intend to have some tasty lunches because Himself won't countenance leftover apps as a full dinner. More for me (shrug)

He also made me participate in the annual December 26th event called "Boxing Day" in Great Britain, but "Hellfire and damnation day!" by me. He makes me go to Hallmark with him and buy next year's Christmas cards. How the hell can I know what kind of mood I'll be in a full year away?!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Holiday wishes

Merry Christmas!

Happy Channukah!

A Terrific Kwaana!

And, cheer up, Atheists, this is about the end of all the religious celebrating!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Cynic's Christmas Song

Somehow this strikes me as a perfect song for Christmas Eve Day when last-minute shoppers are roaring around the parking lots and hurtling shopping carts in the malls. Let Santa do it all!

Santa Baby
Santa, baby, slip a sable under the tree, for me
I've been an awful good girl
Santa baby, and hurry down the chimney tonight

Santa baby an out-of-space convertible, too, light blue
I'll wait up for you dear
Santa baby, and hurry down the chimney tonight

Think of all the fun I've missed
Think of all the fellas that I haven't kissed
Next year I could be oh so good
If you'd check off my Christmas list
Boo doo bee doo

Santa honey, I wanna yacht and really that's
Not a lot
I've been an angel all year
Santa baby, and hurry down the chimney tonight

Santa cutie, there's on thing I really do need, the deed
To a platinum mine
Santa cutie, and hurry down the chimney tonight

Santa baby, I'm filling my stocking with a duplex, and checks
Sign your "X" on the line
Santa baby, and hurry down the chimney tonight

Come and trim my Christmas tree
With some decorations bought at Tiffany's
I really do believe in you
Let's see if you believe in me
Boo doo bee doo

Santa baby, forgot to mention one little thing, a ring
I don't mean a phone
Santa baby, and hurry down the chimney tonight....

Written by J. Javits and P. Springer, first sung by Eartha Kitt, followed by Madonna in 1987

Friday, December 23, 2011

Last Minute Odds and Ends

Dried Cherries ... Set out a small bowl of them next to the Brie; they go wonderfully well together. So does a daub of fig jam on Brie. But not both together!

I stole this from a local bistro - a bowl of mixed olives with a handful of dried cherries thrown in. The olive "juice" softens the cherries a bit. Dishes of almonds and cashews round out the bar scene.

Candied Pecans - I set a small bowl of them next to Richie's homemade pumpkin pie right by the Trader Joe's pumpkin ice cream. It's a "soft" pumpkin pie spices taste and the chopped candied pecans add a good finishing touch. A little crunch to the soft textures of the pie and the ice cream.

Update: This morning at the gym, I walked over to the monkey bars, got the correct name for this silliness and Googled it - you can laugh, too, if you go to "

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Toto, I Don't Think We're in Texas Any Longer...

A week or more ago, we noticed that Dickey's Barbecue Pit was coming into a space at the strip mall across from the main Redondo Beach library. We looked at each other and grinned in anticipation. We are such 'que devotees that if we are anywhere in Barbecue Country, we ride with the windows down (the better to sniff for smoke) and our eyes repeatedly scanning the horizon (to see any smoke.)

Yesterday we took lunch there. We both had pulled pork sandwiches - a small, sub-shaped one for me and the larger version on a roll for Richie. He ordered barbecue beans as a side and I went for the fried onion "tanglers" and a small Caesar salad.

We could have had chopped or sliced beef brisket or Virginia ham or turkey or chicken breast, Polish sausage, Pork ribs or Cheddar sausage. Also on offer was something I have never ever seen in a bbq establishment -- the use of a baked potato instead of a bun or roll. "Pork and Tangler Tater" $9.95 ,combines pulled pork and fried onions perched on a slit and squashed baked potato.

We ordered and sat down at a table for two across from the counter and the chef who was industriously chopping away. A sign on the wall caught my eye -- "Our barbecue (sauce) recipe took three years, two fist fights and a small kitchen fire before Travis Dickey perfected (it.)" Good to know -- a lot of thought went into this whole thing back in 1941, 70 years ago.

Richie liked his sandwich, but said the pork seemed "a little dry." The beans didn't set his hair on fire with delight, but they were "okay." My sandwich was fine, but could have used a tad more sauce, easily remedied. I asked for the Caesar dressing on the side and it arrived in a little paper cup looking exactly like cream gravy, next to a bigger cup of wilting Romaine lettuce and pounds of stringed Parmesan. This is my own fault; I know that Texas itself isn't big enough to hide me from the irate roars and possibly savage revenge of bbq-lovers who would curse me eternally for that folly. The least would be piercing cries of "Yankee!" followed by "Go home!"

The onion tanglers were acceptable, being slightly fatter than onion strings and much smaller than the lamentable "Slab-O-Onion." (The Counter, BTW, has the BEST onion strings.)

After careful consideration, we both gave the food a "Meh" rating and shrugged. 'Que lovers know there's never been such a thing as "bad" barbecue.

Dickey's Barbecue Pit, 407 N. PCH (down near The Pitcher House) Redondo Beach, 90277 310-379-0202

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wednesday, December 21st

The New, Improved Gym!
It looked exactly the way it did last Friday ... the check-in desk, the hallways, the stairwell..

The surprise came when we took the last steps upstairs and rounded the corner.

Gone were the various machines; installed in all of their previous space was a long, tall upside down, V-shaped piece of equipment with straps dangling off of it. It reminded me of the monkey bars at my grade school.

An explanatory class had apparently just begun because there were 10 guys, five to a side, standing there holding the straps - done in a chic black with Day-Glo yellow stripes on the strap ends. The guys were all in their 20s to 35s and so were the other guys standing around, staring.

The instructor held the straps tightly and, feet firmly planted in one spot on the floor, leaned back as far as he could toward the floor, spine straight. Then he pulled himself back up. That was it.

When I finished my bits, I asked the desk clerk what the hell that was? And he beamed and said it was "core exercise." Now as far as I know, my "core" contains my spine and various innards. The only muscles in this mass would be peristalysis which, if you have a good enough appetite, doesn't require exercise. So I consulted the distinguished Dr. Raffish, elbow-deep in a patient, or so he said; probably more likely elbow deep in a yard of ale. He said that they mean your back and abdomen.

So - hot tip: get yourself a piece of longish rope, take it to the park, attach it to the top of the monkey bars and have at it, baby! Except for the rope this is a totally free workout -- and anyone can manage to "borrow" a neighbor's clothes line rope, I think.

Spur of the Moment
Passing Captain Kidd's just before lunch, we decided to stop and have a shrimp cocktail. I was hungrier than just a shrimp cocktail so I also got sides of potato salad and cole slaw and we shared them. Five prawn-sized shrimp with a wedge of lemon and some cocktail sauce, $6.50 Two sides, at $2.5 each for a tab of $18 and enough sides left over to make it worthwhile bringing them home. (Previously reviewed)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

On the Efficient Use of Time

Successful people are very cognizant of the time it takes to perform certain tasks. They are adept at using all the hours a day that God gives them and they are skilled at substitutions. Let me give you an example...

We are luxuriating in Day 2 of no gym. We didn't go on strike and we didn't quit the gym. The gym quit us. Signs posted all over the place said they'd be closed Monday and Tuesday "So that we can bring you an even more up-to-date exercise experience!" I thought two days was cutting it kind of fine, seeing all the huge crates stacked in any open space available, but they know the gym business; we don't.

Meanwhile Bon Appetit arrived with a basic recipe for a Bloody Mary and "new" things with which to garnish it.

4 cups tomato juice (get the lowest salt possible)
1 cup dill pickle juice
1 T prepared horseradish
2 teas. Worcestershire sauce
1 teas. Sriracha (or any other hot sauce)
1/2 teas. celery seeds
Pinch of black pepper
Store your pitcher overnight in the refrigerator
Before serving, add two cups of vodka and stir well

a couple of pepperoncinis
Spicy Dilly Beans as a stirrer (pickled green beans, last fashionable in 1974)
Garlic-stuffed olives
A just-shucked oyster flung into the depths
Caper berries - you may be able to find them near the olives
Hardboiled quail eggs - a bitch to shell
Replace the celery with long strips of radish
A helping of beef jerky dunked in the glass and gnawed

I was surprised not to read: two grilled, spicy shrimp on a skewer, placed across the glass top. H/T to Hudson House for this one -- $11/drink, but you get an appetizer, too.

Since we have free time due to the temporary gym closure, I say Richie and I should use it to make up a batch of Bloody Marys and try all of the garnishes! So what if it IS 9:15 a.m. An efficient person never wastes time! You read it here...

Monday, December 19, 2011


Gutting Michael Jackson
I read today that an auction of his household goods from the rental he died in took place the other day. The Jackson family had put the headboard of the Death Bed up for sale! Apparently, the ensuing hue and cry made them take it off of the market. But! Instead they sold the rug underneath the Bed O' Death for $15,360!

Target Is Trying to Strangle Me
About a month ago, I bought a 5-button, cotton, stretchy top there. I knew from previous purchases (and returns) to buy it in a size XL because apparently the style today is to wear tops so tight that they pop your breasts out of your back. Got home, slipped it on and -- too tight! Even in an XL! So I shipped it off as a Christmas present to a relative. She loves tight so she should be a very happy camper.

Then just the other day, we happened to be in Target and a pair of hoodie sweats caught my eye. The track suit I sleep in is some kind of semi-nylon which is not all that warming in our un-insulated house (except for under the roof.) So I bought a pair in "Medium" which has been my size for the past 15 years. All excited about sleeping in cozy warmth, I donned them and went to bed , wriggling to get various folds of cloth out of my anatomy. Why?

They were very tight - couldn't pull the hips up to where they would have been normally; could barely zip the jacket across my chest. Now the top part is okay because when a woman is flat on her back, her tits are generally over by her armpits. But: when you are vertical and have to unzip it, that's tight!

You're laughing and thinking, "Stupid cow! She's gained weight! That's all this is." Er, no, I haven't. All of my old clothes fit just fine and they are 10s which is a "Medium" in anyone's book, just not Target's. Next time we swoop through a Tar-Jay, I'll buy another pair - size "Large."

A Thoughtful Gift
I read that instead of bringing (yet another) bottle of wine to a party, bring breakfast for the host/hostess instead! Bagels, cream cheese and lox in a cute basket... maybe croissants, a packet of exotic coffee and Irish butter and a small pot of jam... pancake mix, "real" maple syrup ... there are a lot of possibilities.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Keeping Up With Food Trends Is Killing Me

I wrote the other day about ordering and eating a "banh mi." I was so proud of myself! Two trendies - the banh mi and the pork belly! Whoa, stylin'!

And then comes the January Bon Appetit. Wherein I am told that while they are "still quite popular" ( i.e., they got the death sentence) banh mi sandwiches are now rather ... passe next to the newest rage. It's called a Num Pang (Cambodian for bread) and is built on a toasted semoli flour roll. It includes the traditional meat, thin-sliced pickled cucumber, carrot shreds cilantro and in this case, a spiced honey dressing.

But wait! There are three more coming up the billboard charts!

"Mo" a type of flatbread from China's Shaanix province. It contains red-braised pork, whatever that is. Possibly a reference to a predominantly red (lots of chilis, cayenne, paprika?) dry rub?

"Nizami Rolls" - Calcutta-style (?) rolled sandwichs using "Kati," an Indian flatbread.

"Ssam" (Ssam) A Korean wrap using rice, marinated vegetables, braised short ribs or tofu in rice paper.

Since banh mi are sold by the thousands daily from food carts in Thailand (aka Paradise for Pedophiles) I think they're still good enough for the likes of me. I'm too old to be "trendy."

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Caution: Writers At Play!

Shots from our annual holiday lunch, held this year at Casa Pulido, 228 Ave. I, Riviera Village.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christopher Hitchens (1949 - 2011)

I was sorry to read that Hitchens has succumbed to esophageal cancer. I followed him in Vanity Fair and admired his ascerbic style and bravado in taking on such as Michael Moore, Sara Palin, Prince Charles or Mother Teresa.

He was very clearly an extremely intelligent man and a gifted writer.

He was a throwback to the unreprentant, hell-raising reporters of a by-gone day. Because I'm describing a cliche, I'm using two -- he drank like a fish and he smoked like a chimney.

Godspeed, Christopher Hitchens.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Good, But Not As Good As I Expected

David Schat's Bakery Cafe, 130 W. Grand Avenue, El Segundo, CA 310-524-9895

It's an enormous place with an outdoor patio. Long deli cases run along the north wall with seating all over the place in front of them. Big windows, full sun.

The pastry case is first and you enter an "aisle" formed by a movable metal bread rack behind you. The "pastries" consist of slices of cakes (carrot cake, $4.50!) various cupcakes and two "foreign" sweets - French Napoleons and Italian Cannolis.

There are eight sandwichs and Richie ordered the "Pastrami with caraway rye, gourmet pastrami, caramelized onions, Provolone cheese, whole-grain mustard aioli." The side dishes included with your sandwich along with a soft drink are French fries or cole slaw or 5-spice sweet potato fries. For $2 each, you can add fresh fruit or mac and cheese.

I've been reading lately about two things I've never eaten so I went for the pork belly banh mi sandwich. Baguette (the banh mi) with house-braised pork belly, Sambal chili aioli, pickled carrots, daikon, cucumber, cilantro and jalapeno. I wanted to see how 5 star spice works with sweet potatoes, so I ordered them.

Our food arrived promptly. I couldn't taste the 5 spice on the fries and Richie couldn't either. If there is 5 spice on something, you're going to taste it. Maybe they forgot to dust them with it

As for pork bellies, which have been a recent foodie rage, I would call them "blonde bacon." Make that "boiled blonde bacon." Given the spices and flavors in the sndwich, I expected a great deal more than I got. How the hell they made jalapenos bland is a mystery.

Richie had to ask for the mustard which turned out to be very similar to whole mustard seeds dropped into a clump of mayonnaise. The garlic aioli that came, too, may have once in its lifetime been near a clove of garlic, but it wasn't in the recent past.

Richie didn't like the coleslaw which was long-shredded -- carrots and red cabbage at least 4 in. long per strand. His objection was to the stronger-than-usual vinegar taste. I tried taking a forkful and mixing the garlic aioli into it on my plate, but it didn't really work and he didn't like that any better.

Aioli is traditionally made from garlic, olive oil and a raw egg so think of it as a version of mayonnaise, add whatever seems like a good idea to you and have at it. My Sambal chili aioli was hot sauce with possibly chopped jalapenos in mayo, but again, it was served in a way I don't like - a big glop of sauce in the middle of the bread, but not spread out crust edge to edge.

I think this is a case of a new restaurant doing its job just fine - everyone was friendly, helpful and kind -- but not quite well enough in the flavor department to suit me. This is not their fault. No restaurant can please everyone who comes through their doors.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Monday, December 12, 2011

Dance Off! At the Jazz Club

In every organization there are those who participate and those who watch. At the jazz club (more formally known as the South Bay New Orleans Jazz Club) usually the first couple out on the floor are Jerry and Polly. They are superbly graceful dancers and we watchers (legion) always enjoy watching them gliding about the floor. It adds a needed touch of class to an occasion which is, to say the least, "informal."

Polly told me that Jerry is a graduate of "Walk In, Dance Out."* I was stunned as I'd always assumed he was an instructor. Polly is just as talented and she has to do it all backwards in heels! (H/T Ginger Rogers.)

Since it was pre-holiday celebration, there was a good turnout. Among the strangers were what I shall refer to as The Nerd and The Slut-in-White. The Nerd, top to bottom, consisted of medium-length brown hair, "engineer glasses" (brown on the stems halfway back toward the ears) a cream polo shirt with brown, striped sleeves, brown pants and brown, suede running shoes. He had a serious look to him.

She wore her ear-length hair in a tumble of ringlets, a cream-colored top that left bare a half-inch of toned abdomen, visible during spins and turns. She had on what had to be size 2, tiny white, stretch jeans and a pair of black shoes. She just looked happy.

They took to the floor during a bouncy number and proceeded to tear it up. I was more than surprised at their style. Apparently, their belt buckles had gotten entangled somehow because she was plastered into him, perky apple butt turned up invitingly. All of the "ass men" around the room sat up much more alertly.

Polly and Jerry have a much more consrvative style, totally suitable for a chaste tea dance with the grannies watching. (Largely the audience at the club.) My first reaction to this 2 a.m.-at-the-disco style was, "Vertical sex? At the jazz club? We don't remember sex!"

At the end? Home Team 2; Visitors 1. Polly thought the visitors were better, "They dance in competitions!" But I stand by my scoring. I hope they come back. I love a good dance floor battle!

* Richie would be the only person in history who would "Walk In, Walk Out." God love him, he has many talents, but any sense of rhythm, ability to move his feet around (instead of hop up and down like a bunny) is nonexistent.

Saturday, December 10, 2011


"Journalists were never intended to be the cheerleaders of a society, the conductors of applause, the sycophants. Tragically, that is their assigned role in authoritarian societies, but not here -- not yet." Chet Huntley (1911 - 1974) NBC News co-anchor 1956 - 1970

Dear Chet, be glad you're dead; it ain't like that today.

Speaking of death, I had this thought - the older you are when you die, the bigger the welcoming crowd in Heaven!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

E Mail To My Sister

TO: Gussie
FROM: Peanut
Subj. Late Christmas Present - Sorreee!

But when it gets there, you won't mind at all.

Remember how you howled like a bag of hyenas at the photo you sent me? The one of the license plate that reads: "Illinois! Where Our E-Governors Make Your License Plates!" This is related to that...

And it's also to replace that tacky display of your kids bronzed baby shoes! Remember the part about they're now 28 and 31? And no it isn't MY bronzed baby shoes. Mother threw them out to make room for yours...

But I digress. I got you something you will love. I had to go through channels to get it, but it's been "got." First I called my good friend Steve Diels who is the representative for the proud Redondo Beach 4th District. I've seen in the past how powerful he is and what a full Rollidex he's got... Diels called the Head Warden of the Illinois Prison System and Diels promises me that you will get Rod Blago's VERY FIRST LICENSE PLATE! They're going to be numbered and sold like a fine print to the public. The Warden said to thank you for a great idea!

Of course, it's actually MY great idea, but you see how generous your sister can be?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Big, Fat Blowhard

"Hemingway's Boat, Everything He Loved in Life, and Lost 1934 - 1961" by Paul Hendricson Alfred A. Knopf 531 pages $40

Disclaimer: I have never been a Hemingway fan, am not one now and am unlikely to change my opinion of him (stated in my title above) in the foreseeable future.

The only reason I picked it up at the library is that the Sunday LA Times listed it among the top 10 non-fiction books of the week.

The author uses the boat as a device to show another side of Hemingway. By now, Hemingway has been turned in so many circles to "see another side of him" - genius or madman? that he's as round as a pole. His African safaris, his love of bull fighting, his pugilistic ways, rudeness, four wives, bipolarity, alcoholism, suicide... there seems to be very little that we don't already know.

But this came as quite a surprie to me. Hemingway and his second wife, Pauline, had two sons. The younger was named Gregory, but nicknamed "GiGi." Time magaine in their obituary for him listed him as "Gloria Hemingway" because at the time of his death, age 69, he had undergone sex change surgery!

Despite considering this surgery as early as 1973, he didn't actually go through with it until 1995. This was after four marriages and divorces and eight children!

He died of a massive and sudden stroke in the Miami-Dade Women's Detention Center, where he was being held on charges of indecent exposure. It was said that he was trying to pull on a pair of too-tight women's panties, collapsed and died, then and there.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Eats Ethiopian Style

Near the Wilshire District's Miracle Mile, there is a street called "Fairfax." This was always traditionally a Jewish neighborhood with delis and kosher meat shops up and down it. Today there are seven Ethiopian restaurants crowding in to stand shoulder to shoulder with them.

Our friend Tony was invited by his niece Kim to have dinner at Meals by Genet, 1053 S. Fairfax, Los Angeles, CA 90019 323-938-9304

Tony reported back that guests eat with their fingers. "The bread was served, and resembled a napkin -- so not knowing that, I started wiping my fingers with it -- hey, it felt like a damp chamois! Kin said, 'Unk, that's the bread!"

What did it taste like? "Kind of had a 'wheat' taste to it. But I couldn't get over how that bread felt!"

I googled the menu and the mainstay seasonings on your choice of lamb, chicken, beef and some fishes were quite clearly: onion, green chiles and "Ethiopian butter." Prices for entrees ranged from $14 to $21.

All of the Ethiiopian restaurants offered "Ethiopian butter." What could it be? So I found a recipe.

1 lb. sweet butter
1/2 onion, chopped
2 - 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 - 3 pieces of 1/4 in. thick ginger root
3 - 4 cardamom pods
1 cinnamin stick, whole
3 - 4 cloves
1 teas. fenugreek seeds
1/2 teas. turmeric (probably for color)

Melt the butter gently and add all of the above. Simmer on the lowest heat possible for one hour. Pour the golden liquid carefully into a container, leaving all of the solids in the pan bottom. Strain it trhough cheesecloth if you have to and refrigerate it.

Now, I would like to see what that tastes like. Tony couldn't remember and I'm too bone-idle lazy to go to the supermarket for cardamom pods and fenugreek seeds. I wonder if you could get a pot of it to go at Meals by Genet?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Smokin' Hot Chef!

I wouldn't care of Chef Curtis Stone couldn't even turn on a gas stove! He's that cute. Aussie openness; tousled, streaky blond hair and pale, clear eyes. Ladies, if he ever gives a cooking class, sign up!

That out of the way, "Cooking with Curtis" by Curtis Sonte Pavilion Books 157 pages plus a recipe index $29.95

Curtis has selected foods he feels appropriate for the four seasons and then gives readers three ways to cook it - Easy - four or five ingredients and minimal cooking time; Every Day Cooking - six to eight ingredients and an hour or less to prepare it and Fancy - when you want to knock family and friends eyes out of their sockets and are willing to spend an hour or more in the kitchen and maybe even use some exotic ingredients.

One of his Summer entrees are what he calls "prawns" and what we call, "Great, big shrimp."

Barbecue Prawns with Olive Oil, Lemon Juice and Fresh Parsley segues into Platter of Fruit di Mare wit Raspberry Vinaigrette which includes prawns, clams, mussels and oysters. The grand gesture is Prawns with Caramelized Endive and Endive Foam.

This book was published in 2005 which may have been mid-rage for foamed sauces which are pretty much passe today.

I'd always wondered how thee foams were created and now I know. When the sauce you've made for a dish is finished, take out about one-third of it and ... are you ready? Beat it with an egg beater!

I'm anti-foam; it looks (to me) like someone spit on my food. Still, if hot young Curtis offered me some that he'd made... I'd probably take it!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Newsweek = News Weak

The cover story for the week of December 5th is an article on sex addiction under the banner of "Wellness Crisis!" This is about as unlikely a subject as I could imagine to be either a crisis or to have an addiction served up under the "wellness" banner.

Professionals who treat it claim that between 3 and 5 per cent of the US population or possibly as many as 9 million people are affected by it. The US population is 308 million, so I hardly see that this is a crisis. In fact what I do see is an ad for the movie "Shame" starring Michael Fassbender, directed by Steve McQueen. The movie just happens to get a half-page photo and a half page of hype -- boxed within the article and as a part of it.

"This year the epidemic has spread to movies and TV." C'mon, movies like "Shame" and TV series like "Bad Sex" created this "epidemic."

Just so you can get in on the action, the article helpfully points out that addicts are GPS apps for hook-ups (gay variety) in 192 countries. So - it's okay to travel! Someone will be there for you!

"Valerie" who starred in the article "ended up homeless on food stamps," but a mere two pages later she's signed up for four (four) months of rehab. I've read that the average rehab cost is $30,000/month so I'm wondering where did "Valerie" dig up $1.2 million for it?

Maybe she cut a deal and is washing dishes and doing a little light housework in return for treatment. That would be about as believable as anything else in this poor excuse for advertising -- TV, movies, specific experts and rehabs.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Beautifully Simple Dishes

"The Mozza Cookbook" by Nancy Silverton with Matt Molina and Carolyn Carreno Alfred a. Knoipf 350 pages $35

Silverton opened Osteria Mozza probably five years ago and she said they've had crowds ever since they opened their doors. Reservations for the cheese bar should be a made a month in advance.

Okay, what makes Mozza so hot? Simple dishes! We can duplicate them right in our homes. This is a good thing in these financial times.

Pancetta-wrapped figs with aged balsamic
12 thin slices of pancetta
6 ripe figs cut in half
black pepper to taste
balsamic to drizzle

Wrap a slice of pancetta around the fig, pepper it and put the figs - cut side down - in a heavy skillet and cook 2 or 3 minutes per side. Plate and drizzle with the balsamic to your taste.

12 oz. spaghetti
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 T plus 1 teas. coarsely-ground black pepper
1/4 cup freshly grated Pamigiano-Reggiano
1/4 cup freshly-grated pecorino romano
4 teas. finishing quality extra virgin olive oil.

While the pasta cooks, mix the olive oil, pepper and 1/2 cup of the hot pasta water in a large saute pan and bring it up to a boil for a minute. Drain the pasta and toss it into the sauce and stir.

This is an interesting book for people who adore Italian food, but it was a bit difficult for me as I don't speak Italian and Silverton is such a purist about the country that everything that can be said in Italian is. Sample prose: francobolli di brasato al pomodor with basil and riccotta salata al forno (page 177)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Will the Real (Fettuccine) Alfredo Please Stand Up?

"Saveur - The New Comfort Food, Home Cooking from Around the World" edited by James Oseland Chronicle Books 255 pages $35

This is a very good cook book and as the gift-giving season gears up, can heartily recommend it.
It isn't "just recipes." Here is a sample and I must say that I never knew this...

Fettuccine Alfredo was "invented" in the early 1900s when a restaurateur in Rome, named Alfredo di Lelio, began serving a variety of fettuccine al burro, a mix of nothing more than butter and Parmigiano-Reggiano.

1 lb. dried fettuccine, prepared as usual - reserve 3/4 of a cup of the boiling water
2 sticks of sweet butter
3 1/4 cups Parmigiano-Reggiano

Slice the sticks of butter into pats and place them on a serving platter (one with a rim)
Drain the pasta and start mixing it with the butter on the platter, adding the cheese at intervals. If your pasta is dry-ish, add a bit of the reserved pasta water and keep swirling until the pasta is well-coated and shiny-looking. That's it!

No cream, no Swiss cheese. A mere 3 ingredients and a beautiful presentation in front of your guests. Or, you can mix the water and butter together, dump in the pasta, start stirring and adding the Parmigiano-Reggiano in the kitchen.

But do not put in any cream!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Happy Discoveries

When ice cream is a part of dessert or the only dessert, it's my habit to put the half-gallon container on the table with the scoop and let everyone serve themselves. This usually results in meltage because people are too busy talkinig to interrupt themselves by adding ice cream.

Thanksgiving Day I made a happy discovery which is: our double-walled "plexiglass" ice bucket is exactly the right size to hold a half-gallon of ice cream! The ice cream stayed cold; the table cloth dry and altogether it was a happy ending for Richie's pumpkin pie with pumpkin ice cream, garnished with candied pecans.

A cookbook I'm reading (to be reviewed) says that to make "perfect" poached eggs use 4 cups of water, 1/2 teas. salt and 1/2 cup of white vinegar. Slip the four eggs into the boiling water mixture using either an empty cup or a saucer. Poached eggs are a good thing because it's pure egg -- no additives like bacon fat or butter. I think of them on buttered toast as "comfort food."

An old boyfriend ('70s, so both of us are now truly old) taught me this one -- for perfectloy round meatballs, don't fry them! Put them on a cookie sheet and bake at 400 degrees - they will crisp up all around. Cooking time acording to the size of your meatballs.

World's Fluffiest Matzo Balls! Use club soda or seltzer water instead of plain water.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Shoppers: Savages vs. the Civilized

BLACK FRIDAY Shoppers: mace, gun fire and that poor, poor man who died on a store floor. And the shoppers merely stepped carefully around him! How's THAT for cold?

"W" Magazine Shoppers: "W" is an offshoot of Womens' Wear Daily, the go-to-mag for schmatta makers and fashionistas the world over. Yesterday, their Christmas catalog appeared along with the December issue.

Here are some of the items listed. Naturally I picked the high-end stuff.
Tod's travel bag, $32,000
Patek Phillipe 18k white gold and diamond watch on an alligator strap. Tacky - never diamonds and alligator! - $54,700
Cascade flip-flops - $525
A "Bleu Nature" stool which looks like your average log encased in plexiglass $5,998
A Gucci headband for your toddler-girl's hair - $220*
Baby Dior t-shirt - $288*
Burberry children's jacket - $423*
Balmain one-piece swimsuit - $730
Lanvin dress - all pleaty like a Fortuny gown in the '20s - $9,360

These are mail order purchases! The only information given is: a photo of the article, maker, price and either a phone number or a Website to visit to put in your order.

* Do you have any idea of the speed with which a kid can lose an article or grow out of it?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

PoTAYto/ PoTAHto

Any way you say it, we have a plethora of potatoes. Either Richie forgot we had a half-bag of them at home or else he felt it was too good a bargain to pass up, but he bought another 5 lb. bag of the damned things.

Happily, Bon Appetit arrived yesterday, proclaiming that Potatos are THE side dish of the season with five recipes to prove it. Duck Fat Potato Galette - but I don't like duck fat. Gnocci Gratin with Gorgonzola Dolce - but I've never made gnocci because what's wrong with pasta? Potato and Celery Root Mash -but where in hell do you find "celeriac"? Rosti with Bacon and Scallions is basically a version of home-made hashbrowns with cooked bacon and chopped scallions. But Forked Oven-Roasted Potatoes did look good. In fact, the finished potato looks like a piece of gnocci! Two birds, etc.

6 small Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled but left whole
Sea salt to taste
1/2 cup olive oil

Preheat the oven to 425.
Cook the potatoes in boiling water for 3 minutes. Use a slotted spoon and dredge them out of the water and onto a rimmed baking sheet. Being careful not to burn your fingers, take a fork and run the tines from top to bottom to create ridges. Roll the potatoes in olive oil and roast. Keep an eye on them and turn them as they brown. This will take between 50 and 60 minutes.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Beware! Writers in the Neighborhood!

"I Taste Fire, Earth, Rain - Elements of a Life With a Sherpa" by Caryl Sherpa Studio Press 346 pages $15.95

How often does a professional writer have a next door neighbor who married a Sherpa and then wrote a book about it? And who put the writer and her husband in HER book?* How usual is it for a Caucasian professional woman to trek Nepal, fall in love with a Sherpa and marry him?

Caryl did it all. And in doing so, she made me "listen" and "see" Nepal and its scenery and people. I have never had any interest in trekking (eeeuuwwww - I can't wash my hair?!) or mountain climbing (You could get killed doing that!) but her slant on Eastern mystiques piqued my interest and attention. Her husband, Nima, taught me to put my hands in prayer, chest level, and say, "Namaste" or "The spirit in me greets the spirit in you," a lovely sentiment.

The events in the book began in 1991, when Caryl was 38 and Nima was 28. He seemed much younger because he has such a lightness of spirit and sense of joy. He could have been 18. Pity he wasn't, Caryl could have won "First Cougar" and left Demi Moore in the dust.

Caryl, a woman who is meticulous -- all of the elevations are listed in feet (and meters) -- quite sensibly made a list:
Pro - good looking, joyful, speaks seven languages, extremely strong, doesn't drink.
Con - Bad clothes, limited English, doesn't drive, 3rd grade education, bad slapstick jokes.

In Nepal, Nima had no access to television, radio or the newspapers. Once here, the Watts riots terrified him. "They would never do that in Nepal!"

They are an amazing couple and they are still blissfully happy after 20 years of marriage. Caryl's book is a fascinating read. She remarked that it took her 15 years to learn to write and then five more years to write this book. Good job, Caryl! It was time well spent.

To learn more and see photos, visit

* We are a walk-on as "Liz" and "Ed" used as a springboard to a chapter on Nima at the circus. I'm sure she used "Liz" for me due to my undeniable resemblance to the late Elizabeth Taylor. La! when she was alive we were often mistaken for each other.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Our Scarlett O'Hara Politicians (Editorial)

In "Gone With the Wind," Scarlett repeatedly dismisses a problem by saying, "I won't think about it now; I'll think about it tomorrow."

Given their behaviors, our Congress needs their copies of "GWTW" pulled from their hands and burned. Now the Super Committee is aroar about budget cuts and their thinking seems to be, "Oh, let's let it take effect in 2013 when everyone will have forgotten about it." This is an old scenario, we recently went through it when our credit rating got lowered.

Budgeting should be no surprise. Dudes! It didn't just fly in the window yesterday afternoon! Why can't politicians Be Prepared, as Boy Scouts are said to be? Is there no one in those august bodies capable of calendaring coming events?

This is only another opportunity for the po9ls to strut and pontificate in front of the cameras. Full of sound and fury, of course, but completely devoid of meaning.

If given the chance to do so, I would yell at the House and Senate, "Pull your thumbs out and get with it!"

My slogan for next year? "Never Vote for an Incumbent! (Throw the bums out!)"

Sunday, November 20, 2011

If Only Politicians Could Do This

"No man remains quite what he was when he recognizes himself."
Thomas Mann (1875 - 1955)

Saturday, November 19, 2011


Problem: The plaza area of Hermosa Beach is burdened with drunks on weekends and all through the summer. No surprise, really, because as far as the eye can see there are bars and restaurants. Many and penetrating are the howls of outrage from the owners of the million dollar mansions that abut it -- noise, drunks urinating on house walls lawns, patios and the fights. The police are resigned to double the numbers of attempted rape on weekends.

Solution: A Hermosa Beach man wrote the newspaper to suggest "pedestrian checks." He pointed out that vehicles are routinely stopped at checkpoints for signs of alcohol abuse by the driver.

He suggests a police perimeter around the entrance/exit to the plaza. You would be told to walk a straight line or blow into a breathalyzer. If guilty, your shoes would be instantly impounded for 30 days and your forehead would be stamped in fluorescent ink "DRUNK." The ink eventually wears off, but you better call in sick until it does.

Shades of Sheriff Joe in Arizona, but possibly effective.

Problem: The very high cost of obituaries in the United States. A double column width, six inches deep in the LA Times could run as much as $3,000 times the number of days it runs. It's as if newspaper management is thinking, "This is our last chance to get money off of this dude - sock it to hiim!"

Solution: From our Netanya, Israel, correspondent who writes, "A month before you die, become Jewish and come to Israel. If you don't need to be in a specific place in the cemetery like next to Hubbie, it's free.

No obituaries - you do have to buy some printed notices which you pin up on trees or in specific places in the town. Other than that, it's word of mouth. When you have to be under ground within 24 hours, there is no time for fancy, schmancy notices and choice of coffins -- oh, yes -- no coffin.

As for the mourners, you show up at the funeral in whatever you are wearing - no need to rush out and buy a new black outfit. The chief mourners definitely don't wear their best clothes because, as the Bible dictates (I've forgotten what it does dictate) but it does end up with their clothes beng cut with a razor blade, just a little cut, but not something you would want on your Versace.

No profits made on funerals here. There are some payments to various official bodies, but overall a pretty cheap affair.

On that cheerful note - have a nice day and live a long and happy life!"

Friday, November 18, 2011

From Another Angle

"An Affair To Remember; My Life with Cary Grant" by Maureen Donaldson and William Royce. G. P. Putnam and Sons 288 pages $18.95

I reviewed Grant's daughter Jennifer's book the other day. But having learned early on to get a second or third source for any story, I went looking through the library stacks for another point of view. And found it.

Grant and Dyann Cannon were married from 1965 to 1968. Grant and Maureen met in 1973, a relationship that continued until 1977. The bitterness of the Cannon-Grant custody fights colored those years. Jennifer said that when her Mom was on location, she stayed with Dad. Au contraire. Maureen said that Grant had to fight for every minute he could get from Cannon. He once flew from a vacation in Acapulco back to Los Angeles for a one-day visit with Jennifer.

Jennifer paints a picture of an utterly idyllic Dad, full of fun and creative ideas. Conversely, Maureen says he really didn't know how to amuse her, a task that fell upon her shoulders.

Grant was 69 when he met Maureen (27) and 75 when they parted in 1977. Grant met his fifth and last wife in June, 1976, but couldn't convince her to marry him until 1981 when he was 77.

This is the amazing part. Long before anyone had ever heard of Viaga, Grant, in his '70s and '80s, was still making love to his girlfriends! (According to them, that is.) Despite telling Maureen that a male had only so many sexual acts in him (so to speak) and that one by one, they diminished the male!

It's an interesting book in that Grant confided a lot about his former wives to Maureen and she clearly never forgot a word. At his urging, she became a photographer and there is a section of shots she took during their relationship.

Certain hers is a very different point of view from his daughter's.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Christmas Presents for Geeks

Yesterday a catalog from X-Treme Geek came wafting to our shores, born in on a tide of Christmas catalogs. You, too, can see the marvels I'm about to describe at

Karate Cookies - a trio of cookie cutters in various karate poses. $9.95 Now you can give your gingermen some punch!

Clothespin Chopsticks - imagine a 9 in. long, thin clothespin - Yep, you got it! $9.95

What do the Japanese do with their splintered baseball bats? They turn them into re-usable chopsticks with a suitable carrying bag. $29.95

Coffee Fiend? Starbucks Junkie? Start your morning by showering with Costic's Caffeinated Soap! It's peppermint scented as an additional wake-you-up bonus. 4.5 oz. bar $5.95 "Topically-applied caffeine is thought to be effective in reducing skin cancers as well as reducing the appearance of cellulite. "

Hmmm, save myself %5.95, take the cold leftover breakfast coffee and wash my face and rinse my behind! Do-able and I'm not even a Geek.

The Ultimate in Fastidiousness - Poop Freeze. Love your dog, but dread his, uh, output? Spray the steaming mass with this product and it instantly creates a -62 degree crust, making disposal that much less Eewwwww. 10 oz. can $12.95

Change your look with Fingerstaches! These are small moustache-shaped decals that you attach to your index finger then hold your finger across your upper lip. 19 styles - Fu Manchu? old West bandit? Only $4.95

Be the hit of the party as Rasta Santa! The traditional red Santa hat, trimmed in white (faux) fur which sits on -- not your hair -- but a pile of white dreads! Santa goes Island on us! $19.95

First we put them on our pets; then we bought them for our car side windows. Finally, you yourself can proudly sport reindeer antlers with little ears and tufts of brown marabou at the horns' base. $7.95

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Daddy's Girl or Daddy's Obsession?

"Good Stuff, A Reminiscence of My Father Cary Grant" by Jennifer Grant. Alfred A. Knopf 177 pages $24.95

Cary Grant married five times, but his only child, Jennifer, was born in 1966 during his marriage to Dyan Cannon. Cary was 62, Dyan 29 when Jennifer was born. Two years after the birth, they were divorced but Jennifer writes their shared custody was amiable. (Despite the fact that custody wars ran along for years according to other sources. ) Cannon was often on location and Jennifer thus spent a lot of time with Dad, who lived only a couple of blocks away. Cary retired from acting to devote himself full-time to being a Dad.

Because all of his records and memorabilia had been lost in a fire during WW2 and because he wanted to make sure she had hers, he had a room in his house turned into a bank-quality safe (complete with big steel door) to house his meticulously-filed collection - all of his notes to her; hers to him, photos, tape recordings of ordinary conversations, home movies.

The book is a selection from this material, whose collection began the day of her birth and continued until Grant's death, at age 83, when she was 20.

According to Jennifer, she handled the transition from adored only child to one who must now share Daddy with another woman with aplomb, simply because Barbara was such a delight.

Cary met Barbara Harris in 1976 when Jennifer was 10, but wasn't able to persuade her to marry him until 1981. There was a considerable age gap of 46 years. Cary was 77 and Barbara was 31. When Cary was 80 and she 34, they began trying for an artificial insemination baby, but were unsuccessful. Jennifer thinks this was quite unselfish of Dad at an age when he could expect to be the star attraction, not a squalling baby. The marriage ended in 1986 with Grant's death.

This book struck me as weird -- when Jennifer's mother was home and had custody, Grant used to get in his car and drive to the corner to wave to Jennifer as her school bus passed by. the room-into-a-safe for everything from baby shoes, childhood books and toys... either Cary was REALLY sincere about saving her childhood for her or crazier than betting a NASCAR race. You decide!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Richie's Gravy Boat

Richie read the post about my misgivings about gravy boats as serviceable items. I said they are hard to hold without wobbling and getting gravy where you don't want it (i.e. tablecloth.)

He turned to me and said, "Why not put the gravy in the Mr. Coffee pot? It's got a lid and it's easy to pour from."

Except for the incongruity of having a Mr. Coffee pot full of gravy on the table, it's really not a bad idea. It would certainly be a conversational piece.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Sounded Good in Theory, But the Reality...

Yesterday afternoon we met Bob and Pat (Brodsky) at the monthy jazz club. As always I expect an adventure there that I can write about, but, alas! It was nice to hear the latest scholarship musician, who looked to be about 13, play the piano so well, but ... not on a par with the great saga of the black woman and the encounter there.

Afterwards we sashayed over to Hudson House, PCH, RB (previously reviewed) for a bite. Pat has been hungering for sauerkraut of late and when she spotted "Turkey and Brie Reuben with sauerkraut and 1000 Island dressing" she ordered it. It did look good so I did, too. It was nicely presented on one of their traditional square plates. But ... Brie is not the cheese for this and the dressing was a mere daub. The sauerkraut had been washed of all of its salt and while the whole thing was "mild" it just didn't taste like much. The bland got all blurred together.

But I still love Hudson House! And they still have brown sugar ribs on the menu. The lamb meatballs are gone, but there is now lamb on sugar cane skewers or how about a chicken meatball or truffle goat cheese mac with 'shrooms and Shiitake peas. (But goat cheese in mac and cheese? No worries - happily they change their menu from time to time.)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Talking Turkey

This is the time of year that you can score big savings on things you use all-year round. Our supermarket traditionally has "Buy 10 for $10" tags on: Campbells Cream of Mushroom soup; Swanson chicken/beef/vegetable broth.

But today's Target section has even lower prices! Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup - 59 cents! French's French-fried onions - 6 oz for $2.79 and I seem to remember $3.95 at the supermarket. Swanson broths - 59 cents a can.

I am thinking of buying a three dish buffet server (Target $27) because I despise cold food and our guests traditionally are in no hurry to be the first at the table. It drives me wild! This model looks to have steel "dishes" which presumably I could put in the oven and cook such as the green bean casserole or the roasted Brussel sprouts with caroway and either the dressing or the candied yams.

After I've seen how big it is, I may also purchase a white porcelain gravy boat (Target $5) but gravy boats are often unwieldy... maybe with a small ladle...

And, to save some calories on the lush feast, baste your turkey in chicken broth -- it works as well as butter and assures you of having enough "juice" to make lots of gravy. I do think gravy should be a separate (and exalted) food group of its own.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Rainy Days Are For Reading

The wind is tossing the tree tops with abandon; occasionally, the rain comes pelting down. A perfect day to hunker down in my chair and read.

"Holidays in Heck - A Former War Correspondent Experiences Frightening Vacation Fun" by P.J. O'Rourke Atlantic Monthly Press 265 pages $24

This is O'Rourke's 16th book and in it, he and his wife and children go exploring. Not to such as Six Flags or Disneyland. That would be too easy. China, Kyrgyztan and the Field Museum, Chicago, are a few of their destinations.

Do Sparrows Like Bach? The Strange and Wonderful Things That Are Discovered When Scientists Break Free" by the editos of New Scientist. 219 pages $13.95

This is an engaging little paperback with some interesting goals and amazing ways the scientist in question chases his discovery. A shirt that rolls up its sleeves in reaction to heat was discarded as it cost $2,500 to make the prototype.

In 1994 a design firm came up with this (as if flying isn't hellish enough.) Airline passengers would be loaded into individual pods, complete with a reading light, entertainment center, at the gate and then conveyor-belted out to the plane and stacked like logs on a lumber truck.

At the 1976 Olympics, the East Germanm swimmers each had 1.8 liters of air pumped into their colons before competing. This, uh, technique was said to help the crawl and back strokers buoyancy, but the breast stroker complained that his feet stuck up out of the water.

Top Screwups Doctors Make and How To Avoid Them" by Joe Graedon, MS, and Teresa Graedon, PhD. Crown Archetype 314 pages $26

This is a book that you don't have to bother to read from cover to cover. There are a series of appendixes in the back of the book that are much terser than the chapter and can be read a lot faster. I can't say that I really learned anything new after having read them. Possibly all of my doctors and pharmacists must have read it though because they are all acting properly.

Friday, November 11, 2011


"I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its supidity."
President Dwight D. Eisenhower
(1890 - 1969)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Most Unlikely Appetizer
(from Alpine Village, Torrance) - a Reuben Spring Roll. Corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese in a spring roll wrapper, deep-fried and served with 1000 Island dressing as the dip.

Spry magazine points out that holiday meals are often served mid-afternoon or earlier or later than one's usual dinner hour. This can be tough on diabetics. Healthful snacks include nuts, whole grain crackers and/or fresh vegetables - no fatty dip! A vinaigrette might work well instead.

Caveat Emptor
Yesterday's mail brought the Joie de Vivre catalog. This company sells authentic French canned and bottled foods, dry products such as dishes, cups, soaps, doormats, charm bracelents -- in short: everything to give an American the idea he/she is in France.

One item is the brand Amora; another is SaVoRa, both mustards. I have seen both in French supermarkets and they are inexpensive there. Amora is $6.95 for a 15.5 oz. jar. Savora is $9.95 for 13.6 oz.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

16 Days Till Thanksgiving!

Which may explain the tremendous population explosion at our gym. There were people everywhere. But Thanksgiving dinner is the one meal per year that everyone throws caution to the winds and I'm looking forward to it -- bring it on!

I haven't made this recipe for more than 20 years, but now that Trader Joe's sells already-shelled pistachios, it seems like a good time to dust it off and make it again. WARNING: this recipe makes 12 CUPS of dressing. You might want to halve it...

1/2 cup raisins to soak in 1/4 cup Calvados (a French apple-flavored brandy)
1/4 cup olive oil
6 cups cubed baguette, crust on
2 cups pistachio nuts
1 stick butter
3 medium onions, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teas. nutmeg
1/2 teas. paprika
1/2 teas. dried thyme
1/4 teas. cayenne
2 tart apples, cored and cut in small chunks
juice of one lemon (approx. 1/3 cup)
1/2 cup chicken broth

Brown the bread crumbs
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and toast the nuts for 8 minutes. Cool and save
Melt the utter and saute first the onions, then add the mushrooms, garlic and seasonings. Moisten the apple chunks with lemon and add to the onion mix.
Add the bread cubes and pistachios, and raisins and toss it all. Moisten with stock and cook at 350 until top is sllightly browned.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Coming Attraction

Next Door is celebrating their daughter's first birthday today and we have been lucky enough to be included in the invitees. B-list, you may be sure, but nevertheless...

However: it is now 48 degrees outside and raining floods periodically. Not deterred in the slightest, they wrote that we would be having a Traditional British BBQ -- in the house.

They instructed that all of the guests remove shoes when they arrive as there will be "many babies lurking about." Naturally I assumed this meant our hosts meant everyone to get falling down drunk, but less likely to do damage if not shod. My sister dashed my hopes and feverish expectations substantially. She said it was because the babies would be on the floor and shoe soles are majorly unsanitary. Which come to think of it is the reason I don't go barefoot in my own house. God only knows what's down there.

Hope to post pictures later today. Babies are cute little buggers -- when they're happy.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Two Things

Our Old Neighbor
Some 20 years ago, our next door neighbor was a woman named Caryl Thornton. She was single until she took a trip to Nepal -- and brought back a husband! Nima was Caryl's trekking guide and she fell in love with him, the life style and Nepal itself.

Nima is one of the most gentle men I have ever met. But he was also tough enough and strong enough to climb K22 there. He's an excellent cook and we loved to have dinner at their house.

Yesterday I got an e from Caryl promoting the book she's written about all of the above. She'll be doing a book signing at 7 p.m. on Thursday, November 17th at Pages, 904 Manhattan Avenue, Manhattan Beach. To learn more, visit

I can't stop circling Dore Greenspan's French table (previously reviewed) and stealing little bites. I would never have dreamed that "carrot salad," found here in delis, cafeterias and school lunches is a very popular French food!

CARROT SALAD aka in France "carottes rapees"
1 lb. carrots, peeled and shredded
handful of raisins (optional)

2 T Dijon mustard
1 T honey
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup mild oil
Beat together, squeeze any water off of the carrots and toss.

Scallops are already sweet but she says that her Caramel-Orange Sauce for them merely plays up the sweetness.

1 lb. sea scallops, cleaned, sauteed and set aside somewhere that they will stay warm

2T sugar
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup orange juice
1 T sweet butter, cut into thirds.

Start the sugar in a dry pan, stir it until it browns. Then add in the white wine and orange juice all at once. BE CAREFUL as it will bubble up. Cook down the sauce until it's half of what you started cooking. Cut in the butter, a chunk at a time, add a little white pepper and serve over scallops.
handful of walnuts (optional)

Friday, November 4, 2011

"Cook Like A Man" - Esquire

Having written the book review yesterday, the subject was still fresh in my mind. I got to thinking and finally taking a bit of umbrage at this "cook like a man" stuff. According to Esquire, if you take a "normal" food like oatmeal and then do something exotic to it as in add jalapenos you have then cooked like a man.

I think that most men want simple preparation and a single strong taste. Two simple things - ease and taste. Here is a good example - tuna-macaroni salad.

You need:
1 can of tuna, drained, and flaked - any kind you like; packed in oil or water.
2 slices red onion, chopped
6 pimento-stuff olives, chopped
1/2 box elbow macaroni
mayonnaise to mix it all up together.

Prepare the onion and olives while the macaroni cooks. Drain it, toss in the onion, olives and tuna and add sufficient mayonnaise for the texture that you like. Hot macaroni sops up mayonnaise a lot.

Optional touch: while the macaroni is still steaming hot, take a tablespoonful of olive "juice" and sprinkle it over the hot macaroni. You'll get a deeper olive taste.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Three Books

"My Year With Eleanor" by Noelle Hancock Harper-Collins 295 pages $24.99
The book opens with her sitting on a beach in Aruba with her boyfriend. Her cell phone rings - "You're fired."

Back in New York, she notices an inspirational sign in a Starbucks - "Do one thing every day that scares you," Eleanor Roosevelt. Our Heroine decides to do this which is more or less a direct steal from Julie Powell's "Julia and Julie."

I made it to page 8 where I read " shrink a few days later at our bi-weekly session..." Slap! Book closed. I don't have the time, patience or energy to read another whiner from a selfish, navel-gazing spoiled brat. But, what else could be expected from the woman who was the founding writer of US Weekly's entertainment blog?

"Eat Like A Man, the Only Cookbook a Man Will Ever Need" by Esquire editors 223 pages $30
Buy an olivewood stirring spoon because it's a dense wood and unlikely to fray out anytime soon. Recipes included Jalapeno and Ancho Oatmeal, macaroni pie (mac and cheese baked in a pie tin) and a page on steaks. "Red" cattle are the same breed that produces kobe beef. A Texas firm HeartBrandBeef, started with 11 head of these cattle which were the only herd outside of Japan. These cattle were guarded by the Texas Rangers for 14 years while they grew to become a herd of 5,000.

Interspersed among the how-tos and recipes are interviews with chefs, essays on cooking and food-based fiction.

"Trust Me, I'm Dr. Ozzy - Advice from Rock's Ultimate Survivor" by Ozzie Osbourne Grand Central Publishing 274 pages $26.99
This is a very funny book. I'm enjoying it immensely because if Osbouorne did write it, he's matured considerably from his bat-head dining days. His advice is practical, his sentiments seem sincere and his euphemisms inspired.

And for medical junkies and hypochondriacs who are always wondering, "Hmm - should I call the doctor?" this is an excellent substitute consultant if you can't get through to your own doctor.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Final Halloween Census Report and Winner

Our reporter in Cape Coral, FL, e'd in this morning -- her street there hosted 453 kids! She added that it was a +/- count as "There were kids everywhere!"

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Old Business
We had a grand total of eight trick or treaters last night; a group of five and later a group of three and that was it. Our reporter in Libertyville, IL, notes that 53 kids came to their house. Our Man iin Dallas reports exactly none. Schools there have parties in their gyms instead of door-to-door solicitation.

New Business
I declare this to be the official First Day of Winter in Redondo Beach. I pulled on my Uggs this morning for the first time this Fall, it being about 60, foggy and altogether unpleasant, just like it was yesterday. This kind of dank, murky weather is fine, admirable nearly, for Halloween, but Halloween is now over.


Monday, October 31, 2011


The Official Halloween Mascot - Minuit!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Hang Onto Your Pumpkins!

If you decorated for Halloween by buying a pumpkin, but not cutting a face into it, this one is for you. It's a want not, waste not idea and my mother's voice is still ringing in my ears with that line!

Reading the ingredients, it struck me that this is a variation, kind of, of a quiche lorraine which is an excellent winter dish.

1 3 lb. pumpkin - cut the top off, scrape out the seeds and strings and set both aside on a silpat or parchment-covered cookie sheet. Turn the overn to 350.

1/4 lb. stale bread cut into half-inch chunks.
1/4 lb. Swiss or cheddar cheese - your choice
2 to 4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
4 strips of crisp bacon, chopped
About 1/4 cup snipped fresh chives
1 T minced fresh thyme
1/2 to 2/3 cup of heavy cream (I'd try milk for fewer calories)
A pinch of nutmeg

Mix all of the above in a big bowl, put it in the pumpkin and top it with the pumpkin lid.
Put the whole thing carefully into the oven and bake for 2 hours, checking on it at about the 90 minute mark. For a crustier finish, take the lid off for the last 20 minutes of baking.

Serve it whole, letting guests cut the size portion they'd like.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Happy 150th! Who's Your Plastic Surgeon?

The Statue of Liberty was dedicated 10-28-1886 making her today 150 years old. The robed female figure represents Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom. The "book" in her left arm represents a "tabula ansata" or tablet of laws and is inscribed 7-4-1776 the day the Declaration of Independence was signed. There is a broken chain at her feet (which I've never noticed.)

She was created by sculpture Frederic Bartholdi and he was inspired by Edouard de Laboulaye who said that any monument to French-American friendship should be a joint project. A deal was cut: the frogs would pay for and provide the statue, the U.S. would provide the pedestal and the site for all of this.

Working ahead of hmself, Bartholdi made the head and torch-bearing arm first and then in a PR gesture, the arm was sent to the Centennial Exposition of 1876 and to Madison Square Park from 1876 to 1883.

Americans were having difficulty raising the money to buy the site (Bedloe's Island) and provide the pedestal until publisher Joseph Pulitzer (yeah, that one) started a fund. Over 120,000 donations were received, but sadly most were less than a dollar.

Finally President Grover Cleveland dedicated it and New York held its first ticker tape parade.

Her first face lift took place in 1938 due to deterioration.

Her second, to work on the torch and interior took place from 1984 to 1986.

Closed after 911, she finally re-opened in 2004 after work had been done on the pedestal and the statue herself. It will close today so that a second, interior staircase can be added.

No one has been allowed on the balcony around the torch since 1916 for "safety reasons." After all, a lady deserves some privacy, don't you think?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Bespoke Tailor For Drug Lords and Dictators

A story in the Sept. 26th edition of The New Yorker caught my eye. Miguel Caballero owns a company that makes bullet-proof clothing. The main offices are in Bogota, Colombia, with branches in Mexico City and Sao Paulo. He has developed a stronger, more flexible version of Kevlar and is using it makes fashionable garments for the fearful. (Just Google "Miguel Caballero)

These items include a leather jacket for sport or motorcycling, a "reporter's" vest (all sorts of oddly-placed pockets) and a polo shirt. The polo shirt comes in navy, red or light blue and costs $3,475. A "Medium" shirt weighs 1.8 kg. Dry clean only!

Other items that have been made to the customers specifications. Steven Seagal ordered a bullet-proof kimono; Sean "P.Diddy" Combs sports a white dinner jack. It was widely rumored that President Obama wore one of Caballero's bullet-proofed suits to his inaguration. Caballero neither confirmed nor denied this.

Other clients include King Abdullah of Jordan; President Hugo Chavez, Venezuela; President Uribe, Colombia, and Prince Felipe of Spain. I think I see a trend here..

And yet, Caballero swears that he doesn't sell garments to the bad guys, i.e. drug lords or other criminals. Before delivery each customers name and order number are sewn into the garment in case of theft from the purchaser.

Caballero noted that Catholic priests in drug-infested countries buy a vest to wear underneath their robes or -- new product alert! - carry an oversized, bullet-proof Bible to be used as a shield! Thus armed, priests feel safe in offering harsh criticisms of drugs and those who traffic in them.

Incidentally, if you are shot within six months of receiving your garment, Caballero will replace it gratis. These garments are ... one-shot items.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

New Products, New Tastes, New Pleasures

For Thanksgiving ... Kennebunkport Brewing Company's Pumpkin Ale. It's said to be lightly spiced with pumpkin pie spices. I got our neighbor, John, to give it a test spin as he is British and surely as such, a connoiseur of good brews. He said it was very good.

Pilgrim Joe's Pumpkin Ice Cream -- It's a pale gold, sweet, but no overriding taste of pumpkin or spices. Would set off a pumpkin pie delicately, with richness. Incidentally, Richie uses a graham cracker crust for his pumpkin pies and next one he makes, he's going to dust the empty pie shell with pie spices which should add a nice zing!

Other Uses for Guacamole -- the French have (finally) discovered Mexican food and it turns out that they like guacamole. But, typically French, they do more with it -- a "tartine" is French for "open-faced sandwich," something the Danes do very, very well. Possibly not with a Mexican standard like guac. Toast a good slice of bread, slather with guacamole and dot with river shrimp. Used as a base for salmon tartare. Layered in crab salads or carefully, using a spoon, make quenelles as a garnish for gazpacho.

Litehouse Freeze-Dried Red Jalapenos - I keep the container near the stove and routinely toss in about a tablespoon to homemade or canned chili, garlic spaghetti sauce, or bean with bacon canned soup.

I discovered by accident that Himalayan pink salt crystals have a very sweet salt taste with just a hint of pepper behind that. Very good on my mother's recipe potato soup (along with a knob of butter.)

Trader Giotti's Mushroom Ravioli with Mushroom Truffle sauce are really good! The sauce is, of course, not overly truffled, probably because a single pound of truffles cost upwards of $2,200. You'll find them next to the $88 pistachio oil...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Signature Dishes

This never would have occurred to me as I try never to serve guests the same thing they had before. But Dorie Greensspan, author of "Around My French Table" Houghtin Mifflin Harcourt 530 pages - it's a lapful! $40 suggests you adopt a recipe for hors d'oeurs and make it often enough that guests eagerly whisper to each other, "I wonder if she made (the dish)?"

These are beautiful on the plate, but you're going to need strong arm muscles to make them.

1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
11 stick of butter, cut in four pieces
pinch of sea salt
pinch of cayenne (optional)
1 cup all-purpose flour
5 large eggs at room temperature
1 1/2 cups coarsely-grated cheese - Swiss or cheddar

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a Silpat and preheat the oven to 425

Bring the milk, water, butter and spice to a rapid boil. Add the flour all at once and start stirring. When the dough is smooth, take it off of the fire and beat in the eggs, one at a time. Don't worry if the dough separates, by the time you beat in the last egg, it will be smooth again. Beat in the grated cheese.

Drop the dough, a tablespoon at a time, on the baking sheets. Give each one plenty of "breathing space" about 2 in.

Turn the oven down to 325, slide the sheets in and bake for 12 minutes and then open the oven door and rotate the sheets. Bake for another 10-12 minutes.

2 perfectly ripe Hass avocados, split with the pits removed.
Fresh lemon juice - rub it into the hole so the avocado won't blacken
sea salt to taste
Pistachio oil
Lemon wedges for garnish. I'd be tempted to sprinkle some pistachios around the rim of the avocado - Trader Joe sells them already shelled.

Put each avocado half in a bowl and drizzle the pistachio oil into the hollow center and serve with a spoon.

I'd never heard of such a thing as "pistachio oil" but you can find it at! The brand you want is Leblanc. P.S. I just loped off to to see what I was talking about -- sit down. Two 8.5 oz. bottles of LeBlanc pistachio oil cost $88! La Tourrangel is $19.95