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)