Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Bachelors: Lock Yourself In and Don't Answer Your Phone until 12:01 Tonight

For today is Leap Year Day aka Sadie Hawkins Day which was created by cartoonist Al Capp, who wrote the strip "Lil Abner." In the strip, Sadie was considered the ugliest woman in the hills. By the time she reached 35, her father was desperate to get her married. So he organized a race -- "when Ah fire this shotgun..." where eligible bachelors took off running with the women seeking a husband right behind them. If she caught one of them he HAD to marry her. Possible earliest reference to a "shotgun wedding"?

But: Capp put the day for women to literally chase men to catch a husband on November 15, 1937. Today a lot of people celebrate Sadie Hawkins Day on the first Saturday in November instead.

"St. Brigid's Complaint" is a variation. Supposedly St. Brigid complained to St. Patrick about the length of time it took for a man to propose and magnanimously, he said, "Okay - on the 29th of February, the ladies can propose to the men!" Alert Readers will note this means one time in four years...

But this theory has been proven to be dubious as the event occurred in the 5th century, but wasn't actually used until the 19th.

In Greece, one in five couples believe that marrying on that day - or even year - is bad luck and postpone the event.

In Denmark, if the gent declines the honor, he then must pay the poor woman 12 pairs of gloves. You know that's an old one! No one wears dress gloves today...

Today, it's all changed. Just think of "The Batchelor." It's on every WEEK!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Site UNseen

Once upon a time, Hermosa Beach had a nice enough sort of "healthy" diner. Rocky Cola Cafe's menu had the first egg white omelet I'd ever seen. It didn't appeal, so having dined there once, we never went back. We were content, just passing by it.

And then one day "For Sale" appeared in the window. "What do you think will replace it?" we asked each other.

Today is the grand opening of My Fit Foods. I can tell you about it because I picked up their menu /brochure from the counter of (you guessed it) our gym this morning. I wondered about the use of the word "fit" which is an English thing. A woman there might say of a man she fancies, "Oh, he's ever so fit!" But when I looked this place up, I found that the chain originates in Texas aka "The Land of the Chicken Fried Steak with Cream Gravy"! when the hell did Texas decide to become fit? This investigation may involve a road trip ...

The back of the menu states that by eating there and working with their nutrition coaches -- a position being offered on their Website YESTERDAY along with "Cooks Wanted" - the averaqge woman loses 6 to 12 lbs. and the average man 10-18 lbs.

At the bottom of the page it suggests drinking 8 oz. water, 1/2 cup unsweetened cranberry juice, lemon juice and 1 T Bragg apple cider vinegar you can "cleanse" your liver. "It takes a while to get used to the taste" is wild understatement.

"But what about the food?" you ask hungrily. Here are some sample items

Breakfast - Mix 'n Mash consists of 5:1 eggs (whatever those are) chicken breast, converted rice, yellow and red bell peppers and "a touch of real cheese" (which appears in other dishes and sounds disheartening to me.)

Lunch - An Alaskan wild-caught fillet of salmon that is perfectly seasoned, then baked and served on a bed of quinoa alongside fresh broccoli. Smll $8.75, Medium $10.25 or Large $12.50

Dinner: "Funner"Fish Sticks - Enjoy a blast from your childhood with almond meal and flaxseed-coated tlipia with creamy dill dripping sauce with cinnamon carrots and green bean veggies. Small $7.25 Medium $8.75 Large $10.75

Snack: the Picnic Time of Fuji apple slices, almonds, dried cranberries, grapes, Nut Thins( rice and almond flour) and Monterey Jack cheese. One size $4.50

No wine nor beer list so proceed at your own discretion, but don't look for me because I won't be there! Try the Mickey D's next door...
Hermosa Beach - 1005 Pacific Coast Hwy
Torrance - 2543-G Pacific Coast Hwy at Crenshaw

Monday, February 27, 2012

Oscar Opinions

Not that anyone actually asked me what I thought...

First the complimentary things -- another tour de force for Billy Crystal. I like his sly sense of humor.

Christopher Plummer gave a very graceful speech. Temperate, moderate, witty and sweet.

Category I - BAD HAIR -- either visible roots or needed to be washed:
Cameron Diaz
Gweneth Paltrow
Glenn Close and the wind-tunnel affect on her head
Brad Pitt always looks dirty - oily hair, facial stubble. Whether he is or not, he looks like a stoner.
Brian Glazer whose blow dryer did massive overtime to leave his hair standing straight up
The singer, Esther Somebody, who sang "Wonderful World" had the world's biggest afro - it looked like a tembleweed had somehow gotten on stage and onto her head.

DRUNK: I'm not saying she had been in the champagne, but Cameron Diaz was awfully bubbley.

DRUGGED: Meryl Streeps husband gave her a very dismissive look, as if he were bored tedious by her and there was also a hint of "I thought you weren't going to do that any more." She was rather going on...

Nick Nolte may have been straight, but let his face be a warning to the world - drinks/drugs will utterly ruin your looks.

And speaking of looks, Angelina Jolie looked absolutely bony. Very little muscle tone in her arms or the permanently-on-display right leg. And the camera ADDS 15 pounds.

Natalie Portman's lackluster prom gown...
Sandr Bullock's sloppy summer tee top...
Christian Bale - black suit, black shirt, black "regular" tie. We get it, Bale, you're annoyed at something.
Melissa Leo - K-Mart leopard top with sequins just in case you didn't notice the leopard thingy
Mila Ludovich - what was that clump of fabric, clinging so desperately to her right shoulder?
Meryl Street - a trooper to the end and beyond was apparently wearing an old gold lame theater curtain...

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Oscar Trivia

Or Someone With Too Much Time On Their Hands....

The Oscar statuette is made of Britannia metal (a mix of tin, with antimony and copper) that is then 24-karat gold plated. It stands 13.5 in. tall and weighs 8.5 pounds.

From the USA Weekend edition:

Walt Disney won the most Oscars (26.)

"Gone With the Wind" was (so far) the longest picture to win the Best Picture category.

The tallest Oscar winner was Tim Robbins, the shortest was Shirley Temple.

"Midnight Cowboy" won as Oscar despite have an X-rating. When I think of what I've seen on the French TV channel (naked men and women in bed -- at 5:30 p.m.!) I had to laugh.

The late Bob Hope hosted 19 award ceremonies; 16 all by himself and three with a co-host.

Why winning Best Actress may not be such a good thing after all... Halle Berry, Hilary Swank, Reese Witherspoon, Kate Winslet and Sandra Bullock all won one -- and all of them also got a divorce after winning.

And now for a trivia question for you, Gentle Reader: Who won Best Actress and Best Actor last year? I know... flickers right through and is gone by the day after the awards! Fame is indeed fleeting...

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Silliness Approaches...en garde!

I'm referring to the Oscars late tomorrow afternoon. Or as I like to think of them:

O !

I am not the most attentive when it comes to movies. "The Great Train Robbery" (circa 1908) may have been the last movie I sat through in a cinema. I am perfectly content to wait until a "hot" film comes to our main library. Then I can watch it in the comfort of my home, glass of wine at hand, feet on the coffee table.

Of this year's slate of nine up for Best Picture honors, I have seen exactly none of them.
I do recognize some well-established names.
Best Actor 2 names
Best Actress 2 "
Best Supporting Actors - 3
Best Supporting Actress - 0
Best Director - 2

"Then why on earth do you look forward to the Oscars?" you may be asking. The Oscar ceremonies are a rich chance to see what various actresses are (barely) wearing, the annual "Worst Hair" award, who's drunk, who's on drugs... the most over-the-top acceptance and how many times they have to play "The End" music when some actor rambles on and on.

And it's free! You don't often get entertainment like this for free! How can you NOT watch the Oscars?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Dribbles From a Sippy Cup

Yesterday we had the pleasure of a visit with one of my oldest friends -- Sue's and my friendship is carbon-dated to back when we were both in kindergarten. We subsequently graduated in the same class in high school. Despite distances (LA and Chicago) and her subsequent marriages and child raising, we have remained friends. Sue urged me to "get online! for Pete's sake," and now that I have, she never reads her mail!

Sue loves to take road trips. She travels fully equipped, too. I vividly remember the high school reunion held in Kansas City. She'd driven down to it from south Chicago and among her various bags was a fully equipped traveling bar! Martini shaker, room for a couple of bottles, corkscrew, glasses and all! For this trip, she'd taken the train to Winslow, Arizona? where her daughter Lynn met her with all of her gear.

Richie and I did our homework and read Sue's daughter Lynn's very interesting blog because we hadn't met her yet. Lynn has proved to be as intrepid as her mother in her travels. Sue has always loved what she calls "blue line roads" which are the one and two lane roads marked in blue on a map. Lynn has taken traveling even farther -- she drives a Winnebago View 24 while towing a Chevy Tracker ZR2. Her big yellow Lab Millie is often her sole companion across the country. She is a talented photographer and I urge you to look at yesterday's blog to see a stunning shot of a cactus outlined against a setting sun.

We had a grrrreat visit! I'd do it all again today if it were possible.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Joy(lessness) of Cooking

"The Kitchen Counter Cooking School" by Kathleen Flinn Viking 285 pages $26.95

Flinn graduated from Le Cordon Bleu, Paris, and found herself rather at loose ends. And then one day at her local supermarket in Seattle, she noticed a woman and a teenage girl grocery shopping. Their basket was filled with easy-quick things like Hamburger Helper, canned vegetables, frozen meals. She became curious about what they would buy next, so she stalked them!

In the meat department, the woman remakred to no one at all that she couldn't believe how expensive chicken breasts had gotten. Seizing the chance. Flinn said that whole chickens were only 99 cents a pound. "I can't cut up a chicken!" "The butcher will show you how to do it, c'mon!"

The woman thanked her and said that she uses so much box stuff because "it always turns out right." This made Flinn wonder how many other women were doing the same thing. She found that most women didn't particularly like to cook (their mothers had never bothered to teach them how) or they were short of time and that they also overbought at the Costcos and Sam's Clubs and had to throw out spoiled food left and right. She vowed to change that and started her school with nine students.

Advice: Don't dig the measuring cup into the flour - use two measuring cups and fill the one you're going to use from the "digging" one. In baking, weight is more precise than volume and that's why so many recipes call for ounces of an ingredient.

One of the 10 ways to flavor a roast chicken:
Thai Style
2 T coconut oil (one of the worst fats you can consume)
1 teas. sesame oil
1 T finely-crushed peanuts
3 T fresh lime juice
2 1/2 teas. Thai curry paste
2 T finely-chopped cilantro
Mix all of this into a paste and slather it deeply and thoroughly on to the bird. Roast as usual.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Very Scary Book

No strange creatures attacking the world, no psycho characters, no evil-minded ghosts -- it's not those kinds of scary. It's scary because the book goes deeply into the mind of a person with Alzheimer's and that disease COULD happen to any one of us. Personal fear is the scary that is this book.

"Turn of Mind" by Alice LaPlante Atlantic Monthly Press 305 pages $24

Jennifer White, MD is a retired (due to the disease) orthopedic surgeon. Her specialty is hand surgery. She is 64, widowed and has an adult son and daughter. The book is written entirely from White's point-of-view.

The device used to keep the reader in the loop is that visitors to her house leave her notes in a dated log if she is unable to see them. Her caregiver, son and daughter do the same thing.

What is terrifying is the suddenness with which she can switch back from forgetfulness to full, professional mode as a doctor -- who wonders if her husband will be home from his business trip after she finishes at the hospital. Her husband has been dead for a number of years.

She is a cold woman whether from the nature of her profession or her own instincts. When her best friend, Amanda, who lives down the street is brutally murdered and four of her fingers surgically removed after she is dead, White becomes a suspect. The two women have had a very difficult friendship for 40 years.

The writing herein is a real tour-de-force and I recommend the book.

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Cautionery Tale

The subtitle could be "Be careful about what you wish for - it can come back on you." This is how my own hubris attacked me. And I have no one to blame but myself.

The Thurs. Writers had two important events on the horizon - a major birthday (94) and a beloved fellow writer moving to another city. While we have only two official parties a year -- the Christmas holiday and summer solstice potluck luncheons - it was felt that we should honor these two events.

Much in the spirit of: "My Dad's got a barn! We can put on the play there!" we set out. Dale said, "We can have it at my house - 4 p.m., Sunday, February 19th. I said, "I'll cater it!" and Rudy volunteered to bring food, too.

Because I really appreciated the offer of the house, I decided to bring everything I needed, clean up afterward and not use a single knife, sppon, fork or glass of our hosts. I wanted the kitchen to look exactly as it did when I walked into it - pristine.

But first, what to bring that would please everyone? Most of the guests were the generation before me that loved wine and cheese tastings. And I knew that the older you get, the earlier the dinnertime. So I needed some hot hors d'oeuvres, too.

Thus I decided on: a Brie, a Carombola, slices of peppered salami plus cheese twists and two types of crackers and mixed olives. I love a block of cream cheese with hot pepper jelly on a cracker, so, what the hell, I added that, too. My hots would be ham and cheese puffs, a crab langostine rangoon (wontons with cream cheese and the seafood) and for the vegetarian or health-minded, tofu edamame nuggets. And a pair of cakes for the celebrants.

I carefully listed each item by store (Ralph's, Trader Joe) to get it in, including what I already had on hand -- fig jam for the Brie, chili pepper jelly and so forth.

Then I made a list of cooking tools to bring - the cakes required a knife and a server; bring a pair of scissors for the wrapped items - and don't forget the wine glasses! Several years ago I bought 18 utility wine glasses (red or white) from BevMo - $20, one of the smartest things I've done. They normally live in their special box under the daybed in the office. Spreaders for the cheeses, appropriate dishes for the cheeses and crackers.

For the hot apps, I cooked each in my oven and when they were done, I slipped them into a warm crockpot for transport.

For transport - slipped the oval crock pot into a pair of paper bags - carrying by a handle is a lot easier than not. A refrigerated bag for the cold stuff (cheeses, fig jam); the wine glasses had their own specialized carrier, a big plastic bag for the two cakes and a final bag for the plates, plastic forks, scissors, boxes of crackers and tongs for the hot apps.

We loaded it up, at the destination we unloaded it and I went to work in the kitchen. Swiftly I opened things, plated others, checked the heat in the crock pot...

Rudy came in with his offerings -- beef and chicken empanadas? enchiladas? salsa and warm chips and set them out on a table in their aluminum containers, ripped open the paper bag of warmed chips and uncapped the cup of salsa. The guests reacted like wolves to explain why I didn't know if they were empanadas or enchiladas. Whatever they had been, they were now dismal scrapes in the containers.

The guests were pretty well filled by the time I got my stuff out there.

"Rudy was a helluva lot smarter than I was," I thought as I packed up nibbled-on foods. "Never again - restaurants do catering! I don't!"

Sunday, February 19, 2012


The March edition of Bon Appetit came yesterday and within its pages was a very new idea to me - baking a topping onto the waffle while the waffle is cooking. Example: ham and cheese waffles. Make your usual waffle batter, pour it into the waffle maker and then top the raw batter with 1 rounded T shredded ham and one T shreded sharp, white Cheddar. Close the lid and continue as usual. The mag says to serve the waffle with maple syrup, but I'm going, "Maple syrup and Cheddar cheese?"

The mag mentions restaurants that serve "exotic" toppings and going by the locations, this is nationwide.

Toppings: blueberry compote, cream cheese pudding and a graham cracker crust, The Waffle Window, Portland, OR

Green tea batter, topped by lemon-ginger whipped cream, Waffles, Chicago

Cornmeal batter, maple-braised pork belly topping, Skillet Diner, Seattle

Batter: brown butter and red wheat flour, toppings? Seared Tennessee foie gras with grilled South Carolina peaches, Husk, Charleston, SC

Cornmeal batter topped with lobster, garlic-lemon spinach, slow-poached eggs and bacon Hollandaise. Tilia, Minneapolis

Black pudding batter, toppings red wine-poached pears and whipped foie gras butter. Public, New York

I think I'd start slow... maybe chop some strawberries as a topping and serve with whipped cream -- for dessert, not breakfast!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Deconstructing Comedy

"Cool, Calm & Contentious" by Merrill Markoe Villard New York 269 pages $24

The back flap describes Markoe as an Emmy Award-winning writer. This is her 7th book and is said to be "the most biographical" yet.

In the first chapter, the subject is her mother, whom she describes as a "Crazy Mommy." The mother apparently existed in a perpetual snit - loved to criticise, berate waiters and in general be unpleasant to all around her.

Markoe writes, "Comedy is, after all, about an imbalance of power." I had to think about that one for a moment. And I remembered a couple of jokes -- Dangerfield's "I can't get no respect," Milton Berle's "Take my wife... PLEASE!" and yeah, comedy is about an imbalance of power.

Markoe is a good writer and she has a fluid delivery. Sample: (She's talking about how an abused childhood can drive a grown-up to become a comedienne) "But it's also lovely that show business exists to provide this kind of arena, where the emotionally pummeled can offer their wounds for the inebriated to lick."

So far (page 39) I'm liking it.

Friday, February 17, 2012

People Are Strange...

Which is probably not exactly unknown by you. But even though I seem to have a talent for drawing the one nutter in a crowd of 500 directly to my side, I can still be surprised.

This happened Wednesday morning in the ladies locker room at the gym. I'd finished doing my stuff and was getting my purse out of the locker, when a small woman -- possibly came up to my elbow -- approached me and said, "Excuse me, can I ask you something?" I glanced to reassure myself she wasn't armed and said, "Probably."

She said, "Do you think I look fat?" so I looked her up and down, having been given tacit permission to do this by her question and said, "No. You've got flat abs -- something we're all working on and your arms look normal -- you know how some women's arms look like sticks? Yours don't."

She said in serious tones, "Thank you" and walked away. Mentally I shrugged, picked up my purse and sped to Richie's side as he pumped away on the stationery bike. I relayed all of the above and just then she walked out of the locker room door to walk right past us.

"Look! That's her!" I whispered to him, "Does she look fat to you?" "No," he replied. I quickly scampered up behind her, got her attention, pointed at Richie and said, "That's my husband - I asked him and he said, 'No.'"

She looked at him, waved, said "Thank you" again and walked away. She never did smiled.

Thursday morning, ladies locker room, gym. I'd finished my stuff and entered the locker room to wash my hands, collect my stuff and leave.

The locker room is laid out so that no one can see in from the gym and, to a degree, so is the entry to the wash basins and the shower room. Thus you come around a blind corner to whoever is in those rooms.

I wheeled around this blind entraqnce and came upon this: a stark naked woman, leaning forward, examining her face in the mirror above the basins. "Stark naked" is sometimes found in here, but this was the first time I'd ever seen someone who's entire body was Creamsicle Orange! My first glance told me she was starkers, so I dropped my eyes to the ground. Her feet, including between the toes! was this same, strange dark orange! She looked like she'd been dunked in a vat of dark orange! The only telltale clue that it was a spray tan was a smudge across her ribs on the right side.

This Friday morning, I felt some trepidition on entring the locker room. Things are said to come in threes, right? But absolutely nothing untoward occurred at all. Now I don't have to worry until Monday.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

What's Dish Yer Sauce?

The title is a joke-y way to refer to Worcestershire sauce. However, it isn't nice to tease a sauce that has had such a long career. It is a fermented fish sauce, the "fish" are anchovies which would have been a deal breaker if I'd know it before I ever tasted it..

But a fermented fish sauce was popular in Greco-Roman times which were not yesterday afternoon. The Brits brought it back to England when they had to abandon India. Back in Worcester, an English woman bewailed the loss of this sauce, but! She had a recipe which she turned over to a pair of enterprising chemists there. John Lea and William Perrins made her a barrel of it, tasted it and said, "Bleh!" (or words to that effect in those times.) So they stored the keg down in the basement and forgot about it for a couple of years. When they did come across it, they tasted the sauce again. "Ah, hah!" Now they had something.

The Lea & Perrins brand flourished from then on. In 2005 Heinz bought it, but still makes and labels it like the originals. Other vendors sell various brands of it, too - in Australia, Brazil, the US, China, Japan, Thailand and Indonesia. Orthodox Jews are banned from using it on meat; they aren't allowed to have fish with meat.

The rest of us use it in Caesar salad dressing; Micheladas, the Mexican beer cocktail and our own Bloody Marys.

And because I remembered to buy a bottle of it the other day, I can now make barbecued shrimp. The shrimp never go near a grill; it's the sauce that makes it barbecue flavored. Pascal's Manon, New Orleans, where we first ate it, has made their version the gold standard for this dish.

Here's my version of it, but I don't know how many shrimp you're going to use, so adjust the ingredients accordingly.

1 stick of butter melted. Add in:
1 T Worcestershire sauce
dash of lemon juice
pepper to taste
dash of Tabasco or other hot sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
Heat gently and pour over steamed shrimp with or without their shells.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The French Are Delightfully Cynical

Yesterday, across America, happy couples schemed about gifts to make their partner swoon with joy; Mrs. See's factory worked overtime during the week preceding The Day and florists ran out of roses, which are traditionally 'way over-priced this one day of the year. Restaurant owners and chefs rubbed their hands together in glee. It was Valentine's Day!

Meanwhile, the French channel we get via Verizon ran the evening movie, a real, heartfelt tribute to True Love -- "Mrs. Chatterly's Lover"!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Why Prudes Rarely Do Drugs

The real reason we prudes would never do drugs?

Overdose - Jim Belushi, naked on his bed, sheet flung back at the Chateau Marmont
Overdose - Elvis Presley - seated on the toilet
Overdose - Lenny Bruce - seated on the toilet
Overdose - Judy Garland - seated on the toilet; in fact she'd been there so long rigor mortis had set in
Overdose - Brittany Murphy, bathtub
Presumed overdose - Whitney Houston, bathtub
Alcohol - Jim Morrison, bathtub

We're called "prudes" for a reason! If we weren't already dead, being found in circumstances like the above would kill us, then and there. Yes, I doubt we would know anything about how we were found, but even the idea of Stark Naked On A Toilet has the power to deter us from any consideration of a toot or a puff! The horror!

Moral: Don't Do Drugs and You Won't Wind Up Naked and Dead. Think of what the neighbors would say!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Begorra, You Saucy Thing!

In 2006, Richie and I, with friends, did a tour of Ireland. We started in Dublin and ended in Shannon from whence we flew home.

In Dublin, we ate two meals in the same restaurant in the student-infested area near the university. We ate there twice because I fell in love with the Piri Piri Prawns. I have kept that restaurant's business card somewhere in my office ever since, thinking that if I ever make it back to Dublin, I will go straight from the airport to the restaurant. Let me know if you're going to Dublin anytime soon and I'll dig through many layers of "stuff" and find it for you.

What the hell are Piri Piri Prawns? They're big, fat grilled shrimp in a garlic-y hot sauce, served with chunks of baguette to soak up this incredible sauce.

Recently I ran across British chef Jamie Oliver's recipe for Piri Piri sauce. He used it with chicken so clearly chicken is an acceptable substitute for shrimp.

1 red onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic - hell, use six!
1 or 2 bird's eye chilis -- the tiny ROARINGLY HOT ones
2 T sweet smoked paprika
Juice of two lemons
1/4 cup of white vinegar
2 T Worcestershire sauce
optional basil to sprinkle over finished sauce.
Mix and heat all of the above, store in a jar in the refrigerator if not planning to use it immediately.

Oliver says to use a Cuisinart, but ours is a mini-cuisinart, so it would have to be done in batches. If your situation is the same, plan ahead for the time you'll need to batch it.

Piri Piri chilis are indiginous to Malawi, South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique. It is a member of the Capiscum genus and ranks 175,000 on the Scoville unit measuring system

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Once Upon A Time...

There once was a good Cajun restaurant in Hermosa Beach. The owner and all of the wait staff were affable, the chef was talented and the Ragin' Cajun customers were happy (and plentiful.)

And then, darkness struck. The property owner decided to more or lest oust the Ragin' Cajun owner and install his own son instead and with a different type of food entirely.

The Ragin' Cajun owner vowed to find a new location and searched the new-ish El Segundo Plaza. His former customers sighed in relief.

But there was no space available/affordable. In disgust, the Cajun owner threw up his hands and said, "The hell with being in a building - I'll drive my own food truck!" And, henceforth, he did.

And then Richie read that the Redondo Beach high school was having a charity food truck gala with such as Babe's Bad-Ass Burgers, the Grilled Cheese Truck and the Ragin' Cajun truck! Hot damn! we shouted and set off. But there the Ragin' Cajun wasn't.

We defaulted and went to New Orleans Cajun and Creole, Hermosa Beach, instead. It's in a corner building and the interior is long and narrow with a counter running along the left wall in front of the bar/kitchen and tables for four all down the right wall. "Squiggily jazz" (no discernible theme or tune) played rather loudly for my taste. But when the food arrived, I never heard it again. That's how blown away I was by the food.

The maitre'd was friendly and welcoming. We started with a half order of hush puppies ($4) and ate them while we waited for Richie's 3/4ths of a bowl of Ultimate Gumbo - two kinds of sausage, tasso ham, chicken, shrimp, crab and vegetables, white rice ($25; full bowl is $27) and my Fried Crawfish Po' Boy ($17.)

The gumbo arrived in a thick bowl that was easily as big as a wash basin. My sandwich, served open face, was a split, toasted length of baguette, fully dressed with tartar sauce, lettuce and tomato slices and approximately 30+ fried crawfish. It looked like a Mountain of Crawfish...The Cajun steak fries were cooked to near transparency and lightly seasoned, probably with a bit of cayenne and black pepper.

We were seated right across from chef/proprietor Casandra Epuna and every now and then she would gaze over at us and solicitously ask, "How's it going, baby?" nodding at the food. We had to grin (teeth closed) and nod back because our mouths were full.

When Richie asked for a take-out container for the other half of the soup, she inspected it and added a bit of the broth "to even things out," she said. That struck me as impressive ... that she cared enough about her food to send it home as a leftover, but as perfectly as she could make it.
Richie had gumbo for dinner and found he has enough leftover for lunch today to further explain the portions and how good it is -- you can happily eat three meals in a row of it. He is not a dainty eater either. (Not by a long shot.)

Now we have the best of two good things -- rolling Cajun and rock-solid restaurant Cajun. We can live happily ever after ...

NEW ORLEANS CAJUN & CREOLE, 140 Pier Avenue, Hermosa Beach 310-372-8970 Open Thurs. to Monday lunch 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.; dinner 5 p.m. till...

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Looking At An Unpleasant Day

I know that any readers who live in the colder states will shriek with laughter at my idea of an "unpleasant" day which would be what today is. Overcast with possible showers and a daytime high of 59 degrees. ALL DAY, that's the best it's going to get.

Happily I have an insanely ridiculous book to finish off. It's "Lunatics" by Dave Barry and Alan Zweibel G. P. Putnam's Son 309 pages $25.95

The two main characters are suburban Dads. One's daughter plays in the AYSO league; the other Dad referees the games. An altercation on the soccer fields leads to revenge and that escalates into a misunderstanding by the police and federal government that the two are international terrorists. To give you an idea of the inanity, they hijack an older couple's passports and cruise tickets, board the ship and take a nap, worn out from the stress of overthrowing the government of Cuba. Upon awakening, well out on the sea, they discover that it's a "clothing optional" cruise. Isn't that just bust-a-gut funny? Not especially, but it's a good example of Barry and Zweibel's senses of humor.

The whole book is beyond silly, but it's an okay escape read on a rainy day.

Since I knew yesterday that today would be a bummer, I bought stewing beef for a Daube Provencale (which is nothing more than a French beef stew) and mushrooms. We already have carrots, onions, bacon and the beef bouillon needed.

Why does beef stew go with gloom? Because it cooks in the oven for three hours at 300-degrees! This drafty, cold house will be toasty warm until bedtime! The ceiling fan in the dining room spreads the heat out over the entire floor.

Speaking of mushrooms, I took some that I'd bought yesterday, sliced them and sauteed them in a mix of butter and Worcestershire sauce. When they were done, I tossed them into the macaroni and cheese I'd also made. MacShrooms, anyone?

Friday, February 10, 2012

"Strongly Disagree"

I enjoy reading the Letters to the Editor in the Daily Breeze and the LA Times. I feel it gives me insight into what people are really thinking by what they feel important enough to sit down and take the time to write a letter about it. This is especially true of the Daily Breeze, not so much the LA Times whose editors and managers are largely slanted to "pro-Democrat."

But this morning I read a letter that made my blood boil, so to speak. One Fred Blachly, of Long Beach, wrote to protest the "gay" judge's overturning of Proposition 8. He is outraged that the will of the people can be so airily dismissed. Okay, he makes a good point about the fact that we talk with our votes and it is maddening, depending on which side of the overturn you are on, to have one's vote dismissed.

I had to remind myself repeatedly while reading the next bit of his letter that this is America; anyone can say any damned thing they feel like saying. What made me so h ot?

"Obviously marriage throughout the nation is failing, (Based on what statistics? Nina) vows are taken lightly (Insert the name Kim Kardashian here. Nina) and it is the future generations that shall suffer (Misuse of "shall." Nina) especially as same-sex marriage spreads and further dilutes marriage, the family structure, the family tree and family heritage. It is not unlike a cancer and it continues to spread."

How the hell does a same-sex marriage dilute a straight marriage? Answer: it doesn't because it cannot. "Marriage" is the public entering into a pact between two people to cling only to one another, "forsaking all others." It's a statement of intent between these two people and no one else.

As far as "diluting the family structure, the family tree and family heritage" there is no reason that a same-sex couple couldn't also have all of the above.

That letter was a good example to all the rest of us. No matter where you are - and Blachly says he lives in Long Beach - where the population, interestingly, is heavily gay - there are whack jobs, thrusting their righteous swords toward the heavens. I believe they are all employed by the Burning Cross Factory, where the company uniform is a white robe and hood.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Something Sinister Going On?

Zsa Zsa Gabor's husband, "Prinz" von A's public antics have amused me for quite some time. Abducted by two women, stripped naked, left by the side of the road as they drove off in his car... the run for California governor... His inspired lunacies have long been a source of extreme mirth to me.

Yesterday evening, he threw a 95th birthday party for ailing wife, Zsa Zsa, at their home. Reuters news service reports that The Prinz greeted everyone by showing them the chocolate birthday cake -- candles still smoking; nice touch that -- he said was given to Zsa Zsa by chef Wolfgang Puck.

Since Zsa Zsa was kept behind closed doors for the entire evening, it is a question of some interest as to who actually blew out the birthday candles? Yes, I can imagine this scenario:

Prinz to ZsaZsa, "Come, my darlink, let me make you more comfortable..." reaches out, takes her hand. "But! My darlink! Your little hand is ice cold!"

At this point he realizes, so is the rest of her! She died! And no one even noticed it!

Gott in Himmel! I've got 50 guests out there ... vot vill I do? (Thinks, then face lights up) Vere iss my lighter? fumbles through pockets. Finds lighter and lights birthday candles on the small chocolate cake he had set on the bedside table. Candles burn brightly and then Poof! he blows them out. He then shouts, "Happy birthday, my darlink! I'm going to show your cake to all of the guests now!" Tenderly he draws the sheet up over her head...

The guests were served a white, layered cake with the initials "ZZ" printed on each layer. Fresh strawberries topped this cake.

Meanly it occurs to me that a strawberry shortcake is considerably cheaper than a layered, frosted cake..Perhaps the pink champagne put him over-budget and he had to scrimp on something!

But: mostly I find it awfully suspicious that the celebrant was behind closed doors...all evening long.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Guest Columnist!

Today, we are honored by the presence of one of the great satarists of our time -- Rudy Whitcomb!

The Cloud

Although the weather reporter on the television had warned us for days, like many other Southern Californians, we were caught completely off-guard when a cloud appeared yesterday afternoon at about 3 p.m. After all, who pays any attention to the weather report?

I was at home at the time and we were relatively unscathed, but some friends of ours were in their car, traveling on the Harbor Freeway and they say traffic came to a complete stop as the panicked motorists rolled up their windows and tightened their seat belts.

They, like hundreds of other motorists were helpless, trapped in their cars and could only wait and pray for help to come.

Luckily, our friends were returning from grocery shopping and were able to open the trunk and get to a frozen turkey that they were able to cook one bite at a time with the car's cigarette lighter to get them through the ordeal.

Unlike some of our more fortunate neighbors and most of the rich folks in Beverly Hills, we do not have a cloud cellar.

But we were prepared with emergency provisions, beer, sweaters, extra helmets, safety glasses and a kitten.

Aside from that, there was little else we could do. We were utterly helpless and alone and could only cower in our homes and peer out of the wiondows, hoping the cloud would soon disappear or move on to the less fortunate neighborhoods to the east. (The people to the east are poor and are used to having bad things happen to them.)

Trying to maintain a brave front and calm the womenfolk, I suggested we play with my Christmas present (a home tattoo set) or maybe do some skeet shooting out the upstairs window.

But I could tell, the Missus was having none of it and if I didn't come up with a real good diversion, something to calm her and take her mind off of our plight, she would again start hinting that I should go outside and paint the garage.

We compromised by going to our room, pushing the dog out of the way and crawling under the bed with a bowl of spaghetti and some whipped cream.

The minutes turned into an hour, but at last the authorities sounded the siren, signalling that the cloud was gone and we could venture outside.

Now, as if nothing had happened, it was sunny and warm as it always should be.

We were met with an almost-festive atmosphere as many of our neighbors came out of the safety of their homes to gather on their lawns to relieve themselves of their pent-up tension by trading stories about their experiences -- where they were when they first realized there was a cloud in the sky and what they did to protect themselves.

One old timer, I guess you could call him the patriarch of the block, told the tale of the great cloud of '33.

"In those days, when we had a cloud, we had a cloud. Back then it wasn't like it is now, with yer fancy weather people and yer Doppler radars and satellites up there in the sky to warn you about a cloud a'comin'" he said, drawing himself up to his full height and taking a hit on the half-full bottle of Jim Beam we were passing around.

"No sirree Bob," he continued, after clearing his throat and spitting in our flowerbed. "Back then you could be a-goin' about your business outdoors, naked and defenseless, happy as you please when out of the blue, there it was. A cloud. A cloud as big as a barn. Bigger. Dark and ominous, they would be, hangin' overhead like the harbinger of doom that they are, threatening who knows what?" he said with a faraway look in his eye as the bourbon kicked in.

About then we all had to hit the deck to dodge the bullets as the 4 o'clock drive-by shooter came down the street. Then it was back inside our homes to turn on our television sets in time to catch the 5 p.m. high-speed car chase. Every night it's held on a different freeway and we have a pool going as to which one it will be.

Tonight, I have $5 on the 60 Freeway between Montebello and North Long Beach.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

An "A-hah!" Moment

We have three Trader Joe stores within easy driving distance of the house, but we seem to prefer the one in Riviera Village (the southern end of Redondo Beach.) Because the wine department is on the way to the checkout clerks, I will often stop and check out the champagnes/proseccos/sparkling wines. The shelves always look as though no one has bought any of the above for quite some time.

Yesterday though, there were huge gaps in this department. I was confused. Who the hell would buy champagne to toast the Super Bowl winners? It would be wildly unusual for that to happen in a beach community (populated largely by surfers, Ugg wearers and other laggards.)

And then I remembered. In addition to the Super Bowl this afternoon, this morning's event was the Redondo Beach Supr Bowl 10K! It would be perfectly normal to drink champagne after that! Bragging rights on best time, most awarded six-pack, fastest parent pushing a baby carriage (with baby.)

Mystery solved!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Guest Columnist!

My cousin Doug and his wife live in Anderson, IN, very near Indianapolis, so I asked him if Super Bowl will interfere with life as it is generally lived there. Our Man on the Ground wrote back:

"Indeed it will. Our proximity to Indy (about 30 miles or a 20-minute drive along I-69) makes our community a hot spot for those seeking low-budget accomodations.

Thousands of people are staying in motels and dining in local restaurants both in and around Anderson and also 18 miles to our East in Muncie (home of Ball State University and David Letterman.)

Since I-69 is the corridor from Muncie to Anderson to Indy, there is a considerable melding of Super Bowl tourists seeking local fare at reasonable prices. My wife and I just returned from having pizza and beer at our favorite spot called Art's Pizza, which is a locally-owned establishment that is renowned as offering some of the best pizza anywhere. The place was packed, which is unusual. We saw quite a few "unfamiliar faces" above NY Giants jerseys in that small local establishment where just about everyone knows everyone else, so I'm sure they were guests here for the Super Bowl week events.

You also have to remember, Anderson is the training camp home of the Indianapolis Colts, and as such a second Hoosier home to Peyton Manning, so many Hoosiers are cheering for Peyton's little brother and his NY Giants.

Anderson is also the home of the Hoosier Park Horse Racing and Casino (which attracts more than a million visitors a year;) a destination for many racing fans during the Indy 500 and the Brickyard 400 weekends; a sanctuary for NCAA tourney fans since Indy is always a tourney site and often the finals location. It's the international headquarters of the Church of God, whose annual camp meeting can attract 15,000 - 20,000 people from around the world for a week-long religious confab. So we do get residual impacts from major events and we are accustomed to having sizeable tourist groups.

Oh! And no black out of the game. The NFL doesn't do that with the Super Bowl since it attracts a stadium full of non-locals.

The Indy 500 is always blacked out since the track can accomodate far more people than Lucas Oil Stadium. "

Friday, February 3, 2012

Drinking Appropriately

Tuesday, Jan. 31st Roy's, Rancho Mirage
We (Richie's brother Charlie, his wife Rosalind, my sister Jane and her husband Jim, Richie and self) were about to order pre-dinner drinks. I turned to Jim and asked, "Dirty martini, up?" as we are the only martini drinkers in the bunch.

"No," he said, "I'm going to have (something else, can't remember). I like a martini at a steak place, but not here," gesturing at the menu.

"Ah hah!" I thought, as our waiter approached, "I'll have something different, too."

He bent down (attractive young guy with a ready smile)and I said, "You have two champagnes listed on your menu (he nodded, gravely) - I'd like a glass of the cheaper one!" and he grinned and rolled off a long French name, some of which "Lorraine" I remembered from the menu and I said, "That's the one!"

Later, dinner was at the coffee and desserts stage and he asked me what I would have and I said, "Another glass of the same champagne, please." When he came back, I had my head turned, talking to my sister. When I did turn back, I saw with alarm that it was the expensive champagne! (White, $14/glass; red $9/glass.)

"Richie, please get the waiter back! He gave me the wrong champagne!" sitting well away from it, thinking, "No fingerprints on the glass! Not even my breath touching it!"

He came back, I gestured and he winked and said, "The bar mixed up the order; I billed the cheaper one" and grinned. I thought for a nanosecond and said, shrugging, "In that case, I might as well keep it" and we both grinned like the accomplices we apparently were.

The next night at Tommy Bahama's Caribbean Cafe, we were all together once again. Remembering Jim's words on appropriate drinks, I ordered a Pineapple Jalapeno Mojito. I have no idea of the amounts used, but here are the listed ingredients:
Cruzon Pineapple cane syrup, rum, mint, and club soda garnished with a thin ring of raw jalapeno and a sliver of pineapple. So much for the ballyhooed "pineapple jalapeno"!

But it went well with my Caesar salad,* followed by coconut shrimp with Asian slaw. It was perfectly appropriate.

* I am on a private quest for the perfect Caesar salad. I thought I had had it at Charlie's, A New York Joint, but they quit making their own Caesar dressing and went to Girard's.