Thursday, February 28, 2013


Sympathy For the Pope
First I want to express my sympathy to the outgoing Pope, Bendict the 16, Pope Emeritis.  This is a situation the Church hasn't faced for more than 600 years, so a bit of confusion at first is perfectly understandable.

It appears that after much to-ing and fro-ing, the Pope will be allowed his usual white, floor-length robe, but the seal in his ring has been taken out and smashed and he is no longer allowed to wear the bright red shoes.   They have been taken from his closet and replaced with plain, brown leather slip-ons.    That must have been a tremendous blow to him..  Once the cynosure of all eyes, now relegated to plain brown.  

The Sous Chef
Yesterday Richie remarked, "We've got everything we need - I'm going to make meatballs and spaghetti for dinner tonight."  I said, "Okay," while thinking, "No way in hell;  I'm going to make the meatballs."

The afternoon passed peacebly enough and it was prep time in the kitchen.  Lazily I unwound myself from my favorite chair and sauntered out to the kitchen to tell him I would be making the meatballs.  .  He objected, "But I've got my apron on!"  I dismissed this with a wave.  "Fine, you can be my sous chef -- in medicine there's a saying, 'Watch one, do one, teach one'   so today you start by watching - get me an egg, okay?  And the hamburger."

"Do you want onion?" he asked, rummaging in the vegetable bin.  "No," I replied.

I walked him all the way through to forming the first meatball, which I placed on a round pizza pan.  "Now, you can make the meatballs and bake them at 300 for 30 minutes, but be sure to check them after 15 minutes.  The reason I bake them is that it cuts down on the fat rather than frying them."   

"Ah," he said and began making meatballs.  Richie is so painstaking that all of the meatballs looked to be absolutely the same  in size.  As for myself?  "I wish I'd thought of that sooner!  Having a sous chef is the only way to fly!  I wonder if I can pull that con again...." and settled back in my chair to contemplate future plans...

What's Up with  Tomato Sauce Being Called "Gravy" ?  
I have wondered about this before but never so much as when actually cooking meatballs and spaghetti.  Is "tomato sauce" literally "gravy" in Italian?  Did arriving immigrant Italians want so badly to fit in with "Americans" that they picked up "gravy" as it's used for meat?   Is "sauce" a forbidden word in Italian?   If you know, tell me at

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

To Which I Say, "Everybody's Mother Was Nuts, Honey!"

"My Mother Was Nuts, A Memoir" by Penny Marshall   New Harvest   326 pages   $26

Penny Marshall is a talented actress, comedien, producer and director.  If you were old enough to watch TV from 1976 to 1983, you've probably seen "Laverne & Shirley."  In 1988, she directed the movie "Big" which was the first female-directed film to gross more than $100 million. 

She ran with an interesting group of people - John Belushi, Tom Hanks, Mark Wahlberg, Whoopie Goldberg, Robert DeNitro.  Art Garfunkle put her on the back of his motorcycle and they toured Europe.  She and Carrie Fisher celebrated their birthdays with a huge party and a very long guest list for years.  She and Rob Reiner married, divorced and remain good friends.

She was good company in a cast of talented writers, comics, actors and directors.  Her book is well-written, has copious photos and is interesting.  A worrisome note was the fact that in 2009, she was diagnosed as having brain and lung cancer.  Surgery, radiation and chemo, she says, have put her in remission.  I wish her well.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Triple A Warning

As members of AAA, we get their monthly magazine "Westways."  I'll quote their warnings about car theft and I wanted you to know this is not some harum-scarum e-mail; it starts on page 55 of the March/April Westways publication. 

I doubt we need to worry too much about having our Maybachs "cloned."  Here's how it goes:  thieves have gotten their hands on an expensive luxury car.  They write down the details and then head out to find another car just like the stolen one.   If or when they find one, they copy the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and make a new plate and sticker for the hot car.  And ship it off to a less stringent country or State.

Cover your VIN number (dashboard, driver's side - small metal plate) with a 3" x 5" card.

Copying Keys  Today's car keys have a radio-frequency identification chip which sends a code to the car.  If it's a stranger's keys, they won't work because the wrong code is being sent.  

But now, thieves can buy a small machine that copies your keys' radio frequency and what's more they can then copy it.   Wave "bye bye" to your vehicle.

And then there's just plain hurry and be sorry.  You need to run into the drugstore to pick up a prescription or the supermarket for a loaf of bread.  Hurriedly you click the "lock" button on your car key fob.  You can't be bothered to listen for the answering "chirp" or lights to flash; you'll be right back anyhow.

And when you do return, your parking spot is empty.   Take the time to listen for the chirp or see the lights flash.  It's one of the simplest protections against theft you can take. 


Monday, February 25, 2013

Come Back, Billy Crystal!!!

After last night's Oscars, it's clear that you are desperately needed!  What'll it take to get you back where you belong - front and center on the Oscars' presentation stage?

Last night's version of the Oscars was awkward, dismal, amateurish and very definitely not amusing in any way.  The entire show - host and participants - had the feeling of this well-known scenario:

"Hey!  I know what!  Let's put on a play!"
"Yeah - I'll ask my Dad if we can use our barn!"

It was so bad that I found myself yawning uncontrollably at 7:30 p.m.

The two wittiest emcees ever were the late David Niven (1910 - 1983), who famously said of the streaker that ran across the stage during the 1974 broadcast, "Isn't it fascinating to think that  probably the only laugh that man will ever get in his life is by stripping off and showing his shortcomings?"

The other biting wit is Billy Crystal, who has delighted us during nine Oscar productions.  He's quick, he clearly does his homework and he is, as a result, outrageously funny.  I also liked the rude Brit guy; naturally, I can't remember his name.  A British accent can do a great deal to pep up even the most tired of jokes.

On the other hand, next year it could be a woman - Michelle Obama - as hostess.  It was a surprise to see her handing out the "Best Film" award from the White House.  I'm not used to a wannabe rock star as First Lady of the United States.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

This 'n That

In a nod to previous Oscar winners, we watched "Gigi" last night which had won nine.  I think it should have been sub-labeled "Pedarists and the Women Who Enable Them."

Maurice Chevalier is a Dirty Old Man - he sings "Thank Heaven For Little Girls" in a park where a bunch of 12 to 14 year old girls are playing tag.  His gaze is ... admiring.  His nephew, Louis Jordan, is rich and bored.  Gigi's family is comprised of her grandmother, her great aunt and her mother (never seen, but heard trilling opera music - she sings in the chorus) and their family motto is "We never marry."    Gigi is being groomed -- at age 15 -- to be a courtesan.  And then the nephew gets interested in her and not in a good way.   I was shocked, I tell you.  Shocked.

The Hermosa Animal Hospital, the only one we've used for 30 years, sends out a newsletter and this was something dog owners might need to know.  The little article says that the hospital tries to keep you with your dog in the exam room, but there are some treatments that are better performed without the owner being present.  They explain why:

1.  Dogs have an "any port in a storm" mentality and they will often bond with the tech doing the work.
2.  Dogs are owner protectors and may bite.  When removed from the person they protect, they will calm down.
3.  Dogs have a strong sixth sense and if you're upset, no matter how calm you may pretend to be, they know you're afraid and act accordingly.  Separating the two of you means the dog will most often settle down.

We weren't invited, of course, but the 1,500 guests at the Governor's Ball, post-Oscars, will be served some 50 different dishes as created by Wolfgang Puck.  For the full menu, go to

To be passed:  Vegetable Spring Rolls, Smoked Salmon "Oscars" with dill creme fraise and caviar, Spicy Coconut Shrimp Fritters.

Cocktail platters - starring Bacon-Wrapped Dates!  I think they may have served those at the very first Oscar's party!

Small cold plates:  Kale salad, Japanese baby peach salad.

Small hot plaates:  Chicken Pot Pies, baked potato and caviar.

Desserts?  15!  Cookies, Candy and Chcolate?  Only seven.   

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Feeding the Lenten Catholic's Wife

Of my acquaintances, I would say that only two of them are Mass-going Catholics.  Neither one of them is Richie.  Instead, it is his quaint custom to annually insist on "No Meat on Friday."

Early on in this marriage, before I got smarter and Trader Joe moved into the neighborhood, I absolute hated this habit of his.  It meant that for seven or eight Fridays in a row, I had macaroni and cheese because I won't eat any fish except canned tuna.  Let me hasten to add that I do love shrimp, crab, crawfish and lobster. 

In thrashing about for a dinner we could both enjoy, remembering the constraints listed above, I came up with tuna dishes.  The first was macaroni tuna salad.  It was a nice change from mac and cheeese.

Half a package of elbow macaroni, or as much as you think you need, cooked and set aside
1 can of tuna - anyway you like it, oil or water-packed.
3/4 cup chopped pimento-stuffed olives
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/4 cup chopped pickled jalapenos (optional)
Mayonnaise to your taste - barely coating or dripping.
     Mix it all up, let it chill for a bit and serve.

(After Lent, substitute a can of white chicken meat)
Half a package of noodles, cooked and set aside.
1 can tuna, any style
1 can cream of mushroom soup - don't dilute
1 can water chestnuts, drained
1/2 half medium white onion, chopped
A big hunk of Velveeta cheese, cut in 1 in. dice
1/2 cup chopped green pepper

Mix all ingredients and bake in a 300 degree oven for 30 minutes or so.  Remember that the cheese will melt and so you need to stir it occasionally.  In the interests of speed, you could also heat everything up in a saucepan while you cook the noodles and simply pour the sauce over the cooked noodles and stir.

Richie discovered this one; in fact he made it last night
Amount of linguini you'll eat, cooked and set aside
1 can tuna
1/2 half red onion, thinly sliced
2 T garlic, chopped
1/2 cup lemon juice
12 Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
2 T capers, chopped
Parsley to garnish

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet and cook the red onion until translucent
Add the garlic and stir frequently.
Add the lemon juice, olives, capers and tuna, stirring gently. Toss in the linguini, mix well and serve. 

If this all sounds too tedius for words, I recommend Joe's Crab Shack.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Richie Has A Groupie!

You're not surprised?  Well, his wife was flabbergasted when we came in and found this message on the answering machine.  "Hello, my name is (omitted) and I read your letter to the editor this morning and I couldn't agree more!  Why isn't Congress acting?  I wanted to discuss this with you; my number is XXX XXX XXXX so please give me a call."  (click)

Naturally I supposed it was some kook with an agenda - Tea Party? Occupy Wal Street? but her voice was soft and gentle, not in the least warlike.  I wrote down the phone number and made him listen to the message.

An hour later, he said,,"I wonder how she got our number?  It's unlisted, isn't it?"

"No, it's not.  It is right in there with the other 17 Richard Murphys, Redondo Beach,  in the phone book.  I figured it was better to hide in a crowd." 

So he called her and they had an animated chat about local political figures, the AES plant and so forth.  After he'd hung up he told me, "She's 79, a retired local school teacher who wants to Do Something.  I told her to write a letter to the editor."

I really felt mixed emotions about his groupie.  First of all, there was professional pride.  Today's AOL figures show that I've written 1,448 columns with 23,880 page views or an average of 16.49 people reading me on a daily basis.

Contrast that with the fact that's he's written possibly four letters to the editor - widely spaced  in time- and he gets a groupie! 

Clearly I'm doing something wrong.    Is "Groupie Envy" a common complaint in psychiatric circles?  Quite probably not.  Tant pis.  (French for "too bad.")  It should be.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Richie Made the Paper!

His Letter to the Editor ran in today's Daily Breeze and is possibly his third to be printed.

"Where on Earth is Congress? 

A meteor exploded over Russia.  As asteroid just missed hitting the Earth.  A stinking cruise ship finally makes port.  All big news.  But we miss the big story about oil prices spiking.  Why?  Because Congress takes the week off, even though they have a lot of work to do.  They don't care.
Richard W. Murphy, Redondo Beach"

If you, too, would like to run in your newspaper, here are some suggestions...

1.  Keep it short -- newspaper columns are still measured and there may be a space or gap on the page.  That's where you come in with a quip or  witty line.  You'll be using three lines - one for the heading, second for your words of wisdom and third for your name and city. 

2.  "letters @ (newpaper name). com will usually get it there, but look at the bottom of the column and see for sure where they want it sent exactly.

3.  The letter writer does not write the headline above the letter.  The editor or assistant does that.  

4.  There is a specific form used to write to the editor.  You salutation is "Dear Sirs:" your close-off is "Sincerely, Name You Wish To Use, full street address and phone number."

5.  Make sure you spelling is correct; your paragraphing as well.  What will usually get your piece in is a letter that the editor can skim, toss to an assistant and say, "Run it."  Editors hate to edit! 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Time Trave Tips

Looking at the rain advancing on us is not particularly conducive to travel.  Rather the reverse - get the wall heater going, turn on the ceiling fan, nuke some popcorn and wriggle deeply in My Chair and read would be more appropriate for a day like today. 

But before it disappears, there's something that may prove a fruitful read - the Sunday travel  (  It's two full pages of letters from the public giving hints on how they now travel easily.  Some made sense; others seemed rather obvious ("never be separated from your medications") and a few raised my eyebrows for ingenuity or "needs more work."

Here are some examples:

If you're standing up during a flight, stand, turn and reach for your own seatrest to pull yourself up or to steady yourself before venturing on out into the aisle. 

Type a list of the names and addresses of people you write postcards to and, if inside the US, buy a sheet of 20 postcard stamps.   Put them together in your purse or backpack.  (I used to make labels, but too often I ran out of them or wound up with 15 labels for my sister and no one else.  It won't kill you to hand-address a couple of postcards.  We have spent some very pleasant hours in a bar writing postcards.)

In foreign lands, where you don't speak the language, take a brochure for your hotel or the little notepad in the room , business card -- anything with the name, address and photo of your hotel.  (The photo part, I think, is critical because many people routinely pass the same building on a daily basis and have no idea what's inside of it.)

A Chinese guide told a couple that if they got lost, to quickly find a young couple and ask them.  The guide said, "The guy will be willing to help; just to impress his girlfriend!"  The letter writer recommends using this idea in any country!

Under the category "Perhaps needs a little work" - Enclose your bag in a sweatshirt.  I put the handle through the neck opening and then close the drawstring around the bottom.

I would counter,"Where are the sleeves?  Reversed inside the sweatshirt?  Or flapping in the breeze which is very definitely not a good idea.

The underbelly of any major airline is a maze of  conveyor belts, electronic and human scanners and baggage handlers.  Bags have to be yanked off for their final destination which requires more than a languid pace.  The last thing you want is a belt catching a sleeve and ripping the sweatshirt and your bag to pieces.

I must say though it would be hella good way to recognize your bag at baggage claim...

Monday, February 18, 2013


Ladies, if you have been married longer than 20 minutes, you will know what I meant by that remark. 

Scenario:  Richie and I go to the Palos Verdes library booksale.  (Highly recommended, by the way.)  He spots and buys "365 Ways To Cook Chicken" for "T."  I spot and buy, "Around the World, Around Our Town - Recipes from San Pedro" for me.

Cut to three days later:  "I'm going to make Arroz con Pollo,"  he says.  He does and it is good.   Naturally I want to share anything good with you.  "Which book did you use?" and he starts babbling about his chicken book and sticks one of Lady Bird's discarded feathers in it as a book mark.  Naturally, I assume he used "T"'s book.

I gave you that recipe.  Some hours later, he is reading the column and says, "Oh, that's the wrong recipe - I used the one in the San Pedro book."  When I go berserk, he says, calmly, "Oh, no one has to know ..." and I coldly retorted, "But I know."


3/4 cup olive oil
1 cut-up chicken or any part of the chicken you like to equal one chicken
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/8 teas. powdered saffron (optional; it costs a fortune!)
1/2 teas. curry powder
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
pepper to taste
1 cup raw rice
3/4 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup sliced mushrooms

Using a Dutch oven, brown the chicken pieces.  Toss in the onions and garlic bits and brown
then add the tomato sauce, saffron, curry, chicken broth and pepper and cook for 20 minutes.
Add the rice, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
Add the peas and mushrooms and cook another 15 minutes.
Serves 4 to 6.

This is a lot less complicated than the "365" book's recipe. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

All Is Well in Town & Country

The magazine, that is. It's a Hearst publication and is the oldest consecutively published in America; born of the merger of two newspapers in 1901.

The January, 2013, issue is particularly fine.  The cover promises "An Intimate Story Never Told" abut Gloria Vanderbilt.  After she was conned out of substantial amounts by her lawyer and her shrink, she had to sell her country place and live in her painting studio for two years.

It shouldn't have surprised her much; she had a terrible track record with men.  She'd already run through four husbands - Pat DiCicco when she was 17; he beat her; she divorced him.  Next up was Leopold Stokowski, considerably her senior, folowed by Sidney Lumet and finally Wyatt Cooper.  After his death she had a "romantic relationship with photographer Gordon Parks" until his death in 2006 when she was 83! 

Another very interesting feature "White House After Hours - Late Night Antics from JFK to Obama."  Each president is rated by from one to five flutes of champagne.

Obama - four flutes
State Dinners - six in first term.
Drink:  margaritas, beer, martinis, wine.
Idea of Fun - Pick-up basketball games
Hosting Skills - the president and his wife pride themselves on their dancing prowess and hip friends such as Beyonce and Bruce Springsteen.

Contrast Richard Nixon with four flutes.
Drink: wine or a dry martini
Idea of Fun - piano, golf, poker, espionage
Hosting Skills - rather surprisingly Nixon loved partying with jaqzz musicians and broke all the rules of his Quaker background regarding drinking, dancing, gambling and swearing.

But my all-time favorite is a section in the "Society Network" simply entitled "Weddings."  These are thumbprints of the people, their job titles, clothing and something the editors chose to call "Fun Facts" which, frankly, aren't.

"Fun Fact" The groomsmen's gift was a custom oyster knife from Carolina Shuckers."  Or "The bride wore Vera Wang."

This is the kind of fun fact I would truly appreciate:  "The matron of honor over-served herself on the champagne, took umbrage at a remark and bent over, flipped her skirt up and flashed her thong while bellowing at the guests, "Y'awl kin jes' kiss my rosy red..." when her husband came at a dead run, swooped down, picked her up and set her in the horse tank. The even was being held at the Astoria-Rockefeller Farms in Southampton.

This "social gossip" beats out bleats about the Kollected Kardashians by several hundred miles.  Dip in and read for yourselves -

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Men - And the Chickens They Love

I'm always slightly surprised when I find a man who prefers chicken to beef.  Why, yes, I am being a sexist.  You say "chicken" to me and I visualize creamed chicken on toast points or a Chinese chicken salad.  Something ladylike.  "Beef"?  A man barbecuing over a fire next to a chuckwagon.  Thus when Trader Joe's frozen section offers boxes of chicken mini-tacos, I eye them with something akin to horror.   Trader Joe, too???

So it was with some surprise that I noted these men love chicken.  Richie's niece's father-in-law cooks a chicken breast every night for  dinner.  Personally I think this is more laziness than palate talking.  Chicken cooks up rapidly.  Sling a seasoned breast in a hot oven and 10 minutes later (+/-) you're at the table eating it.

The only time I've ever seen our friend "T" NOT eat chicken is at Havana Mania where he will sometimes order the pork sandwich.  Usually he goes with their Arroz Con Pollo.  I like to jokingly examine the area in front of his ears to see if he's grown gills yet.  So far, so good. 

Richie invariably orders Arroz Con Pollo at Las Brisas, our favorite Mexican place for the last 30 years.

Thus, when Richie ran across "365 Ways To Cook Chicken" at a library book sale, he bought it for "T" -- but he couldn't resist thumbing through it.  Incidentally, Richie makes a damned fine Chicken Cordon Bleu or a Chicken Kiev. 

He beamed when he came across this recipe and promptly made a very credible first time version.

ARROZ CON POLLO or Rice and Chicken
2 chicken breasts, sliced
2 T olive oil
1 teas. minced garlic
1 large onion, chopped
1 medium-sized green bell pepper, cut in strips
1 medium-sized red bell pepper, cut in strips
1 cup raw rice
1/2 lb. cooked, smoked sausage, cut into -2 in pieces  (Might omit this - fat and salt)
1/4 teas. ground saffron
1 can 16-oz. whole tomatoes drained and cut up or two fresh tomatoes
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 teas. dried oregano
1/4 teas. cayenne pepper
2 serrano chilies, thinly sliced or minced
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup pitted black olives, sliced

Brown the chicken in the oil and put it in a big casserole dish.
Add the onions, serrano and bell peppers to the skillet and ccook until they're soft.  Put this in the casserole dish.
Add the rice and sasage to the casserole dishy. 
Using the same skillet, put in the saffron, tomatoes, wine, oregano, cayenne and chicken broth and bring it to a boil.  Be sure to scrape up those flavorful brown bits in your skillet. 
Pour this into the casserole and stir the rice around.
Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer the whole thing for about 25 minutes. 
Stir in the peas and olives, let them heat up a bit and serve.

Friday, February 15, 2013


Food & Wine decided to celebrate some famous chefs from the past (Julia Child) and present (Jacques Pepin.) 

Pepin makes his mother's Beef Stew in Red Wine Sauce which calls for a bottle of dry red wine!  Having watched him doing his television show, I have often noted his prediliction for a glass of wine while working... This is a wonderful cold weather dish - the aroma tantalizes and the oven helps heat the house. 

1 T sweet butter
2 T olive oil
2 lbs. trimmed flatiron steak or chuck cut into 8 pieces.
salt and pepper to taste
     Star the butter and 1 T oil heating in a sturdy metal casserole dish, tuck in the pieces of beef and add salt and pepper to taste.  Start cooking and browning the meat over moderately high heat. 

1 cup finely-chopped onion
1 T finely-chopped garlic
1 T all-purpose flour
1 750-milliliter bottle dry red wine
2 bay leaves
1 thyme sprig
1 5-oz. piece of pancetta (or equivalent bacon)
15 pearl onions
15 baby carrots, peeled
15 cremini mushrooms
pinch of sugar
chopped fresh parsley for garnish

Add the onions and garlic and cook until the onion has softened.  Add the flour and stir.
Add the bottle of wine and dry seasonings and stir.  Put the lid on and cook the meat in the oven for 1 1/2 hours.

While that's going on, put the pancetta in a pot with two cups of water and simmer it for 30 minutes, then take it out, drain it and let it cool and then cut it into lardons. (Strips of bacon fat.)

In a big skillet, combine the lardons, pearl onions, carrots and mushrooms.  Add the other T olive oil and a 1/4 cup of water and the sugar.   Cover and cook for 15 minutes or until most of the water is gone.  Then take off the pan lid and cook on high until the veggies are nicely browned.  

To serve, stir in some of the vegetables but use the rest on the top of the meat as a kind of Big Garnish.  Sprinkle with parsley and serve.    

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Poor Richie Update

Richie dropped me off at the South Bay Writers Workshop, took a leisurely stroll through the Redondo Beach Farmer's Market and then drove back to the Bull Pen to remark on his condition.

The only person with any authority at 1 p.m. was the bartender so Richie made his thoughts clear, in a nice way, and the bartender listened respectfully, said he would report it to Management and then -- offered Richie a free Bloody Mary!  Just what you need with a disturbed intestinal system, right?  He politely declined. 

So, for Valentine's, I Killed My Arteries

Richie and I had decided it was the better part of wisdom to go out for dinner the night before this holiday.  Accordingly, we batted names back and forth.  Tin Roof Bistro, Jackson's Food + Wine, Old Tony's on the Pier, Dominique's Kitchen (French and new to us both.)

We'd left the Riviera Village Trader Joe's, heading home, when I spotted The Bull Pen (previously reviewed) and said, "You know what?  The Bull Pen's old and so are we -- what about that?  I feel like a steak tonight!"  He agreed.

At dinner there I ordered a spicy Bloody Mary and a shrimp cocktail to share.  I like the way the two heats - cocktail sauce and drink - meet in my mouth.  Both generally are well-seasoned but the "hot" is different and each one flatters the other.  That was the kick-off for artery destruction - salt.

To make sure I was successfu in my apparent death wish, I ordered the Tournedos of Beef with Bernaise sauce and mushroom caps.  It was, admittedly, overkill but I also got the baked potato (huge) with sour cream and chives instead of mashed.  The tournedos arrived, properly served on toast triangles with Bearnais absolutely ladled onto the meat and the toast and the plate.  Suicide by fork! 

Richie's order was much more circumspect:  medallions of beef sauteed in wine, butter and lemon and mashed potatoes.  He drank a glass of BV Cabernet Sauvignon and I had a glass of BV Merlot.  Replete, we refused dessert; the waiter boxed up my second tournedo and most of the baked potato and we waddled slowly away.

Over breakfast this morning, Himself informed me that he had been up at 4 and again at 5 a.m. with diarrhea.  Doesn't seem fair somehow.  I was the one that ate nothing but "bad stuff" and he was the one that got sick.  Maybe this means that I didn't kill my arteries after all...

The Bull Pen
314 Avenue I, Redondo Beach

P.S.  Leftover baked potato with sour cream and chives?  Scrape the meat out, add a can of chicken broth - soup!

COMMENT:  "D" wrote:  Are you sure it was the food?  He could be upset about the Piazza comments, the asteroid/meteor might be affecting him; pitchers and catchers reporting could have excited him, no more Dorner chase excitement or the American -Useless Air merger might be the reason -- and you can probably rule out the Clippers dominating the Lakers.  I would have taken the free Bloody Mary.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Contrasting Styles - in Books and Life

"We Learn Nothing, Essays and Cartoons" by Tim Kreider   Free Press   221 pages   $20

Kreider is a 44 year old cartoonist for the New York Times; his cartoon "The Pain - When Will It End?" has been collected previously in three volumes.

In his book, he covers such as the, to him, grey area between a bold romantic gesture and stalking.  He sympathized with the NASA woman who pulled on a pair of adult diapers to make the trip to her love object non-stop. 

Basically, I would describe him as The Cliched Professional Neurotic New York. 

"How I Slept My Way To the Middle" by Kevin Pollak   Lyons Pres   250 pages   $24.95

Pollak is a 55 year old comic and character actor with over 70 films to his credit.  His admiration of others - Steve Martin, John Belushi, Albert Brooks - evoked the picture of a tail-wagging beagle looking up at a master with soulful eyes.

Both writers liberally sprinkle their works with the f-word, much like an old barn door is peppered in birdshot.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Leafing Through 35 Years

Food & Wine magazine is celebrating 35 years of publication.  They have listed 20 dishes they have labeled "All-Time Greatest Recipes" as well as following certain celebrity chefs from start-up.

1978 - Julia Child
1992 Martha Stewart
1994 Emeril Lagasse
2001 Rachel Ray
2005 Anthony Bourdain

They list their choices for the world's best food cities - Tokyo, Sydney, New York City, Barcelona and Paris.

They've included handy kitchen hints.  A chef in Portland, OR,is using brown butter instead of oil and vinegar to dress warm,lightly-cooked vegetables or warm, mustardy potato salad.  This is drawing fearfully close to Old School French saucing if you ask me.

Chef Saran cuts long slices of okra and fries them until crisp and then tosses them in a spice blend of garam masala, onion, lemon juice, tomato and cilantro. 

I've been intending to make pickled lemons off and on for years, but they take time.  Chef Jeff Cerciello cuts lemon slices, and puts them in a mix of salt, sugar and oilve oil for four hours and considers them "done."

Chef Tim Cushman, Boston, marinates salmon in a citrus-soy mixture for one minute and spoons smoking-hot sesame and grapeseed oil mixed together on top just before it's served.  This technique barely cooks the salmon.  

Chef Cyril Reynaud heats oil-cured olives in a microwave at half power for 30 minutes and then processes the olives into a powder.   It seems to me that they've left out a couple of steps such as spreading it out on a cookie sheet and drying it out at 200 for 6 to 8 hours.

Chef-chemist Ferran Adria's simplest dessert:  melted chocolate on toasts, topped with a little olive oil and pinch of sea salt.  

Tap into to read other features and pick up a recipe or three. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Cruise Ships Now Go To Las Vegas

For style that is.  Las Vegas is still in the desert, don't panic.   I've often read and seen pictures of the lavish living quarters set aside by casino hotels for their wealthiest (and most reckless) gamblers.  Private swimming pools and hot tubs; butlers on call - all for people, industry-nicknamed" whales,"  who gamble mightily to the house's delight. 

And then leafing through a Norwegian Cruise line brochure I saw that they have adopted the Vegas-style whale suites.  I never dreamed this was possible, let alone in existence, quite probably out on an ocean somewhere right now -- a three (three) bedroom suite that tops out at 5,750 sq. ft.!  It sleeps eight.

The two bedroom suite has been adapted for a family - one room is designed for adults; the other for their children.  It's 572 sq. ft.

There is a Deluxe Owner's Suite at 1,382 sq. ft. with a large balcony or outdoor living room vs. the Owner's Suite which is made up of a bedroom and separate living/dining room.    It's only 875 sq. ft.,  so it's okay to turn up your nose.

There are double penthouses; one dedicated to romance with queen-sized round bed! 

Additionally, guests are urged to take advantage of the 24-hour trained and certified suite butler, the concierge services, the courtyard valet (pool boy?) and white tablecloth dining in the privacy of your own quarters. 

Other perks include a limo to bring you to the ship, nightly gourmet treats at your door, priority boarding and departing the ship, priority boarding on the tenders for ship-to-shore excursions. 

Unfortunately, the price for this kind of luxurious pampering was never mentioned.  The only info available was that rooms with an outside balcony run around $1,200 per person and an inside room runs at the $800 per person level.

I suppose that even if the three-bedroom price was in the $18,000 to $20,000 range it still be cheaper than leasing your own private yacht.  That's how the rich got that way, you know.  Economiziong all the time, poor darlings.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

More Money Than Good Sense

An article in the Los Angeles Times Travel section caught my eye this morning. 

If you remember the on-going night-time soap called "Dallas" and followed it religiously, then heads up.  The South Fork Ranch is now open for tours.  They're ready, they say, for groups of 20 to 2,000 for reunions, weddings or corporate events.

See for yourself the gun that shot J.R.!  Lucy's Wedding Dress!  Jock's Lincoln Continental!  Tour the house and grounds -- adults $13.50, seniors $11.50. Groups of 20+ pay just $9 per person. 

There are not one, but two gift shops!  Ten different ballrooms!  And a package deal for $199/per person that includes two nights at the South Fork Hotel, Plano, two tour tickets and free breakfast.  Still hungry? Miss Ellie's Deli, at your service.

But:  all of the above is not what ran in the LA Times.  That would be the "romantic insider tours" of the mansion.  Slip into the limo provided to take you from the Dallas area to the ranch.  Sip a cocktail on J.R.'s balcony, sit down to a dinner of Texas steak, smoked baked potatoes and dessert of apple cobbler with cinnamon ice cream.  What does this cost?    $1,500 per couple.

Yep, more money than good sense.  

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Just Kickin' Around On a Lazy Friday

Yesterday cvouldn't decide what kind of weather to have.  She flirted briefly with the sun and then, just as quickly, she turned on the sun and the black clouds to the northeast opened with gusto and splattered down rain.  It made for an interesting day.

We didn't have anything much to do and all day to get it done, so we first went to the Palos Verde Library book sale.  Since the weight of books already in the house would hold it securely on the ground during a relatively bad earthquake, I only bought three.

A cookbook entitle "Around the World, Around Our Town; Recipes from San Pedro" by the Friends of the San Pedro Library.  San Pedro's population has a lot of Yugoslavians, Italians, Indians, French and Mexicans and many of the recipes are labeled as to country of origin.  Also included are recipes from well-known restaurants.  Sadly most of them are now gone. 

A recipe for "Dandelion Wine" immediately caught my eye.  I thought Willie Nelson had mentioned it in a song, but it turns out to be a 1957 Ray Bradbury novel as well as a song accredited to Ron Sexsmith.  The pertinent lyrics are: 
How to dust off my heart
How to make it shine
How to take a field of dandelions
And make dandelion wine."

1 gallon boiling water
4 quarts dandelions, mashed
1 yeast cake, softened in a little water
2 lemons, sliced
2 oranges, sliced
1 1/2 cups raisins
3 lbs. sugar

Wash the dandelions and put them in a crock.  Cover with the boiling water and let it stand overnight.  Next day, drain, put the dandelins in a large pot, add water and boil for 10 minutes.  Cool to lukewarm and put it all back in the crock, adding the rest of the ingredients .  Cover the crock with a cloth and let stand for three weeks to ferment. 

Skim, strain and bottle it, but DO NOT cork it for at least a week. 

Exhausted by the rigor of leafing through books, we took off for a spot of lunch at Harry's BBQ.  We needed some good, solid  barbecue and Harry's has the best in the South Bay area.  We both ordered pulled pork with coleslaw sandwiches and a side of molasses-baked beans and a basket of onion rings to share.  It was all very good, including Harry's personal recipe barbecue sauces - mild or spicy. 

I reviewed Harry's about two years ago when they had first opened.  I'm kicking myself for not having been back but once since then.  Major oversight on my part.

Harry's Smokehouse BBQ, 25501 Narbonne Avenue (corner of 255th Street and Narbonne) Lomita 90727  310-326-9842  Go on - torture yourselves and read the menu at

Friday, February 8, 2013

Running Off the Religious

Richie had gone to the gym, so with his car out of the way, I decided to do some laundry.  As I put the first load in, I noticed a woman at the top of our driveway, looking at a piece of paper in her hand.  Next thing you know, I heard high heels clacking up the walkway to our garage door.  So as not to startle whoever it was, I coughed and stuck my head out of the door.

It was a pair of short, fat ladies, dressed in their Sunday best, beaming and cooing.  The shorter one exlaimed with delight, "Isn't it a beauuutiful day?!"  Since it was overcast and grey, I didn't quite grasp the beauty of the day, but I smiled anyhow.

Sher burbled on, getting to the business at hand, We're here today about the plight of American families.  Did you know that the American family's strength is waning?"

I stared blankly at her.  "Er, my husband and I don't have any children."

Undeterred she charged ahead.  "Children are a gift from God (wagging an admonishing forefinger at me) but we have to raise them and instill the proper values -- (abruptly) Do you bellieve in God?

"I beg your pardon?" I said "What possible business is that of yours?"  She looked like she was going to start talking again, so I continued with some heat.  "Look here, I'm doing laundry, minding my own buiess and you two show up babbling about religion!"  I gesturing wildly by now.  "Please don't try to discuss religion with me!" 

I paused and then politely said, "I wish you a beautiful day, too" and turned back to my washing machine.

High heels clicked and clacked as they scurried away.  In retrospect I wondered what God thought of all of the make-up she was wearing.  She must have applied it with a trowel.  It covered her face from the hairline at her forehead, down past her clavicles.  Better she should spend the time learning how to do make-up than accosting strangers in their own homes about religion. 

I've always wanted to call these religious types out, the ones who roam the neighborhoods looking for converts but two things have previously restrained me.  I was taught good manners and moreover, I think these people gets points in Heaven (or something) every time someone is justifiably rude to them.  Today I finally did it!  I don't want to break my elbow patting myself on the back, but damn!  It was a proud moment for me.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Yates Center, Kansas

Never heard of it?  I'm not surprised. It's located about 130 miles south and slightly west of Kansas City Mo.  I knew it well when I was a kid because my father's mother lived there and many were the weekends that we set off to go see Grandma.  Daddy's sister, Vera, and her husband and two daughters lived on a desolate farm outside of town.  Vera named it "Land's End" and she wasn't kidding. 

Today Les and Roberta, children of one of Vera and Floyd's daughters still live there with their families.  In fact, Les is the mayor of Yates Center! 

The town is the self-proclaimed "Hay Capitol of the World." 

The 2010 census said that 1,417 people live there, down from 1900's 10,022.  Today 95.3 per cent of the residents are white; 0.4 per cent are African-American.  Oh - and there are four registered sex offenders. 

Why am I writing about Yates Center?  It popped up in an article in the very glossy Hearst publication "Town  & Country" which was founded in 1846.  Billing itself as the magazine of "luxury style, travel and leisure," they ran an article in the August 2012 issue on small town newspapers and they included the Yates Center News.

I couldn't have been more surprised.  I must say that if they wanted a small town, they couldn't have done better than Yates Center.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

New Stuff

Recently I've been trying various new products ...perhaps a few will intrigue you, too.

I bought these because I thought they would be "healthy snacking" - Trader Joe's Savory Thin Mini-Edamame Crackers.  They are good and they're excellent with a container of "pub cheese."  They're about an inch wide and sturdy enough to drag through cheese without breaking.  You can eat 38 of them for only 120 calories.

'Way off the beaten track -- Hawaiian Kettle-Style Mango Habanero potato chips.  I like "hot" and habaneros are.  Normally, a mix of sweet and hot and salt would spell "bliss" but these are too far on the hot side to give a balanced taste.  Still they will perk up something bland like a chicken salad sandwich.

Years ago, Trader Joe used to sell Udderly Smooth udder cream.  Yes, a product made specifically for a cow's udder  that's used to soften and smooth human skin.  Apparently one of those serendipitous accidents where someone  used it on their hands and discovered that this cream works on humans, too.  Trader Joe doesn't sell it anymore, but RiteAid does.  Not in the familiar black and white jar, but in a tube.

Richie made this for dinner last night.  I didn't particularly like it, but you might.

1 lb. small carrots, peeled
1 teas. sugar
1 T butter
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup olives
2 T capers
2 teas. fresh chives

Put the carrots, sugar, butter and water and cook covered at high heat until the water is gone and the carrots are tender.  Add the olives and capers and heat for a minute.  Toss with chives and serve.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Truth Can Be Stranger Than Fiction

"Father's Day, A Journey Into the Mind & Heart of My Extraordinary Son" by Buzz Bissinger   Houghton Mifflin Harcourt   242 pages  $26

Gerry and Zach Bissinger are twins, born prematurely, (Zach weighed one pound, 11 ounces) separated by only three minutes.  The three minute gap will come to represent a world of difference in them.  Gerry grew up normally; Zach is what used to be called an "idiot savant" meaning someone whose brain capacity is diminished in some significant manner, but the individual proves to be brilliant at such as being able to name the day of the week for any date in the past.  Memory tricks?  Photographic (eidetic) memory?  Still unknown. 

"Savants" as they are called today are often thought to be presenting with high-functioning autism. 

The plot, such as it is, is that the father determines to get to know his now-adult son better.  So he decides the two of them will take a road trip from Philadelphia to Los Angeles. What happens next has amusing moments.  Dad installs a GPS in the car and the son, feeling snubbed, won't talk to him.  The son's expertise is in reading maps and a GPS is thus a direct insult.  The son gets a quiet revenge when old Dads can't follow the GPS lady's instructions.

There's perhaps a little too much hand-wringing on the father's part -- the "Where did I go wrong?" type of wail.  At the end though the father recognizes that character transcends intellect.  His son is a man of great character despite being a little too bluntly honest from time to time.  This book gave me an in-depth look at what it would be like to have to deal with someone with brain impairment and was valuable in that respect. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

"Candy is Dandy, But Liquor is Quicker" - Ogden Nash

A friend of ours loves liquor-filled chocolates.  She mentioned this just before Christmas so I went to See's Chocolates and made inquiries.  No, they no longer make or sell them; it's against the law in California.

Where is there a state that doesn't care what (much) you do within its borders?  Las Vegas, Nevada!  I went to Ethel M Chocolates (a division of Mars Bars) and sure enough, there they were.  I ordered a box and next day they were at our house. 

I hadn't ordered them overnight delivery (which is ruinously expensive) but apparently due to the season, the shipper got confused. 

It annoys me to pay the equivalent of the good's price for shipping.   I determined to find a better source.  At about the same time, another friend was flying to Managua, Nicaragua, for vacation.  I asked him to eyeball duty-free and see if they were available.

Instead he found a shop there that sold them and he bought a box.  We took them over to her house and we all had one.  Looking at the label, I discovered they had been made in Azusa, California!  These were well-traveled chocolates!

But it was odd that selling them in California is illegal, but exporting them to Managua clearly was not.  Curious, I googled "Very Special Chocolates" and when the site popped up, I noticed that people had written comments about their experience with these chocolates.

The first one was nice enough - "Was given a box as a gift, beautiful presentation."  The third was "I purchased mine at (such-and-such) store."  But the second comment seized my attention:  "Don't eat it.  I work there and the chocolates are dirty."

Several things occurred to me - that the statement was true or that it was an angry employee or that it was just some merry prankster thinking they were being funny.  You could spend a morning, looking up food sites and writing the same thing for all of them.

Anyhow, none of us have gotten sick and that's the important thing.  Care for a chocolate?

Sunday, February 3, 2013

A Day Late and a Dollar Short...

Since today is Eat Until You Can't Even Waddle Day aka Super Bowl  and as chips and dips are main pieces of ammo in this war, with no further ado --

BLUEBERRY SALSA - This one's for you, Red...
2 cups fresh blueberries, cleaned
1/2 medium red onion, diced
2 jalapenos, seeded and minced
1 red bell pepper, diced
3 T chopped cilantro
1/4 cup lime juice

Coarsely chop the blueberries, add to the mix and serve.

1 16 oz. can cranberry sauce with berries
3 T honey or to taste
4 fresh jalapenos, seeded, de-ribbed and minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 T tequila - do NOT use if kids or AA persons are guests.
Mix and serve

Drain an 11 oz. can of corn and put it in a bowl
Add:  3/4 cup chopped sharp Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup diced tomato
1 T chopped green onions
1 T chopped pickled jalapeno peppers
Mix and serve

3 1/2 cups drained diced pineapple
1/4 bunch cilantro leaves
1 small red onion, diced
3 jalapenos, diced
Juice of three limes
2 teas. crushed red pepper
1/2 teas. ground cumin
Mix and serve -- with cooked shrimp!

If you are a rabid supporter of either team, I hope your side wins.  For the rest of us, let's hope for an exciting game (but I've got a $50 that says it won't be.)

Friday, February 1, 2013

A Bimbo Remembers

"Rearview Mirror, A Memoir" by Alana Stewart   Vanguard Press   272 pages   $25.99 

In case you've never heard of her, she was first married to George Hamilton (of the Perpetual Tan) with whom she had a son, Ashley.  Three years later, they divorced and after a whirlwind courtship, she married Rod Stewart with whom she had a son, Sean, and a daughter, Kimberlie.  She also cashed in on her friendship with Farrah Fawcett by writing an "I was there while Farrah was dying" tome.

Mother of the Year (in an alternative universe) writes, "When my marriage to George broke up, I went out a lot.  I was healthy and younger and with only one child at the time, I was, in a way, freer.  Then I could drink and have fun with my friends and hide from the pain."

During the various crises in her life (m0stly self-created) she consulted with fortune tellers, mystics, Tarot-card readers, therapists and Adult Children of Alcoholics.  Ex-husband George introduced her to his friend Deepak Chopra, who told her to meditate. 

Her and Stewart's youngest son set his t-shirt on fire while playing with matches whereupon his therapist parked him in an adolescent neuro ward for two weeks.  Her older son, with Hamilton, took to drug abuse.  During a family therapy session, she writes, "He shared a lot of his feelings with me -- the resentment and anger and pain he'd felt growing up.  He said he had often felt like an outsider in the family." 

But bravely, she sets her chin and tells us she'll just have to take that painful walk with them and help them through it.  All I could think was, "God help you, kids -- see if you can be made wards of the court!"