Saturday, September 27, 2008

Eat, Drink, & Be Merry for tomorrow we will fry

I know for a fact, A FACT, that these food bloggers who are telling you to buy this, and blanch that, and saute here, and braise there, are laughing up their cook's apron sleeve. Cause guess what? While you're at Whole Foods trying to find late summer pears and baby goat cheese, they're pouring a vodka punch cooler and ordering Thai Take-out.

I ran into blogger Susan Carrier at Ralphs with her arms full of Ruffles and ranch dip. She begged me to spin this and say she was buying 2008 Olive Oil Umbria for her tempanade.

Food bloggers -- They make you drive to scary destinations, chop like there's no tomorrow, heat your house to 450 degrees, and have your family staring at their plates in disbelief. In the interests of the food you cook actually making it on to the forks of family and friends, and without taking out a line of credit, here are just a few myths I'd like to debunk.

Myth: Only cook with wine that is good enough to drink.
You can cook with rot gut that has been corked for years. Why? Because you're going to salt the hell out of your food. And whatever salt doesn't hide, the hot peppers will. And besides, if the wine's good enough to drink, you drank it.

Myth: Fine cuts of beef should be cooked rare or medium rare.
What, you want to be in the ER while you're eating? I say, no type O on my plate. Here at the Hiker Kitchen, we've coined a new term: Superwelldone. Whatever the recipe calls for, always add 10% to the cooking time and temperature.

Myth: For fresh seafood, just a light saute or brief grilling is sufficient to bring out the flavor.
Forget what they say, just know: Everyone hates fish. So bread it, bread it, bread it, and then deep fry until there's nothing left but a dark brown crust. Drench in tartar sauce. Don't forget the salt and hot peppers.

Myth: When it comes to dessert, buy the very best ice-cream.
What, you didn't lose enough in the stock market last week? For god's sake, you're going to smother that puppy in blueberry sauce anyway, no one's going to know what's underneath so long as it's cold. Rite-Aid Vanilla-Like-Flavored Ice Milk. On sale. And fry the damn thing if it has passed the expiration date.

Get the idea? Put your mandoline up on Craig's list. Deep fry, salt, and syrup are a cook's best friend.

Dinner at eight. RSVP. Bring wine, I'm out.

(Those still in denial will enjoy: Blue Kitchen, Open Mouth Insert Fork, The Adventures of Kitchen Girl, and I'm Mad and I Eat.)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Go poisson

Food bloggers -- puhleese. They think they're all that and a bag of homemade Provencal-herb sprinkled chips. What the hell is so hard about it? Plus, they never cover the important stuff -- like, you have to wash the dishes first. Duh.

Economy getting your down? You want pretty pictures and comfort food? Trust me, you don't have to spend the afternoon in the bean curd section of your not-so-local Asian market. Here is my first food blog recipe:

Sandwiche avec poisson et une petite dollope de mayonaisse

Bumble bee tuna (in oil please, not that water soaked crap)
White bread (I'm kind of a gourmet, so I spring for the sourdough)
Best Foods REAL mayonnaise (Even when the Best Foods Fake Mayonnaise is on sale at a really good price, I steer clear. But I have good taste. Maybe it's all the same to you.)
The stray lettuce leaf that's at the bottom of your crisper. And if you find a radish there, so much the better.
Lots of du vin (We all know what the "lots" means -- Trader Joe's)

Kitchen Tips
Wash a knife and fork (I mean today; yesterday doesn't count)
Wash a bowl (see note above)
Wash some counter space (just keep looking at that note, ok? You can't go wrong.)


So all these food blogs get away with saying "to taste," as in "salt and pepper to taste." "Garlic to taste." I say they're getting away with murder. But then, so will I.

Mix tuna with 1/2 cup of mayonnaise to taste.
Add lots of salt to taste
Spread thin layer of mayonnaise on bread, and layer lettuce leaf and misc vegetables to taste.
Oh shit, don't forget to toast the bread first. We're not savages here.
Add spoonful of tuna on toast to taste
Light candles
Set out wine glasses (refer to counter-space note)
And finally, I think fruit makes a nice presentation w/ the meal.

Easiest post I ever did. So please Susan Carrier and Blue Kitchen and the lot. I'm on to you now. and after a few more recipes, I think I'll go after those photography blogs. Composition, shadows, image, lighting -- puhleese. They never even tell you to wipe the lens first.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Fooduciary Responsibility

So, I was on the phone with my financial planner, and nothing sets my mind to wandering like the talk of stops and puts and equity/fixed income allocation. Plus, he sounded pretty rattled. I guess when you see all that $$ go down the toilet, it's best to plead ignorance. "As I've always said [note to self: When did he ever say this?] no one can predict how markets will react."

As I tried, really tried, to listen to some strategic bunker plans, I started moving from one blog to another, and before I knew it, I was in some sort of food blog loop. I'm sure the starting point was Susan's Open Mouth Insert Fork, but who knows the twists and turns that ended up at Chinese egg noodles with beef and hot bean sauce. Doesn't that sound wonderful? And there's quite a list of ingredients that would take a day of shopping. Heck, I don't even have the egg noodles. Bean paste? Never heard of it. Sesame oil? Well, I actually have a bottle I never opened. Wonder if it's good after three years? Chile paste -- oh, I love hot spice.

And the picture is lovely. All this at Blue Kitchen. Oh, sorry, where were we... explain just one more time why a 70/30 equity arrangement is such a good idea.

Monday, September 22, 2008

My absolute last post on this topic

For at least a week.

See this old scoundrel? Well, what you don't see is that he's lame in his two back legs. Hit by a car years ago. Oh, he gets along just fine, a canine Walter Brennan.

What you also don't see is that he's the nurse at LA Boxer Rescue. Most boxers here have been pets, and given up for financial reasons. But when dogs arrive that have been severely abused, used as bait in dog fights, tied to trees and left to starve -- and just about any other cruelty you can't think of -- when these dogs arrive who don't, can't trust the ground they walk on, this grizzly partner is there for them. Goes on walks with them, lays in the shade with them, wades in the pool with them. Gets them to trust again. Oh, and steals their milkbones.

Walter here is an incredible beggar. He knows the limp and the gray beard, and all his work in the nursing industry, will get him a treat. So though he's there for his charges, he is also there any time your hand is within five feet of the treat bag. You're about to hand that milkbone to another dog, but Walter's limp gets more pronounced, he sucks in his cheeks, his eyes get big and moist, and...Missed it? Don't worry, the second show is in five minutes.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Live and learn, but first of all live

And learn the good stuff.
(boxers at LA Boxer Rescue)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Rescue them

I'm signing in tomorrow for my first day at LA Boxer Rescue. I believe I'll be on walking detail. All dogs are special, but for me, boxers are especially special. Natural clowns, and children are their special delight. One of my favorite childhood memories is at five years old, sitting in the dog house with my arm draped around our boxer, watching the rain fall outside on a drizzling Seattle afternoon.

Several years ago I took a hike with a group of abused children (Sunshine House, I think it was called?) and my boxer Phoebe. The kids just hung on her neck as we walked on the trail. One little boy, though, stepped up to Phoebe and kicked her. She licked him in the face, and he stopped, then kissed her. And they were best buddies for the rest of the hike.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

I'm toast

As a kid, there were some things we saw coming. For example, we knew computers would one day take over the world. And we hoped this thing called a laser would someday end up in our dentist's hand. What about the facilimile machine -- we could barely get our arms around the concept. But never did my dad or a teacher say, "Mark my words Altadenhiker, you will live to see the day a toaster can cook an egg." But that day is here. Just think: Slide in a piece of toast and hard boil an egg all in the same machine, at the same time! Or fry it sunny side up, for God's sake. And it will warm a sausage! When I heard about this miracle, well, of course, anyone could understand, I just had to...It arrived today. I completely forgot to stress over having that WAMU CD.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The dead zone

I don't have a kelly green thumb, but I do consider it belongs in the green spectrum -- maybe celadon. So I don't understand why certain plants --everyday, ordinary, get at Home Depot plants -- commit suicide after less than a year in my yard. What profound sense of hopelessness do they find in this corner of Altadena that makes them refuse food and water, and instead, choose to hit the dirt face down.

For example, the kamakazi-like Japanese Maple.

Yes, I gave it acid soil. Yes, it was never allowed to dry out. On the hottest days of summer, I even misted the ungrateful bitch. I'll give this pot a kick and move on.

The princess flower. Such a lovely name. She shot up quickly, was actually taller than any other of her kind I've ever seen. Well, live fast, die young, and leave a corpse of some sort, they say.

The butterfly bush. This is insulting, because this is a native. Took one look around my garden and thought, "I wish I were dead."

And I'll stop with the fern.

Because the fern quite obviously stopped with me.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The path taken

You'll never, ever guess where I'm standing.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A bed in the oven

I don't know why, but whenever I talk about my vegetable lasagna bed people seem to remember they left something in the oven. Or need to pick up a kid. Or answer the phone (strangely, I never hear it ring).

Good thing I'm setting up a second bed, because I'm sure some people missed a step while checking their souffle or driving to day care. And not to worry, I'm here for the long haul -- I'll cover every detail.

Your other phone is ringing? I'll wait while you pick that up...No, really, no problem at all.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Big mouth

So I went running tonight, with a dog leash tied to a belt loop, and a dog on the other end of the leash. Nice, balmy night -- I assume "balmy" means slight breeze and perfect temperature, and if not, it should. So, we went a little further than usual, down Loma Alta to Lincoln, down Lincoln, up some other block, good brisk pace. Then a rattle-trap minivan zoomed by us in the opposite direction, practically brushing the side of my face. The minivan slammed on the brakes and the driver shouted at me, "Watch where you're going (uh, you something, something).

Well, damn it, I had been watching.

And here's where I always get in trouble. Filled with fresh air and adrenaline, prudent and thoughtful judgement eludes me. Me in my shorts and t-shirt, with the cowardly lion by my side. Come to think of it, it was probably her street, so when I asked whether she wanted the whole fucking street, in all likely hood, she did. We held eyes for a beat, then she sped off and I kept running.

Sometimes it's a good thing not to have men around.

Sunday, September 7, 2008


ALBERT! There he is. I never have to call twice. Funny, the dogs that show up in your life and become part of your life. I found him on a 100 degree day last year, trying to lick drops of water draining to the gutter. A 50 pound lab puppy, I palmed him off on a friend after lost dog signs and calls to shelters turned up no takers. But Albert ate through hoses, insulation, and Sally said, you've got to take Albert back.

I named him Albert because I hadn't planned to stay with him long, and it seemed a nice nerdish name for a clumsy cross-eyed dog. But now I have the dog and he has the name. Albert has a heart of gold, and no longer chews up anything but his plastic bone. But he does have terrors. I came home tonight and he was cowering in a corner of the yard. My gardeners had shown up to put in a new raised bed, and Albert is terrified of gardeners. And weed whackers, leaf blowers, vacuum cleaners, drills, blow dryers.

I'll never know the sad little story that preceded our relationship. He's put on 35 pounds and lives to fetch. He loves, in no particular order, his tennis ball, our boxer Phoebe, and me. And water. Put down a bowl of water and he'll drink it to the bottom. Every drink is his last drink. I'll never convince him there will be more water the next minute, the next hour, the next day. Love, food, warmth, and a soft bed just seem, may be, oh so temporary.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Beauty and the balls

It just happened in the past five years. I don't believe you can play in a tennis major unless you've won an international beauty contest first. Especially the men.

I like the trend. If I'm going to spend a weekend watching a sporting event, so much the better if it's aesthetically pleasing on all levels. Look at the evidence: Federer, Blake, Gonzalez, Haas, Safin. In the past there was the occasional Adonis --Boris Becker was kind of hunky. Sampras, if you liked that sort of thing. But there were lots of frogs. Ivan Lendl springs to mind. Todd Martin looked like a school principal, for god's sakes. Prior to 2003, anyone could play. The US Open allowed the short to challenge the gangly; the pale to smash serves to the sun-damaged.

But not anymore. Or, wait a minute, so I thought. Who let Andy Murray in? Who thought it was a good idea to let a 70-year old Scottish sea captain play in a major? He's dour and awkward, and has a beard growing from his neck. And he just may beat Rafael Nadal. Jesus will weep.

If I were 13, I'd spend my time cutting up tennis magazines to make a Rafa collage. I'd put up a Rafa screen saver. I'd belong to a Rafa ring. And because of what transpired today, I'd light candles at my Rafa shrine.

He's the perfect adolescent fantasy boyfriend. Body of a Greek God, face of an angel, sexy accent. Everyone loves him. Even McEnroe is not immune as he gushes, "Incredible physical specimen." Get a hose John.

When we were kids, my dad equated the word "cute" with effeminate. So when we called a boy cute, as in "He's so cuuuuuute," Dad would screw up his face and mutter something in Norwegian, it might have been frukt kake.

But Rafa is cute. And if they think I'm going to watch stringy old Mr. McGregor hit it out in the final instead of Nadal, they can think again. Find someone else to flesh out your dismal ratings CBS. I'm going to...I'm going to...Oh, to hell with it, hand me those matches and where are my scissors?

Adendum: Shrines don't work

Friday, September 5, 2008

When life throws you zucchinis

Make ratatouille. Zukes, tomatoes, herbs, hot peppers from my north forty inches. Eggplant and sweet peppers from Dervaes.

But wait, I have something to whine about. I see a piano moving truck in front of my new neighbor's house and it brings back memories of my sad, sad, sad childhood. No, I wasn't beaten nor was I verbally abused. We weren't poor. There was no madness in the family, at least not at that time. But yes, we had no piano.

In a family of tin ears, I could carry a tune. I had a bit of a talent, I could play by ear. But there was no way these easy-listening-radio-station-never-bought-a-record parents of mine were going to invest hard-earned lucre on a musical instrument. Every one of my friends had pianos, half of them complained bitterly about lessons. All I had was a bad case of piano envy.

Fast forward a couple years. In the fourth grade, our school offered "band", I think it was called. We were sent home with permission slips, a check mark next to the instrument we wanted to play, along with instructions on how to buy or rent said instrument.

I wanted to play the violin! Well, guess how much that cost. Instead, my mother found a bargain through a friend of a friend on a clarinet. Allegedly a clarinet. It was not made of wood, oh no. This clarinet was made on some kind of steel or iron, actually looked like one of my corroded sewer pipes with a mouthpiece welded on top. To this day I've never seen another like it. I think she got it for $5 -- or maybe the people paid my mom to haul it away.

So I would spend the next two years, looking like those illustrations of the north wind, puffing out my cheeks and blowing for all I was worth to get a noise out of this devil's instrument. Ever hear a goose try to honk out the Blue Danube? Oh, friends pretended sympathy, but I knew they snickered. Them with the pianos, the violins, and the wood clarinets in velvet-lined cases. I was hoping to annoy my parents so much, they'd spring for the real thing. But who was I kidding -- they didn't care. They just cranked up the volume on the Mantovani.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Twenty five pounds

My resume is just about done, which is surprising, considering the amount of time I've spent on Cancer Banter, the Susan Carrier site.

As a rule, I avoid anything related to innards, including mine. Denial, pure and simple.

But her site does not bring out my pathological aversion to health problems. She's a cross between a Jane Austen heroine and an Olympic athlete. Such clear-eyed, unsentimental but perfect prose. I root and cheer, and have to tune in daily. She's funny, she's sad, she's down, she's up, and always, she writes beautifully.

So, on one post she mentioned the need to gain 25 pounds. And it got me thinking -- how would I do it if the world were my oyster, so to speak. (And not oysters, because calorie count is low.) So here is my embarrassing list of fat-inducing pleasures:

The crusty charred rind on the top of a prime rib roast
Bacon that has toasted on top of a roasted turkey
Cream cheese carrot cake frosting
Mother's circus cookies (the white and pink ones)
Swanson's beef pot pie
Bite-sized Reese's peanut butter cups
Malted milkshakes
Malted milk balls
Deep fried seafood with tartar sauce
Canned corned beef hash
Buttered toast with blue cheese

I hope Susan has better taste.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

There go two of the nicest Denawegians around

Here is the famous and, with him, the Observer looking for life, or a cafe, not sure which.

I get to know a city through my feet, whether at home or abroad. Never went in for the cathedrals or monuments much, but the streets -- city streets, neighborhoods, alleys, private roads, parks. You walk a city, and it becomes yours. I remember once in Florence I bought a pair of beautiful new, high-heeled boots and proceeded to walk the bridges and streets, looking oh so chic (yes I did, you'll just have to take my word for that). I had an appointment to meet some new friends at a cafe later that evening. Well, at 8 p.m., I limped in to the cafe, my feet bloody stumps within my beautiful new, but it turns out very stiff, boots. Still, Florence was, is and always will be mine now. How could I forget?

In my humble opinion, among the great walking cities & towns of the world: Paris, Florence, Skein, Avranches, Seattle, San Francisco, Pasadena. What makes them great? You'll never fully know them. There's always something new to discover. Thanks Tim.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

I call this post, quite simply: The Tile

I know you're still marveling over the pasadena adjacent post, and yes, it was brilliant. But take a deep breath and clear your palette.

First the disclaimer. With some brief calculation, I guess this tile cost me $175, including instruction, projects gone awry, and supplies. Or, to look at it another way, $17 an hour, my labor costs not included. Or include my labor and it is, let me see, yes, times zero, carry the zero... Well, never mind with that.

But golly gee whiz, I love my tile! More than my pressure cooker! More than my cutlery! I'm not going to taint its portrait with my ragged Norwegian doll.

I'm going to prop it on my nightstand so it is the first thing I see in the morning. I have two views: With flash and sans flash. With flash you'll see those speckles in the night sky are not flaws after all. ONononono, they're stars. And one picture may be on its side, but I'm an artist now and can't be bothered with technicalities. Tilt your head.