Friday, February 20, 2015


I spend most of the day on Fridays driving around from farmer, to farmers market, to the wharf, to meet a boat, meat company, go to the beach with the hounds, etc.  I listen to NPR.....Science Friday!  Sadly, there is news every half hour.  Lately it has been a lot about Republicans finally finding a judge in Texas who is willing to rescind President Obama's new direction for immigration policy....and actually force him to start deporting DREAMers and their parents.  

Oh....and parents of citizen children.


Luckily....yesterday I saw two documentaries while I was chained to the damned computer in the office that gave me perspective enough to make me almost bulletproof to bad news and bad people.  The Apple Pushers (narrated by Edward Norton) follows five immigrants who sell fruit on the streets of New York City. 

Trust me.....not a dry eye in the house by the end of the film....especially when the credits roll and the crew are defined as "great-grand-daughter of Esther from Russia", etc.
The other doc was concert footage of Carlos Santana's concert in Guadalajara.  The music was great and all....great for posting and sending and paying bills.....but what gave me perspective was finding out that Carlos is from Guadalajara, actually a small town south of the city, right next to where I used to work. 

 Carlos Santana is a DREAMer.  He moved to San Francisco in the seventh grade. 
I am the grandson of immigrants from Ireland.  My aunt Cecily immigrated from Mexico....I have here landing papers, thanks to  Apparently working as a nurse and teacher on Pancho Villa's train during the revolution was not a bar to immigration in 1918.

 I am completely flummoxed by these Republican fools.  Can you imagine America without Carlos Santana?  


I have a mental picture of each of these GOP assholes, drunk on their butts and sloshing shitty beer around, dancing to "Evil Ways" at the frat party at TCU twenty years ago. 

Evil Ways, indeed.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Drivers' Ed....

We make no secret of the fact that all our culinary talent is scoured from the mountains that surround our Store in Cachagua.  And we start them as early as possible....against every law in the land.  Most of our folks start working at 11 or 12.....and many of our graduates started at 6 and 8 years old.  This is not child labor is us trying to keep the local kids busy.

One of my favorite poems is "Birches" by Robert Frost.  It talks about a kid "raised too far from town for baseball" grabbing tops of willow trees and swinging out dragging them down to the ground for fun.  In our baseball, no birches..... just drugs.  Better chopping, cutting and schlepping than chopping, cutting and shooting.....

One of the few bennies of working for us out in the boonies is that we pay for Elischer's Driving School for all our girls.  Ooops.  I said "girls".  Maybe that is because after 12 years out here I have never been able to get one boy to work for more than a few minutes.....but the girls are golden.

The modern choice....since our "poverty stricken" Carmel Unified School District has stopped teaching Drivers save money for Football and is either pay for private Drivers Ed, or wait until you are 18.

Or have Mom or Dad "teach".  Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers on NPR, were adamant about family can survive drivers' ed with Dad or Mom and teenagers.

In Cachagua and Jamesburg, our kids meet the bus at 5:30am.....and return at 4:30.  If they are lucky. The motivated, smart kids do their homework on the bus.  The athletic kids watch the rich kids go off to the gym at 3:15 for football and baseball and soccer, while they wait for the bus home. Sports are off the table for kids "too far from town for baseball."

Most of our girls start driving at 13....because of geography, and parenting.  Or lack of parenting. Driving drunk dad home comes early....and the Sheriff and CHP have to be begged to climb Cachagua Grade. Those that are highly motivated and want to drive legally....take me up on my offer.

My own drivers' ed experience in high school might have had something to do with this.  I went to Chatham High School in New Jersey.  The teacher, like Click and Clack's, was the football coach.

Coach Ernie was a product of Parsons College in Iowa, a pay to play college.  Parsons was among the first for-profit colleges....and went spectatularly broke about four years after Coach Ernie graduated.  Parsons was briefly famous for the entire student body having mooned Hubert Humphry's presidential campaign train in 1968. Not much to do in Iowa....and drugs had barely been invented, so what else to do?

Ernie was not a slender man, so he was inevitably known as "The Parsons Pig".  Poor Ernie.

Our class was six kids at a time, and met on Saturday mornings at the high school at 10am.  The class was six weeks, and probably was a major part of Coach Ernie's salary.  120 kids in any given class year....not enough of Ernie to go around, even fat as he was.

The Chatham teaching vehicle was a Ford Country Squire station wagon.  Us kids would meet at the school, pile in the car, and Ernie would assign one of us to start.  The Ford Country Squire had a feature where the back cargo area folded into a bench seat facing backwards.  Coach Ernie took that spot.

First stop was out Fairmount Avenue towards The Great Swamp (second largest swamp in the continental U.S.) and horse country.  First stop was a deli on Fairmount.  Ernie would go in for supplies: six Cokes, a twelve pack of Schlitz and the Daily News.  We each got a Coke, Ernie took care of the rest and crawled into the back cargo area.

That was it!  No Child Left Behind......Ernie sat in the back, read the paper and drank beer until he fell asleep.  We kids drove around and decided on the rotation and direction.  We learned lots of fact we became so proficient so quickly that by week four we decided to learn how to drive backwards.....and drove in reverse all the way from Bernardsville to Chatham.  Taking turns of course.

One very snowy Saturday, we reluctantly showed up at school expecting to be sent home.  Nope!  This was Ernie's paycheck.  He sent us off in the direction of the Short Hills Mall.  There was a bar across the road where we dropped him off, and we spent four hours slipping, sliding, spinning in circles.....miraculously hitting no one and no cars.  When time was up, we retrieved Ernie from the bar and dropped him off back at school.

Time have changed!  Carmel Unified won't even think about the salary for a Drivers Ed teacher....and administrators faint dead away at the thought of the liability exposure and insurance costs.

As silly and fucked up as our program was in Chatham back in the day....Ernie the Parsons Pig actually saved my life, multiple times, and saved me lots of fender-benders.  I left that class an expert in driving backwards with mirrors....and steering into the skid and staying off the brakes on an icy skid.....routine.

I am not sure that Elischer's can compete with old Ernie.....

Bone me, Baby.....

I am still confused about this Bone Broth phenomenon that seems to be sweeping the "cool" folks…..

Bone Broth will cure all your ills digestive…..and spiritual, moral and ethical.

I am so confused to hear people going on in the media (and read them in print) about the difference between soups, broths, stocks and "bone broth". 

The very first cookbook that any classically trained (think “old”) chef gets is Escoffier.  Auguste Escoffier was the most famous chef of the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries….he worked at the Savoy in London, the Ritz in Paris.  He came up with Peach Melba and Melba toast….because he was having a torrid affair with Nellie Melba, the Angelina Jolie of then.  Escoffier trained guys who trained guys who trained many of our modern “genius” chefs. Think “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon”  In “Six Degrees of Auguste Escoffier” I am a 2.  (Ho Chi Minh is a 1….having worked at The Ritz while studying in Paris back in the day. Probably why being bombed back to the Stone Age for 30 years didn't bother him....compared to working in an Escoffier kitchen).

The Escoffier Cookbook runs around 1000 pages, and there is very little hand-holding after the first dozen pages.  Ingredients and techniques are assumed.  Minimal guidance, because Escoffier assumes that everyone has already had a rigorous, brutal French training in the basics.

This is old-school stuff, but I am old-school.  Here are the first four paragraphs of the most influential cookbook of the 20th century:

“Before undertaking the description of the different kinds of dishes whose recipes I intend giving in this work, it will be necessary to reveal the groundwork whereon these recipes are built.  And, although this has already been done again and again, and is wearisome in the extreme, a text book on cooking that did not include it would be not only incomplete, but in many cases incomprehensible.

Notwithstanding the fact that it is the usual procedure, in culinary matters, to insist upon the importance of the part played by stock, I feel compelled to refer to it at the outset of this work, and to lay even further stress upon what has already been written on the subject.
Indeed, stock is everything in cooking, at least in French cooking.  Without it, nothing can be done.  If one’s stock is good, what remains of the work is easy; if, on the other hand, it is bad or merely mediocre, it is quite hopeless to expect anything approaching a satisfactory result..

The cook mindful of success, therefore, will naturallly direct his attention to the faultless preparation of his stock, and in order to achieve this result, he will find it necessary not merely to make use of the freshest and finest products, but also to exercise the most scrupulous care in their preparation, for in cooking, care is half the battle.”

In “normal” kitchens, nothing is wasted.  Respect for food and labor is primary.  In Basque country, restaurants like Mugaritz and Arzak became the best in the world because of this.  Apprentice chefs forage in the mountains and meadows for wild herbs, mushrooms and flowers.  “Throwaway” ingredients like beef tendon and apple cores become centerpieces of dishes.  My chef friends from Pais Vasco never had the joy of hanging with their grandparents as kids…..they starved to death in the same mountains and hills that are now flooded with yuppie gastronomes.

Beyond that, it is really hard to make a buck in the restaurant business.  Food has to be great, which means great ingredients, which cost great amounts of money.  No chef in his or her right mind tosses any part of any ingredient that can be used to that end.

Or….that is the way it used to be.  Back in the day, all restaurants always had a stock pot going…..more than one, usually.  Beef, chicken, fish, veggie.  There were specialty burners that sat low to the ground to facilitate the handling of 20 gallon stock pots.  Restaurants that did not do lots of butchering even would order bones and scrap meat from wholesale butchers to beef up their stocks.

In the vicious, highly competitive atmosphere of big-time kitchens, the one safe job if a young cook needed a break was to stand next to the stock pot.  When Chef looked around for someone to peel 20 pounds of garlic, a fine attention to detail in skimming the big pot was a great dodge.

Apparently this does not happen anymore.  Everywhere you turn there are instant ingredients available that mimic old school techniques.  I can’t think of any other reason for this “bone broth” craze.

Craze is a word not used lightly.  A dear friend of mine is struggling to start a business making bone broths for the farmers market crowd.  She is paying $8 a pound for organic beef bones!  

Someone shoot me.

And if bone broth seems like the greatest thing you have heard of in have been eating in the wrong restaurants.

Monday, July 28, 2014



Sunday, June 15, 2014

Glutards, lactards, and vacctards......

The continuing tale of mindfuck bullshit food "allergies":

Back in the Silver Jones era....many of the "cool" people were "allergic" or "sensitive" to "sulfites".  Bacon?  Bad.  Ham? Bad.  Red wine of any kind? Bad.  Sulfites. All of the coolios drank Cakebread Chardonnay.....and they were usually the same folk that got to go into the master suite at the party that was another couple of hundred bucks.  Good for us.....cocaine=low food cost.

Now....these exact same folks are lactards and are gluten free.  What?  The cocaine?  The Cakebread Chardonnay? 

We just finished our dinner party for 16 with four glutards, one lactard, one shellfish....and a late arriving butter hater who is also a glutard.  Fine.

We rallied and invented a new version of our Meyer lemon polenta pound cake that has no wheat flour.  We used ground almonds.....buttermilk....but basically still a genoise.  A genoise so heavy with the corn, and so non-bubbly flat with the lack of gluten fibres to trap the CO2 that you could throw it at a burglar.  But....not horrible.  Crunchy.  Glutards have great teeth.

Turns out that there were only two glutards.....both young mothers with babies.  Our hostess....a woman with a sense of humor that would stop George Carlin in his tracks....or at least slow him down....was somehow browbeaten by these two young women to tweak her entire party and menu in their direction.  One was married to the lactard.  He was actually a real one.  Lactaid can't compete.....over it.

Turns out that neither Mom has any personal allergy herself.....they both are just avoiding eating any foods that to which their babies might become allergic.

The semi-killer Meyer Lemon Polenta/Almond Pound Cake?  Fuck you!  It has EGGS!  And BUTTER!

We foolishly served our Dino kale salad with the Asian dressing....sesame, etc.  Each serving has about a gram of soy sauce.  My research on all the batshit crazy gluten sites tells me that the gluten proteins are so degraded in the production of soy that it is a non-issue.  Further, my research tells me that especially Korean Korean soy is by nature wheat-free.  Our soy comes from Han Kook Market.  There is no English on the label.....and I am learning Korean.  Wheat is not mentioned.

Trauma ensued when we served our kale salad.  One mom ate it after I gave her the science....the other did not.   Meanwhile.....the other 18 guests (hostess lied to us) had their entire menu and experience tweaked around these two chicks.

At dessert....both moms refused my new cake.  Because it had eggs.  And butter.  They are worried that their kids would become allergic to eggs and butter if their moms ate some while breast feeding.

In 1982 I had a client with dual US/Mexican nationality.  More money than God...his dad, uncle, grandpa, great grandpa had all been the dentists to the Presidents of Mexico.  He himself was the head of sales and operations for Mosler Safe for all of Mexico.

I spent all summer, every morning combing the markets in whichever town I found myself for stuff for breakfast, lunch, dinner.  Basically 5am....because in Mexico, the refrigeration is sketchy. My son Brendan came along...18 months.  I would drop him off at the first abuela I found in whichever market....and come back and track him down two hours later after I finished my shopping.  Couldn't happen now.  Brendan would be passed from granny to all the markets of Mexico.  Goat heads, weird night soil fertilized squashes and herbs, shellfish from sketchy coastal waters, delicious berries....also nightsoil fertilized.  Tortillas....corn and wheat.  Cheeses....goat, sheep, cow....mostly raw milk.  Thirty years later.....he is a lactard, but that is it.  We all are.......Lact-Aid deals with it.

The worst part of this story:  after making all of the cooks jump through hoops, and their fellow guests, and giving out weird conflicting information about their "problems", and ensuring that they were the center of attention....and making sure that the caterers threw out half the desserts we had worked all day to make because of their concerns....


Fuck me.  Kill me. 

Rich, "smart" people believe this shit.

I would rather be in a Roman galley....rowing, not cooking.

Ramming speed........

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Under Assistant West Coast Promo Man

Let's pretend: You are a political operator who gets paid for results.  You have a client.  The client's opponent has a troubled offspring.....drugs, shitty girlfriends...and he lives in your client's opponent's guest house.  Well...over the garage, anyway.
Hit him!  Drugs! Bad!  Immoral!  Zero tolerance for drugs and people who might take them!  Send mailers to every voter!  Eliminate the drug tolerant fuck dad dude...whatever.  He must be incompetent as an administrator....because his kid is on drugs.
Sounds good to me.
Except.....all our young people are on drugs.  Well....most or many.
Talk to any retail employer you know.  To be an employer....or a our modern times requires a functional knowledge of the courts, various rehabs, County drug policy, probation rules and procedures....bail bondsmen, cool lawyers,etc.  Not to mention modern medicine....and whichever religion you buy into to pray for your kid or worker's life.
I have actually purchased two young people from drug dealers.  First one was $1500 so he could join the army.  Second one was $2,000 so she could go into rehab.  They did not want to lose customers.....and they knew everything about my kids because they follow them on Facebook. 
The group....who I don't want to cross, because they most likely follow me on Facebook.... know where they are and what there triggers are. After one failed and one successful (out of town)rehab with the 18 year old girl.....they sent a bag over to her cousin's house when they knew she was in town and vulnerable.  Six months in the toilet....back to the rockpile.  
She eventually made it.  So far.  He did make it.
$3500 was cheap.  Two lives.
Except, the kids had to do the work.  Try to get into the Army nowadays.  Try to get back into rehab.  It is hard.  You have to be dedicated, with a program and support from friends, family and employers to even get a shot at a bed in rehab....and forget the Army if you have not been doing Iron Man..... and god forbid if that misdemeanor pot thing already hit your record.
Dealing with an addicted person is an all consuming job.  And no one has that much time.  The drugs and the drug dealers have all the power.  Recovery rates for heroin and meth are in the 5% range....with full time commitment and tons of cash.
So how ironic it would be if our pretend political operator....trashing our incumbent for his dealing with family drug issues....had family drug issues himself. 
Possiblily his brother is a known heroin addict with a current burglar girl friend....and whose previous girlfriend was shot on Christmas Eve trying to score drugs in Chinatown in Salinas.  And who has stolen property sitting in their Mom's front yard as we speak.
The irony comes when the opponent of our political operative has compassion and experience with drugs and young people.....and is not busting the brother of the operative who is cheaply trashing him because he wants the guy in recovery, not jail. Because it makes sense from a law enforcement, a human, and a $$$ standpoint.  As a professional administrator...with a heart.
This is all just a fantasy. 
This couldn't happen in our world.
Who could be that cynical
And why?

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Elevator

Wow.....almost a year since a post!  This is what Facebook does to bloggers!

Here is a story from my youth.  It deals with the same feelings I get whenever I have to serve a wedding cake from Layers.

When I was in high school in New Jersey I somehow wrangled a job working on Wall Street in the summers.  I worked at Smith Barney at 20 Broad Street, in the same building as the actual NY Stock Exchange.  The Exchange took up the first three floors; Smith Barney had floors 9-13.

I worked in the wire room on the 13th  floor.  The 13th was where all the teletype machines that sent and received the orders were, along with the bond traders and the high end institutional traders.  My part was working in the tiny newsroom.  My boss was Richie, a sixteen year old high school dropout from Arthur Avenue in the Bronx…..hard core Italian all the way.  He took me up to Arthur Ave after work one day.....and stole a car to do it.  Cheaper and faster.

In the news room we had a Dow Jones teletype machine and an AP machine.  Our job was to watch the news come over the teletype. Every half hour we typed up a short news bulletin.  We had a big off-set printer to run off the bulletins and a huge pneumatic tube delivery system.  The tubes went directly into every office in the building, including even the bond guys ten feet away from us.

Because we were on deck every half hour from opening to closing, we were allowed special dining privileges in the company cafeteria.  We got free food, and we could load up as much as we wanted of anything we wanted.  We had to either inhale it in 20 minutes, or bring it back up to the news room.  

The cafeteria was on the ninth floor, and I am sure nothing like it exists today…..outside of Google or eBay.  They had full time chefs and waitresses and a wide selection of classic New York City food.  Best of all, were allowed anything we wanted to drink, including the tiny bottles of concentrated Welch’s grape juice….an big status symbol for a 15 year old.  Even then they cost at least fifty cents or a buck….a small fortune if your take home was $64.50 a week.

The 12th floor was heaven to a 15 year old Irish kid from Jersey: the International department.  The traders here had even better suits than the Institutional guys on 13……and they had drop dead gorgeous secretaries and assistants.  Model gorgeous.  In fact, one of my fellow interns back in the day was a gap toothed girl from Florida who became a famous super model in short order.  The International department for some reason did not have tubes, or the girls wouldn’t use them, so Richie and I fought over who got to hand deliver the news bulletins. I was always almost on the point of trying out my high school French on the beautiful French assistant, but could barely croak even in English.  She was a goddess.

My job nowadays would be done by everyone’s cellphone subscription to Bloomberg, but this was the heyday of paper.  The million dollar checks that settled trades between different firms and customers were even hand carried from office to office.  The P&S (Purchase and Sales) department was on the 10th floor and was the destination of the couriers.  In those days the couriers were always old, Eastern European and shabby looking. No such thing as superfit bike messengers.

On the day in question I got the early lunch shift and raced down to the 9th floor for some New York chow mein and Welch’s.  I inhaled my food, got back in the elevator and punched in 13.  Their was a guy already in the car. My co-passenger was an old, short, fat Russian guy…..obviously a courier with his crappy briefcase and ruined shoes.  It was humid and rainy out and the guy’s old wool overcoat reeked like dead wet sheepdogs.  Dandruff fell in drifts out of his oiled up hair.  Worst of all, he had a soggy recently extinguished cigar sticking out the side of his mouth that smelled like burnt hair.  He mumbled something like “Hello!” and his sour breath drove me to the far corner of the car.  He had punched in 10 for P&S, so I only had one floor to ride with him. Thank God.

Up we went to 10.  The door opened and the guy made a move for the door.  He paused for a second, took out his cigar, smiled and let rip a huge, wet fart.  It was massive. Out he went, and the doors closed.  I shrank into my corner….stunned.

Up I went towards 13, safety and fresh air.  No such luck. The elevator stopped at 11 while I was still reeling.  The door opened…..and Voila!  Twenty-one year old Lauren Hutton, the French assistant and another of their model perfect girlfriends stood in the door.  I was trapped alone with the fart, the burnt hair, the B.O. and the sopping dead sheepdogs.
The girls came in, pushed 12, and literally staggered when they hit the stench.  They glanced at me, and all I could do was cringe in my corner.  What could I say?  “C’etait pas moi!”  “It was a Russian guy!”  There was nothing I could do or say.  I was ruined. At 15, my life was over.

The girls exchanged looks and literally bolted from the car at 12.

The rest of the summer Richie made me do all the deliveries to International.  Every time I approached the desk of one of the girls…..or their friends (the word was out)…..they would push back their chairs as far as they would go and look away.  Stinky is here.
Lauren left mid-summer and eventually went on to be the girlfriend of Peter Revson of Revlon fame (who she probably met on the 12th floor) and was off and running on a fabulous career.  She is still around and looking fabulous.  

I bet if I met her today I would still turn bright red and cringe.  Heck, I am cringing as I type this!