Not Even

Californians do not know how to make bagels. It’s strictly a New York talent. Unless you’re a transplanted New York bagel baker in California, you will never know what a real bagel tastes like.

It’s all in the method. You must boil the dough first. It’s what gives the bagel its shiny, chewy exterior. Steaming them won’t do it, neither will brushing the tops with egg wash.

Bagels in California omit the boiling method so you end up with bready bagels that taste more like unsweetened donuts than genuine bagels.  FullSizeRender (21)

Speaking of which, bakeries are now fond of producing chocolate chip, cranberry and walnut, and other sweetened varieties of bagels for the undiscerning public. That’s unheard of in the real bagel world. It’s garlic, onion, poppy-seed, and pumpernickel in the genuine bagel environment.

I’ve noticed that most food stores are now making their own bagels. Don’t even. They’re terrible. So are the kind in those big warehouse food stores. Don’t waste your money.

I even tried importing a dozen bagels from my favorite New York shop except I couldn’t bring myself to pay $50 for the indulgence. It was the shipping costs that killed me.

I’m still on the lookout for a Jewish baker who is quietly boiling his bagels and doing all the right things to bring pleasure to his customers. I haven’t found him yet, but I know he exists somewhere in this vast state of mine.

Calvin says, “You’re dreaming. It’s like me hoping for brisket in my food dish.”

beagle

 

 

Caffeinated Technology

After all the mayhem over the elections, the city has finally returned to normal, whatever that means.

It is after all the hub for all things techie. Protests and riots don’t run in the same circles as coding and programming. The relative quiet has returned people to work.

Every morning I walk past Dolby, Twitter, Uber, and Square. Groups of back-packed techies, mostly young men, rush into the buildings to complete another round of focused futuristic thinking.  photo199

Later in the day packs of them take a break from their screens and go roaming Market Street in search of their favorite caffeinated drinks. They laugh and talk over each other with their latest, exciting ideas. They speak in another language, one only known to them. Market Street, once a dilapidated part of town, has sprouted more coffee shops and eateries than a downtown mall, all meant to lure them in to spend money. The idea is not to eat too far away from your computer, but to stay as close as you can to your office, with a group of work friends in toe so you never have to leave the building or each other.

While this means my technical future is in good hands, what is it doing to the health and future of these kids? They have no social skills, they don’t know how to talk to a woman, and they’re not prepared to handle the shocks of life. They’re inside a matrix they can’t see and have no thought of breaking out. This is life. Some of these companies have playrooms, lounge areas, entertainment, and cafeterias so their workforce doesn’t need to go out to breathe oxygen or get a real life.

I ask myself, what would these people do if there wasn’t such a thing as a computer industry? I’m not sure I have an answer, but one thing I do know, they’d have a chance to join the human race.

Calvin says, “In the beagle kingdom we’re not all the same. There are some who hate hunting and stay back reading recipes for foul smelling foods.”  beagle

 

 

 

Down the Hall

Things started off with a cliffhanger as I prepared to oversee a food event for 60 people.

The food distribution truck showed up two and a half hours late and parked a block away instead of in front of the house like they usually do. Then the driver came to the front gate, a Hispanic dude, and saw the six steps leading to the front door and announced, “I don’t do stairs.”
“What?” I said incredulously.
“I don’t do stairs,” he said a second time. “It’s against company policy.”
“Really? You guys have been doing stairs for 20 years with us.”
He whipped out his cell phone, took a picture of those nasty stairs, and said, “I’ve just sent this off to my supervisor for instructions.” Then he disappeared around the corner to sit in his truck. photo-4

I called my rep. “I’ll fix this and get back to you,” he said.
I waited.
No driver.
No rep.
No food.
No answers.

I called my rep again.

“I’ll call my manager,” he said.

The driver came back to the gate. “If we don’t solve this I’ll have to take the food back to the warehouse.”

By now the chef, two friends, a co-worker and I were on the street staring the dude down in a gunslinger showdown.

Suddenly my rep appeared out of the ether. “I was in the neighborhood,” he said out of breath. A short, wiry guy with consternation all over his face. I showed him the tables set and ready and the kitchen.

I showed him those nasty stairs.

Meanwhile the dude had disappeared and returned with his first load of boxes. About 25 of them. At street level.

We had no choice but to make an assembly line sandbag style and run boxes from the street, up the nasty stairs, down the long hall, and into the kitchen.

It took us almost an hour to check every box against the order sheet. The dude was now in the kitchen helping us identify the boxes. The rep stood there with  jaw open.

We finished checking the last item, signed the sheet, and the dude disappeared around the corner.

The rep said he’d make sure this wouldn’t happen again.

You bet. Because you’d just lost a customer of 20 years, dude.

Calvin says, “Cut the dude some slack. If you hauled boxes all day, everyday of the week, you’d be a dragon lady throwing your rights around, too.”  beagle

Foreign Policy

While the Warriors played their championship win this week, I noticed an interesting cultural phenomena on my street Tuesday night.

My Indian neighbors – those who have come to the US for the tech jobs – were hooting and hollering like the best of us over the game.

Their voices flowed out of their open windows and crossed the street to my house.

The American assimilation had begun.

One family has two children, a white Lab, and a Volvo. They’ve already been seduced.  white lab

Another family has a daughter in the elementary school around the corner. I often hear her arguing with her mother in perfect kid-lingo, sounding like a typical spoiled American child, while her mother answers her in her language.

I grew up in foreign countries.

I know what it’s like to be on foreign soil, eating different food, hearing another language all day long.

It’s exhausting.

So a basketball game makes a lot of sense.

There’s no need for subtitles.

A basket is a basket.

A foul is a foul.

And a shouting coach needs no interpretation in any language.

I remember going to bullfights.

I would always cheer for the bull.

Calvin says, “You would. You prefer animals to people anyway.” beagle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Give Me Space

Alf and I made plans to spend the day in Carmel the weekend after Christmas.

Instead of taking the sane way, we chose the back roads that took us through the center of Gilroy and up and around and down the mountains that paralleled highway 101. That turned out to be a 30-minute detour that left Alf fuming and me hyperventilating. The day was already ruined.

What were we thinking? We envisioned a casual stroll down cobbled stone streets, lazily peering into store windows for the Christmas decor, enjoying a leisurely lunch at a French restaurant expertly prepared by the chef of many years with a fine reputation.

Instead we jostled our way down the streets side-stepping the tourists with their pedigree dogs, which didn’t want strangers petting them with gooey fingers from their over-priced pastries. Why don’t people leave their dogs at home? When did it turn trendy to wear them shopping? I can sort of understand a purse dog, if you can call that thing a dog, but a Burmese Mountain dog? There’s no avoiding him, he’s a defense tackler blocking the street.

I saw more dogs than children. Probably the kids stayed home with the grandparents and the dogs went to town. There’s something wrong here. IMG_9666

Lines were out the door at every decent restaurant. Casual wear in the stores was priced at $300 and up. And that was the sale price. Really? I can get that same sweatshirt online for $15.95.

It was cold gorgeous – sharp blue skies, piercing sunlight – boot and jacket weather. Boots were popular. Everybody was wearing them, except me. I checked the price of an elegant leather pair that caught my eye – $475. With a few more dollars, I’ll go to Europe.

The art galleries disappointed me. Mostly touristy seascapes in glaring colors, the kind you see in every beach town from Maui to La Jolla to Acapulco. I think the same painters make a circuit. Jose takes Acapulco, Sven’s is Carmel, Max paints in a bar in Maui, and Teresa is the barracuda in La Jolla. They’re all related. These were Teresa’s last three husbands.

Calvin says, “Next time leave Alf home and take me. My nose needs an outing and I love gooey.” beagle

Bring Out the Tamales

IMG_9279What is it about holiday parties that they always seem the same? I’ve hosted hundreds of them, attended even more, and every one of them is a replica of years past. The dinner whether served buffet style or delivered to the table, is usually the same fare – the requisite ham, turkey, and green bean casserole. I know some of you love all this tradition, but I don’t. I want to bring out the chicken smothered in mole sauce with a garnish of pomegranate seeds. Or a steaming hot bowl of pho with hard boiled egg, thin slices beef and mint leaves. I know. The kids would go “Eeu!” and grandma would roll her eyes and keel over. Mention Christmas and your taste buds come scrambling into your mouth, all jostling for position to be first in line for tradition.

Did you know that smell is the strongest sense we have? We can lose our eyesight, our taste buds can go south, touch is no longer accurate, and sound, well, don’t get me started. Smell, on the other hand, can take you back to your childhood when you came running into your mother’s kitchen to snatch a slice of freshly baked bread slathered with rich butter. Or it can remind you of your first glass of pink champagne when you breathed in the bubbles and they raced up your nose and made you sneeze like crazy, or when you got a whiff of a gardenia bush on a hot summer night letting off it’s sweet, sultry fragrance.

I’d like to start some new traditions that include not only exotic culinary delights, but aromas that would provide us with a new library of memories that would lead us into the future. Like smoked, crushed chiles, Spanish saffron, spicy chocolate, and star anise.

Calvin says, “Yep, smell is my obsession. I’m intoxicated by fox droppings.” beagle

 

It’s Not That Complicated People

It’s Thanksgiving this week, when most cooks in America freak, call a supermarket and order a pre-made turkey.

It’s funny because we’ve become a nation of foodies. Or at least the Food Network would have you believe that.

Have you noticed how many new cooking shows have come on the scene lately?

Children are now competing like the big chefs. They’re having to deal with the likes of Gordon Ramsey breathing fire down their little small necks.

How about the Holiday Baking Competition that’s running right now? They just kicked off the only experienced contestant older than Duff. All the rest are amateurs sweating their brains out as they pound sugar dough into holiday disasters, I mean desserts.

Why do we complicate things?  wall flowers1a

Can’t we just rinse a bird under running water, pat it dry, throw it in a pan and roast it in the oven? Four hours later it’s brown and done.

What’s so difficult about blanching string beans in a hot boiling water? Throw a stick of butter on them once they’re drained and in a dish, and voila, you have your green.

Then bake some potatoes alongside the bird. Don’t let the mashers control you.

The stuffing might be a bit daunting, but don’t fret. All it takes is lots of butter, celery, onions and cubed breadcrumbs. Then toss in a mound of savory seasonings, some vegetable broth, mix it all together in a bowl, pour the mixture into a baking dish and cook it alongside the bird and the potatoes.

Follow the directions for homemade cranberry sauce on a package of fresh cranberries or buy it at the store. It comes in a can.

And there you have it. Pour yourself a glass of wine or two, kick back and relax. You’re done.

Calvin says, “You’re not done until you toss me a turkey leg sans gravy because you don’t know how to make it.” beagle