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

 

 

 

 

 

Go Giants & Eat a Macaron!

Fall is Giants season.

After the trouncing they got in Kansas City, which humbled them, and that’s a good thing, I’m hoping they emerge with renewed pumpkin spirit and go on to win the World Series.

In honor of the orange and black team, here are some pictures for the occasion: (those special macarons can be bought at Tout Sweet Patisserie here: http://www.toutsweetsf.com/)

Giants

 

photo(214)

(C) 2003 Gateway,Inc.

 

photo (78)

 

These are my pictures which I hope will inspire you to wear orange, root for the team, and look for ways to share the fall season with others.

Calvin says, “I’m in Giants wear all year – orange, black and white – go Beagles!” beagle

 

 

 

I’m Getting Off

I am glued to the World Cup soccer matches. The European teams aren’t doing very well this time, giving the Latin Americans a chance to score and move up in the rankings. I’m rooting for Argentina, next is Mexico, and after that I don’t care. Brazil of course, being the host country, is determined to win. Good luck.

Already there’s a scandal about rigged games – I’ve been saying that for years – and now here’s proof. Apparently some of the referees can be bribed in order to give advantage to certain teams.

Is there anything left on the planet that isn’t manipulated?  photo (55)

Our food is full of illness-producing chemicals, but advertised as healthy products.

Our newspapers, media outlets, and radio shows can’t be trusted with accuracy in the news and yet we turn them on every night.

Airlines and car manufacturers are notorious for cutting corners to save a dime, but we’re the first to grab a no-frills discounted ticket.

The medical industry knows of easier ways to cure our illnesses, but suppresses the truth in favor of expensive therapies because they bring in the bucks. Hey, somebody has to pay for those $100 aspirins in the hospital.

Stop! I want to get off and live somewhere else.

When you distill it, it all comes down to making a profit.

Nobody cares about your quality of life, or even if you have a life.

It’s more like where’s your wallet?

Calvin says, “Don’t get me started about our dog food. Have you ever wondered why vet practices are always full? The pet food industry owns them!”

 

 

 

Stop Eating If You Want to Be Healthy

Are you reading about healthy eating lately?

I want to scream.

Corn is out, beef is in.   artichoke

Wheat is a no-no, it gives you a fat belly, but chicken is good.

Dairy is terrible, full of hormones and antibiotics, but tofu is worse, so go for quinoa.

Rice has arsenic in it. Arsenic? Yep, in the water.

Potatoes are suspicious. Why? What have they done to anybody?

Sugar, alcohol, and caffeine are poison. There go the bakeries, the beer and wine makers, and never mind the coffee growers in Central America.

Chocolate gets a bad wrap, too. (Spelling intended)

It’s utter confusion out there.

How do you shop and what do you eat?

Today I just read Valerie Comer’s blog who wrote, “I love eating chemicals and pesticides. After all, if this stuff preserves food, it will preserve me, too. Won’t it?” http://eatlocalgrown.com/article/11392-27-reasons-to-avoid-farmers-markets-satire.html

That’s a funny way to deal with it! She makes a good point.

Calvin says, “Kibble? Where did that come from? Probably some marketer’s brain fart to turn scraps into money.” beagle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Woof from the Roof

I finally visited the Charles Schultz Museum in Santa Rosa, home of the Peanuts gang.

It’s a modern building nestled off the main road in a quiet neighborhood. Parking is free. What a gift.

Charlie Brown greets you at the entrance. He doesn’t have much to say. He wears a scripted grin. But hey, he’s there.

When you look to your right, you’ll see Snoopy snoozing on top of his dog house. He’s knocked out from the last batch of visitors. No performance there.

As you step through the front door, you hear the Linus and Lucy theme music from the popular Christmas special.

A ticket buys you a trip down memory lane. If you’re a Peanuts aficionado like I am, I am enthralled by the history of the cartoon strip and how the characters began and then morphed into the crazy people I know and love.

My favorites are Lucy in her psychiatry box and Snoopy.

Especially Snoopy doing his happy dance. I have a picture of him on my desk to remind me to get up every hour and tap dance to avoid blood clots from too much sitting.Lucy2

At the far end of the main hall you’ll be drawn to a huge wall of Lucy and Charlie Brown. Upon closer inspection you realize it’s made of a zillion cartoon strips. And each frame is a tile. Impressive. The genius who created it must have a lust for the miniature or he’s in a rocking chair somewhere muttering to himself as he overlooks a green meadow.

The second floor contains Schultz’s entire office – the one he used in real life – including chair and drawing board and photos and books. Adjacent to this is another room showcasing the many awards he received over the years, including an Emmy and a Peabody. That’s the closest I’ve ever come to either one. The Emmy is quite stunning, made of gold, of course. It would look better on my mantlepiece.

Outside the building, Peanuts figures, the size of school-age children, stand all over the garden. They’re there for climbing and taking pictures. I sat on a bench with Snoopy and Woodstock and held court for a while. I was keen on discovering how they kept their sanity year in and year out. Woodstock said his secret is daily hydro-therapy in his bird bath. Snoopy admitted he begs for more food, which he rarely gets, so he lies on the roof of his dog house and howls at the moon until somebody from the house throws a pillow at him.

Calvin says, “Hey Snoopy, at your next feeding, pack your cheeks with kibble for later.” beagle
 

 

 

 

Noises in the Night

We’ve had a bit of trouble in our roof these past few nights. Probably because the temperatures have dropped into the low 30’s and everybody is freezing, critters included.

We’ve been woken up in the middle of the night by scratching noises. Sometimes they’ve been in the kitchen area, at other times in the bathroom. At no times have we been happy about it.

Alf went into the attic with his super-powered flashlight to startle the intruder.     Rat

“Nothing,” he said as he climbed down the ladder.

The next night we heard the noises again.

This time Alf went into the attic and sprayed it with a horrible smelling liquid that makes them gag and hack.

The noises were back again the following night.

Then Alf asked our neighbors. Their fixes ranged from throwing poison pellets into the attic to setting killing traps.

With our luck, we’d end up with a rotting carcass in a corner somewhere that would stink up the house for weeks.

That’s when Alf struck on an idea.

He pulled out the trap he uses for squirrels in the backyard, filled it with peanut butter and shoved it into the attic.

Sure enough, the next morning we had a very fat and happy rat in it.

“What are you going to do with it?” I asked.

“Export it,” Alf said.

He put the cage in the trunk of the car and let it loose at the foot of the mountain where he hikes every week.

It just so happens the foot of the mountain is in the most expensive part of town.

“Upscale housing,” Alf said.

Calvin says, “What a genius fix. I wonder if you’d export me to a rabbit habitat if I bayed once too many times.”beagle