Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Things We Carry......

This title just popped into my head. No disrespect to Tim O'Brien. "The Things They Carried" is in the top 5 books about war anywhere....This book actually saved my son from hating school by being simple, real, and raw.

It is just that at this time of year....after a couple of months of 100 hour weeks....our life feels like a war. See, we didn't actually have to go to war.....because Bennie and Horace and Trevor....and Tim O'Brien.....took care of that for us......

Still...that is our frame of reference.

In the past two months, while working our asses off trying to do good, we have lost two long-time clients who we actually counted as friends. One, because I pointed out that Hillary Clinton is just Walter Mondale in a pants suit, and the scumbags surrounding her need to stuffed in a bottle and floated out on the Japanese Current. Two, because I stopped a wedding invaded by drunken 15 year old skaters in the middle of one of the last towns in America to finally and reluctantly allow alcohol to be served anywhere in town.....and lost my temper because the biological father of the bride thought he could treat me like a dick because I like his ex-wife and I wear an apron.

And this was in the middle of the High Holy Days.....and they were both Jews. Maybe I am supposed to reflect on my own sins.....and their effect on others....and the clients don't have to.

Believe me, I have....and my sins don't include Hillary....or fearing to protect my business and my workers' livelihood from frivolous adolescent misadventure in the middle of a tiny, highly efficient police state. I do feel bad that I only let the little prick ex-husband call me a thief four times.....I could have hung in there one more round. I was weak. I am sorry.

I am pretty sure my real Jewish friends have other things on their minds during the Holy Days....and have much thicker skins. There is repentance.....and then there is forgiveness, too.


It was with some trepidation that I got this email from a client of equally long standing as the two we lost.

We have been doing the annual barbeque of the signature local Trail and Saddle Club for about ten years. We do tri-tip and salmon...the quintessential "Santa Maria Barbeque" all the seasonal vegetables....Roman beans from San Juan Batista, heirloom tomatoes from Cachagua, field mix from the Odello Ranch at the Mouth of Carmel Valley....farro or wild rice or Kamut or quinoa for the carb balance.....and we do it for about 50% of cost because the outfit is a longstanding local institution.

To top it off....the most recent president of the outfit is one of our oldest clients. His wife went to school at an equally early age as my mom at the same obscure Catholic boarding school in Menlo. Her dad is my restaurant godfather:
Cornell, Hawaii, Carmel.......He was in the room just down the hall at Liliokalani Hospital on 22 September 1949 when I was being born...victim of a wayward coconut fall while he was manager of the Royal Hawaiian. We did the wedding of the "kids" thirty years ago...the wake of my godfather....all the anniversaries.....and the wedding of the KID's kids.....and THEIR anniversaries and baptisms.

So....I trembled a bit when I got this email:

"We have some cowboy members who've commented on the "frou-frou" food, so
for the menu this Saturday let's go ranch style - chili beans, beef and
chicken, and what else would you suggest?"

At the same moment, I got another email from another board member worried that there would not be vegetarian options for her and her friends. Maybe we could have some grilled portabellas.

Even though we charge very little by our standards....there are people who work for less. Our tri-tip is all Niman Ranch organic...the other guys do Commercial or Cow or Cutter….stuff I would not give my dog….and I don’t really like my dog right now. Our produce is all contracted a year out from local organic farmers who are taking a beating this year from the fucked up weather.....the other guys just buy shit at Costco, or worse. Brendan makes all his own sauces and dressings....and stays up worrying about it....and throws out half the organic stuff I go to great lengths to buy because it does not meet his standard. The other guys just buy barrels of Ranch Dressing from Costco....or worse.

We were sorely tempted to let these guys drift. They could save money.....and they could get what they ordered. If they don't know the difference......what the heck?

But....we have already lost two old clients this year. And George Bush has fucked the dollar so far that it is now worth HALF what it was when he started back in 2000.....and I must go to
Spain in January or my head will explode.

We had a long debate: take the job and serve shit food for the money.....and make an actual profit for a change......or tell them to fuck off......or tell them how it is .....and risk them dumping us like Hillary Clinton did, and the PG Drunk Teenager People.

After long was our response:

"Mixed signals here: Manly meat and beans.....frou frou vegetables.

We stopped serving beans a couple of years ago because nobody ate them.....well, 10% of the crowd even puts them on the plate.....and most of those are the vegetarians trying to build a complete protein from the available amino acids.

The way we work is that we have standing orders with our growers for x amount of produce per week for the season. Right now it is heirloom tomatoes, roman beans and the herbs, lettuce, etc. Spaghetti squash. Which means that if we go down-menu to keep whoever these cowboy purists are happy we will just not be bringing the organic food that we have already contracted for and have in house to the picnic......and from the feedback we get.....this stuff is much appreciated by 90% of the crowd.

Are we talking iceberg lettuce in bags? With shredded carrots and red cabbage? Ranch dressing? Is it OK if Brendan makes the dressing, or does it have to be commercial? His stuff is not exactly like the Costco version.

Plus, I will remind everyone that our recipes....such as the panzanella....the farro.....are actual cowboy food....just not on the Central Coast of California of 50 or 100 years ago. Cowboys in Tuscany and Umbria eat this stuff.....and the cowboys in Spain....and their beef is still pretty damn good. They eat this stuff because it is what is grown locally.....and this stuff is often actually brought to market with horses and cows.

And they still have giant cocks and huge balls......

A final reminder: the number one cause of death in the Portola and deAnza expeditions of discovery in early California, and among the early Spanish and Mexican sailors to California from the west coast of Mexico, and amongst the early Californio ranchers.....was scurvy. The DeAnza's died like flies in the Santa Cruz mountains within sight of the San Francisco Bay....and couldn't do shit about it.....surrounded by wild sorrel, ferns, miner's lettuce and all that frou-frou stuff.

The early ranchers sat here chewing on beef raised on thirty feet of gorgeous topsoil in the Salinas Valley...... and avoiding greens until their teeth fell out and their gums bled and their hearts stopped pumping.

One last point: because of the early rains, the next two weekends are it for heirlooms and the various seasonal greens. From here on out we are back to root vegetables and squash until spring. Unless you want to buy your food from the Chinese, of course.....and the Red Chinese connection to Western (as in Cowboy) culture is somewhat vague to me. This is the last chance your cowboys will have to see locally grown produce....produced by local farmers who actually have dirt under their fingernails.....and who, by the way....actually know which end of the horse and the cow is which.

Let us know your thoughts....we will can and compost whatever you guys don't want us to serve."


We await the decision of the board.......and Yom Kippur was already last month....

Atonement comes easy to us Irish.....just give me a chance...for chrissakes.


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