A country store, hidden in the mountains 25 miles from the Carmel coast. Home of A Moveable Feast caterers, local organic foods since 1976.....Brendan and Michael Jones...a restaurant, a pub....and much vicious gossip
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
The Army Went to War....America Went To The Mall.....
I just spent most of a month reading this book.
Anyone who knows me, or keeps even remote track of my Facebook Book page knows that this is amazing. I am a two or three book a week guy....a serious junkie.
I read books at stoplights. In traffic jams. On highways. Left without a book in a restaurant, I will read the back of my credit cards. There may be a 12 step program for this.
I credit my book problem with two things at least in my life: my survival in the restaurant business for 40 years (my ex-competitors all wound down after work with cocaine and booze); and my complete inability to send bills for work already done.
You take the good with the bad.
Anyway.....the reason this book has taken me a month to finish is not about its length, poor writing, or boring subject matter.
It is that I only have so many tears in my head.
Weeping can be cathartic.....but this book cuts so close to the bone that picking it up was like going to confession as a youth in the Catholic Church.
"Sorry, Father. It has been two weeks since my last confession......"
We Catholics dodge confession for months and years....because we don't want to come to grips with our mortality, our frailty, and the failures of our good intentions.....and the successes of our bad intentions.
Time of War is a book Bill Murphy wrote about the West Point Class of 2002. Kids born in 1980 or thereabouts. Kids the same age as Brendan, and Jay, and Pants, and Danny, and Jacob....and all the rest of our kids who never found themselves at the sharp end of the stick of our national foreign policy.
Bill Murphy was a staffer and researcher for Bob Woodward in his last couple of books about Iraq and American policy. He interviewed dozens of members of the West Point class of '02 as part of his research for Woodward.....and when Woodward's book went in a different direction found that his interviewee's were looking for someone to tell their story.
Forty years ago, I was a die-hard anti-war guy about Vietnam. I started out on the other team: my friend The Hassler and I famously bought oranges from the Orange Julius in Times Square in 1965 to pelt anti-war demonstrators. But, when my classmates came back from Vietnam either in boxes, or mentally and emotionally destroyed.....I switched sides.
My objections were practical and selfish. MY FRIENDS are being killed. Who gives a shit about some sweaty mountain somewhere? I believe that there is a finite amount of courage, loyalty, energy and love distributed amongst us. It is criminal to waste it fucking with each other.
Plus, it was clear to anyone but the dullest dumfuck that the war was being managed badly...technically and politically. My friends were dying in vain. Their courage, industry, love, suffering and loyalty was being pissed away.
Fast forward to Iraq.
Early on, this looked like a replay. Good officers being canned for political reasons. Hysteria being drummed up, etc.
And, finally.....good people being killed by incompetent fuckwads.
Bill Murphy follows the Class of '02 from West Point through five or six stories. He calmly and quiety introduces you to families, girlfriends and boyfriends.....dreams, hopes.....all that All-American stuff.
And everyone dies. Horribly. Sadly. Pretty much pointlessly.
I spent a bunch of evenings crying myself to sleep as I worked my way through this book. Bill Murphy packs a lot in.....It reminds me of "Hiroshima" by John Hersey, or "The Long Gray Line" by Rick Atkinson.
I read "Hiroshima" when I was 12....and the image of the aid worker rushing to help a severely burned woman, grasping her hands to pull her up....and having her flesh come off like two gloves in his hands....still haunts me every time I hear the word "nuclear".
I read "Long Gray Line" when I was forty.....and the image of one of our excruciatingly tuned and educated young men, a helicopter pilot graduate of West Point in 1966......talking with a buddy on the radio as his machine spun a rotor. They both knew he had seconds to live, and the kid shouted out the account number of a savings account he had secretly set up for the baby son he had never met.
This image haunts me still. The waste, the stupidity....the loss of that kind of love, courage, skill, dedication.....
So...fast forward to 2009. Bill Murphy captures beautifully the hopes, dreams, struggles, fears, etc of the West Point Class of '02. And...implicitly, the waste of the loss of all of that.
For me the most poignant part of the book.....beyond the fact that these kids are all the same age as my kids....is the fact that the survivors are all on Facebook.
Jen Bryant....widow of Todd, of the heartbreaking letters home. Drew Sloan, survivor of traumatic brain injury and lots of other stuff. Katie Moshier....widow of Tim, mother of Natalie.
You could Friend them.....You could send them a message.
I don't think it will help.
Point being: kids like you, kids like my kids and your kids.....kids who went to bat for us while we were not even paying attention to the outcome of our not paying attention....
Died. Were blown up. Lost lovers and parents....and important body parts.
DJ was a stationed in Monterey before being deployed to Iraq. He is a nutball rock-climber and gym rat. In November of 2004, he was blown up in Iraq in the second battle of Fallujah. Check the links. DJ is the Energizer Bunny crossed with Wolverine crossed with Mother Teresa.....if Mama T was handy with a SAW.
Paradox builds and supplies specialty high-tech athletic equipment to folks that have been blown up.....not just veterans, but knucklehead mountaineers, mountain bikers, skiiers....the whole ball of wax.
Our fundraiser was at Sanctuary Rock Gym in Sand City. We pulled out all of the stops, sent a full crew...and Brendan worked for weeks on crazy, fun high-tech appetizers to serve. It was the same weekend as the Sea Otter Classic....and the Pebble Beach Wine and Food whore strut.
No one came.....
Our workers outnumbered the guests.......
I am still so pissed off and ashamed at my community that haven't written a word since.
So....don't talk to me. Buy the goddam book. Send some cash to Paradox.
Thank the Lord Above that you and I have never had to make the kind of sacrifices and choices we have forced upon our best and brightest.....
And get off the couch and do your part to make sure that the West Point Class of 2042 does not reload and repeat.
Oh, yeah. I am all fired up about Memorial Day.
Think about it. The last time we did this our toll was 2500. Now it is double......
I just read in The Herald obits that Henry Young has moved on to the Great Bar in the Sky......
I can't remember if I have already bored you with this story......
Failing memory can be a good thing, sometimes.
We have a Book Club in Cachagua: "The Upper Carmel Valley Light Reading and General Soporific Society".
We even have bookplates.
My friend and fellow member of the Club, Peyton and I are often guilty of picking up a book and reading on for a couple of hundred pages before the plot seems to be way to familiar. Damn it....I already read this thing!
Michael Ondaatje, in his wonderful book "Divisadero"....opines that it is not the first reading that counts. It is the second, and possibly the third........
When I first moved to the Peninsula in 1975.....Ted and Bert of Sardine Factory fame were the king bees of Restaurant Land in Monterey. I even worked for them for ten days.....the most brutal, stupid and meaningless work days of my life.....and I have worked some seriously brutal, stupid and meaningless jobs. Killing and plucking ducks, for example.
Bert and Ted had a half dozen restaurants that were all humming along.....and they owned (and still do) almost all of Cannery Row, and a lot of Carmel.
Sardine Factory. Some place on Wharf II with a hatch built underneath the floor to facilitate transfer of seabourne items under cover of darkness. A terrible place in San Simeon. And Willy Lum's.
Willy was an affable Chinese/Filipino guy who was a standin for Bert and Ted. The restaurant was an embarrassing knock-off of Trader Vic's, but....like all Bert and Ted places....it had a great bar. The Charthouse now occupies the old Willy Lum space....and, God love them, Bert and Ted have been pulling serious rent from the Charthouse for twenty-five years.
The fact that the Charthouse could survive 25 years on Cannery Row paying crazy rent is proof positive that America will never again be a world power. Didn't salad bars and cocktail waitresses in mini-skirts go out with cocaine in the 80's?
Willy Lum's only salvation was Willy....and Henry the Hawaiian. Henry worked the door....well, gangplank...and tended some bar.
Henry was the prototypical Hawaiian.....large and in charge, dark, very friendly and kind and generous....but not someone any sane person would ever want to fuck with.
Henry's presence guaranteed safety for hot chicks...way back before Tom P. invented date rape. Henry was a bar Zen master. He knew who to let slide....who to hammer....when to walk away.
Willie Lum's went away and became the Charthouse. Henry worked here and there, but Bert and Ted didn't have a Henry kind of place after Willie Lum's. All the folks he had taken care of, took care of Henry.
Henry did a little of this and a little of that.....he had a safety net. Henry was a beloved man in a town with very few beloved men.
I lost track of Henry....there are some Running Iron stories.....but he continued to work with kids and raise money for scholarships for kids in his brother's name....
I have a lot of Henry stories....and I hope this post will generate Henry stories from some of his friends.....
Twenty-seven years ago.....my partners and I were indiscreet in many ways and wound up having to lie down in the road....Flight Road.... with long-haired Sheriffs in Grateful Dead T-shirts pointing guns at our heads. In the rain.
My son Conall was born two days after this fun time.....His mom came upon us stalwart business people stretched out in the rain on the asphalt while nine months pregnant...after just having done 17 loads of catering wash at the laundromat at Safeway.
And having brought everything to and fro in a Dodge Omni. If there is a catering Hall of Fame....Jane is in it, right by the front door.
As one can imagine....there were a lot of court appearances after these festivities.
One day, as I sat in the back waiting my turn......I saw Henry the Hawaiian come in to Court and take most of a pew up front.
For those of you who don't spend a lot of time in court.....
The way it works is that those people with money, juice and lawyers get to go first. Henry was one of the first calls from the bailiff.
Henry meanwhile had somehow stuffed himself into an actual coat, button down shirt and tie. The sports coat he was wearing was testament to American ingenuity and manufacturing skills.....Henry looked like a giant Hawaiian sausage stuffed into a camel hair weenie.
And....his lawyer was a no-show when the bailiff called the cases.
"Uh....Yes, Your Honor....."
"Where is your attorney....Mr. Antonsich?"
"Uh.....I heard he is in Mexico, Your Honor........"
Grrrrr. The judge was Terry Duncan....the most reasonable and most tri-lingual of all judges....but still.
"Dammit. Mr. Young are you ready to procede on these charges? You have been charged with "Cruelty to Animals" under Section blah blah blah blah....
"Oh, yes. Your Honor, I just want to tell my story. I think there has been a mistake....."
A bunch of legal stuff went on while Judge Duncan tried to get things done in a proper manner.
"Tell us your version of the events, Mr. Young."
"Well.... I work for my friend Danny. I tend bar and collect money for him sometimes. (ed note: Danny was a Carmel High star quarterback who ran a bar down on Washington Street in Monterey...an early sports bar).
Danny sent me to pick up some money from this guy who had owed him a lot of money for a while."
Danny told me.....if he doesn't pay, shoot his dog."
So, Your Honor....I went to this guy's house and asked him for Danny's money. The guy was all 'fahgeddaboutit, have a beer". So I had a couple of beers with him and watched the game."
Then I told him: 'Hey, Danny needs his money. You don't pay.....I gotta shoot your dog. This guy had this big Great Dane dog."
The guy says 'fahgeddaboutit, have a beer......'"
So....I have another beer and we watch the game....
Eventually I tell the guy: "Look I gotta have the money or I gotta shoot your dog....."
The guy says; 'You ain't gonna shoot my dog....sit down and have another beer....."
So, Your Honor......I shot the dog."
But it wasn't cruel.......it was a 9mm right through the head. He never felt nothin'.......I don't understand all this cruelty stuff. It was bang-bang, down and done."
I love dogs, Your Honor.......he never felt a thing!"
Judge Duncan put his head down on the bench......for a long time.
"Mr. Young.....I will take this matter under advisement. The Court will notify you of it's decision........"
Our world is so much the poorer for the passing of Henry......
A real journalist finds a lead on a story, tracks down each, every and all aspects and facts to nail down some objective truth....and in the process increases both the knowledge and quality of the human experience.
Real journalists are as rare as white rhinos these days. Mary B. from the Pine Cone.....Kera A. from Coast Weekly spring to mind. They actually still get paychecks for being consummate professionals....though even then there are second jobs supporting their true vocation and calling. "Have you tried the new Sleepy Hollow chardonnay?......."
Dummies like me are at least partly responsible. You could right now be checking out Mary's or Kera's work right now instead of reading this amateur stuff.....and possibly generating some clicks and revenue for their bosses who might be therefore encouraged to keep them on the payroll.
God forbid they should get a raise.....
Anyway, I am on about the fish. I have neither time, funds, nor energy to chase this story to its logical and meaningful end....but you might be interested.
A couple of years ago we in the kitchen at The Store decided to focus on local and seasonal food suppliers. We are Republicans......really.Well, Irish Republicans.We don't give a shit about nuking the gay whales.....but even so it seemed insane to be flying in asparagus from Peru in October and November when there was drop-dead gorgeous chard, kale.....even Roman beans....to be had from local suppliers.
And, the philosophy appealed to our sense of professionalism. Think of it as Iron Chef.....Earth. Instead of some Asian dipshit challenging two chefs to make miracles out of say, coffee beans in an hour under intense video scrutiny.......we used Mama Nature and whatever she had in her winter larder.....and we have three months, not an hour.
Unfortunately....instead of some dipshit Asian faux-sensei to challenge us......we have our clients. Nobody wants kale and chard, and you can maybe get away with butternut squash/apple bisque once a season….and sell six bowls.
Squash pasta and ravioli have longer legs......but even so, they are both a hard sell, and a pain in the ass to make for more than eight people.
When it comes to the ocean.....it is even worse. Everyone wants salmon.....or halibut. Actually, they really want ChileanSea Bass…..but fuck you anyway.And….sorry about the salmon....and halibut season closes in the winter.Scallops, anyone?
Meanwhile we have mountains of sardines, mackerel, anchovies, sea urchins and market squid piling up on the wharves.....and filling the nooks and crannies of the fleets of cargo ships that are otherwise returning empty to China.
Nobody here buys that shit. We buy fresh local sardines for 85 cents a pound, along with the Filipina and Chinese grandmothers. Commercially, the sardine fishermen get 50 bucks a ton....and it all goes for fish food, cow food, or fertilizer.
One of Brendan's best dishes is his Bocadillo of Monterey Sardine with Mojito Aioli. Basically a fried sardine sandwich with lime/mint mayonnaise. I have to beat people to even try the thing at cocktail parties....for free!And it rocks the house!
OK.....everyone reading this has been to Cannery Row. Many of you have even read the book (except for everyone from Carmel High), or saw the terrible movie with Debra Winger and that drunk guy who crashes motorcycles. All of you have been to the Aquarium....and seen first hand the desolation of a once thriving business and culture....due to human greed, overfishing and the righteous anger of Mother Nature and man's failings.
"Fuck with my fish? Fuck you!" says Mama N.
Everyone knows the Italians killed off all the sardines....and replaced them with crappy restaurants, gift shops and rapacious parking meters. Right?
OK. Trivia question: What percentage do sardines have today of the total landed (i.e. "caught and sold") tonnage of fish by California fishermen?
a) 1% b) 10% c) 20% d) 30% e) none of the above
What is California’s single most valuable fishery crop?
b) Dungeness Crab
e) Sea Urchins
Well....to the first question the answer is e). California fishermen landed 178,477,060 pounds of sardines in 2007......46% of the total fish harvest for the year. HALF! If you throw in the 23 million pounds of anchovies it goes to 52%.
The "failure" of Cannery Row was not a failure of the fish crop, or overfishing.....it was a failure of marketing.
In WWII, there was no protein anyone could afford. Beef? Forget it. Sardines are cheap and outrageously good for you. They were the bomb while the bombs were falling.....but with prosperity no one wanted oily little fish in cans.....Not even when Dr. Dean Edell tells everyone that the Omega-3 and 6 fatty acids running all through the sardine will swell both your brain and your pecker.
My friend Dr. Chris at Moss Landing Marine Labs went out on a limb and bought a head-and-tail machine to filet incoming sardines and anchovies and cryo-vac them in packages for restaurants. The theory is that stimulating restaurant demand might raise the fisherman's price about $150 a ton....reduce the financial pressure to catch tons and tons.....and save fishery from falling back down the Cannery Row hole.
Chris went way out on a limb to do this. Non-profit spending $50k to package sardines for people who would rather put the stuff on their roses?......I am not sure how that is going, but we wish him the best.....
And I don't see sardines anywhere on any menus but at my place, probably Mundaka, and John Pisto's places. Well, Contigo, of course (www.inpraiseofsardines.com)
Back to the facts:
In 2007, California landed 383, 413, 715 pounds of fish....total.
Everyone is freaking out about the destruction of the salmon fishery....and rightly so. Still, salmon accounted for .4% of the catch two years ago. Even at their best, our pink cousins never amounted to more than 2% of the California fish harvest.They are cute, very easy to cook…..and they do get license-holding firemen, tractor drivers and cardiologists out of the house on weekends during the summer....leaving the home field open for the pool boy, god love him.
Now, let's talk squid. Squid is our second biggest crop....running about a hundred million pounds, and 28% of all fish caught in Cali. Some years it is half the crop, and blows doors off the sardine brothers.
Squid is still the Wild West of fishing.....no government regulations....no licenses, no nothing. Fucking go for it, dudes.
Believe it or not, in the rest of the world, California market squid are famous and highly desired. They are sweet, succulent, and easy to cook. Not to mention nutritious.
99% of the crop is exported.
This past Monday morning I stood in the window of a mansion in PebbleBeach getting breakfast ready for some CEO's. The JP Morgan guy...the Home Depot guy.....a retired serious banking guy. They all play golf with George Bush....and they all think he is an idiot.
Off shore was a bright light in the water. A calamari boat. It is still and dark as shit.
(My clients are up early because the markets open at 6am our time. These guys may make 500 times their workers wages....but they understand the 16 hour day. Only difference is their world has more gin and less methamphetamines than mine. About the same amount of Vicodin, though....from where I sit. And way better clothes and cars.They, however are forced to play golf.I am forced to turn compost.I’ll take the compost.)
My boss....the banking guy says: "What is that guy fishing for out there?"
"Can we get some for tonight? That would be fun....to serve some food caught right off of Cypress Point to Cypress Point guests."
(Be still my heart....CEO localvore in the making......Baby Jesus, hear my prayers....)
So.....when the sun comes up and the financial markets open in New York, I call Buster at Monterey Fish. Buster's mom and grandma worked in the canneries, cutting the sardines that Buster's dad and grandpa caught.
"Buster, I am looking at a calamari boat here. Save me five or ten pounds of fresh stuff for tonight, and see if you can get me some ink."
"Whaddaya talkin’ about?...We ain't got no fresh calamari. I got some Mexican here. Five pounds frozen. Nice filets."
"Buster.....I am looking at the fucking boat. When it comes in, grab me a few pounds before it all gets packed....."
"Mike....it all gets packed on the boat. They have a freezer in the hold. They freeze the catch in big blocks. When they get to us, they load it on trucks and send it up to Oakland. It goes on ships to China where they process it. We don't get any fresh calamari. Well, once in a while...."
I have called every day for the last 60 days. We have found fresh local calamari twice.
Everything else gets shipped to China in giant frozen blocks, where it is thawed, cleaned and cut by Chinese women with no health insurance and really shitty lives, packed into five pound boxes that say "Monterey Fish, Monterey, CA.....Product of USA....." and shipped back across the ocean.
Don't talk to me about sardines.Nobody buys either of these things…..except local Chinese women with really shitty lives….because they can’t get work!
I made up the shitty life part.What is so shitty? They can buy great, fresh sardines and squid for a buck a pound or less…..and sautée it all up with some nice chard or kale….
Anyone who reads this blog knows that I am obsessed with Spain, and especially Basque Country….and especially San Sebastian.And some Barcelona thrown in there.
Catalan and Basque food is the best in the world right now……technically and esthetically at least ten years ahead of everyone else….and fifty years ahead of the French, Swiss and Germans who are still convinced that they are right about everything.
There were political and economic reasons for the resurgence of Basque and Catalan food which I find fascinating but which would bore the pants off you.
The main driving force behind the culinary giant leap forward was…..
Spain was supposedly independent during WWII….though the Germans were given full rein by the Spanish governmentand the Catholic church during the Spanish Civil war in 1936 to practice certain delightful things like bombing refugees, bombing civilian populations, concentration camps, reprisal murders of civilians, torture, rendition….things like that.
The resultant wholesale destruction of the country and infrastructure, and the isolation of the war led to wholesale starvation….and it didn’t go away with the end of the war.Chefs just a few years older than me remember starving….and watching relatives die of starvation.
Consequently….Basques….and Catalans…..eat everything.Every flower, bush, fungus, bug, and bird is fair game.In the ocean….they eat every one of the dozen different prawns, and every mollusk, barnacle, and weird scary thing floating in the sea or crawling on the edge of it.
Starvation in the land of plenty somehow did not destroy their creative spirit or their sense of humor….Basques have elevated some of these strange creatures to high art.
For example....here is my friend Bittor's version of woodcock. Woodcock looks like those seabirds that run around the beach....with the long beaks.
And the anatomically correct version, up close. Bittor uses a surgical laser cutter to split the bird exactly in half.....so you can suck the brains, etc.
And here is Amanda in Bar Ganbara in Donostia....contemplating a huge pile of every fungus in the woods on the mountain......and the persebbe.
Persebbe.Gooseneck barnacles…which cover every rock and tidepool in Monterey and Big Sur.
Well, in Spain.
One of my favorite moments in bars in Spain....or bars anywhere, for that matter...... was at Bar Ganbara in Donostia...pictured above with Amanda staring at the huge pile of random mushrooms....and some strange rock shellfish.
We ordered the persebbe....which immediately separated us from all the tourists....and, sadly....90% of the young Spaniards at the packed and crazy bar. As we dug into our plate of barnacles I looked up....and looked into the eyes of a woman of a certain age, decked out in furs. She also had the persebbe.....and she was clearly from the generation that HAD to eat them....and now enjoyed eating them. She gave me a huge wink that warmed me to my core.....
Sea urchins….no surprise there.The Japanese and Italians are also all over these.Ricci in Italian….makes awesome ravioli.Just don’t tell the Yanks what they are eating.California fishermen collect more than 11,000,000 pounds of sea urchins every year.99% are exported.
Answer to Question 2 above?
These we bought on the street in Caideques....Salvador Dali's home town.
In California squid and sardines go for pennies a pound…..sea urchins for dollars. Only you white folks don't buy them...they are all shipped out.
Sea cucumbers…..Again the Japanese are all over this.The Spanish bring sea cucumbers to high art….espardenyas.Better than abalone. Way better than abalone....but serious ugly, and they don't just lay there to be yanked off rocks....
Here is Bittor's (Victor) version from Extebarre in Axpe, Spain. Roasted over one of the 14 different charcoals Bittor makes from the hardwood trees he grows in his Spanish Alpine valley.
Here is Rafa's version....from Roses on the East Coast....a few kilometers from El Bulli...and not far from Caidueques...
California fisherman also pull in a half million pounds of sea cucumber….the same as the amount of lobsters we harvest.100% of the sea cucumber is exported, obviously. Ever had sea cucumber?
Anyway….as I said at the beginning of this rant, I have no idea where to go with it.
Once again, we Americans….and we Californians in particular….live in this land of plenty and take advantage of very little of it.
My old friend Carl Sagan used to say over and over that we only use about 10% of our brain power.Carl claimed that we all have stored in 3D, SurroundSound, HD video with SmelloVision every experience of our lives….we just are to primitive to access the data.
I finally finished reading all of HR875.....the Food Safety Act. All 118 pages.
Jesus. Like drilling holes in your own head with a slow-speed drill. Way better than NyQuil for knocking you out, though. Food Soporific Act is more like it.
All the fuss turns out to be bullshit. Restaurants are specifically exempted.....and to qualify as a food production facility you need to be in interstate commerce, or a slaughterhouse. There is no mention of organic anything anything.
Oh.....and Rep DeLauro (the chief sponsor of the bill) has no connection to Monsanto. Her husband never worked for them or even any trade organizations that Monsanto is involved in. DeLauro is actually a steady critic of big, consolodated agri-business....and the parts of the Farm Bill that subsidize and support them.
So.....I got scammed. Urban myth. Proving once again that the internet and blogs are great and fun.....but they are not the New York Times.
This is Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal responding to a request from the Minority Leader to sponsor an amendment to the Iowa Constitution that would reverse Friday's legalization of same-sex marriage in Iowa.....
So.....when did Iowa become more open and liberal than California?
In the midst of doing actual 20 hour shifts....stacked up for five or six days at a time....it is very easy to get all task-oriented.
Back in my Labor Committee days.....this overwhelming work schedule was an indication of The Man deliberately distracting the noble working force with actual work....and was a Bad Thing.
I have been pulling the four hour sleep shift after twenty hours of work for six days now.....
And I noticed that meanwhile my guy Barack Obama shit the bed.
Barack just confirmed each and every horrible fantasy of all of those who hate Democrats....by going above and beyond even George Bush in defending Executive Privlege in a couple of lawsuits against the Electronic Freedom Foundation.
Yeah....I am the Motherfucking President, and all your shit is MINE!
The man used to be a Constitutional scholar.....and has just trumped George Bush....and become a Dick Cheney wet dream.
No wonder Ayn Rand sales are through the roof.....
As I called it....once Neon Leon Panetta was under the tent wall....all is lost.
You can't be slightly dead, or slightly pregnant.....
Barack Hussein Obama just cleared the decks. Torture was fine, and all of those who authorized it are cool......and The Sovereign State is immune from lawsuits......
Because Government Knows Better....
Dianne Feinstein must be over the moon......
Anyway....I am writing to say that I don't have time to write about the utter, abject destruction of my Constitutional rights to privacy and the whole Balance of Powers thing that goes back to Jefferson.....therefore fullfilling the prophecy of every radical bomb thrower I have ever met.
Keep the workers busy and worried. Stalin and Lenin said this. Also Alan Greenspan. And now, apparently Barack Obama.
A couple of years ago, South Park had an episode that rang clear and true for us.
The plot line had Kartmann's dad getting on to Wheel of Fortune.
The final question...before he won two or three million dollars was:
"People Who Annoy You".
Left on the board above Vanna White was "N * G G E R S.
Karmann's dad hovered and vacillated.....and eventually spat out the N word.
The word was "NAGGERS".
We adopted this as the name of the restaurant one Monday Night.
"People Who Annoy You Roadhouse"
Fuck the N*GGERS and *AGGOTS!
Some black people came that night.....and were all bent out of shape. They wrote letters and told all their friends.
Cachagua Store is now a famous racist haunt.
Not to mention Homophobic.
Our words were: NAGGERS and MAGGOTS.
We worked for some folks we know intimately for a dozen years. They hire us.....and we choose all the menus and wines and booze, and they don't get to pick.
In reality....we have been working for them so long that we know more about them and their friends and clients in relation to food and drink than they do.
They pay instantly.....and everything is great. We love these guys....and do some of our best work for them.
Tonight: 17 different hors d'oeuvrers.....plus the buffet with gorgeous Alaska salmon and Bill Niman organic trip tip.
We had seven workers for 38 people. The halibut was so beautiful we carried it around and showed everyone before we cooked it. It looked like a pile of Bolivian flake.....mother of pearl and all that. Brendan and I fought like dogs with all of our skill to get the halibut to the perfect perfect place. Brendan's perfect is different from my perfect.....
Everyone ate and loved all of it. We passed seconds.....
Life was good.....we did desserts....and got ready to go home.
And then.....150 minutes into the party, three new guests showed up. Our hosts are security lawyers....like super private eyes.
We were packed up and ready to go....for the 4am wakeup.
But...we love our guy....so we backed up, unpacked and made three plates.
One of the guys was a vegetarian.....no meat.
We had just tossed the last of our Alaskan halibut....fish so gorgeous that Edward Weston would have been there for us to record it. Mother of pearl.....a filet like a long pile of Bolivian flake....and almost as expensive.
We unpack all our stuff we had just packed up at the end of a 20 hour day....and gave the guy a plate of all the non-meat. (The meat was Bill Niman organic tri-tip.....)
Organic wild rice salade with organic cranberries, currants, sunflower and punkin seeds with balsamic vinegar. Hog Farms organic new season asparagus. Organic Yukon gold spuds. Baby lettuce from my own new expensive garden. Organic pineapple flown in from Hawaii, with mint I grew myself.
"Sorry, sir. The fish, like Elvis, has already left the building. Here are a bunch of organic salads and such.."
"How do I know it is really organic. People lie about this all the time."
Luckily for this guy.....he was so late that I did not have actual time enough to piss in his food. Instead, I told him:
"All our farmers have faces.....and by the way, fuck you and the late-ass horse you rode in on."
All three late arrivers were African American attorneys......
Because I was not able to pull delicate, gorgeous halibut out of the trash two hours after service....I am a racist.....and everyone was to know this.
Here is the deal: If you arrive at a party more than thirty minutes late, even during an earthquake....
You are a douche bag.
If the caterer or host feeds you anyway.....you are a grateful douchbag who may live to be a douchebag another day.
If you happen to be an African American lawyer who arrives more than two hours late for a party.....and immediately grills the working folks who have been up for 40 hours about the existential meaning of the word "organic"....
And then strongly imply that the reason you don't get the same food and selection all the polite, timely people got is because you are black....
Out my office window I look straight across the Valley at Rancho Chupinos and Rancho Sin Frenos. There is a long fence line that runs up the hills from the Valley floor. Lupines on the right at Sin Frenos......poppies on the left at Chupinos. Like a knife cut.....gold on one side, rich blue on the other. Go figure. Different cows?
I am trying to ignore what I learned in my Sustainable Grasslands Class: fields of lupines or poppies are indicative of a seriously compromised pasture. It turns out the native grasses do a much better job of competing with lupines than the invasive European grasses.....and you don't get acres of gorgeous blue and gold. Sorry, Cal. Sorry, UCLA. Wait, wait.....I know: Cal isn't Blue..... it's Azure or some such.....
So.....just like the ocean. Whaddaya like: Fuzzy sea otters and kelp.....or abalones.
Puppy and I have been walking at least twice a day. Spring fever has hit German Wirehair Pointer Land.....and the dog is nuts. Well, he still has his nuts....which is no doubt the real problem.
We have been watching the wildflowers come out now for two months. As you no doubt have observed....there is a bumper crop. Big Sur is going off. In the Valley, on the cold side of the hill we have so much miner's lettuce that we could sell it by the pound.....by the box.....by the pallet. I used it for centerpieces at a crazy fancy dinner party last weekend: long stemmed miner's lettuce.
Last Sunday we counted 22 blooming different flowers on our little two mile hike (five miles for puppy). I can prove that Xabi runs five miles because I broke down and bought a Garmin Astro Dog Tracking System. Xabi now looks like Astro of the Jetsons, complete with antenna. As much as I appreciate hearing through the blog from Joyce Bock and asazl that Xabi is running along Carmel Valley Road.....I want to be the first to know.
The Garmin is nice....but I am a tech geek. Not enough of a tech geek to actually know what I am doing....but it is somehow comforting to be able to put a numerical label on our ramblings: 4.85 miles, covering 12 acres in area, climbing and descending through 600 feet, etc.
The Garmin is for mach hunters. You can mark on the map you generate as you walk where various landmarks are: Truck; Covey (number observed and number taken), etc.
I mark wildflowers. Fuckin' hippy.
Our first wildflower this year was Hounds Tongue (Cynoglossum grande). It has big, floppy leaves that apparently the Indians thought looked like dog tongue. (Give the dog some water, Chief!) The Indians ground up the roots to use as a dressing on burns and scalds, and took it internally for stomach ache....and venereal disease. Good luck with that one, Chief.
I really like old Hounds Tongue....it gets more and more dramatic as the season progresses. And it is a forget-me-not on top of everything else. Gotta love that, right?
It turns out that you have to be careful around cattle people and grassland people when you talk about Hound's Tongue. It turns out that there is an evil cousin....an invader named cynoglossum officianalis (that looks nothing like my guy) that destroys pastures and trails, and is toxic to animals. It slowly destroys their livers after a single dose.....but it takes six months of agony. There is even an emergency number to call if you spot any.
I had a cousin like that.
Yesterday morning I finally dragged Amanda along on the morning dog hike. We counted 28 wildflowers blooming.....without even counting the soon-to-bloom yarrow and the evil pasture-eating star thistle.
The bottom of the easy-going road hike ends in a meadow that is routinely breathtaking.....winter, fall, spring, summer.....morning, noon and night. It is owned by some people from Marin who never come down. They tried to sell ten acres of meadow, oaks and wildflowers for $150,000 ten years ago and got discouraged and bummed at Carmel Valley life.
Yeah well, what a crappy meadow anyway. Who wants to buy a crappy meadow like this? (Well, it is a crappy cellphone foto.... of XabiAstro in soft grass with Shooting Stars).
Oh, and the view sucks, too. Go back to Marin!
My crappy cellphone foto doesn't grab the gorgeous distant Gaelic green of the hills above Sin Frenos off in the distance....
In our count of 28, we added two more flowers to the list because we figured out that one of the "cute little white pokey up" (we are very technical botanists) flowers was actually two completely different species. We are so spoiled with the plethora of blooms on the mountain that we actually never have to even bend over.....or even slow down....to see all this different crazy variety.
Like Speed Dating.
So.....I took the new white flower home and did research.
Meet Bitter Cress.....a flower new to me that is busy all over our mountain. And all over everywhere in California.
Bitter Cress is a crucifer....like mustard and the cabbages and broccoli, etc. Supposedly the whole cruz part of the name is because the four flowers form a cross. Less charitable people say the cross thing comes from the chemical formula involving sulphur......as in broccoli farts.
Bitter Cress is only bitter if you are a lame ass. It is great....with a wonderful peppery, horseradish pungeance.
The Native Brothers were down with Bitter Cress, aka Toothwort. Check it out:
"Toothwort is a North American evergreen plant that grows best in deep, moist woodland areas. It has thick dark green stem leaves that are notched, and are divided into three broad leaflets. The roots are tender with long rhizomes that grow close to the top of the ground. Native American tribes made a type of mace powder from the root of this herb and blew it into the eyes of the enemy to disable them. They used the dried herb as snuff to cause hallucinations during rituals. Toothwort is said to have sedative, digestive, analgesic, and tonic properties.
Not to mention:
The fresh or dried root of Toothwort works great on toothache pain. A tea made from the root is used in treating colds and congestion, and as a gargle for sore throats. Toothwort tea can also be used to soothe and calm nerves and is a mild natural relaxant. The fresh juice can aid in digestion. The crushed root of Toothwort can be used externally as a plaster for aches, pains, and rheumatism. The fresh roots of this herb are edible and are hot and peppery to taste. It has even been used as a substitute for horseradish.
Wow! My new friend is the bomb.....and it is all over the woods this year.
I have been using the dew that stays in the miners lettuce cups all day as an impromtu drinking bottle.....now I have a salad with vision and a toothache cure!
Not to mention something for our shotgun-wielding schizophrenic mime at The Store......
Coming soon to a salad near you.....and maybe the Cachagua-style Taser to boot.