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.