Friday, May 29, 2015

Sepia Saturday: Julia's Kitchen

This week's prompt suggests kitchens, pies, colour slides. Pardon the Canadian spelling.

I thought about this photo of Julia Child in her kitchen in "La Pitchoune", her house in France in Provence, not far from Grasse. The room as described in Travel and Leisure: "The walls are covered with Peg-Board, upon which hangs an armory of cooking equipment: saucepans and frying pans of all sizes, ladles, spoons, sieves, and springform cake pans, whisks, mallets, can openers, corkscrews, and measuring cups, knives, scissors, colanders, potato ricers, and a hand-cranked meat grinder. Each object is outlined in black, so when you take something down, you know exactly where to put it back."

La Pitchoune - you can rent it!
And here's my nephew last year in the very same Julia's kitchen in the south of France. The family rented the house next door to "La Pitchoune" for a summer vacation. Little could have pleased my nephew more than wandering around this hallowed ground for cooks. Things have changed from the days when a self-respecting man wouldn't set foot in the kitchen.

Ah....the good old days.
What a great guy!

And finally, here's my nephew's mother and me at a cooking school in Bali earlier this year. Zuzu has an enormous repertoire of chicken recipes she perfected when her kids were growing up. Now she cooks mostly for pleasure or when it's a novelty, or a cultural experience as it is in Bali. Or when the recipes involve plenty of wine and the conviviality of chopping away with your good friends and people you love.  

Debra taking the second chopping shift.
After our delicious Balinese lunch, we escaped with no dish washing duty. I shudder to think of how the kitchen might have looked after preparing meals in 1896 when this dishwasher was offered for sale. 

And an added bonus - the modern woman's guide to roasting chicken, 

Roast Chicken with Garlic, Shallots, and Potatoes
6 servings
Drive to Costco. Park and enter store, showing membership card at door. Walk to deli department and purchase perfectly roasted chicken for $4.99. Drive home and portion onto paper plates. If possible select a modern craft beer to serve with the chicken. Perhaps a pleasant feminine brew like My Asis. 

  • 1 3½ to 4 pound chicken
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme or rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf
  • olive oil
  • 1½ pounds small red potatoes, washed
  • 2 heads garlic, cut in half, crosswise
  • 6 large shallots, root ends trimmed
  • 1 cup chicken stock
Preheat oven to 350°F.  Season the inside cavity of the chicken and tuck in a few sprigs or thyme or rosemary and a bay leaf. Rub the outside with olive oil and season with more salt and pepper. Transfer to a roasting pan, large enough to hold the chicken, potatoes, garlic and shallots.
Scatter the potatoes, shallots, garlic and a few sprigs of fresh herbs, around the chicken, season with salt and pepper. Drizzle the chicken broth and about 1/4 cup olive oil over the vegetables. Bake for about 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours, turning the vegetables half way through the cooking time. Bake until the juices in the thigh run yellow when tested with the tip of a knife.

Interlude in Muscat, Oman

Richard was buying shrimp at Albertson's and he noticed the lobster tails were labeled as a "product of Oman".  He commented to the counter man about their origin - the man replied the lobster tails were from Canada. Richard repeated that he could read the sign from his side of the counter, which stated they were from Oman. "Yes," said the man, "They're from Canada." He's either hard of hearing or short on geography knowledge. When you read the short article below, you wonder how part of the small and precious, presumably valuable catch ended up frozen in our Albertson's. 
Lobster from Oman - Oman Daily Observer

March 15th, 2015. MUSCAT — The lobster fishing season begins today along the coast overlooking the Arabian Sea in the governorates of Al Wusta, Dhofar and South Al Sharqiyah and lasts for two month. The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries said in a statement that it has completed the preparations for the lobster fishing season regarding the services related to awareness, inspection, researches, statistics and media coverage to make the season successful and also for the best exploitation and conservation of this national treasure. The ministry has organised a number of lectures and seminars to increase fishermen’s awareness about the regulations and legislations governing lobster fishing and also the ministerial decision aimed at regulating the fishing season. Additionally, the ministry’s experts and inspectors will follow up the fishing operations during the season. — ONA
We're spending a few days in "Muscat" as in Muscat, Oman, after two weeks in Iran; we'll be resting up there before going to London for a week. A few years ago we were in Washington DC while a public relations blitz for Oman was taking place. We were intrigued and we added it to our bucket list.  Muscat was named as the second best tourist city by Lonely Planet in 2012. Here's what they said about it:
"Oman is firing on all fronts to attract international visitors, expanding everything from its museums to its resorts. Muscat is the focus for the revamp, with cultural events, luxury accommodation and aquatic activities taking centre stage. This year it’s all about Qurum’s trendy designer outlets, Old Town souks and wacky water sports enlivening its coastline alongside traditional dhows. Muscatis are still genuinely interested to see visitors, so much so that first-timers might have the odd feeling of returning to the house of an old friend. ‘Tomorrow will be a new dawn on Muscat,’ the Sultan pledged upon attaining power in 1970. Today in Muscat, the sun has well and truly risen."

What to do there? You can bake your brains out on the beach. The winter escapees from Northern Europe do just that. Off go the winter coats and out come the thong bathing suits and Coppertone. I will likely be relieved to be liberated from the head scarf.

Omani Souqs (Markets) they say "are always bustling with tourists. Shoppers can even get their hands on old Arabian muskets at these souqs." I guess Arabian muskets are a hot item.

Nearly every Omani city and town has it own fort. Most of them were built or had major expansions during Al-Yurabi dynasty rule of Oman in between 1624 and 1744. We'll visit one of the following: Al-Jalali Fort, Al-Mirani Fort, Nakhal Fort, Rustaq Fort, Sohar Fort, Nizwa Fort, Bahla Fort, Qurayat Fort, Khasab Fort, Al-Hellah Fort, Al-Khandaq Fort, As-Suwaiq Fort, Barka Fort, Bait An-Nuaman, Al-Hazm Fort, Ibri Fort, Bait Ar-Radaidah, Jibrin Fort, Al-Muntarib Fort, As-Sunaisilah Fort, Bilad Sur Fort, Ras al-Hadd Fort, Mirbat Fort, Sadah Fort and Taqa Fort. I only list them because I like the names.

The Frankincense Route might be interesting to follow, but we won't have enough time. At the least, I'd like to visit a frankincense factory to see what a room full of it smells like. The trees are tapped by slashing the bark and letting the resin seep out. Chunks of the resin are burned for the aroma.
Here's some interesting information about a compound found in Frankincense resin and it's potential in the treatment of some cancers. Maybe we should be ripping out our avocado trees and growing Frankincense.

From Wikipedia: In 2013, Leicester University researchers announced findings that AKBA (acetyl-11-keto-beta-boswellic acid), a chemical compound in the resin, has cancer-killing properties and has the potential to destroy ovarian cancer cells. The lead researcher from the University's Department of Cancer Studies and Molecular Medicine announced the findings after a year studying the AKBA compound with ovarian cancer cell lines in vitro that showed it is effective at killing late stage cancer cells. Kamla Al-Salmani noted that among surprising findings were that some cells that had become resistant to chemotherapy were killed during the in vitro study. The efficacy of AKBA as a potential medicine for treatment of cancers(colon, breast and prostate) has been tested. The results are based on the preliminary and unverified findings of the laboratory study, which marked the first study to identify an ability to fight ovarian cancer. It is in early stages and, as of 2014, yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal.

I'd also be interesting in seeing a falaj. The five Omani falajs in have been included on the World Heritage List because they represent a cultural legacy created by the Omanis over 2,000 years ago. They still work and are in use in some Omani villages.

Shukran and Ma'al Salamah.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

What cat?

Iran - Unearthing the ruins of Persepolis!

I asked Richard where he'd like to go on his annual birthday trip. "Iran" he answered without hesitating. Gulp. Iran was not at the top of my bucket list - in fact, it wasn't on my bucket list at all. But..I asked, and he answered. We began making plans and figuring out how we could get tickets on Emirates with our dwindling cache of frequent flyer miles. We managed to do it and although circuitous, it won't be dull. We leave San Diego and overnight in Seattle; next day we fly to Houston and thence to Dubai. We'll stay in Dubai a couple of days for jet lag adjustment and fly Dubai to Tehran where we're picked up at the airport by a driver/guide who will stay with us for two weeks as we travel around. From Tehran we'll fly to Muscat, Oman for 4 days of R and R, back to Dubai and then onto London for 6 nights. From London, we fly to Mexico City and finally back to San Diego. 

As instructed, I had my visa photo taken while wearing my head covering. I think I look vaguely like Mother Theresa. I wish I was as good as she....even 1/100th as good. Of course, women must cover the hair at all times in public which doesn't sound too bad until you try it. I'll also have to wear a manteau which is pretty much a lab coat which covers up your body; ankles and wrists, those terrible teasers, have to be covered. Ankles and wrists are the only parts remaining on my corpus that haven't yet shown significant aging.  If just one of my wrists were to escape and hang naked out of a sleeve, the Iranian men would be driven out of their minds. 

Our itinerary (see below) reads quaintly. Some quotes: 

"Meet warm Iranians in Hafiz tomb reciting his poems." "Unearth the ruins of Persepolis." Unearth?

I'm a little worried about day 7 in the desert but I'm trusting I'll enjoy the caravanserai. We'll be doing a lot of "pondering, amazing, admiring, reflecting, learning and treading" according to the writer of this brochure. I've been reading trip reports on-line on the Fodors and other travel sites and most visitors have loved Iran, including Rick Steves and Anthony Bourdain who each made films on their visits. I'm hoping we'll share their feelings. 

I'm actually worried about NO WINE for two weeks. Holding a scarf on my head and maneuvering in a long lab coat in the heat is one thing, but NO WINE?? Pray for us.

Day 1
See Iran National museum and get amazed at its priceless pieces, spend your time in the busiest Bazaar in Iran and maybe sip some tea in a nice tea-house. Discover the eye-catching precious collection of Jewels of Iranian 2500 years of Monarchy in the Iran Jewels museum.
Day 2
Fly to Shiraz in the morning and after the hotel check-in head to the  Zand complex including the castle, gardens and mosque to get a sense of Shiraz as a capital 250 years ago.

Day 3
Drive to Persepolis and Necropolis (Naghshe Rostam) and Unearth the ruins of Persepolis as a world heritage. Meet warm Iranians in Hafez tomb reciting his poems.

Day 4
Drive to Kerman to discover how people adapted their life to a dessert city surrounded by mountains.

Day 5

Get acquainted with Sufism and mysticism by visiting Moshtagh Alishah tomb, uncover Iranian old style hammams  in Ganjalikhan hammam of Kerman, see Kerman Jame mosque and its majestic Persia structure. In the afternoon drive to Mahan. Meet Sufis who have travelled a long way to pay homage to their  Sufi master Shah Nematollah Valiin his shrine. Laze in Shahzadeh Gardens and admire a great example of Persian gardens that depicts a high contrast between a green garden and a harsh dessert at the background.

Day 6
Drive to Rayen and spot the imposing deserted citadel of Rayen. Then drive to Shahdad and reflect on what natural forces and time has built there.

Day 7
Drive to Zeinoddin desert and ponder life in Zeinoddin Carevanserai and its scenic surroundings.

Day 8
Drive to Yazd and get into the mysterious world of Zoroastrians by visiting their fire temple and towers of silence there. Admire people of Iranian plateau by visiting Yazd water museum and learn about the underground water canals, Qanats. Gaze at the high minarets and nice brick and tile work of Yazd Jame mosque and visit the marvelous Islamic Amirchaghmagh complex.

Day 9
Drive to the most sacred site for the Zoroastrians around the world in Chak Chak Yazd. Then head to Kharanagh and visit this deserted which is amazing in architecture and landscapes.

Day 10
Drive to Isfahan on the way visiting Nain and its historic Jame mosque.

Day 11
Get acquainted with the historic Royal square of Isfahan registered as a world heritage. Visit picturesque Royal mosque, Sheikh-Lotfollah mosque.Ponder on the breathtaking Armenian Vank church In Isfahan and marvel around Isfahan Armenian quarter, Jolfa. Stroll aside Isfahan river and admire the masters who built several bridges over it through the history.

Day 12
Today is at leisure.

Day 13
Drive to Kashan. On the way visit Abyaneh as one of the oldest villages in Iran and meet its people who still speak old Persian and wear beautiful costumes.

Day 14
Get an insight into Iranian traditional houses by visiting Tabatabai and Boroojerdiha houses. Tread in Fin gardens of Kashan and once again praise Persian garden designers. Taste Iranian food at the cooking class hosted by a local family.

Day 15
Drive to Tehran.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Sepia Saturday 280 : Reverses

The themes for Sepia Saturday 280 - include boys, girls and dances. The caption on the old vintage postcard reads "In Leap Year - The Ladies after a little wine and tobacco join the gentlemen in the drawing room". So another potential theme you could have is that of "reverses" - occasions when the usual arrangements are reversed. 

One option suggested for the theme for this week can be "reverses" - women encroaching in a traditionally male territory. My photo illustrates a single man in a sea of women. One of my dear old friends, Bill, joined all the ladies, former Lawry's co-workers, mostly former techies (product development, quality control, consumer services, sensory evaluation), for a potluck lunch a few weeks ago. Bill was our packaging engineer and figured out the how, what and where we should package the new products the rest of us were developing. I sepia-ized it for this special occasion. We didn't plan the photo; the hostesses' neighbor on his way to his car offered to take a group shot. We all rushed over to the stairs and "click" the shot was shot - one shot, all eyes open, all smiles. Bill ended up in the front and center spot, where he belongs (on that day at least). We had a wonderful time together; some of the people hadn't seen each other for over 25 years. It's amazing that we've all remained friends.

Here we are un-sepia-ized: 

Click on over to Sepia Saturday to see what others have done with this prompt.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Sepia Saturday 279: Danger!

The theme for this week's Sepia Saturday relates to safety, danger, industry. I don't have photos of
hazards or industrial works but I do have some photos borrowed from the internet of events that occur around here and strike fear into us.

Arnold Genthe photo - 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire. From Wikipedia

Aren't the weather girls pretty? Look at the long beautiful hair, the perfect make-up, the slinky dresses showing off all their curves. Eye candy. Well, that may be what you see.When those pretty girls come on screen with that map behind them and start talking about Santa Ana winds, they're often the harbingers of doom for us.

Where we live, disaster comes most often in the form of fire. Yeah, yeah, we get earthquakes and they're terrible, but we live with the fear of fire almost daily. I've posted the famous Arnold Genthe photo of San Francisco in 1906 when they got the double whammy of earthquake and fire.

Now that we've endured a four-year drought, the fire situation here is worse than ever. We live in an area where people have 5 acre or 10 acre lots and engage in minor agricultural pursuits; no concrete jungle. There's plenty of dry brush around and it goes up in seconds when the temperature rises, the fires start and the Santa Ana winds begin blowing.

About the Santa Ana winds from  Wikipedia.
The Santa Ana winds are a part of popular culture in Los Angeles: In Raymond Chandler's 1938 short story Red Wind (another name for the winds), the Santa Anas were described as "those hot dry [winds] that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. "On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen."

Do we pick up the carving knife and feel the edge when the wind blows? No...we have no time to think about murdering each other. We prepare to evacuate! I've done it three times since I've lived in San Diego County. We have boxes in our garage ready to fill if the evacuation phone call comes. I keep the old photos, important records and our pet carrier for the cats at the ready. At the same time that we're getting our paltry things together, people around us are making sure they're ready to evacuate horses, chickens, pigs, goats, sheep and all manner of animals.

Still life, after the fire.
Twice, in two different locations, the house beside me burned down. Once in Bend, Oregon and once in Glendale, California. Here in Fallbrook, we've had fires come too close for comfort. Two of my friends lost their homes in the last big Fallbrook fire, in 2007.

I didn't think I would be able to write anything this week, but RAIN today has kept me indoors. Yes, at last, when we thought the possibility of precipitation was over for the year. We've received almost 2 inches of rain - our avocado trees are sighing with relief and we're rejoicing.

For more thrills and danger, head over to Sepia Saturday.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Blog Entry #1000

“If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy. ― Dorothy Parker

For some bloggers, 1000 blog posts is nothing but a walk in the park. For me, it's a major milestone.  I estimate I've coughed up about 600,000 words on this blog which is the length of three good sized novels. But blogging is nisn 't really writing...a novel is infinitely more difficult than just blabbing away as we bloggers do.

My blog is more a diary than anything else and in "The New Diary," the blog is described as a cultural phenomenon rather than a system of writing. I learned in this book that diaries were originally kept by "witches" attempting to preserve pagan wisdom which probably accounts for the taboo of silence and secrecy associated with them in Western tradition. It explains why they were and continue to be locked and why it was considered a terrible breach of decency to read someone else's. If a witch's diary was discovered, not only might the book be burned, but it's writer might be burned as well. Blogs are the polar opposite of diaries in this respect. Bloggers are not seeking anonymity - no, no, no! Nothing pleases a blogger more than a high number of views and best of all, a comment or two.

Sometimes There areAt times I can sit and write pages effortlessly; most of the time, I struggle. I began Guacamole Gulch in 2007 after my sister died when there was a hole in my heart and in my life. As I began writing family stories, and sharing them with friendswhich I formerly discussed with Eilleen, and eventually scanned and added our old family pictures, I enjoyed working on the blog more and more. Blogs come "alive" in a way when you develop  acquire an audience. Once breathing, they have a way of making make you feel guilty if you leave them unattended for too long ignore them - like the plant, Audrey2, in "Little Shop of Horrors." Mine sobs, "Feed me" if I neglect it for too long.

I try to feed wholesome  material to the blog which I find interesting, but at times it wants to be fed junk. I indulge it once in a while. By junk, I mean contrived stuff to write written just for the sake of sustaining momentum. not something I'm really interested in.  The worst one I wrote was on the subject of Morph Suits and it turned out to be my most viewed entry. As H. L. Mencken said brilliantly, "Nobody ever went broke underestimating the bad taste of the American public."

I've learned something about writing every day. I cannot resist buying writer's guides and references. because even though I'm long in the tooth, you're never too old to learn something. From most, I've learned at least one useful thing. The best of all the guidesis still remains, "The Elements of Style" by Strunk and White - 90 pages of the essentials. I have the third edition.

I'm trying my best to omit needless words and to express myself concisely. After all, Vigorous writing is concise. Strunk and White advises the writer to avoid fancy words. That means I have to stop using words like somnifacient (soporific), nesiote (living on a island), grobian (lout), scobiform (like sawdust). It means I have to pack up my father's copy of Jarrold's Dictionary of Difficult Words. It is a pleasure nevertheless to browse through these marvelous words that are all but extinct in today's language.

Blogs tend to breezy by nature, but I feel like a phony when I try using this style. Sorry, I'll never be authentically breezy. Whenever I try this, I actually blush. From Strunk and White: "Do not write in a breezy manner. The breezy style is often the style of an egocentric, the person who imagines that everything that pops into his or her head is of general interest..." From another guide I realized how cliche-ridden my writing was and my speech. Believe it or not, I can hardly get through a conversation without saying, "gilding the lily" at least once.  Let's face it, with blogging, the temptation to use the "easy expression" is great. 

Some of my writing has lost some spontaneity at times since I began, because I'm now inhibited super-sensitive toby grammar and other details. Although I recently purchased a subscription to Grammerly which is quite helpful - although Strunk and White, my Bible disagrees with Grammerly in many instances. SW alleges, "Only the writer whose ear is reliable is in a position to use bad grammar deliberately; only she knows for sure when a colloquialism is better than formal phrasing; only she is able to sustain her work at the level of good taste. So, cock your ear." Strunk and White are all for splitting infinitives when it sounds good; for ending sentences with a preposition when it works.

The "Said" book is useful. I don't write conversation often, but when I do, I can usually improve the sound and flow by incorporating something from this little handbook. The phrases themselves are stimulating and bring to mind many scenes: "Go to Hell," she said with furious hauteur flouncing out the door. Maybe I'll try to write a short story incorporating all this anger.......

After reading the below advice, I routinely attempt a 50% cut. 

Sometimes my blog has been 100% unnecessary material and the triage is ugly. 

I've enjoyed reading fellow bloggers and have learned plenty from my friends Nancy and Barbara and Robert (on the verge of 1,000,000 hits) and the Sepians and the other handful of bloggers I read regularly. If I had all the time and money available in the world, I'd attend one of the many a blogger convention and hopefully pick up more tips. and have some fun. 
Here's the pitch material from the 2015 New Media convention in Las Vegas. On second thought, I'm not doing this to "stand out" (in a field of 181 million competitors - what folly would that be?) or to monetize so I might not benefit from such an event. What I'd like to achieve is a blog that consistently interests me and the people I like and want to interest. 

Did you know there are more than 181 million blogs around the world?* So, how do you stand out when there’s so much competition out there? Well, to succeed in any industry, you have to know the latest information, tools, and resources so you can make your mark. We’ve assembled experts from the blogging community who are prepared to share their best tips for creating better content, growing your audience and distribution, and monetizing your blog. Whether you’re just starting out, looking to take your blog to the next level, or are in search of some quality networking, joining the blogging community at NMX will offer the solutions you need.
The writing that has most inspired me lately has been M.K. Fisher (my infatuation with her has continued for some forty years), Stephen King whose book "On writing: A Memoir of the Craft" I've found incredibly useful and Anne Patchett's advice in "This is the story of a Happy Marriage." Last but not least, "Granta - the magazine of new writing." My husband introduced me to this quarterly and when it arrives, we fight over it. Back I go to the "Said" book to assist in writing about our Granta fights..."Did I see you hiding the new Granta?" she asked in a hoarse and furious voice. "Yes," he snapped with savage impatience.  

Granta - latest issue
Malcolm Gladwell opines you have to must do something 10,000 times before you get good at it. If I apply this guide to my blog, and increase my blogging at the writing rate of 150 entries per year, I'll be good at blogging by 2075. I'll also be 132 years old. The numbers ain't aren't in my favor. 

“I like to get ten pages a day, which amounts to 2,000 words. That’s 180,000 words over a three-month span, a goodish length for a book — something in which the reader can get happily lost, if the tale is done well and stays fresh.”

LA Philharmonic Concert

JH center for the
The first movement of the Brahms piano concerto was over; Bronfman, the vigorous pianist, had mopped his forehead and taken a breath; his hands were poised over the piano to start the second movement. You'd take Bronfman for a construction worker before you'd guess he's a concert pianist. He's a big bear of a man. Dudamel raised his baton. All the musicians were poised to go when a door opened on the side of the hall and a man entered, ticket in hand. He began to walk across the front of the hall, right across the front row when he tripped. Anybody who hadn't noticed his entrance before certainly did after his near fall. He composed himself and continued to walk briskly to his $400.00 (I'm guessing at this) seat which was directly front and center. His seat was right at Bronfman's feet. As he sat down, he looked up sheepishly at the pianist, who smiled ever so slightly and gave him a nod. Everyone in the hall laughed - it was a fine, warm moment. Dudamel raised his baton and they went at the remainder of the concerto with gusto. 

The rest of the program was splendid; there wasn't so much as a cough from the audience throughout the performance despite the full house. I'd never heard the Ricecar before and was bit underwhelmed. The Bach orchestral suite was lovely and I heard a continuo for the first time. Like a harpsichord, it sounds a bit tinkly but adds a fluttery quality to the orchestra. Best of all was the Toccato and Fugue played by the full symphony orchestra. We'd heard it before many times played on the organ, which, of course, is fabulous. The full orchestra version, arranged by Stokowski, was mind-blowing. The last 16 bars or so, the strings are sawing, full out, as fast as they can go. I swear I saw smoke, but it was probably flying rosin. A great performance and such a joy to watch Dudamel holding everything together. 

As we expected, the audience for an 11:00 a.m. performance was mature, but not decrepit. The majority looked between 50 - 70. One poor soul got caught in the escalator somehow and as we descended we saw him being attended to by paramedics. His walker was beside him...he must have gotten caught in the mechanism somehow. He didn't look very good, bleeding from the head. His wife or caretaker was lying beside him...God knows what happened to her. Shades of the future. When you're fragile and in a walker with imperfect eye sight and hearing, you can get slightly off balance, miss a few beats and even an escalator has potential for danger. 

Getting in and out of the parking area went smoothly. They have enough attendants on hand to keep everyone rolling in the right direction. Rain was starting to fall and the freeway was getting more and more snarled by the minute. We made it to Arcadia by 2:30 and found our way to Din Tai Fung. 

How to Cook a Wolf

Me, my big sister Eilleen, Lorraine Vopnfjord

"There's a whining at the threshold,
There's a scratching at the floor.
To work! To work! In Heaven's name!
The wolf is at the door!"
- C.P. Gilman

Me, Marilyn Holland and Len Vopnfjord in the backyard waiting for the wolf to cook.

I've been reading and writing about writing and trying to improve my own style. The other day, I was reading one of the best food writers ever, M.F.K. Fisher. Thumbing through the pages of "How to Cook a Wolf", I looked at the frontispiece and was surprised and delighted to see this inscription below. I thought I was handling my own copy of the book, but this one belonged to my mother, Jill. Lorraine was our neighbor, daughter of Axel, my mother's long-term boyfriend and father of Len, my childhood pal. 

Occasionally, Len as a young boy ate dinner with us. My mother used to tell fondly the story of Len's reply to her inquiry on one occasion of what he'd like to eat. "Wolf," he replied. We should have known then that Len would go on to make a big impact whatever he said and did.

When he wasn't eating wolf, Len sang whenever he could. One year, I car pooled to the university with Len and two other boys on our street. We sang on our way to school and often on our way home.One of the two other boys in the car pool was Ross Maddin whose little brother Guy went on to become one of Canada's most celebrated film makers and artists. I didn't know Guy but Len told me about his I film, "My Winnipeg" which won high critical acclaim. It's very unusual and very good. The scene below of horses frozen in the river will give you an idea of the quirkiness of the film.

When Len met Karen his wife, they communicated by song and have spent their lives singing together and to each other. I don't think I've ever known a couple so in love and for so long. Both of their sons had or have musical careers.
Len and Karen 

Son Lindy currently on tour
Lindy Vopnfjord
Len, Karen, Lindy singing together at the Icelandic Festival. True Vikings. 

My mother Jill, Axel - Lorraine and Len's father

The wolf in Fisher's book is a metaphor for the scarcities during the depression and World War II. Her book is about living as decently as possible with the miseries of war. Who knew when it was going to end? Prophetically, she states, "The case for peace is feeble." 

She goes on, "War is a beastly business, it is true, but one proof that we are human is our ability to learn, even from it, how better to exist." She wrote a revised edition in 1951 by which time we were in the grips of the Cold war. She says "We need not worry, temporarily at least, about basic cupboards for blackouts...while at the same time we try not to think, even superficially, about what and when and how and where to nourish survivors of the next kind of bomb." By the time she wrote this, we were in 4th grade, ducking under our seats during air raid drills. My Dad was the neighborhood Air Raid warden...he had a helmet, an arm band and miscellaneous other materials in a box in the basement. I'd go through it from time to time looking at the scary stuff. 
The shortages were at their worst in 1942, the year I was born. I remember the coffee rationing and my mother putting the glass percolator in the center of the dining room table. We sat around looking at it and everyone got a small portion - my sister and I had a tablespoon in our milk. Later that year, sugar,butter and other dairy products were in short supply followed by rationing of gasoline, clothing, alcohol and even maple syrup.

My mother cut our 1/4 pound per week butter allotment into smaller pieces which she doled out - I guess if she hadn't controlled us, we would have eaten it all at once and then complained mightily about the loss. She always controlled my Dad's whiskey bottles. He got the agreed upon ration each night, no more and no less. There was a lesson in restraint learned from all the rationing. She was a great saver of food, money and time; a model of self-control.