Friday, May 24, 2019

A Taste of Home

When my father's mother was nearing the end of her life, I don't know for what particular reason her diet was restricted, but I remember her saying "when I can eat again, all I want is a big slice of rare roast beef."

I don't know why I think of that from time to time. Maybe because as I get older, things don't taste quite the same as they used to and I miss the foods I used to love.  It's strange how many vivid food memories I have.  It's no wonder that I have had a  weight problem all of my life.

Walt went to San Francisco yesterday to go to a symphony matinee and decided to take the train down, so I took him to the train station at 8:30.  On the way home, I stopped at the donut shop and picked up a couple of donuts for breakfast.  I love donuts but almost never buy them, for several reasons -- one because I need them like I need a hole in the head, and two because it means getting up and out in the morning and doesn't seem worth the effort, but whenever I do get donuts at this particular shop, I'm always happy because if you get there early enough the donuts are still warm and so very, very fresh.  

I always think back to my days at UC Berkeley and the mornings we would go to Mass at the Newman center and then walk down to a donut shop nearby where I'd have a couple of warm donuts and hot chocolate.  What a way to start the morning.

My father didn't cook much, but when he did, what he made was memorable.  I have never had a potato salad to match his.  He said the secret was to slice the potatoes very thin, but even with that and adding the onions, mayonnaise, and sweet pickles that he mixed together, I've never been able to recreate that special taste.  I was his "taster" whenever he made potato salad, to let him know if he had the salt right.  My mother occasionally made potato salad, but it was never quite right.

I also remember the first time he made egg nog from scratch.  I can picture myself sitting in the kitchen while he worked in the pantry and gave me a taste of what he was making (without the liquor, of course).  It was like drinking flavored cream and I loved it.

He once made...and I can't remember what they are called, but Italian meat pies.  How he loved Italian food and swore that somewhere in his genes there were Italian ancestors.  But his pies were delicious and I have had them many times in many places, but never as good as the ones he made.
Of course then there were the peanut butter cookies that you had to drink from a glass.  We always teased him about that.  I don't know what he put in the mix, but whatever it was, it had the consistency of milk.

He always wanted the richest and the most calorie filled.  We would occasionally have taste tests where he would sit in our laundry room and open the window into the kitchen and we would give him a taste of two things and he would decide which was the was always the thing that had the most calories.

My mother was a good cook, but mostly cooked "basic" things, though she made the best meatloaf, which try as I might, I have been unable to duplicate.  My cousin Peach had the same complaint.  She loved my mother's meatloaf and could not duplicate it either.  Something about the texture, I think.  I can't get the texture right.

One thing I remember most about my mother's cooking was her chocolate cream roll.  She must have made it often when I was a kid.  It was a chocolate sponge cake that was turned out onto a powdered sugar covered towel after it came out of the oven.  The edges were trimmed off (Karen and I got to eat them) and the cake was rolled tightly until it cooled.  When it was cooled, she unrolled it, filled it with real whipped cream, rolled it back up again and frosted it with a dark chocolate frosting--something else I have been unable to duplicate, despite my many years as a cake decorator.  I have often thought of making my own chocolate cream roll but don't think I ever did.

But outside of home, throughout my life there are special moments..."nothing" moments really, that I remember vividly because of the foods involved.

I worked for a summer at a tool company with my friend Joycie.  We would meet for breakfast before work each morning and I can still taste the wonderful pastries I had there, loaded with butter and just toasted enough.  Another taste I was never able to duplicate, though I've tried.

That was an interesting place.  The guy sold those cheap dollar tools and I was his biller-clerk.  I don't know why but I can't remember his name, but I remember that his birthday was March 24.  And I remember after I left the job reading that he had been arrested for something related to fraudulent business practices.  I wonder whatever happened to him....

I can picture the restaurant where I sat with my boyfriend Bill and his father.  The father ordered sweetbreads and Bill dared me to try them.  I didn't have a clue what sweetbreads were until years later -- and how could I pass up something with "sweet" and "bread" in the name? But I remember liking what I tasted.  I wouldn't eat them now that I know it's really the pancreas from a lamb or cow.  Shudder.  But I didn't know that at the time.

Like I can picture sitting at my grandmother's table (my mother's mother) and eating tongue for the first and only time and how much I liked it until I thought about it later and didn't want to ever eat it again.  I am not an adventurous eater.

I did agree to eat escargot once, though, when I took Gilbert to dinner at a French restaurant.  He had taken Paul and me to dinner somewhere after a rehearsal of a play Paul was in and someone nearby had escargot.  That buttery garlic smell was enticing and he talked about how delicious escargot was, so I decided I would try eating snails and offered to take him to dinner for his birthday.  The restaurant where we went didn't have the standard escargot but had them in a sauce and my word...they were so good we had a second order.  I don't think I've had escargot since, though I remember that dinner fondly.  I just can't get past the "snails" part.

I remember when Walt and I ate dinner at the home of a friend of his mother's once.  I don't remember her name, but I remember she made pie for dessert.  I don't remember what kind of pie it was, but I remember that it had the flakiest crust I'd ever had and I had to ask her how she made it.  In the days when I could still make pie crust (another art I've lost in my old age), I was able to duplicate that and think of her whenever I had a crust that came out light and flaky.

It is weird how vivid so many of my food memories are, and so I understand my grandmother's longing for a good slab of rare roast beef.  I don't think she ever got it.  I don't know that I have that sort of longing, but if I did long for something delicious from my past, I guess it would be to have another big dish of my father's potato salad.

Thursday, May 23, 2019


I went to Eldervilla yesterday.  I hadn't been in a little over a week.  She was at the kitchen table eating her lunch when I arrived.  I sat down with her and we had a nice visit.  She joked with Mala, the care giver who was cleaning up the kitchen.

The thing I noticed most about her is how relaxed and happy her face looks.  She really does feel at home.  And she is definitely treating Sandy like her boyfriend, which he handles well.

(notice she has a new manicure)
I'm not sure who she thought I was but we talked about her parents and what they were doing today and I made comments based on things I knew about things when she was growing up.  It was a good conversation.

At one point she went to the bathroom and when she came back, she sat down and looked at me in amazement.  She had no idea I had come.  She said she had been talking to someone else and was surprised to see me there now.  Of course who "me" was, I don't know!  I know that many people feel very upset when their parents don't recognize them.  I guess after all these years, I'm just used to it.  It's not one of the things that upsets me.  I'm more upset when she has no connection to Bri and Lacie at all, just that they are "cute kids."

I did have a bit of a pang when she told me that my "glass paper" was pretty.  "Did you mean my hair?" I asked, since she had gestured toward my hair.  "Yes," she said, "your glass paper."  It gave me a pang because the subject of my hair has been an almost constant topic for decades.  One of the things my other has been VERY disappointed about all of her life was that she did not have curly hair, as some of her sisters did--and as I do.  She never failed to mention it for a long time  Every time she saw me she said "Oh look at that hair! It just makes me sick. That makes me feel so DISGUSTED."  Of course she meant it as a compliment because she wanted hair like mine, but I finally told her years ago how it made me feel to be told that she was disgusted whenever she looked at me.  She actually never used that word again and rarely mentions my hair now except to say it looks nice.  I'm not sure if I'm sad or happy that I never disgust her any more.

Sandy and I talked a bit.  Nancy, the woman whom the police picked up last week, fell in the ER and broke her hip, so she's been in the hospital and is moving to a convalescent home.  And I never dreamed that Jeannie, my mother's best friend at Eldervilla, is almost completely blind.  You'd never know it to watch her.

While we were talking my mother got up and went into her room and to bed.  I had been there for about an hour and a half, so I just left and didn't bother trying to tell her goodbye.

I often left Atria fighting back tears.  I have never done that at Eldervilla, and usually leave feeling so happy and grateful that we found this wonderful place.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Fear of Buying

I didn't go quietly into the supermarket yesterday, apparently.  I had not one but two people stop me to talk about my socks.

I told one guy that I wore them so I could be found in the dark.

I hadn't been to Nugget Market in awhile and it's always a wonderful revelation of the cornucopia of delights from which to choose.  They recently reorganized the place, and I'm still learning where to find things I used to be able to find easily.  But in the search, I've discovered wonderful new things, like green pea snack crisps, flavored dried peas which are nice and crunchy and better than empty calorie crackers.  There are also always new things to discover in the international aisles, with more and more Middle Eastern offerings.  It's difficult to get out of the place with under $200 worth of purchases.  I even bought some Ben and Jerry's Urban Bourbon ice cream, which I'd heard of but not found before (it's rather tasty).

Before going to the store, Ned set us up for more book sorting.  More hard backs.

This was a more difficult set of books to toss.  These were a lot of books that I have read and reluctantly put in the "give away" pile.

But then I come across books that I had forgotten I meant to read, like one by my hero, Erma Bombeck, "Aunt Erma's Cope Book," one of her earlier books.  Erma Bombeck is the whole reason why "Funny the World" came to be.  At one point there was discussion about having a journal-type column in the paper and I decided to see if it would be possible for me to write a newspaper length column daily (which, at that time, Bombeck was doing).  Nearly twenty years later I think I've proven that  I can, but almost never have I written anything that satisfies me as much as any entry written by Bombeck.  (There is such a column now but it's weekly and it's much better than I could have written.)

I know that I need to put this Bombeck book in the "give away" box but I have to read it first, so I spent yesterday reading it.  It's about all the self-help books that have been written for every possible condition.  (The title of this entry was one I loved from her book, the funny take on "Fear of Flying" about situations happening in a supermarket.)  It's a relatively short book and I should finish it today and will then feel comfortable putting it in the "give away" box.

In the middle of all of the sorting and giving away books, I bought a new one.  Do you guys have the "Nextdoor" feature where you live?  I've seen people on Facebook talking about it in other cities.  It's a private social group for people in particular areas of towns.  I don't know how many groups there are in Davis, but our group has been quite active, asking for suggestions, giving warnings, and just notifying others of things this area should learn.

A newcomer to Davis, and to our area of Nextdoor, wrote asking for suggestions of books about California that would help her learn more about where she is now living.  There were lots of suggestions, but one guy recommended a book called "Cool Gray City of Love" by Gary Kamiya, which he says is the best coverage he's seen about San Francisco.  I'm always interested in books about San Francisco and had to order it.  

So I'm reading the Bombeck book and the San Francisco book simultaneously and both are excellent.  I'm particularly loving the San Francisco book, and in the first chapter learned a whole lot about the Farallon islands, which I have seen 30 miles off the shore of the city but really knew nothing about.  For example there are more than 300,000 birds of 13 species found there as well as five species of seals and sea lions, including  the huge elephant seal.  Humpback, gray and blue whales regularly feed there and in the fall 30-100 great white sharks come to feed.  I could go on and on, but I expect to find all sorts of new things about "my" city and look forward to reading more.

See how we came to have so many books?

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Remembering Yom

In the Big Book clean-out, we found a book of bathroom trivia, which we have put, where else?, in the bathroom.  Because of that I know that Rutherford B. Hayes was the first person in the United States to own a Siamese cat.  She was given to Mrs. Hayes by David Sickels, the American consul in Bangkok and was named Siam.
From Wikipedia:
Siam had a long journey and probably used up quite a few of her nine lives on the way from Thailand. She was first shipped to Hong Kong, then to San Francisco; and from there, she traveled by land to Washington.

Elegant and slender with long legs and bright blue eyes, Siam created quite a stir in the White House. Lucy Hayes at first named the cat Miss Pussy, but changed her name to Siam after noticing her regal bearing and high-born attitude. The cat soon became a favorite of Fanny, the president’s daughter.

Sadly, Siam became sick several months after arriving in our nation’s capital. Even though the president’s own physician was asked to examine the cat, Siam did not recover. Records show that instructions were given to preserve the cat’s body, but a stuffed Siam has never been found, according to the Hayes Presidential Center.
There were two other presidents who had Siamese cats.  Gerald Ford's daughter Susan had Shan:

and Amy Carter had Misty Malarky Ying Yang

I am not a fan of Siamese cats.  I acquired my dislike of Siamese cats when I lived for about six months with Char and Mike and then-baby Tavie (now in her 50s).  The cat was named Yom (short for Yom Kippur, a logical name for this nice Catholic family) and every morning he woke me up by reaching his paw under the door of the bedroom that Tavie and I shared and scratching the inside of the door, crying that annoying Siamese meow (Siamese cats are acknowledged to be the most talkative breed of cat.  Their meow is often likened to the cry of a baby.).

In those days, I worked in the Physics Department of the University of California, and dressed nicely for work, including heels and stockings.  Yom and I had a battle every morning.  As I walked down the hall, the sound of my legs rubbing together was an enticement for him to attack my legs and I cannot tell you how many days I had to go back into my room and change my stockings because his claws had caused a run.

For Christmas that year, Yom gave me a box of stockings as a gift.

But I still don't like Siamese cats.

Monday, May 20, 2019

"Just the One Who Died"

At David's memorial service, Paul  talked about my sister's murder and said he grew up knowing very little about her or her death (he was a toddler when she died).  I was not aware of deliberately not discussing her but since she hadn't done much after her death, there wasn't much more to talk about.
But Paul said he didn't want that to happen to Dave.  He didn't want Dave to be "just the one who died."  He wrote a song about him, which he performed, and David was featured prominently in Paul's monologue show, "Sedona, Arizona." He said that was the way that Karen felt to him...she was just the one who died.

Both Paul and David died before Facebook and the explosion of social media and I think it's fair to say that neither of them will ever be "just  the one who died."  Each year on their birthdays and on the anniversaries of their death there are many people who post things about them -- photos or comments -- and dozens more who respond to those. 

My friend Ron, who died last year, and who met Paul only once, told me one year when I posted this photo:

that he was always happy to see this picture whenever I posted it, because he liked it so much.  Other people post pictures of Paul and/or David on their special days.  Jeri posted this yesterday.

This is Dave with the cat he and Jeri owned, when they were sharing an apartment.

We have our traditions surrounding the two of them.  Every year on Paul's birthday, his friend Jessica takes a small jar of mayonnaise to put on his grave, because he hated mayonnaise so much and it's her way of reminding him that she's still angry.

On each birthday, Walt and I go out for sushi, which came about because Paul and I used to have sushi together whenever Walt was out of town and we went to a sushi place one year to celebrate both boys' birthdays (Jan 29, Feb 5) and so we continue the tradition.

And, because Kraft Macaroni and cheese was David's favorite meal -- he had it for lunch every day for years -- we served it at his memorial service and I cook it for dinner every year.  (Somehow it doesn't taste as good as it used to!)

I wonder what Brianna and Lacie will think of Paul and David as they grow up.  We talk about Uncle Dave and Uncle Paul all the time, but will that translate into their being "just the ones who died"?  I don't know, but thanks to the internet, they are certainly being remembered a lot more than Karen ever has been.  We're doing out best to make sure they aren't "just the ones who died."  I hope that makes Paul happy.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Sunday Stealing

Hi! Welcome to Sunday Stealing. This feature originated and published on WTIT: The Blog. Here we will steal all types of questions from every corner of the blogosphere. Our promise to you is that we will work hard to find the most interesting and intelligent questions. (Past hosts include: Our first - Judd Corizan, Mr. L, Kwizgiver and Bud) Cheers to all of us thieves!

From Unconscious Mutterings.  There are no right or wrong answers.  Don't limit yourself to one word responses, just say whatever pops in your head.  Thanks to The Gal Herself for the suggestion.
I say ... and you think ... ?

Hurry! ::
Dumb ::
as a rock
Fudge :: fudge sundaes!
Sturdy :: 
Printing :: 
is good, but kids need to learn cursive
Itch :: 
that's what back scratchers are for
Creaks :: 
Paste :: 
doesn't work as well as double-stick tape
Waste of time :: 
signing petitions to change #45's mind about anything
Let down :: 
milk!!  (remembering my breastfeeding days)
Cancellation ::
At this time of the year, "cancellation" makes me think of favorite TV programs that are no more.
Suspect ::
we haven't heard the last of the Mueller report.
Fireplace ::
The unused place in our house where you can sit...because of pollution we aren't supposed to use our fireplaces any more.
Spring ::
a beautiful time of year here, unfortunately followed by summer.
Commute ::
Something I don't have to do, which, seeing  the roads and freeways around here during rush hour, makes me very happy.
Places ::
in the heart
Fraud ::
Any millionaire politician who thinks because he has money (or not) he can run the country.
Adoption ::
Election ::
A day of hope.  Depending on how 2020 goes, either relief or all-out depression.
Moving day ::
boxes and boxes.  And more boxes. Our house is full of things left over from moving days of many people!

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Saturday 9

Welcome to Saturday: 9. What we've committed to our readers is that we will post 9 questions every Saturday. Sometimes the post will have a theme, and at other times the questions will be totally unrelated. Those weeks we do "random questions," so-to-speak. We encourage you to visit other participants posts and leave a comment. Because we don't have any rules, it is your choice. We hate rules. We love memes, however, and here is today's meme!
 Secret Love (1953)

Unfamiliar with this week's song. Hear it here.  I love doing this song because it was from her movie Calamity Jane, the soundtrack of which was one of the very first LP records I bought as a kid.

Rest in peace, Doris Day (1922-2019)
1) In this song Doris admits she's spoken to the stars, "the way dreamers often do." Do you often daydream?
Always.  I have weird daydreams.  When I am reading something and am starting to feel sleepy, my brain rewrites a scene into whatever I'm reading.  When I "come to" and go back to the book the scene my brain wrote has nothing to do with the story, though it has all the same characters.

2) What's the last secret you kept? (It doesn't have to be romantic.)
I learned how to keep secrets typing medical notes for an ob/gyn clinic.  I was very careful to forget all the personal secrets that I uncovered, so well that now when I am told a secret, I don't usually remember it myself, unless it requires me to do something.

3) While "Secret Love" was one of Miss Day's best-selling records, and the song won an Oscar, she did not perform it at the Academy Awards Ceremony. She said she was just too nervous to sing it live before an international television audience and an auditorium full of entertainment professionals. When did you last suffer an attack of nerves?
Good lord, I suffer nerves about everything.  I'm nervous speaking to an acquaintance at a party (not a friend, fortunately).  I'm nervous making a business-type phone call.  Heck, I'm even nervous to check my bank balance on line for fear I won't understand it.

4) Doris' well-publicized attack of Oscar stage fright was unexpected because she began her career as a band singer, performing before live audiences every night. But she reportedly did develop more phobias over the years, including a fear of flying. Is there anything that scares you now, as an adult, that didn't frighten you as a child?
I am more nervous now driving/riding on the freeway than I ever was before some 30 years ago. 

5) Doris Day made 39 movies between 1948 and 1968. She said one of her favorite things about filmmaking was working with costume designers on her wardrobe. Do you enjoy shopping for clothes?
I hate it.  When you are built like I am it's terribly embarrassing to shop in the fat ladies store and discover they have nothing that fits you.  And if it fits you, it looks terrible.  I can't remember when I last shopped in a store for clothes, but it's probably been 10 years at least.

6) Doris confessed that when she had to lose weight for a role, she gave up ice cream. If we checked your freezer, would we find any ice cream?
You would indeed.  We have mini Haagen Daz bars for dessert every night so there is almost always ice cream in the freezer.

7) In 1985 she hosted a cable show called Doris Day's Best Friends. She used the show as a platform to promote pet adoptions and animal welfare. Most of the guests were celebrity friends who reportedly donated their salaries for appearing on the show to Doris' pet foundation. Did you more recently ask a friend for a favor, or perform a favor for a friend?
It's a little thing, but the last favor I asked for was when I asked Ned if he could change the water bottle in our water cooler for me.

8) For more than 20 years, Doris co-owned the Cypress Inn in Carmel, CA. The Inn expects to continue on without her, and maintain the pet-friendly policies she introduced. Have you ever traveled with your dog or cat?
Only once.  When we first got Sheila, I took her everywhere with me.  We took her camping once (though not overnight) and it was fun, but since we usually had two dogs and traveling with Lizzie was a pain and Polly won't ever settle down, we leave her home when we go anywhere.

9) Random question: What's the last thing you complained about?
Well, THIS week it's the damn new laws going into effect in Alabama.  Or maybe the impending war in Iran.  Little things like that.