Food, Eating,
Cooking, & Recipes

"Waiter, there is too much pepper on my paprikash."
-- Billy Crystal, When Harry Met Sally, 1989

"Not knowing how to cook is like not knowing how to f**k."
-- Robert Rodriguez

"There is no food that is not improved by deep frying."
-- Nigella Lawson

"If it isn't chocolate, it isn't dessert."
-- Bob Gibbs

"I'm hungry. You're hungry. We're aaaall hungry. So, let's eat!
-- Firesign Theatre, Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers, 1970

"We seldom repent of having eaten too little."
-- Thomas Jefferson

[Ludwig] Boltzmann had only two complaints about America. The first was the food. Staying at Phoebe Hearst's opulent hacienda, he was baffled by a serving of oatmeal, "an indescribable paste of oat flour with which one might perhaps feed geese: but I am not sure, certainly a Viennese goose would not eat it."

Einstein's Fridge, How the Difference Beween Hot and Cold Explains the Universe, Paul Sen, Scribner, 2021, p.131

He took a bite of his cheesesteak. He'd bought two of them from Vinny's pizzeria off West Houston. Vinny was a Philly transplant and knew his way around the classic cheesesteak. Jack confessed to being a purist and a minimalist where cheesesteaks were concerned. Razor-thin slices of steak, provolone cheese, fried onions on a sub roll. No peppers, no gravy, and Vinny might do violence to anyone who added mustard or catsup. Jack would help him.

The Dark at the End, F. Paul Wilson, A Tor Book, 2011, p.44

British commercial sausage, before [Bill O'Hagan] arrived on the scene, were poor limp things, flaccidly pink, that would burst and stick in the pan (hence "banger") and lie heavy on the stomach. They tasted of nothing much, and that was just as well, because they were composed of muscle, gristle, head-meat and tail, padded out with rusk, injected with 11 chemicals and stuffed in a plastic tube. "Bloody rubbish!" Mr. O'Hagan called them, unworthy of the name of sausage, though post-war Britons, with their propensity to chew stoically on anything, liked them well enough. Doused with brown sauce they became a national dish, of sorts...

"Bill O'Hagan," The Economist, May 25th 2013, p.98

For nearly all food lovers, the dessert course is the most addictive. Of no one was this more true than Pierrette Brillat-Savarin, the 100-year-old sister of the 18th-century French gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin. Having polished off a hearty dinner in bed, Pierette's last words urged her servants to "bring on the dessert, I think I am about to die!"

"Just Desserts," Aram Bakshian Jr., The Wall Street Journal, August 30-31, 2014, C10

The best restaurants in the world are, of course, in Kansas City. Not all of them; only the top four or five. Anyone who has visited Kansas City and still doubts that statement has my sympathy: He never made it to the right places.

American Fried, Adventures of a Happy Eater, Calvin Trillin, 1974, Vintage Books, 1979, p.5

Il mangiari, comu la minchia, non voli pinseri.

Eating, like sex, wants no worries.

The Potter's Field, by Andrea Camilleri, translated by Stephen Sartarelli, Picador, 2012, p.271; Il campo del vasaio, Sellerio editore, Palermo, 2008, p.256

Socrates is supposed to have said, "I eat in order to live, not live in order to eat." I have not noticed what the text would have been for this, and now it looks like the saying may only go back as far as Benjamin Franklin. Be that as it may, I say, "Why not both?"

Is not the pleasure of eating one of the things that makes life worth while? It is true that not eating can be a source of great pain (i.e. starvation), and so we are driven to avoid fasting and deprivation by the suffering these would effect. In a merely efficient universe, that might be enough to ensure survival. But we get more.
It is not just fear of pain but the positive attraction of food that drives and, as it happens, rewards our efforts. Hence, we now have enthusiasts called "Foodies." Or Calvin Trillin's "happy eater."

This creates some dilemmas. If the only way to avoid disease and early death is by just eating twigs and bark (or the gastronomic equivalent), one might wonder, "What is the point?" Perhaps one has something more important to do than enjoy Italian sausage. There is also the anhedonic moralism of those who find moral fault with living off the death of other beings, and enjoying it. Unfortunately, which beings qualify for such protection is a little ambiguous. To some, even grasses and trees are Buddhas; but vegetarians and "vegans" would have a tough time if soy beans got the same moral protection as cows.

While, unlike Nietzsche, I do not regard common practices in Nature as establishing an ethical paradigm, I do think that the existence in Nature of carnivorous predators and omnivores, including us, makes it a little difficult to dismiss that mode of life as improper. There is a difference between torturing sentient beings, whose own lives consist of little more than eating and reproduction, and eating them. To some, this may make me hopelessly callous, unevolved, and "species-ist." I am glad I don't have to hunt for a living, or butcher my own meat -- although I have relatives who do that, and I am sure that if I grew up with it, there would be no problem -- and I think vegetarians are lucky they don't have to either.

The best general, thoughtful, and enthusiastic celebration of eating I know of is Calvin Trillin's "Tummy Trilogy," American Fried, Adventures of a Happy Eater [1974], Alice, Let's Eat, Further Adventures of a Happy Eater [1978], and Third Helpings [1983]. These consist of what were originally articles published, largely, in the New Yorker. Now they are reprinted together in one volume, with a new preface, in 1994 (I got them as a gift from my then girlfriend, a Calvin Trillin fan, in 1985).

Trillin lives in Greenwich Village and has many stories of eating and food shopping in New York City. I first knew of Katz's Deli, not from the scene of Meg Ryan doing a fake orgasm in When Harry Met Sally (actually, I didn't know that scene was in Katz's Deli until my wife and I went to Katz's Deli), but from Trillin's account of New York Deli shopping on Houston Street.

But Calvin Trillin is not a New Yorker. He is from Kansas City. And so, even though he likes things like French Cooking (which I didn't get at all, until recently), he likes other things better. He says that the best restaurant in the world is Arthur Bryant's Barbecue in Kansas City.

Eventually, in 1998, I made it to Kansas City, even had dinner there, but at the time I missed the chance to go to Bryant's. Meanwhile, however, my wife, in town for a conference, had even eaten there (after a taxi driver recommended it to a number of people from the conference) but was rather less attracted by barbecue than I am, and I don't think she realized at the time that she was in, according to Trillin, the best restaurant in the world. But that is sometimes the way that life works.

Finally, in December 2009, I was able to return to Kansas City, pretty much for the sole purpose of eating at Bryant's. I was on my way to Princeton for Christmas, and so it was shortly before Christmas that I spent a night at the Marriott on 12th Street in downtown Kansas City. There were few people around. I had just driven from Denver that day, so I went down to the taxi stand to get to Bryant's. Not a lot of business for the taxis that night. My driver was thrilled for my fare, and he even waited outside while I had dinner at Bryant's. I've forgotten how much of a tip I gave him, but I think it was substantial.

My only complaint about Bryant's was that they gave me so much food I could not eat all of it. Indeed, I could barely eat half of it, even though it was good enough that I wanted to eat more. No complaint about its quality. I could have taken the uneaten part home if I had not been on the road. While I was in the restaurant, some people were ordering food to go to drive all the way to Houston.

Back at the Marriott that night, I went into the bar for a drink. I was the only person there, besides the bartender and a piano player. They were happy to see me. I was sorry not to stay beyond one drink. I hated to leave them alone again. Now it seems like a unique opportunity, unlikely to be repeated. A little different, however, from when my date and I were the only customers at a sushi bar in Little Tokyo in Los Angeles in 1980. The sushi chef began giving us samples of pretty much everything he had. A lot of it I wasn't going to want again, even when I later went to Japan.

I returned to Kansas City in June 2010 and ate at Bryant's again, without the mistake of ordering french fries with the meat -- which was still too much for one meal. While in town, I also ate at another Calvin Trillin favorite, Winstead's. A childhood friend of Trillin's (Larry "Fats" Goldberg, d.2003), returning to visit KC himself, was said to have had two Winstead's chili dogs "on the way to dinner." Actually, I now see that the Winstead's chili dogs, although good, are not all that large. Two might just make a good appetizer for a big eater. I had a little trouble finding Winstead's because the name of its street had been changed. It was still listed in the phonebook with an address on Brush Creek Blvd. This is now Emanuel Cleaver II Blvd. -- at Main Street. West of the intersection, Cleaver II is still 47th Street. It is easy to reach Winstead's from Downtown just by driving south on Main.

"To eat well in England you should have breakfast three times a day."
-- W. Somerset Maugham

"Heaven isn't real; but if it is, they're not serving British food."
-- Bill Maher, September 16, 2022

"...and a bowl of mush called bread sauce. (Bread sauce is very white bread soaked in milk, which looks and tastes like something Mr. Bumble and his ilk would have given to workhouse boys or toothless Victorian pensioners. I love everything else but it's just... not my favorite.)"
-- Stanley Tucci, Taste, My Life Through Food, Gallery Books, 2021, p.106

The English Breakfast

The food of England is legendarily bad. Calvin Trillin says that English mothers teach their daughters to cook the vegetables for a month, just in case someone shows up without their teeth. My mother was about a quarter English, but her treatment of the vegetables was wholly English. I used to plead with her to let me eat the carrots raw, rather than be served them after they had been boiled to tastelessness. She never yielded.

One of her favorite dishes was peas and carrots, which to me came out as inedible mush and pretty much destroyed any taste I might have had for peas, let alone the carrots. Now I do eat sweet peas, which I often mix with Turkey stuffing or even spaghetti sauce. Cooked carrots are similarly lost among other items, including, as recounted below, spaghetti sauce itself.

Stopping off in LA in 1975, my first wife prepared one of our favorite dishes for all of us, a stir-fry with chicken, tomatoes, and some other things. My mother complained that the tomatoes weren't cooked enough. They were.

I do owe my mother for the recipes here for spaghetti and brisket. I am not ungrateful. But she was rude to my wife.

There are other strange English foods, like "Spotted Dick," which have puzzled foreigners for years. Considerable humor comes from this in the "Aubrey-Maturin" naval historical novels by Patrick O'Brian (1914-2000). The English "puddings" tended to appall visitors entertained by Jack Aubrey at his captain's table. In the running for the most appalling and even repellent English food may be "jellied eels." Served cold.

But there are two bright spots in English cooking. One is pub food. I really like Bangers and Mash, and Shepherd's Pie. As recounted below, I investigated New York bars just looking for bangers and mash. Of course, "bangers" refers back to the post-War British sausages that used to explode when cooked. They are better now. See one of my adventures in London with bangers and mash at the Sherlock Holmes Pub.

Other English foods that sound similar to pub food are "Pie and Mash," which is ground beef in a wrapper or pie shell, served with mashed potatoes and a parsley sauce, a "Sausage Roll," which is just a sausage in fried breading, and a "Bacon Buttie" (or "Butty," etc.), which is a fried bacon sandwich, not far from a BLT on toast. I haven't had any of these things yet, but they look good. A "Chip Buttie" is actually a sandwich made with french fries. Nothing to dislike about that, but I reserve judgment until trying one. There is also the "Scotch Egg," which is a boiled egg wrapped in sausage, wrapped in breading, and deep fried. The yolk might still be runny. I don't know about that. But it could be good. Opinion seems to be divided.

Some of these can easily be found at the Borough Market, an outdoor, covered market, like the Farmers Market in Los Angeles, which is a short distance from London Bridge and Southwark Cathedral, adjacent to the London Bridge Underground Station, on the Jubilee and Northern Lines. I've been to the Cathedral, but I didn't know about the Market at the time.

The other bright spot in English cooking, which is a veritable beacon of hope, is breakfast, the "Full English Breakfast." As we see from the Somerset Maugham epigraph above, not just foreigners might think that this is the best of English cooking. Meanwhile, Chicken Tikka Masala has actually been voted the most popular food in England. I can see that.

At left is an image I pulled off the Internet. I don't know why the food is on a shovel, but what we see is quintessentially English: (1) sunny side up eggs, (2) a sausage, (3) baked beans, (4) mushrooms, and (5) potato cakes. The English breakfast can also include (6) fried tomatoes, (7) fried bread (or just toast), (8) Black Pudding, which is actually a blood sausage, sliced and fried (it is a "pudding" because of grain as well as meat in it -- without blood, it can be "white pudding"), (8) and bacon, which here is generally "back bacon," with less fat than American bacon, but it can also be a whole bacon "chop," with bone. Notice that so many of these things are fried -- in fact, only the beans may not be -- that it can all be called an English "fried" breakfast. Meanwhile, the beans are likely to be from a can of Heinz baked beans, formulated specifically for the English market. In the 19th century, an English breakfast might include kippers, kidney, and some other things that are no longer popular.

The source of this image said it was French food, which means that someone isn't familiar either with French food or English, and certainly not with French or English breakfasts. The certainty of the identification comes from the bottle of HP Sauce that we see in the background. What that is may well be entirely unknown to most Frenchmen or Americans. Even at the Atlantic Chip Shop, discussed below, I had to ask for some HP Sauce to go with my fried shrimp and chips.

The potatoes here are a story in their own right. These are identical to the "potato cakes" sold by the Arby's restaurants in the United States. But I found them served as "hash brown potatoes" at both "The Moon Under Water" pub, on Leicester Square, and at the breakfast buffet in the Strand Palace Hotel, on the Strand, in London. These are among my favorite foods ever.

However, there is great variety in the potato dishes that may go with the English breakfast. A traditional alternative is something called "Bubble and Squeak." This is a fried dish of vegetables and mashed potatoes. The vegetables are sometimes just cabbage but otherwise onions and a variety of other things. It may be fried until browned on both sides. My wife and I make a dish much like this, using cut-up baked potatoes and vegetables that run to broccoli, bell peppers, and the other things we use for Huevos a la Mexicana. I always eat it with grated Parmesan cheese and Tabasco Sauce.

When it comes to the actual potato cakes, the corporate geniuses at Arby's unfortunately switched from potato cakes to french fries during 2021. They must have figured there was a shortage of french fries in the fast food business.
O the Roast Beef of Old England or The Gate of Calais, 1748, William Hogarth (1697-1764), the Tate Britain; song, by Henry Fielding (1707-1754) and Richard Leveridge (1670-1758), from 1731.
The masses were pleading, "Where can we get french fries?" Protests about this, and not just from me, fell on deaf ears. Although I really like the Arby's roast beef sandwich -- there's an English food! the "Roast Beef of Old England"! -- I must drive a half hour to get to an Arby's from where I live; and without the potato cakes, I'm not sure it is worth rewarding the corporate traitors with my business.

It was always easier to eat at an Arby's in Manhattan, when I went into the City, and I especially enjoyed the one on E 23rd Street, near Madison Square. You could sit in the window and watch people go by. However, this closed during the Wuhan Pandemic. Remaining is one on 8th Avenue near the Port Authority Bus Terminal. I've eaten there, and gotten take-out, but derelicts tend to wander in at that location. Now Arby's gives me no reason to put up with that.

The baked beans are another story. In 2006, I attended an "Oxford Round Table" event at Harris Manchester College, Oxford. We were served breakfast, and usually other meals, at the College. After a day or so, I asked the fellow in charge why they weren't serving baked beans with breakfast. I knew this was part of a proper English breakfast. Well, most of the attendees were Americans or other foreigners, and he didn't think that would suit us. If he thought that Americans didn't know or didn't like baked beans, he was of course out of his reckoning. Baked beans in Boston or Texas are a big deal, even if they usually don't turn up at breakfast. Can't have barbeque without them. He promised that they would have them the next day, which they did, to be enjoyed by all.

Americans traveling across, say, France, and finding that "breakfast" meant croissants and other thin fare, arrive in England to a joyous revelation. English breakfast! Real food! Mashed vegetables and calling cookies "biscuits" are forgiven! We are saved! It is the Full Breakfast of Old England! But I am, apparently, going to need to return to England to get my potato cakes.

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Chef Ho and the Names of Chinese Restaurants

Chef Ho Menu, outside;
Chef Ho menu, inside.
The "Three Delicacies Dumplings" are the signature dish.
Having missed Bryant's Barbecue for many years, my idea of the best restaurant in the world was more like the Chef Ho Dumpling House, 148 W. 49th Street, in Manhattan. The hot and sour soup was the best ever, and the "Three Delicacies Dumplings" were extraordinary. Chef Ho's used to be on Pell Street in Chinatown when it was first recommended to us in 1991, with bright fluorescent lights, formica tables, and bottles standing ready with vinegar and chile oil. Then it moved. This caught us by surprise late one evening, hungry, in the cold and rain, with no taxis to be had on Canal Street. After a long trek by subway, we arrived on 49th Street.

The Midtown restaurant had subdued lighting, tablecloths, and you had to ask for the vinegar and chile oil; but the food was the same. Unfortunately, these statements are now in the past tense, because when we stopped by to eat at Chef Ho's in January 2006, it was gone. It now joins the ranks of the restaurants I call "Fallen Heroes." I have not found the like of their dumplings again.

Subsequently I turned up a number of other addresses for Chef Ho's on the internet, so I thought it might have just moved, but so far these have not panned out. One review gave an address at 7 East 47th Street, and this did turn out to be a Chinese restaurant, but not a Chef Ho's. It was the "China Moon" restaurant -- now gone. I also found a review for a Chef Ho Dumpling House at 541 LaGuardia Place, but this was a Penang Malaysian restaurant. In the 2010 Zagat Guide there was a "Chef Ho's Peking Duck Grill" at 1720 2nd Ave. This place was actually there; it seemed like a good restaurant; and it had some dumplings on the menu; but they were really not like those from the old Chef Ho's. The staff denied that the restaurant had anything to do with the former restaurant.

In LA, I fear that some of my favorite restaurants are now also gone, like Tampico Tilly's Mexican restaurant in Santa Monica, where I met my wife.

My favorite Chinese restaurants in Los Angeles used to be Ho Toy's on Van Nuys Blvd and Moon Light on Woodman Ave, both in Sherman Oaks. These are both now long gone, along with them their Americanized Cantonese cuisine. Initially, both simply changed ownership. But the new management did not maintain the old menu, and even seemed unfamiliar with it. Ho Toy's did not long survive this change. Moon Light continued, and was still there there when I was in LA in 2014, but is now gone.

For a while my favorite Chinese restaurant was the Shanghai Park in Princeton, New Jersey. This also brought to my attention an interesting phenomenon:  Chinese restaurants where the name in Chinese has nothing to do with the name in English. The Chinese name of the Shanghai Park was . That means the "Great Thousand Beautiful Food Forest," and it may be the name of an old restaurant back in China, since there is a long description of such a place, with such a name, in Chinese on the wall of the restaurant.

In Los Angeles, I've been to a restaurant called Hunan Taste (@Olympic & San Vicente) in English but , "Eastern Prosperous Mansion," in Chinese. These are not names that sound like most restaurant names in English, so perhaps a judgment was made that a traditional name in Chinese, and then a more Westernized name in English, were suitable. But I don't remember seeing things like this before. The Moon Light was indeed just the "Moonlight," .

In London in March 2010, on the way to the Oxford Round Table, I saw a similar phenomenon. One of the many Chinese restaurants on Gerrard Street is the . This looks like it means the "literary success" () restaurant (). The name of the restaurant given in English, however, is the Four Seasons. Other examples are conspicuous.

Visting New York City in June 2010 for our Anniversary, my wife and I ate at the Oriental Garden, 14 Elizabeth Street in Chinatown. The 2010 Zagat Guide said this had the "best Cantonese seafood in NY," although it is apparently not Americanized Cantonese as was the Moon Light. In Chinese, the restaurant is , which means the "Happiness Entering Gate." The name is subtitled , "Seafood Restaurant." Nothing there about the Orient, or a Garden.

In San Francisco, I discovered the Utopia Cafe, 141 Waverly Place, a block west of Grant in Chinatown. The name of this restaurant in Chinese was just baffling. It is [蔘滿意粥, shēn mǎn yì zhōu].

The immediate challenge was that I could not find the first character in any of my Chinese dictionaries under any of the possible radicals -- and I didn't know how it was vocalized. It does appear as in Andrew N. Nelson's The Modern Reader's Japanese-English Character Dictionary [Charles E. Tuttle, 1962, 1987, #4032]. This was read shin in Japanese. Its meaning, "luxurious growth of grass," did not make any obvious sense for the restaurant name.

Lost in perplexity, I asked my wife's colleague at Princeton University, Stephen Teiser, who is the professor of Chinese Religion (and who originally recommended Chef Ho to us), if he knew the character. He did. Both and mean "ginseng." He knew the vocalization. The reason I could not find it in Mathews' Chinese-English Dictionary [Harvard, 1972] is that the character with radical 140 on the top, , is not in the dictionary. Instead, we get a variant, . In Mathews' this is character #6685, [, cān], "to counsel, to consult together." When this means "ginseng," it is pronounced shen. It is as and [人參] that the character (or its simplified version) is used to mean "ginseng" in John DeFrancis' ABC Chinese-English Comprehensive Dictonary [University of Hawaii, 2003, p.816 for shen, p.770 for renshen]. This is also the character used in Nelson (#850) for the Japanese reading of , ninjin, for "ginseng."

In turn, means "full, satisfied" [Mathews' #4326]; can mean "idea, meaning, purpose" or "wish" [Mathews' #2960]. Together, mean "satisfied, pleased" [DeFrancis, p.598]. Finally, is "rice boiled to gruel" [Mathews' #1384]. Dr. Teiser suggests that can translate as, "Porridge of Ginseng Contentment." Whatever it means, it certainly has nothing to do with "Utopia Cafe."

It turns out that even Chef Ho had a different name in Chinese than in English. The [味香村], "Village of Flavor and Fragrance," has nothing in it about Chef Ho or dumplings or houses. However, we do see "fragrance" in the name of Hong Kong.

In time, the Shanghai Park disappointed me. It used to be, in restaurants like the Moon Light, the dishes were made with abundant vegetables in addition to the main ingredients. I have tried to reproduce the Beef Tomato dish that the Moon Light used to have, and I am pretty satisfied with the result. For a long time, I was not been able to reproduce their Shrimp Curry; nor did I find the equivalent elsewhere. Now, however, I have developed what seems like an equivalent recipe.

Few constituents has become the problem with the Shanghai Park. The dishes generally only contain the main ingredients, i.e. the Beef Broccoli has nothing in it but beef and broccoli. Also, the ingredients are often not cut into bite-size pieces. One must take several bites, for instance, off the large pieces of broccoli. I don't understand this; but it seems to be a trend. And I don't like it. Part of the appeal to me of Chinese cooking was always that one did not need to cut up the food oneself -- fact you cannot do that if you are simply eating with chop sticks. Other Chinese restaurants in the Princeton area follow more the old ways, like the Hunan Chinese Restaurant on Witherspoon.

For a final example of a Chinese restaurant name, I have an image that came off the Internet. This is the "Soon Fatt" restaurant, 28 Dublin Rd, Little Bray, Wicklow, Ireland. It came up because of the probably unintentional humor of its name. Eat here, and you will "soon" be "fat."

The name, however, in Cantonese, 顺发, is of interest. The first character, which in traditional form is , is shùn in Mandarin, and means "favorable, prosperous." This is variously written in Cantonese. In A Concise Cantonese-English Dictionary, by Yang Mingxin [Guangdong Higher Education Publishing House, 1999], we see it as xên6.

In the Pocket Cantonese Dictionary, Cantonese-English, English-Cantonese, by Martha Lam and Lee Hoi Ming [Periplus, Hong Kong, 2019, using the Yale transcription system], we get seuhn, where the presence of "h" and the lack of other accent indicates the 6th tone. Wiktionary has seon6. The meaning in A Concise Cantonese-English Dictionary is a little different from Mandarin, given as "in the same direction as, put in order, suitable, take the opportunity to," etc. In compounds, however, it often means "smooth" or "unhindered." In Chinese restaurant names, "favorable, prosperous" seems more appropriate.

The second character, in traditional form , is in Mandarin, meaning "to issue, send forth." For Cantonese, this is rendered in the respective sources as fad8, faat and faat3. Without a diacritic in the Yale system, "faat" is in the 3rd tone; and the 8th tone in many systems is simply the 3rd tone in syllables that end in "t," "p," or "k" (or written as "d," "b," or "g"). The first meaning for this in A Concise Cantonese-English Dictionary is actually "send out," which must match the "take away" in the sign (the British equivalent for American "take out"). So the whole name could mean "smooth/orderly take out," which does make sense.

Thus, the interest here is not that the Chinese and English names don't match, which they don't entirely, but just the challenge of identifying the words in Cantonese and matching them to Mandarin. Also, we see the new "simplified" characters on the sign, whose traditional form needs to be tracked down. Meanwhile, in the systems for transcribing Cantonese, "Soon" and "Fatt" don't turn up at all.

As luck would have it, the binome 順發 is the name of the "Shun Fat" markets, like the SF Supermarket in San Gabriel, California (that link has not been kept up, and the SF homepage does not display; I don't know why not). The first store, in Monterey Park, was opened in 1993 by "Chinese-Vietnamese entrepreneur and seafood wholesaler" Hieu Tran (Trần, from 陳, Chén in Mandarin). The name is explained as Mandarin shùn fā and Vietnamese thuận phát, meaning "favorable distribution [of wealth]." This is rendered in Cantonese as shun fat, without any diacritics. We might think that while the wealth goes to Mr. Tran, the "distribution" is actually of the goods to his customers. That makes a little more sense. "Favorable" we have seen, although "prosperous" or "orderly" would make as much sense. This also seems to be used in the name of a computer company on Taiwan.

Not a restaurant name, but a dish: Moo Goo Gai Pan, 蘑菇雞片, Mandarin mógū jīpiàn, Cantonese mǒgù gàipīn.

I don't cook this dish, but it is here for two reasons: (1) I like it; and (2) it is featured in a great episode of the original Bob Newhart Show [1972-1978], "Over the River and Through the Woods" [S4.E11], a Thanksgiving episode, aired November 22, 1975. Bob and three friends, having watched a football game, want to order some Chinese food. Since Bob is drunk (they're all drunk), he accidently orders massive amounts of Moo Goo Gai Pan, which he often mispronounces "Moo Goo Goo Goo" -- "Chinese baby food." Just as Bob's wife, Emily -- the marvelous Suzanne Pleshette (1937-2008) -- arrives home, the food arrives on dollies, filling the apartment.

Moo goo gai pan is not a spicy dish, but I like it, despite otherwise putting Tabasco sauce on things like spaghetti carbonara. The meaning of the name is 蘑菇, "mushroom," , "chicken," , "slice." So this is sliced mushrooms and chicken in oyster sauce, usually with some other vegetables thrown in. While I might admit that it is bland; it is not tasteless, and quite enough for my taste.

While Moo goo gai pan is a favorite dish in its own right, it is hard to consider it without remembering that episode of the old Bob Newhart Show, many of whose cast members have now passed away, including the beloved Pleshette and John Riley (1935-2016), who played the memorable deadpan Mr. Carlin, one of Bob's patients. At the moment, Bob Newhart himself is still with us, aged 93.

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LA and Indian Restaurants

My favorite surviving LA restaurants used to be, first of all, Anna's Italian Restaurant, 10929 W. Pico Blvd., to which I was introduced by a girlfriend in 1980. I am sorry to say it, but I liked Anna's better, for variety and quality, than any Italian restaurant that my wife and I have been to in Manhattan (even the famous Patsy's, 236 W. 56 Street). This may be hard to believe, especially to Calvin Trillin, but that's my experience -- or perhaps just my taste. I ended up with a kind of tradition of eating at Anna's, often with my mother, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

Unfortunately, Anna's closed in June, 2010. A friend said that they were going to post their recipes on their webpage; but the last I checked, the site was down. Now I see that the domain has been bought by someone selling jewelry in a language that uses the Cyrillic alphabet, so I've removed the link. This is a catastrophic loss for Los Angeles, although other, far more famous restaurants, like Chasen's or the Brown Derby, are long gone also.

Second, there is India's Oven, 11645 Wilshire Blvd #200 (upstairs at the corner of Wilshire and Barry), in the block between San Vicente Blvd. (the West LA, not the Beverly Hills, San Vicente) and Barrington Ave. India's Oven was originally near Pico and Fairfax, but it actually got burned down in the LA Riots of 1992 -- presumably India's Oven had something to do with police brutality. There were and are other locations of India's Oven, and also some other restaurants that were originally India's Ovens but which changed names in some kind of business dispute.

One of those become India's Tandoori, 19006 Ventura Blvd, in Tarzana -- where my friends and I once saw Stephanie Zimbalist, of the beloved Remington Steele television series [1982-1987] -- now mainly remembered for featuring Pierce Brosnan -- dining with her father, Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. (1918-2014), of the immortal 77 Sunset Strip series [1958-1964].

India's Oven came to my attention after a long search by my friend Jill and me for a good Indian restaurant. Jill had lived in India while doing research for her dissertation [Most Trusted Councillor: Sir Bartle Frere and the Formation and Implementation of Canning's Post-Mutiny Policy, 1859-1867, Jill R. Cogen, University of California, Los Angeles, 1982] and was dissatisfied with what we were finding in LA in the way of Indian food. I didn't know anything about Indian food and so was relying on her judgment.

After long searching, we finally found India's Oven, which was especially charming because they served the food on metal trays, like in India, and only used plastic utensils. It also would make the curries really hot if you asked for it. Once it even was too hot for me to eat it -- but that, after a fashion, was a good thing. Since moving to West LA, metal utensils have arrived and the spices have moderated, but it is still good.

Curiously, my wife and I have found a couple of very good Indian restaurants in the Princeton area, the Palace of Asia in the Mercer Mall and the Crown of India in Plainsboro. The former had alcohol but was expensive -- perhaps its downfall -- in 2004 it closed and was replaced by a Hooters! The latter is BYOB but inexpensive. Eventually, I discovered that the Palace of Asia had moved, to Lawrence Square in Lawrenceville, off Quaker Bridge Road south of the Quaker Bridge Mall. There is a branch in Kingston.

Meanwhile, we also discovered the Masala Grill in Princeton. That became our favorite and we were regular customers for several years, including occasions like Christmas Eve or New Year's Eve. Eventually, Masala Grill lost its lease and closed, but they continued as a pure delivery business. So now every couple of weeks we had dinner delivered, usually in such quantities that it feeds us for three or four days. Unfortunately, although we might think they were all set for the Pandemic, the lack of student customers doomed their delivery business, and they have now closed shop.

While I love lamb curry, I always have found it a little heavy. This reminds me of a line in the Bhagavad Gita:

[17:9] Men of Rajas like food of Rajas: acid and sharp, and salty and dry, and which brings heaviness and sickness and pain. [Juan Mascaró translation, Penguin, 1962]

I think that the hot food ("acid and sharp"), like the curries, would qualify as "food of Rajas," where Rajas is the guṇa associated with fire. A bit of overeating with this has certainly brought "heaviness" and "pain" if not precisely "sickness." This isn't always the fault of the food. Once my wife and I found an Indian restaurant in South Lake Tahoe and, it being late at night, we only ordered a light vegetable dish between us. It kept us both up all night. In that case, it can only have been something like bad ghee used in the cooking.

Since then, my experiences with Indian food mainly seem to be a function of the particular restaurant. Sometimes, to my surprise, a heavy meal digests easily. I have never had a more gratifying experience than after eating in an Indian restaurant on Charing Cross Road in London in 2010 -- Maharaja of India. I expected the worst, but instead my digestion had about the easiest time that I could ever remember. And the food was excellent, on top of it all. But I was taunted by the staff for ordering Chicken Tikka Masala, which they said was a woman's dish. I suppose, since they were not white, it was OK for them to say things like that. They must wonder, however, how the dish has been voted the most popular food in Britain.

In my own cooking, I have been using a lot of ghee, which can tolerate higher temperatures. When I would make a grilled cheese sandwich in a pan, the margarine used to quickly turn black. Not the ghee. It remains buttery. After heart surgery, I've cut back on this, since butter is supposed to be bad for you and not "heart smart." But some things, like French Toast, can't be made any other way.

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The Jorge Arredondo Restaurants

The greatest story of food and the saddest story of loss concerns the Casita Jorge's Mexican restaurant in Austin, Texas. This was run by Jorge Arredondo and his family. It began as little more than an old hamburger stand on East 1st Steet, with Jorge listed as "chief cook and pearl diver" on the menu. Altough it had just opened in 1973, when I started going there in 1976, it was becoming so popular that people were waiting on the street to get in -- where "in" was not really indoors at all. I was new to the Texas tradition of Mexican food for breakfast on Sunday, and this was my introduction. Before long, Jorge moved across the River from East Austin into larger quarters at Pleasant Valley Road and Elmont Drive, near popular apartment buildings. This was a proper, commodius restaurant, and it prospered.

Then additional restaurants were opened, until Jorge had something like four in Austin and one in San Marcos. While Jorge was a great cook, his business acumen seems to have been less good. An early sign of trouble was a falling out with a business partner he had on one of the restaurants, on Lavaca above 15th Street, which then ceased to be a "Jorge's" restaurant. Nevertheless, in the Fall of 1979 I was a frequent patron of the Jorge's on Hancock Drive, across the street from the Americana Theater (now a library), where I saw the very first Star Trek movie that same semester, and Madalyn Murray O'Hair's American Atheist Center. Jorge Arredondo was often at the restaurant, with his pink Cadillac.

When I was back in Austin in 1990, there were still two or three existing restaurants, one actually on Sixth Street, which by then was the center of Austin night life -- and where I encountered Jorge himself. I think that was the last time I saw him. We talked for a while. Someone else recognized him and began going on about how he had eaten at Jorge's as a child. It had been 17 years by then, enough for a kid to grow up.

Sometimes a "Jorge's" could seem a little eccentric. Jorge liked San Francisco and loved Tony Bennett. Eating Mexican food amid Mexican decor in one of his restaurants, the music might nevertheless be, not Mexican, but Tony Bennett, frequently singing "I Left My Heart in San Francisco."

Sadly, indeed tragically, when I was back in Austin in the mid-90's, Jorge had gone bankrupt. One "Casita Jorge's" survived, the one on Hancock Drive, bought by investors, with the same decor and food, but without Tony Bennett, and without Jorge Arredondo rising out of a bowl of chili on the menu cover. He had started a new resaurant, however, the "Cafe Arredondo," on Lake Austin Blvd., near where I used to live in Deep Eddy Apartments. The food was a little different, the old recipes must have gone with the franchise, but still good. Even this enterprise, however, was gone by the time I returned to Austin in 2000. I felt like, "Jorge, wherever you are, I miss you."

As it happens, not long after writing this about Jorge, I was informed by e-mail from one of Jorge's own grandsons that since October 1999 he and his grandfather had been running a restaurant in Austin, the AusTex Mex Cafe, which I missed when visiting in 2000. There was also a restaurant, Jorge Arredondo's Tex Mex Cafe, in Round Rock (113 W Main St), not far north of Austin on I-35. This was great news, and I was eager to schedule a return to Austin soon. Unfortunately, when I stopped over briefly in August 2003, the restaurant in town had closed, and I didn't have time to visit the one in Round Rock. I did eat at the old Jorge's on Hancock Drive, but they had been tinkering with the menu and managed to ruin the dish I ordered (well, they added bacon to a breakfast dish, which I now see has become common, if improper). I determined to never go back there again. By 2016, that restaurant had gone bankrupt, been sold, brought, and reopened as something else. Haven't been there.

In August 2005, I was able to devote a proper visit to Austin and went to the still thriving Jorge's in Round Rock. The menu was large and the food good, though the old distinctive, named dishes must have been sold with the franchise. I was hoping for a Jorge's T-shirt or other item to commemorate the visit, but they were out of their T-shirts and no other items, like coffee mugs or shot glasses, had ever been prepared. Nevertheless, the place looked busy and I hope it will be with us for a while. Unfortunately, it wasn't; and by 2016 there don't seem to be any Jorge's left in Austin. I see that the franchise rights have been used to open some Jorge's in West Texas, but I don't know anything about them.

Visiting Austin in 2016, there were rumors that some of Jorge's dishes were being made by other restaurants. I tried one, and, indeed, it was very familiar. It is at the point that the City of Austin should buy up all the rights to Jorge's name and dishes, make him a local Institution, and reopen a restaurant as a public Monument with sympathetic and competent management. If they can do that with Mt. Rushmore they can do it with Jorge Arredondo.

The image of the souvenir Casita Jorge's glass is courtesy of Jorge's granddaugher, Laura Melody Euresti.

In Memoriam

In 2021 I learn that Jorge passed away on November 29, 2020. His legal name was actually George C. Arredondo, and, aged 87, he was born on November 10, 1933. The local NBC affiliate in Austin interviewed family members -- he had five children -- and got their recollections about Jorge and his restaurants. I owe a lot of great memories and happiness to Jorge.

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In Memoriam

Huevos a la Mexicana

Even if I missed Jorge, my 2000 stay in Austin was rather like Calvin Trillin's visits to Kansas City:  the principal business was eating. There were gingerbread pancakes at the Omlettry, Chicken Fried Steak at Threadgill's, and one Mexican restaurant (I lost track which one) where there were no less than 12 Mexican breakfast items alone. When I returned in 2010, I identified this as Curra's Grill. Back in 2000, I was physically unable to eat more than two meals a day, and even then might be lying awake at night in the hotel room waiting on my digestion. How different from being there in my 20's, when I might eat an entire dinner at Jorge's, eat most of a Conan's "deep dish" pizza at a party later on, and fall right into an untroubled sleep afterwards. Those were the days. Now I see a saying by Thomas Jefferson:  "We seldom repent of having eaten too little." No kidding.

I had a similar experience on my visit in 2005, with two meals a day, though I avoided indigestion by not always eating everything. My first meal was at the Magnolia Cafe on Lake Austin Blvd. Back in 1975 this had been some little greasy spoon, but later became the Omlettry West and the first place I found gingerbread pancakes. At some point there seems to have been a parting of the ways, since it no longer seems associated with the original Omlettry, on Burnet Road. As in 2000, I went back there also. It retains much the same hippy-ish look it had in 1978, and I think the omlette and pancakes I had might actually have been marginally better than at the Magnolia Cafe. They didn't want to give me their recipe for the gingerbread pancakes.

Eating at the Magnolia Cafe at dawn in January 2010, it looked like a popular place with the local police. In 2016, driving up from San Antonio, I arrived, at dawn, just as the last police car left. The parking lot was briefly vacant, until, as I sat down to eat, it suddenly filled up with arriving patrons.

In 2020, because of the Corona Virus, the Magnolia Cafe closed, perhaps permanently. If so, it breaks my heart. Another bit of my old Austin will be gone. So I do hope it will reopen. But I can make my own gingerbread pancakes, which I still have found nowhere else on earth.

Retrning to Austin in 2023, the Magnolia Cafe has indeed reopened, unfortunately only at its South Congress location, and not on Lake Austin Blvd., where there now seems to be some kind of chicken place. This is not as bad as things might have been, but it is not like the old days. I really liked arriving at dawn to the find the police cars there.

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Gingerbread Pancakes

I don't particularly like tripe, but, after many years of research, I have finally decided that its presence on the menu of a Mexican restaurant is a badge representing seriousness of intention.

Calvin Trillin, "Dinner with Friends," Alice, Let's Eat, Vintage Books, 1979, p.94.

New Mexico Restaurants

While in the late 70's I was enjoying the Tex-Mex restaurants in Austin, I often stopped off in New Mexico while traveling back and forth between Texas and Los Angeles. The highlight of visits to friends in Albuquerque was often a trip to visit and eat in Santa Fe. At the time, I was told that the three best restaurants in Santa Fe were the Pink Adobe, The Shed, and Josie's. The Shed was right off the Plaza in downtown Santa Fe. It is large, packed, and going strong today. Josie's was in a small house on a side street north of the plaza. Between the 70's and when my wife and I stayed in Santa Fe in 1989, Josie's moved to another small house a few blocks away. I had still never eaten at the Pink Adobe; and, although it had been pointed out to me once, from a moving car, I didn't have a very good idea where it was.

For my first meal at The Shed, way back when, I ordered enchiladas. They arrived with what looked like burned tortillas. My friends laughed. They were blue corn tortillas, something that I had never heard of at the time. Later, when my friends were driving me to the airport in Albuqueque, I insisted on stopping at a local market (Piggily Wiggily) to see if I could buy some of these blue corn tortillas. I could. I then kept the package in my freezer in Austin, for several years, just so I could show people this remarkable product. Now, of course, I can buy blue corn tortilla chips at my local market in Sherman Oaks, California. But they don't have fresh blue tortillas, despite an otherwise large stock of (yellow) corn and flour tortillas. So not all of New Mexican food has arrived in LA.

I did not get back to Santa Fe until 2003, when the only available day to drive up from Albuquerque was a Sunday -- when Santa Fe is mostly shut down like some New England Puritan church. We ate at the Cowgirl BBQ, which was good, but (opening in 1993) not one of the old Santa Fe restaurants. Hell, it was open on Sunday. My next chance was not until 2010, when we drove up from Albuquerque and had lunch at The Shed -- the first time I had been there in more than 20 years. We investigated Josie's but learned that it was only operating for catering. But this lapse of time was getting to be ridiculous. I had not spent the night in Santa Fe since 1989.

So in 2012, after driving to South Dakota for a family reunion, I arranged to drive back through New Mexico and spend a couple of days in Santa Fe, at the La Fonda on the Plaza hotel. They gave me a room with a view of the Loretto Chapel, where St. Joseph, apparently, built a spiral staircase. I first heard that story at UNM in 1967. Driving into the city for the first time myself since 1989, I immediately discovered that I had been confused about directions ever since I first visited the city in 1967. I always thought that the Cathedral was north of the Plaza. No. It's east of the Plaza. Decades of confusion melted away, replaced by mortification. I had been driven into the city far too often by others and had done little of my own navigating. It is still hard to shake that mistaken orientation.

I finally had dinner at the Pink Abobe with some friends. It turned out that I had walked right past the restaurant many times without noticing it. But I was correct in the impression I had gotten from reports that it is a high end restaurant. Like many such restaurants, the menu is not that extensive; and, except for a few dishes, one might easily see such a menu in many places besides Santa Fe. So it was good, but I would not return looking for the variety of a distinctively New Mexico restaurant.

Josie's is where it was in 1989, but it is indeed only open for catering business. Their full menu can be examined in a popup. They don't seem to have a website, but copies of the menu are available at the front of the house. Otherwise, I ate at some new restaurants, including the atrium dining room in La Fonda. An enjoyable experience was the Plaza Café. This faces directly on the Plaza through large, plate-glass windows -- very different from the traditional New Mexico architecture of solid adobe walls and small windows, suitable for the days before air-conditioning. Inside, the Café also looks more like a 50's coffeshop, without the aesthetic of other Santa Fe restaurants. But it has been there since 1905, the menu is full of New Mexico dishes, and, when I arrived at the 7 AM opening, the first customers mainly seemed to be Local. And I did enjoy watching the early morning Plaza through the windows. So it was a good visit, although, as with Austin, there I is never enough time for all the eating that should be done. I long wondered if Calvin Trillin had ever devoted attention to New Mexican food. There's nothing about it in the "Tummy Trilogy." Now, however, I relate below that he did know all about New Mexico cooking and even tried to get people to open a New Mexico restaurant, "Taos Country," in New York.

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New Year's Hawai'i, 1975

One of my first wife's uncles (she had several) owned a house on the North Shore of O'ahu. The house was built on a slab, one corner of which was being undermined by high waves. So my wife had a cousin, a corner of whose bedroom hung out in the air a little over the beach. I would worry about being in that room, or in the house, during a heavy North Shore storm. But you couldn't beat the atmosphere. And you better like listening to the surf, at any time.

The family had a New Year's Day luau at the house in 1975. They cooked a pig in an imu, which means that you dig a pit, build a fire in it, let it burn down to coals, and then you throw in a whole pig. You've done some fixing first of course, and the pig is wrapped in, I think, some burlap. You bury the whole thing and then leave it there for a while. I don't remember how long. Then you dig it up. The pig will be all cooked. This is "kalua pig" or "kalua pork." The person who unearths the pig and pulls off the burlap gets to eat the ears. The meat is torn off in shreds, so it ends up looking like what in barbecue can be called "pulled pork." It's very good.

Later, I never had kalua pig again except at a Hawaiian food restaurant called "Ono Food" (now "Da Ono") at 726 Kapahulu Avenue, which wasn't too far from where we had been living. 'Ono means "good," specifically "good" to eat. "Good" in general in Hawaiian is maika'i. The restaurant also had things like Ahi Poke, Hawaiian raw fish. They used to have this in packets by the check-out counter in local markets, where my wife would often buy some. The markets would also have some sushi there, which may be the first place I ever saw it. That was before sushi became popular. Now I would wonder about raw fish left out like that.

Ono Food, of course, also had poi. Which was the staple of the old Hawaiian diet, in the absence of bread, rice, or noodles. When I was in elementary school, a kid once brought a jar of poi. I thought it tasted pretty good. As an adult, however, in taste and consistency, it seemed more like glue. But I could easily eat it with something else, like a forkful of kalua pig.

I returned to Ono Food in 1988 with my second wife. We waited in line outside, next to some Japanese tourists. The young Japanese woman was dressed in an outfit that included white gloves. Didn't seem like the way to dress for a Hawaiian vacation -- but they may have been on their honeymoon. I've seen a lot of Japanese wedding parties in Hawaiian hotels. Since my wife speaks Japanese, she could understand their conversation. They were wondering if they were going to be able to eat this Hawaiian food. I didn't notice later how they did in the restaurant. I hope it worked out for them.

Ono Food didn't feature other local Hawaiian favorites, like chili and rice or saimin, the local version of ramen noddle soup. For those, you still need to go to Zippy's, whose locations have become a lot more like proper restaurants, rather than just the hamburger stands they were in the 1970's.

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East Coast Eating

Until moving to New Jersey in 2013, I had one foot on the East Coast from regular visits to Princeton, and I slowly had been exploring some culinary features of New York and Philadelphia. I've eaten at the 2nd Avenue Deli, both at its original location on 2nd Avenue in Manhattan (before the owner was mysteriously murdered) and now where it has reopened at 162 East 33rd Street -- and at its new Upper East Side location. It is definitely superior to the more famous Carnegie Deli on 7th Avenue (which has now closed). I also liked the Stage Deli, also nearby on 7th Avenue -- also closed. Recently, I have enjoyed the convenience and spaciousness of Ben's Deli on 38th Street, between 7th and 8th Avenues.

There are so many restaurants in New York, it will take a long time just to scratch the surface, although I still miss Chef Ho's and have not found a subsitute. Of course, after the brutal Wuhan Virus lockdowns, I'm not sure how many restaurants will be left in New York when it's all over. The famous Patsy's Italian restaurant, closed in Manhattan, has opened a branch, perhaps permanently, in Asbury Park, New Jersey.

Looking back, Cavlin Trillin, who has lived many years in New York, said:

We don't really have any Mexican restaurants -- I mean the kind you find in Texas, say. Oh, we have Mexican restaurants run by maybe a guy from the East Side who picked up a few recipes while he was down in San Miguel de Allende thinking about becoming a painter, but no Mexican family restaurants. [American Fried, p.10].

The first Mexican restaurant in New York where my wife and ate was decorated in a very elaborate style, but it did not serve refried beans. How can you have a Mexican restaurant without refried beans? It boggles the mind. If you don't want to make them yourself, you can at least buy cans of them. Not the same thing; but something.

There are two problems with Mexican restaurants away from places with their own traditional, Mexican-like food -- such as Texas, New Mexico, or even California. One is the problem of accommodation to foreign, Anglo, or even just East Coast tastes. A giveaway for that is the absence of "combinations" from the menu. If you can't order your own combination of tacos, enchiladas, chile rellenos, tamales, beans, and rice, etc., it is not a proper Mexican restaurant. Combinations may actually be an Americanized custom, but it is the universal practice in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and California. Without it, you are stuck with whatever combination the restaurant decides is appropriate for particular menu items. If what you really want is that version of Enchiladas Suizas, that's fine -- restaurants always have their own specialities -- but a whole menu like that is a straightjacket.

The second problem is "authentic" Mexican food, i.e. a restaurant run by actual Mexicans, straight from Mexico. Since Mexico is a place of many regional cuisines, what is served may reflect that, without the variety that turns up in American restaurants, which may draw on dishes from all over Mexico, as well as with local dishes that originate in the States, especially New Mexico and Texas. Such a restaurant may also lack combinations. There is nothing wrong with this, but anyone familiar with the food in Texas or New Mexico may be puzzled and disappointed. In New York, it is sometimes difficult to tell whether one is at an Anglo-accommodation restaurant or an "authentic" Mexican one. Without an intimate knowledge of regional Mexican cuisine, I often cannot judge.

A good example of actual Mexico-Mexican food turned up in the New York Post, in an article about the difficulties experienced by New York restaurants during the pandemic and lockdowns ("No Relief for Eateries," of June 19, 2021, p.25). This was Mexico Lindo, 459 2nd Ave, at the corner of 2nd Avenue and East 26th Street, a few blocks from Madison Square Park. This was opened in 1972 by Antonio and Leonor Bonilla and is now run by their daughter, Claudia Bonilla. The family is from near Teotihuacán, Mexico, where Claudia often visited in her childhood. She says that the area has inspired her "homestyle but high-quality cuisine." Usually, the restaurant seems to be open only for dinner. There are nine listings on the main entrée menu -- four kinds of enchiladas, two kinds of burritos, tacos al carbon, fajitas, and carnitas. There are no combinations, no crispy tacos, no relleños, no tamales, or any other such items. Years ago, I think that my wife and I ate at El Parador, nearby at 325 East 34th Street, near the entrance to the Queens Midtown Tunnel. There is a bit more variety on their menu, but they also have paella, which is Spanish, not Mexican, food. I do not remember combinations on their menu and do not see any now. Thus, these are not restaurants that would seem very familiar to anyone from New Mexico or Texas.

On the other hand, I have a better chance of judging a Chinese restaurant. If Beef Tomato is not on the menu, then "authentic" cooking has overtaken Americanized traditional favorites -- that is even true in Hawai'i, where the previous ubiquity of Chinese restaurants, almost one on every street corner, has been replaced by Japanese, Starbucks, and I don't know what else.

One experience I had looking for Mexican restaurants in New York began in a curious way. In an episode of Elementary, a Sherlock Holmes update, which was filmed in New York City, I noticed a sign on a building in the background. At this remove, I don't remember exactly what it was, I think it said El Sombrero, with a neon image of a sombrero. That sounded like a Mexican restaurant. I soon identified it, and it was a real restaurant (not a fake sign for the TV show) at 108 Stanton Street, on the corner of Ludlow Street, which put it just a block away from the legendary Katz's Deli on Houston. It also seems to have been called The Hat at one time or another. When I went to investigate, it never seemed to be open, or even in business. Eventually, it did open, apparently after being remodelled. So I went there to eat. It wasn't a traditional Mexican restaurant. No combinations, and a lot of the things on the menu were unfamiliar. I didn't know what a "fried plantain" was, although I tried it. Like bananas. This may not even be a New World plant, and the cuisine it goes with seems more Caribbean than Mexican. That is what the menu was like, a mixture of Mexican, Caribbean, and other Latin American items. Not bad, but not really what I wanted, and missing some favorites.

In New York City I finally found a Mexican restaurant I liked. This was Chevy's Mexican Grill on 42nd Street near 8th Avenue, diagonally across from the Port Authority Bus Terminal. They had combinations. I ate there enough that the bartender -- I usually ate at the bar -- got to know me. Once I asked him about the unusual salsa the restaurant had. He told me all about it. They made their own.

On one memorable occasion, May 18, 2017, I had lunch at Chevy's. A crazed driver had just driven up on the sidewalk in Times Square and run down pedestrians between 42nd and 45th Street. I had walked precisely the same route that morning, on my way from the subway station on 42nd Street up to breakfast at Junior's Restaurant on 45th. Shortly after that happened, I came down on the 8th Ave Subway to have lunch at Chevy's. The streets East of there, of course, were blocked off. I watched the unfolding story on the television above the bar. The aftermath was taking place just a block away.

Then, about a year later, Chevy's closed. It broke my heart -- although perhaps not as bad as the earlier closing of St. Andrews Restaurant and Bar on 46th Street (30 April 2017). Both of them now join the list of "Fallen Heroes": all the restaurants I've loved in New York that have closed. Chevy's was replaced by an Irish pub, the sort of thing that exists on every block around Times Square. The space of St. Andrews, advertised as the only Scottish pub in New York, with the most beautiful, broad cherrywood bar I've ever seen, and rows of single malt Scotches on shelves behind the bar, has sat empty ever since its closing -- not unusual in New York, and a puzzling phenomenon to one and all. Looking in through the torn paper that covers the windows, I could see that the bar had actually been torn out. Eventually, it looked like a seafood restaurant would open in the space, but the last I checked, before the Wuhan Virus restaurant-killing shutdowns, the place had never opened. Good luck now.

The difficulty of finding certain kinds of Mexican food in New York is highlighted by Calvin Trillin in a piece, "Posole Dreams," published in Feeding a Yen, Savoring Local Specialties, from Kansas City to Cuzco [Random House, 2003], now the fourth in the "Tummy" books. "Posole Dreams" actually begins in 1971, when Trillin first conceived the desire of having a restaurant in Manhattan specializing in the cuisine of New Mexico. Back then, he was urging a friend to use a commercial space in his building for such a restaurant. However, what the friend did instead was a steakhouse, as though, like Irish pubs, Manhattan somehow has a deficiency of steakhouses.

Trillin's dream, of a "Taos Country" place in New York, continued, but with similar frustration. You want New Mexico food, you need to go to New Mexico. And a lot of Trillin's essay is indeed about visiting New Mexico, particularly Santa Fe. I'm not sure that I like posole enough that I would build dreams around it. But my introduction to sopapillas makes a better story than Trillin's, since it was part of my first (and last) experience with marijuana.

Trillin's book, now almost twenty years old, sadly bridges the period in which his wife Alice died. As he points out, the stories suddenly, but subtly, cease featuring Alice. Some earlier pieces, indeed, seem to have her failing to join Trillin's eating expeditions as actively as she had previously. Getting older myself, I am distressed that I must keep adding people to my In Memoriam tributes.

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The Atlantic Chip Shop

Another New York adventure in eating began in Los Angeles. I watched a cable documentary about fried foods. One feature was about places that did fried candy bars, which I had already heard about from Nigela Lawson. In the documentary, there was a restaurant in Brooklyn, The Atlantic Chip Shop, that did "deep fried Twinkies." So after I moved to New Jersey I went looking for it. The "Atlantic" part came from its location at 129 Atlantic Ave, in contrast to another Chip Shop in Park Slope. The latter had closed by the time I made it to Atlantic Avenue.

This was an English style pub and restaurant. The walls were covered with British memorability. It was a "Chip Shop," of course, because it featured fish and chips. I've never liked fish and chips that much, in London or anywhere else. But the Chip Shop had shrimp and chips, which I liked a lot. The batter on the shrimp was smooth, rather different from what I usually see on American fried shrimp, such as at Red Lobster. For the shrimp, they provided ketchup, but I knew they had HP brown sauce, which I saw at the waiter's station. I had to ask for it. Probably not many American patrons wanted it. But I had discovered HP sauce in London, curiously again at the waiter's station in a restaurant at Heathrow Airport, where I asked for it for my french fries.

I still use HP sauce, mainly on sausage. I mostly order it on line, but I've also bought some at the small store next to Tea and Sympathy on Greenwich Avenue in Greenwich Village. I've only eaten at Tea and Sympathy itself once. It is small and crowded, often with people waiting outside to be seated. But I wanted to see what a "cheese and pickle" sandwich was like, having read about it. The "pickle," in this case, is a mixed relish, not actual pickles, which aren't called that in Britain anyway -- American "pickles" are "gherkins," like the bizarre building in the City of London. The "cheese and pickle" turned out, perhaps like a lot of English food, relatively tasteless. Since I've bought some Branston Pickle, I'm still trying to deicde what to use it for.

At the Atlantic Chip Shop, I would have a beer, like Killian's Red, and then finish off with a deep fried Twinkie. It was all great, and I would wander back to the subway station slightly and pleasantly the worse for drink.

Then, of course, The Atlantic Chip Shop closed, late in 2018, and so it joined my growing list of "Fallen Heroes." Ending also the only reason for regular trips to Brooklyn.

Even after the Wuhan Virus lockdowns, Tea and Sympathy sill seems to be in business, as well as another Greenwich Avenue English-sounding restaurant, the Elephant and Castle. I've eaten there more than once, but the food did not seem particularly English. I could have sworn that once I saw pub food, like bangers and mash, on their menu; but later I couldn't find it again.

Missing from Greenwich Avenue, however, is what was another favorite, the Meatball Shop. My patronage also began in a curious way. During the Ebola Epidemic in Africa in 2014, a doctor returned from there to New York. He went out to eat at the Meatball Shop on Greenwich Avenue, and then he strolled along the High Line Park that runs north from Gansevoort Street. I think he also went bowling in Brooklyn. The next day he came down with Ebola. This left me intrigued about the Meatball Shop, and also curious if people would avoid going there. So I went. I liked their meatball sandwich, and they also had sides of spaghetti, which I also liked. So I began to eat there with some regularity. I also ate at another location on the Upper East Side.

Then something went wrong. I don't know if it was a change in ownership, the intervention of a Harvard MBA, or what, but the quality of food suddenly declined. I began to wonder if it was worth continuing to go back. After the Wuhan lockdowns, however, the Greenwich restaurant has closed. There are other Meatball Shop locations, several of them, still open. But it's not going to be the same. The old Greenwich Meatball Shop joins the "Fallen Heroes."


Three early trips to Philadelphia involved eating cheesesteaks. The first, when I went to visit the U.S.S. Olympia, was the lunch I had after seeing the ship, at the Hyatt Regency at Penn's Landing. They had put Cheez Whiz on the sandwich, and I was a little put off. However, although I would not prefer this, I subsequently learned that this is the local favorite (with some dissent). On two later trips, I deliberately went to Geno's Steaks in South Philadelphia, as the reputed home of one of the most authentic cheesesteaks. With provolone instead of Cheez Whiz ("Wiz"), these turned out to match the description by F. Paul Wilson in the quote above. The drawback of Geno's, and its nearby rival, Pat's, is the lack of indoor dining, or bathrooms. A cheesesteak in January may taste as good, but, sitting in the cold, hands growing numb, does detract from the experience.

Many subsequent trips to Philadelphia have involved the Reading Terminal Market, which, like the Farmer's Market in Los Angeles, contains many, many small eateries, with a wide range of products, from crèpes to Cajun cuisine. This could easily accommodate all dining needs, but the whole place closes before dinner.

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Eating in Vienna

After two trips to Vienna, I had sampled a lot of the food I was interested in there. It took two trips because I found something on the last day of the first trip, without the chance to take advantage of it.

My first meal in Vienna was at a café in the middle of the Hofburg Palace. On the menu they had Gulasch, which I had never actually eaten, although I expected it was not so different from the Paprikash for which I have a recipe here. It was very good, and so I kept an eye open for it afterwards. Meanwhile, I had planned to eat Wiener Schnitzel just once, and I did, at an outdoor café in the Graben, the center of sidewalk life in Vienna. That was very good, although its uniqueness was undercut by a later dinner, at my wife's academic conference, when we were served nothing but breaded dishes, including vegetables as well as Schnitzel.

On my last day in the city, walking around, I found the König von Ungarn Hotel, which had its own restaurant, with goulash on the menu. Just down the street, however, was something more, the Gulaschmuseum, a restaurant devoted entirely to goulash. There was no time that day to eat there.

Returning to Vienna, however, I had a lunch of goulash at the Museum at the first opportunity. It was really good. My wife, at a conference, had to wait another day, but then she ate there too. Between us we had three different versions of goulash -- beef, chicken, and vegetarian. All good.

Returning home, I have begun sampling goulash at Hungarian and German restaurants in New York City. Too soon for definitive resuts.

Because of the pandemic and the business lockdowns, I see on the Google map of Vienna that the Gulaschmuseum is permanently closed. Their website was still up for a while, looking normal, but it is now gone. The König von Ungarn Hotel doesn't seem to be fully back in business, and the restaurant only seems to be serving breakfast for guests.

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Philosophical Vienna

Eating in Japan

In August, 2023, my wife and I spent a week in Japan. This was short because my wife had been teaching there for four months, and I expected she was eager to get home -- and because we knew it would be hot -- just not as hot as it turned out to be (often 95oF, with a dewpoint of 75o, something very familiar from Texas). So we limited our activities. That did not include limiting our dining.

Since in Tokyo we stayed in Shinjuku, with a vast entertainment district, we took advantage of what is available, especially East of Shinjuku Station -- in Shinjuku 3-Chōme (新宿三丁目) -- an area also identified as 東口, Higashiguchi, "East Gate," i.e. of Shinjuku Station.

We like buckwheat soba noodles (蕎麦 or, more commonly, そば) and quickly found an excellent place specializing in soba, Daian, which is across the street from the Station -- Google is such a great help. Would have been a lot harder a few years ago.

Unfortunately, my flight in had been delayed, and it was late enough that Daian had already taken the last orders. We wandered around a good bit and found an open place north of Shinkuku Station, which I've had a little trouble identifying, but seems to have been Torasoba, とらそば (which doesn't have a webpage but whose interior we see at right). It was a kind of fast food soba (with other noodles and dishes), which was good but nothing special. They were themselves closing up just as we were finishing.

Torasoba was on the southern boundary of the Kabukichō, 歌舞伎町, district, often called a "Red Light" district, traditionally used to indicate the presence of prostitution. The reputation of the district now is for touts luring tourists into bars and then drugging and robbing them, often by charging exhorbitant amounts on their credit cards, after the touts had promised free or low priced drinks. In a country with a very low crime rate, Kabukichō seems to labor to be the exception. Tourists need to ignore the touts. In the part of Shinkuku we frequented, we never saw any.

Part of the danger of Kabukichō now is that lonely young Japanese women are lured by fake "boyfriends," who they may have met at a dating app, into spending money and getting into debt in the clubs, which they then must repay through prostitution. A young woman just standing alone on a street in Kabukichō, waiting to be approached, is likely to be one of these poor girls. This seems to be a recent phenomenon, since previously prostitution in the district tended to be carried on with foreign women. Unfortunately, the girls may continue to be infatuated with their "boyfriends" and accept the degradation of their condition.

Heading back to our hotel fom Torasoba, we passed under the railroad tracks and took the first left heading south. So this area was now outside the 西口, Nishiguchi, "West Gate," of Shinjuku Station. We were on a narrow way, with a retaining wall and embankment on the left, holding up the railroad tracks, and many small restaurants and bars ont he right, one after another, packed with customers, with many eating at tables on the street.

This was charming and intriguing, and little did I know at the time what we were looking at. Now I know that this was part of the 思い出橫丁, Omoide Yokochō, a warren of narrow streets and countless more small restaurants and bars, often seating no more than half a dozen customers -- with no room on the streets for outside seating. We were unaware that the heart of the district was a short passage into the interior, as we passed by it and emerged in some broader space west of Shinjuku Station.

Omoide, 思い出, "memory; keepsake," is one of a phenomenon in Tokyo, that of a 橫丁, yokochō district, distinguished by just such small streets -- "side streets" or "alleys" -- with extremely small restaurants, clubs, and bars. Omoide has about 80. There is an even larger one in Kabukichō, the ゴールデン街, gōruden-gai, the "Golden Gai [i.e. town]," with 200 some establishments, and all the attendant delights and dangers of Kabukichō -- where one bar is called "Deathmatch in Hell" and the owner says, "All drink 666 yen & no fuckin cover charge!" Photography is prohibited in the area by the local business association (Yakuza?). We didn't know anything about the place and came nowhere near, but I'm glad we got a glimpse of the less perilous Omoide, which is shown on the map below.

Much of pre-War Tokyo was actually like these small streets and alleys, but bombing and redevelopment has replaced them with modern streets, such as Napoleon III did in Paris. Golden Gai might have been demolished also, through extra-legal torching by the Yakuza, but the locals banded together to protect the area.

We see the full name of Omoide as 新宿西口思い出橫丁, Shinjuku Nishiguchi Omoide Yokochō. Certainly tells us everything about it.

The next day we had lunch at Daian, eating at their counter, which was really great. I had a simple bowl of soba, but other things I like are tenzaru soba, 天ざるそば, which can be cold soba with tempura (shrimp or vegetables), and yakisoba, 焼きそば, which is stir-fried soba with vegetables and/or meat -- good versions of both of which can actually be found in Princeton. While I think of soba as properly buckwheat noodles, which are brown, I have sometimes been served noodles that are not brown, as actually we had at Torasoba above (and I had been given in 2013 in Flagstaff, Arizona). I'm not sure what the truth of the matter is -- since soba noodles can be up to 60% wheat flour, which might not be very brown, perhaps that is what we might sometimes get.

My introduction to tenzaru soba was years earlier in Himeji, 姫路市. We had just toured the famous Castle and were headed back down the main street (Ōtemae, 大手前, Street) towards the train station, looking for a place to eat lunch. Incredibly, we didn't see anything.
Author at the Will Adams Memorial, Nihombashi, Tokyo, 6 August 2023;
I still find this unbelievable -- although now Google maps shows several restaurants along the way, including a soba place. So we ended up back at the train station, where there were, as usual, several places to eat. I don't think we were in a specialty restaurant, but I did order tenzaru soba and have liked it ever since, although it took me a little while to remember what it was and untangle it from things like yakisoba.

But our favorite place in Shinjuku turned out to be a small basement restaurant, Rokumonya, for okonomiyaki, お好み焼き, where we had dinner that night. The clientele was entirely Japanese except for a party of French tourists, of all things, who came in and asked us to take their picture. The place is small and intimate, with five or six tables and a long counter, which was filled up by the French tourists. It looked like only a staff of three, with a waitress and two guys behind the counter, one of whom helped out with waitering as needed.

I originally had that dish in Nara, and then in Kyoto. This place was better than what we had in Kyoto. We've tried finding okonomiyaki around where we live (NY/NJ) but have had trouble pinning one down. Goggle and other sites show several places in Manhattan with okonomiyaki, but the ones I've previously investigated didn't have it after all. I will try again; but I actually don't see any with the frying counter we see in Japanese restaurants. New York okonomiyaki seems to come in a skillet.

Okonomiyaki is defined as a "pancake" with toppings, fried up at one's table or by a chef if one is sitting at the counter, which we were in Nara and Kyoto. However, at Rokumonya, they brought the dish to our own table, where we did the frying. So buried under toppings, including an egg, I'm not sure I've ever actually seen the "pancake." Flipping it over a few times, one then serves what you want off the frying table onto your plate. It's really good. We also progressed from beer to cold sake, which left me complacent enough that I forgot my phone on the table. The waiter had to run after me with it. One expects that in Japan, but I also had a waiter run after me in Venice in 2019 for the same reason.

And then there is shabu shabu, しゃぶしゃぶ. I just love it. We found a place called Momo Paradise, which was good, but not as good as a place we used to go to in Ikebukuro, which had closed even back in 2009. At that place, we always ended the dinner by drinking the stew that the boiling meat and vegetables had made of the water. Momo Paradise doesn't seem to do that. Felt cheated. But it was all good, with a variety of meat cuts, at hideous expense, and we had the option of picking more vegetables from a kind of salad bar.

I like the joke they make of this in Lost in Translation, which I watched again on the flight out, where Bill Murray says "What kind of restaurant makes you cook your own food?" But he and Scarlett Johansen were in a bad mood at the time, since he had spent the previous night with the red head night club singer.

Our most interesting experience at the Ikebukuro shabu shabu place was when there was a group of Japanese and Russian musicians eating at an adjacent table -- the place had tatami rooms, but we ate at the tables. The Japanese didn't speak Russian; and the Russians didn't speak Japanese. Their common language was English; so we could easily eavesdrop on their conversation.

Our final dinner was with an old friend of Jackie's, who took us to a little all-Japanese Italian restaurant (still in Shinjuku) called "Cookin'." They did a very good job, with pizza and spaghetti. Very nice place, also intimate like Rokumonya, if not in the basement.
Modern Japanese Fashion

After a couple of our dinners, we had dessert, standing on the street, at a stand just down from Daian, called Crêpe Petit Varie. They had dessert crêpes and ice cream, which seemed to be very popular, right opposite escalators that went up and down to Shinjuku Station. I think that the last time I had a dessert crêpe was in Montreal.

We spent a couple of days visiting friends who live about an hour's drive from Nagoya. Our most interesting meal was because of the pride of our friends in their local Mexican restaurant, Rosita. It was pretty good. One thing that interested me was that, although the website shows folded crispy tacos, what we got were rolled tacos that nevertheless were fried. I've seen many crispy tacos, and soft rolled tacos, but I don't think I've seen rolled crispy tacos before. They were excellent.

My wife and I visited Shimonoseki in 2009, specifically to visit the site of the epic and ominous Battle of Dan-no-Ura, whose moving and tragic story I had learned about years earlier watching the movie Kwaidan (1964) at the University of Hawai'i.

We stayed at a Japanese inn, a ryokan, 旅館, now listed as the Shimonoseki Shunpanro Hotel, immediately adjacent to the Akamajingū Shrine, with essentially its own entrance to the Shrine.

Arriving in Shimonoseki by train, we took a taxi to the ryokan. Along the way, we noticed a number of restaurants advertising fugu, 河豚, , or フグ, i.e. the poisonous pufferfish regarded as a delicacy in Japan, Korea, and elsewhere. In fact, the ability to prepare pufferfish without the poison from the liver, ovaries, eyes, or skin getting into the meat was pioneered at Shimonoseki. It is the local delicacy.

That night, as dinner was brought to us in our room, we soon discovered that every single dish was a version of fugu! It was, indeed, the speciality of the ryokan. So we ate it. As it happened, we were told that when members of the Imperial Family stayed at the ryokan, those in the line of succession were prohibited from eating the fugu.

Having had this experience, I can say that fugu doesn't have a lot of taste -- which is not so surprising in Japanese cooking, which does not have a lot of strong tastes, apart from wasabi (Japanese horseradish). Indeed, fugu is typically served with a variety of sauces, as we see in the Shimonoseki video by Chris Broad ("Abroad in Japan" at YouTube). Our dishes, however, were mostly not just plain fugu. On the other hand, daring people like small portions of the poison, which is a paralytic, although actually serving parts, say, of the liver is illegal in Japan.

My friend Lynn Burson took a cooking class while living in Japan. She baked a cake that her fellow cooking students thought had too strong a taste, although it was typical for American cakes. Since then, I've encountered more than one local candy in Japan, for instance at Yoshino (famous for its mountain of cherry trees), that mostly had the taste and consistency of chalk. However, although my wife finds a lot of that resistable, I rather like it. I don't always need strong taste, which perhaps is why I like Moo Goo Gai Pan.

My wife has subsequently had fugu at restaurants in Tokyo, at dinners arranged by others. But I don't think either of us would go out of our way to have it again by our own choice.

The next morning, the hostess asked us why we were in Shimonoseki, and we told her it was because of Dan-no-Ura. She said that the Inn had a copy of a manuscript of the Heiki-Monogatari epic, which recounts the battle. As part of my wife's education in Classical Japanese was to memorize the beginning of the Heiki-Monogatari, she began reciting it. I have never seen such a look of astonishment on anyone, and the hostess immediately dragged us off to see the manuscript. It was a great moment.

That reminds me of when I bought a small, leather bound Qurʾān at Cairo Airport in 1969 -- though that seems like an odd thing to have at an airport gift shop. The clerk was skeptical and asked if I could read it. So I opened to the first chapter and began reading -- luckily I didn't need to read much for the effect, or I would have had more difficulty. He was not as astonished as the hostess in Shimonoseki, but he was at least mildly impressed, and another fellow with him.

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Borrowing Cuisines

Before turning to the actual recipes below, let me address the hot issue of "cultural appropriation" in food. This is part of some larger issues, which mainly go back to proprietary claims about how a racial, national, or ethnic group is to control its image, history, and, indeed, anything that anyone else is going to say about them. This ranges from worries that a group is being disparaged or victimized, to demands that a particular ethnic mythology be accepted by everyone without question. The former can involve reasonable complaints; the latter does not. Indeed, the latter easily includes falsehoods that are disparaging to other ethnic groups and about which they may feel attacked or insulted.

In general, "culture appropriation" means borrowings from one culture to another, of just about any cultural practice or artifact. This may be thought to be illegitimate without permsission (from who?), or illegitimate altogether. As such, this is one of the most absurd ideas that the political Left has ever come up with. Women have been attacked over their hair styles or earrings, on the basis that only certain races or ethnicities are allowed particular forms of these things. What authority makes these decisions remains unspecified. As with so much else, the point of it all is just to "virtue signal," jerk people around, and demonstrate power.

The truth is that without cultural borrowing, not only would civilization be poorer, but there wouldn't be civilization at all. Korea, Japan, and Vietnam did not ask permission, and did not need to, to borrow the system of Chinese characters in order to write their languages. The most absurd feature of the kind of thing may be the sense that borrowing is like theft, which leaves the victim with a loss, as somehow their possession has been spirited away. In fact, the Chinese would not notice for some time that others were using their writing system.

There is no limit to the insanity of this kind of thing, such as the idea that Greek philosophy was "stolen" from the Library at Alexandria -- in fact a library, and a city, that didn't even exist yet when Greek philosophers were writing, and a library whose books were all in the Greek language in the first place. The people who have peddled such ideas relied on intimidation to get their way, since objections to their ignorance and stupidity would be answered with charges of racism since, of course, Black Egyptians invented philosophy, flight, and everything else. Of course, Modern Egyptians, who are not Black, are not asked what they think of it all. This business has gotten worse again recently, as we see in the "'Blackwashing' of Cleopatra."

When it comes to food, we might begin by noting that Japanese tempura cooking, with breaded and fried vegetables, shrimp, etc., was borrowed from the Portuguese. "Tempura" isn't even a Japanese word, but Latin. The Japanese have been practicing "cultural appropriation" in just about everything through their entire history. That they make everything Japanese must, in fashionable thinking, constitute theft and insult against everyone they got everything from. Fortunately, such accusations mean nothing to the Japanese.

Which brings me to one of the definitive moments in the political firestorm of "cultural appropriation." In 2016, two women from Portland, Oregon, Kali Wilgus and Liz Connelly, went on vacation in Mexico. They loved the food -- which makes it sound like there weren't very good Mexican restaurants in Portland. Perhaps so.

Wilgus and Connelly particularly liked the (flour) torillas; so they went around asking everyone they could find how they were made. After their investigation, they returned to Portland, put their knowledge to use, and early in 2017 opened a shop they called "Kooks Burritos." So far, so good.

Then a local newspaper ran a story about their business, a story that even went to national news outlets. And the lunatics closed in. This was, not just "cultural appropriation," but racist "cultural appropriation," because two white women have no right to "steal" local recipes and make Mexican food. The Portland Mercury actually said,

Because of Portland's underlying racism, the people who rightly own these traditions and cultures that exist are already treated poorly. These appropriating businesses are erasing and exploiting their already marginalized identities for the purpose of profit and praise.

There are all sorts of political crimes recounted in just this one passage. Everyone, of course, is racist. Mexicans apparently "own" the knowledge of making tortillas. Well, perhaps every cook of Japanese tempura owes a royalty check to Portugal. That is what it amounts to. "Appropriating businesses" are apparently in the genocide business, intent on erasing the identity, if not the existence, of Mexicans. But Mexicans better stop making all the beer that they do. The Aztecs didn't have beer. It's from Germany, just like the name of Bohemia beer might tell you.

And, of course, how dare Wilgus and Connelly make a living by earning a profit off of their hard work, for which the wicked might "praise" them. We all know that "profit" is a fiction of value that is stolen from the proletariat. And, apparently, the Mexicans are somehow laboring as slaves to Wilgus and Connelly, since another source says that their business is, "the latest example of white folks profiting off the labor of people of color." They must keep those Mexican slaves well hidden in their little store. Or, it may just be that, having "stolen" the recipes from the Mexicans, this therefore rendered it impossible for the Mexicans to keep cooking in Mexico. Perhaps the "white women" used the "neuralyzer" from Men in Black [1997], which rendered the Mexicans unable to remember how to cook.

I prefer corn tortillas myself, although I understand that it is more difficult to wrap them around a burrito. I did make my own burritos at the Texas Union in the Spring of 1981. I don't know what kind of cultural theft the kitchen was practicing in that case. But then Texas does have its own cuisine.

Wilgus and Connelly, of course, were hounded out of business, even receiving death threats. This all stirred up people who were just vicious psychopaths, which tells us about the level of moral maturity of the whole controversy. Portland was a place where mobs attacked a federal courthouse every night for months, and Donald Trump was blamed for their violence. The police, it seems, were forcing the mobs to throw firebombs against the courthouse. I'm not sure how that works; but it is no more crazy an idea that than it was some sort of crime against humanity for Wilgus and Connelly to sell burritos. I don't think I would have blamed them for firebombing the Portland Mercury. That would have made sense.

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They sat in silence until the waiter appeared and recited the litany. 'An' we got spaghetti wit' tomata sauce, spaghetti in squid ink, spaghetti wit' sea urchin, spaghetti wi't clam sauce, spaghetti --'

'I'll have it with the clam sauce,' Montalbano interrupted him.

Andrea Camilleri, August Heat, translated by Stephen Sartarelli, Picador, 2009, 2010, p.186; British punctuation.

Italian-American Spaghetti

Apart from making sandwiches and the like, I got into more substantial cooking in the early 1970's when I returned from living away and discovered that my mother had stopped using the spaghetti sauce recipe that she had always made when I was a child. To save time when getting home from work, she very sensibly was resorting to store bought spaghetti sauces. Since spaghetti had always been my favorite dinner, I figured that at least I could be the one to continue making the original recipe, which my mother had gotten from another girl living at the Evangeline Hotel in Los Angeles in 1940.

That hotel, the Evangeline Residence for Women, at 1005 West 6th Street, which is now just west of the Harbor Freeway, was founded by the Salvation Army in 1924 and continued in business until 1987. The Residence was named for Evangeline Booth (1865-1950), daughter of the founder of the Salvation Army, William Booth. From 1934 to 1939 she was the fourth head, "General," of the Salvation Army herself. Born in Britain, her mother, Cartherine, had wanted to name her "Eva," after a character in Uncle Tom's Cabin. But her father didn't like that name and came up with "Evelyne." Nevertheless, "Eva" seems to have always been her nickname.

Evangeline herself adopted that name after moving to the United States in 1896. A famous name, it was probably inspired by the poem Evangeline, A Tale of Acadie, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow [1847], about the tragic displacement of the French speaking Acadians from Nova Scotia to Louisiana. Their descendants, the Cajuns, preserve the distinctive culture and cooking that provide two of the recipes here.

There were several Evangeline Residences around the country, including one in San Francisco featured on the postcard at right. In 1987, when my mother saw that the Evangeline in Los Angeles was going to close, we went down to have a look at it, having lunch at the Pacific Dining Car, which had also been in the neighborhood at the time, but that had become an expensive restaurant, no longer a real dining car. Until 1944, when she joined the Waves, my mother had moved from the Evangeline to apartments in the Wilshire District, even though she ended up with a job at Lockheed Aircraft in Burbank. Returning to Lockheed after the War, she didn't live in the Valley until getting married to my father in 1947. They had met at Lockheed during the War but got reconnected afterwards when my father spotted her waiting for a bus at Hollywood and Vine, of all places, and offered her a ride. So there are a lot of associations with this spaghetti recipe.

The recipe was somewhat informal. The way I do it now, for a batch with a single pound of ground beef (my market has 9% fat ground beef, which eliminates the need to drain fat, which my mother needed to do when I was a child), is chop half a medium onion and a few cloves of garlic. After using about four cloves for a while, my temptation to use more has now led to using an entire head of garlic, but usually for a double recipe.

My wife and I have both been pushing the garlic element of all our recipes. We now pretty much use a whole head of garlic for any recipe that calls for garlic. Something about this perplexes me. I have heard, in fiction and in life, that garlic leaves a strong smell on the breath, and sometimes even on the skin. Neither my wife nor I have ever noticed this. It may be a genetic thing, like the difference between people who can and who cannot smell cyanide. But we kept testing the limits and finally found that three whole heads might be too much for a pasta and clams recipe based on a dish my wife had encountered in Japan, of all places.

I dice the onion (a whole onion for the double recipe) and chop the garlic pretty fine. A vegetable chopper has now replaced older ways of preparing garlic, which were always a pain. Then I sauté the onion and garlic for a few minutes in a shot (perhaps a tablespoon) of light olive oil (light yellow, not greenish, in color), add the meat, and cook the mixture, stirring frequently, until the meat is cooked through and no pink remains. At this stage I also add the spices, which I have never properly measured. The best I can do is say I use a fat pinch of oregano and basil (crushing at bit as added), a little less thyme, and a pinch of "Italian herb," which must just be a mixture of the others, but it smells good so I use it. Dashes of salt and black pepper and a little shot of cayenne (I can't resist) finish things off.

When the meat is ready I add an 6 oz. can of tomato paste, a 28 oz. can of tomato puree, and a 28 oz. can of whole tomatoes, usually Italian tomatoes canned with basil (removing the basil leaves). With a teaspoon of sugar and at least a couple (6 oz.) cans of water (plus the liquid from the canned tomatoes), this about does it. This gets simmered, and stirred occasionally, for a couple of hours at least. I've known different people who leave the spaghetti sauce sitting on the stove for some time without cooking, but this makes me nervous. I do try to keep the heat pretty low -- just high enough for a bit of bubbling but not so high that the sauce starts to burn if it isn't stirred for a while. My late Hawaiian grandmother-in-law, who was a Mormon and didn't drink, always urged me to put a bit of cooking wine in the sauce. Since the alcohol from wine actually evaporates during cooking, this does not result in any real addition of alcohol -- not that I have any objection. But I never got into using any wine in cooking, though I do like a red wine with the meal itself.

Two reasons for making a douple recipe are (1) freezing much of it to use over some time, and (2) using the volume to add Italian sausages and/or meatballs. I have a nice recipe for meatballs, which I seem to have misplaced after my move from Los Angeles to New Jersey. I've been making it from memory, as detailed below. There may be enough meatballs that I take some out to have in meatball sandwiches.

Oddly enough, the best meatball sandwich I've ever had was at "Athenian Pizza," a long vanished restaurant -- a "Fallen Hero" -- in Princeton. I have not been able to duplicate their sandwich. They also had good Greek food, but very surly service.

"Spaghetti," of course, actually means the pasta, not the sauce that goes with it. These days I tend to use a combination of plain spaghetti and a kind of wagon wheel pasta called "rotelle" by De Cecco. This is not my preference. When I was at UCLA, my Persian professor, Donald Stilo, used to have his classes over for dinner. He was actually from New Jersey, not Irān, and tended to cook Italian food. The pasta he used was a long tight corkscrew called "fusilli." I liked that a lot, but was not able to find it in ordinary markets. This was made by Ronzoni. A pasta made by De Cecco called "fusilli" was the much shorter and broader corkscrew that was the same as what was called "rotelle" and (the smaller) "rotini" by Ronzoni (and Barilla). This is very confusing. For years I was able to get the Ronzoni fusilli at Italian groceries, but then they unaccountably stopped carrying it. I had not been able to find it for some time when I actually found some in Madison, Wisconsin, in January 1986. Subsequently, I found more at a different Italian grocery in LA again, but then they also stopped carrying it. There may have been some around elsewhere, but I got kind of tired of trying to track it down. My ordinary supermarket had some Ronzoni "fusilli," but this meant broken pieces of the longer noodles.

Finally, a proper fusilli, made by De Cecco (#5), fusilli lunghi bucati, became available at my local supermarket. They carried this for a while, and then it disappeared. On inquiry, the market said that De Cecco had stopped making it! Checking out De Cecco's Italian website and asking them about it, this seemed to be the case.

Fortunately, the world is accessible through the internet. Another Italian company, Anna, makes a fusilli col buco # 108 and this can simply be ordered through Thinking I was ordering five packages, I accidently ordered five boxes of 12 packages each. So I was fixed for fusilli for quite a while and could even give away some of it, including to my elderly neighbor who remembered it from his Italian-American childhood.

As noted, I usually make a double recipe of spaghetti sauce and freeze part of it. With the double recipe I always add something extra. This can be Italian sausages or meatballs. I fry the sausages on their own (no oil) in a pan, and now cut them up after a while to be sure they are cooked through. For the meatballs, I mix two eggs with 6 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese, 4 tablespoons of chopped parsley (I just use dry, not fresh), 1/4 cup of milk, and some dashes of salt and pepper. To this I add a pound of ground beef. My original meatball recipe then called for bread crumbs, but I've always torn up and added whole slices of bread (whole wheat, crust and all), at least three (more if the mixture is too watery). This gets all mixed together and broken up into balls of suitable size. These are fryed separately in a pan with a thin layer of vegetable oil, turning them over, until browned. Then they go into the spaghetti sauce. The meatballs and/or sausages simmer along with the sauce.

Not long ago I accidentally bought a can of tomato sauce instead of tomato paste. I figured it wouldn't make that much difference, and I could just cook down the sauce a bit more. Maybe that would have worked if I had cooked it down even more, but as it happened the sauce did come out too thin. So I think the tomato paste makes a difference.

In 2021 actor Stanley Tucci [cf. The Devil Wears Prada, 2006] began a series of shows about regional Italian cooking, "Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy," on CNN. One of the intriguing details was that the sauce used for spaghetti in Bologna, which famously is a meat sauce, otherwise might actually be missing tomato and garlic, while featuring a soffritto "mirepoix" of onion, carrots, and celery. Also, the meat sauce we see has pork and veal rather than beef.

In the show about Florence, we see Tucci's mother reproducing the sauce that she used to make when they lived in Florence, with the onion, carrot, and celetry, but without meat. It did include tomato but seemed to be missing garlic. In Tucci's cookbook, The Tucci Cookbook [Gallery Books, 2012], however, we see garlic. This is called "Maria Rosa's Sauce," salsa alla Maria Rosa [p.124], named after someone who became a family friend in Florence.

Before the cookbook arrived, I made the sauce as I saw it on the show, with the addition of garlic. Can't have Italian food without garlic. I liked it; and now it looks like I will expand my own traditional spaghetti saurce by adding carrot and celery to the onion and garlic. I still have a little trouble seeing carrots as part of Italian cooking, although I've been hoping to find other ways to use celery, which here only figures in my jambalaya recipe. If the carrot is finely chopped, it adds to the flavor without visible pieces of carrot challenging my preconceptions.

Tucci's show on Sicily surprisingly did not feature any of the seafood, including squid, octopus, and sea urchin, that we see in the books of Andrea Camilleri, as quoted above. This seems like a grave oversight.

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Tex-Mex-California Chili

It is hard to live in Texas without encountering chili and its lore. This is serious business to many people. I didn't get that serious, but I did like it. Actually, the dish is chili con carne, where originally the "chili" (or "chile," "chilli") meant chile (chili) peppers, and the classic dish meant cooking these with meat.

This also now frequently includes the addition of beans, but that is also a matter of intense controversy, since many devotees, and prestigious cook-offs, prohibit beans. Vegetarian chilis, however, now may mean beans but no meat, i.e. chili con frijoles. At one chili cook-off while I was living in Austin, one participant had added beans to his dish without realizing this was against the rules. He was allowed to remove the beans without being disqualified. As it happened, this was the guy who won the competition, and the pro-bean people immediately began arguing that of course the guy had won, since the beans had left their taste behind.

In an episode of The Big Bang Theory, Leonard's Indian girlfriend Priya (Aarti Mann, or Aarti Majmudar) made chili. She had had a roommate from Texas when she was a student at Cambridge. When Sheldon shows up, he asks about the chili, "Does it have beans in it?" Since the answer is "yes," he says, "Then it's not chili." Sheldon says that Priya, "as a foreigner," can be forgiven for not knowing this.

Since Priya has gotten her chili recipe from an actual Texan, the obvious question to ask Sheldon is, "Are there Texans who make something they call 'chili' and put beans in it?" Sheldon can only answer, "Yes." If so, then Sheldon is trying to hoodwink the "foreigner" by falsely representing the chili situation in Texas. Indeed, that is why he asked the question in the first place, to affirm the misrepresentation. He obviously knew there were Texans -- not just "foreigners" -- who put beans in chili. Priya, however, although a lawyer, does not pursue this obvious line of questioning. Actor Jim Parsons, who plays Sheldon, actually is from Texas. One wonders where he stands on the question of beans.

Other controveries occur. I had learned from Calvin Trillin about the popularity of chili in Cincinnati, Ohio. One of my wife's graduate students ended up marrying a fellow from Cincinnati, who then told me that chili was "invented" in Cincinnati. However, the venerable Empress Chili Parlor itself says, "In 1922, brothers Tom and John Kiradjieff, Macedonian immigrants, began ladling their seasoned meat sauce to theatre patrons and performers out of a small shop next to the Empress Theatre in downtown Cincinnati." This does not sound like evidence for the invention of chili.

On the other hand, William F. Gebhardt (1875-1956), with restaurants in New Braunfels and then San Antonio, was selling his chili powder in 1896. He became aware of "chili con carne" because it was being sold by vendors in the Plaza in San Antonio. Indeed, such sales are attested by travelers as early as 1828. Stews of chili peppers are observed by the Spanish in Mexico as early as 1529 -- a dish that continues as such in New Mexico.

Indeed, a Macedonian "meat sauce" might have a way to go before being called chili at all -- not the least because Macedonian immigrants are unlikely to have been familiar with a word, chīlli, from the Nahuatl language of the Aztecs. Anomalies remain. Cincinnati chili is typically served over spaghetti noodles. But there is not a lot of spaghetti in Mexican or Mexican-inspired cooking. Noodles, even in Italy, come from China, where they go back to the Shang Dynasty -- we even get the story that Marco Polo brought them back to Venice himself.

I eat chili over rice, but I picked that up in Hawai'i, where it is very popular. I don't go around telling people that chili was invented in Hawai'i. Where recipes are found for Cincinnati chili, they seem to have spices like allspice and cinnamon in them. This is not the Mexican or Southwestern spice palate. It is more Middle Eastern, as we can see here in my recipes for Kibbe and Moussaka -- probably not too surprising for brothers from Macedonia. So, while Cincinnati chili may have its own appeal, it cannot be confused, in origin or form, with Texas chili. Historical accuracy, however, is not that common when it comes to local boosterism.

Chasen's Chili
1/2 pound dried pinto beans
2 16 oz. cans tomatoes
1 lb. green peppers
1 1/2 lbs. onions
1 1/2 tablespoons oil
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup butter
2 1/2 lbs ground beef
1 lb ground pork
1/3 cup chili powder
2 tablespoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
Wash beans, place in bowl and add water to two inches over beans. Soak overnight. Simmer, covered, in the same water until tender. Add tomatoes and simmer 5 minutes.

Sauté green peppers slowly in oil for 5 minutes. Add onion and cook until tender, stirring frequently. Add garlic and parsley.

In large skillet melt butter and sauté beef and pork for about 15 minutes. Add meat to onion mixture, stir in the chili powder and cook 10 minutes. Add this mixture to beans and season with salt, pepper, and cumin, the simmer, covered, for 1 hour. Remove cover and cook 30 minutes longer.

Although I cooked chili in Texas, my recipe was ironically from California, based on a recipe my mother had found in a magazine, which was supposed to be the one used at Chasen's Restaurant, which was one of the heaviest Hollywood eateries for many years. This chili is supposed to have been flown from the restaurant to Elizabeth Taylor wherever she was. The original recipe is given at left.

I was never serious enough to start with dry beans and soak them overnight. What I always did right from the beginning was get a couple of (16 oz.) cans of beans, one of pinto beans, the other of red kidney beans, wash off the beans in a wire strainer, and then simmer them with the tomatoes and an 8 or 16 oz. can of tomato sauce and water.

After encountering vegetarian chilis with multiple beans in them -- up to five -- I got more interested in using more and different beans. Now I've been cooking with muliple beans, first adding additional cans of black beans, which became popular while I was living in Texas, and black eyed peas, which of course, living in Texas, I've eaten straight and now have with fried chicken. I'd seen garbanzo beans in vegetarian chilis, but this struck me as more something for salads than for chili. I was thinking that my four beans might have been too much. I wasn't sure. It tasted good, but I wondered if it would taste better with less, perhaps without the black eyed peas. I really like black beans, however, so now I can't imagine not using them.

Recently, I've dropped all inhibitions and have been using a large variety of beans:  All of the above, with great northern beans, red beans, white beans, whatever I can find. The red beans remind me of New Orleans cooking, where "red beans and rice" are popular. With garbanzos, I've now gotten it up to eight or nine beans. This is chili con frijoles with a vengeance.

For the second part of the recipe, I was using a couple of good sized bell peppers and enough chopped onion (perhaps up to a couple medium sized ones) not to overcrowd the skillet. This was all sautéd with the garlic and parsley, which are ingredients in the recipe, but I sauté the garlic at the beginning. I don't understand adding raw garlic after the other cooking. There are now, of course, red, yellow, and orange as well as green bell peppers. I was tempted to try them in chili and now have begun doing that.

But I have recently effected a more serious kind of revolution. The key term in either chili con carne or even chili con frijoles, and the word by which any such dish is now abbreviated, is just "chili." But "chili" means chiles (chilis, chillis), and the mild bell peppers were the only actual chiles I had been using, or were in the Chasen's recipe.

But chiles were the essence of the original dish, and source of its heat, which now may only be supplied by chili powder or other spices and mixtures. In Texas, chili powder is supposed to have been invented, as I have noted, by William F. Gebhardt. Gebhardt opened a restaurant in New Braunfels in 1892. After discovering chili con carne being sold in the Plaza in San Antonio, Gebhardt got the idea of reducing dried chilis to powder, which he began selling in 1896. Moving to San Antonio in 1898, chili powder was a commercial product there by 1900. Gebhardt chili powder still exists, bought up by a faceless conglomerate food company, originally from Nebraska.

Meanwhile, "chili," meaning a stew of nothing but chiles, was and still has remained popular in New Mexico. Nothing now looks so different than a bowl of meat with chili powder and a bowl of actual cooked chiles. But in origin, they are the same. The Texas meat dish has just lost its direct connection with actual chiles, which typically have no visible remnant in it.

So I decided that chili needed to have a variety of actual chiles. This was going to depend on what I could find at the market. Green jalapeños and red jalapeños were obvious. The store had a green pepper that I thought of as an "Ortega" chile (having had an "Ortega burger" at more than one place, such as in San Antonio, New Mexico, where "chile burger" meant an actual chile, not chili con carne) but wasn't called that. Now I learn that "Ortega" is a brand name, and that the green chile is probably an "Anaheim" chile, which was brought to California from New Mexico by Emilio Ortega (who started Ortega foods) early in the last century.

The characteristic New Mexico chile was developed by Fabian Garcia at New Mexico State University, in Las Cruces, and was originally introduced in 1894. So it has been a while. NMSU now has a dedicated Chile Pepper Institute, which continues to introduce new varieties of chiles.

My market also had a dark green poblano, which they recently relabelled pascilla [sic]. As it happens, the "poblano" may only mean a variety of ancho chile from Puebla, Mexico -- chiles imported by William Gebhardt himself. Or, an "ancho" may be the dried version of "poblano" used in a general way. "Pasilla" [sic] is a name apparently used for poblanos in California, even though a proper pasilla is a completely different chile. This confusing terminology seems to be characteristic of the subject.

Thus, I have a jar of hot yellow peppers, which are identified as chiles cascabella. A cascabel, however, is a particular chile that is not this. But cascabella is used for a variety of wax chile, which from Spanish are also called güero. Sometimes there are terminological contradictions within the same sources about chiles.

Of the chiles I have used in chili, only the jalapeños are really hot, and I needed to use disposable plastic gloves when I cut them up. The store did have the very hot habaneros. I supposed that one or two couldn't hurt, but I avoided them for a while. Now I've used them regularly (with precautions). My store also has "long hot peppers," which I originally thought were not hot, but then learned better, after chopping them without gloves.

The result of all this has been just fine. For a while, when I was living in Hawai'i, I grew my own chiles, to make sauces for enchiladas, which I was making for a while. But I have no idea what varieties those were. They were hot, and both my (first) wife and I ended with burning hands after cutting them up without gloves.

For the meat side of the dish, I've been using a two pounds of ground beef and a pound of ground pork, cooking them with margarine rather than real butter. Some notions of good chili insist on chunks of meat. Once in Austin I bought some precut chunks of meat, identified as for chili, at the Safeway; but after I cooked them, they still had so much gristle that I judged it all inedible. Perhaps this is not a good reason not to buy a good cut of beef and dice it myself, but in general I like ground meat anyway. The experience just reinforced my preference.

The real question is about the spices. A 1/3 cup of chili powder (originally in lieu of, but now in addition to, chopping one's own chiles) is nowhere near enough. I don't think 1/2 a cup, if not more, is too much, and I add, not just extra cumin, but also some straight cayenne pepper. This all depends, of course, on how hot one wants the chili to be. I've had chili that was really too hot too eat (actually at the Texas Chili Parlor in Austin), but in general I like it pretty hot.

In the past actual Texans liked this chili recipe, though back then I was only using the pinto and kidney beans and no more than the bell peppers. I am now satisfied with the extra beans and am exploring the use of more and different chiles. Pace Sheldon Cooper, it is the chiles, not the meat, that make it "chili."

The Complete Chile Pepper Book by Dave DeWitt & Paul W. Bosland [Timber Press, Portland, London, 2009] contains a chili recipe attributed to Lady Bird Johnson [p.248]. This contains no beans or actual chiles of any kind. Onion, garlic, and tomatoes are the only ingredients apart from the meat and spices. Since it uses four pounds of beef, the 6 teaspoons of chili powder seem absurdly inadequate. The spices then include cumin and oregano, but no cayenne. I think that Lady Bird and LBJ would be in for a surprise at the Texas Chili Parlor.

In daily life, making up this chili recipe is a bit of a production, and I must admit that I have a history of resorting to canned chili, with some doctoring. I would buy a can of Hormel chili with beans, and a can without beans. Opening both cans, I mixed them together. This made for several servings, depending on how it was used. With each serving, whether for lunch or even breakfast, I always added about a tablespoon of chili powder and good dashes of cayenne and cumin. The serving can go over a couple of hot dogs or, since I've lived in Hawai'i, over rice. Much more commonly, however, I put it over french fries to eat with a taco.

These days, chili still goes over french fries, but also over corn bread, and over hash brown potatoes. Or rice. I forget how good it is with corn bread, but I get to find out all over again each time.

The taco I used to get, curiously enough, was from Jack in the Box, which makes a taco with a real fried tortilla and not with a preformed shell, as at Taco Bell. The taco I would doctor with sour cream and both red and green taco sauces. This was actually my favorite lunch in the years I was teaching in Los Angeles (1987-2009) -- though I can imagine that many people, for various reasons, would respond to the very idea in horror. On a different note, a Jack in the Box in Austin used to serve for sobering up food after an evening of some drinking.

Now, however, I am finding more enthusiasm for my own chili recipe, which is made in a large batch and can be frozen in conveniently sized containers -- ten at last count. This lasts for some time and is more gratifying that the canned chili. But I still resort to Hormel after a batch runs out. And now there aren't any Jack in the Box restaurants where I have moved, to New Jersey. Sometimes, it is a hard life.

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Lebanese Kibbe & Ḥummuṣ

After living in Lebanon, I developed a taste for some Lebanese foods. Returning to LA in 1970, it was not the easiest thing to find such foods. But there were some Middle Eastern groceries in Hollywood, and before long I even found an Armenian grocery in Van Nuys, where Middle Eastern food items were available. The first thing I tried my own hand at was ḥummuṣ, (حُمُّص). This required a can of garbanzo beans, which could be had almost anywhere, but then a can of sesame seed ṭaḥīne, (طَحِينَة), which is pureed sesame seeds. The can of ṭaḥīneh usually had a recipe for ḥummuṣ on it. I would cook the beans until they could be mashed, then add some taḥini, garlic, and lemon juice. This was mixed together and put through a wire strainer. Most people just put the ingredients in a blender, which is certainly easier. The strainer, however, is the traditional method (no blenders without electricity), and it removes more of the husk.

Before many years went by, ṭaḥīne and Arabic bread (pita bread) began turning up in ordinary supermarkets. Then ḥummuṣ itself began turning up in the supermarket, and I must admit that I have been corrupted. Now I just buy the ḥummuṣ right off the supermarket shelf and eat it frequently for lunch (like today) or even breakfast. The way I eat it, however, may be less like the way most Americans would eat it now and more like I used to get it at the Socrate Soda Fountain in Beirut. I spread the ḥummuṣ thickly around the sides and bottom of a bowl, sprinkle paprika and parsley over it, and then pour in a good layer of light olive oil. People have expressed some horror at all the olive oil, but it's good. This is eaten, of course, by scooping it up with pieces of Arabic bread.

Kibbe, Dough
2/3 lb. ground lamb
1 1/2 small onions
1 cup fine bulghur
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
Chop onions & blend with lamb. Add washed bulghur, salt and pepper. Blend mixture with 1 tbsp water.
Kibbe Filling
2/3 lb. lean ground lamb
1 small chopped onion
1/2 cup pine nuts
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp allspice or cinnamon
1/2 tsp pepper
Sauté meat and onion.
Mix in other ingredients
Final Preparation
In a square baking dish, put half of dough down on the bottom, cover with filling, and then put the rest of the dough down on top. Score top into squares and pour 1/2 cup melted butter all over. Bake 1/2 hour at 350 degrees.
A food that is still pretty esoteric here is the Lebanese national dish, kibbe (kubbah in Classical Arabic), which actually could be translated as "meatball." There are different versions of this, cooked and uncooked, and one form is indeed in balls. I prefer a flat, baked version. My recipe came out of a UN cookbook that my grandmother-in-law had in Hawaii.

The ground lamb should be available at most markets. Bulghur, however, might only be found at a Middle Eastern or specialty market. This is nothing more than coarsely ground wheat, almost like Grape Nuts. The mixture of lamb, bulghur, and onions is the essence of Kibbe. The pine nuts may also only be available at a Middle Eastern market, though as piñones they are not unheard of in the American Southwest. My preference is to put both allspice and cinnamon into the mixture.

The tendency of the dish is to dry out too much while baking. That is what the butter is for, to keep it moist. The 1/2 cup may not be enough. It has been a number of years since I made this, and I think the last time it actually was too dry. Perhaps I shied away from as much butter (or margarine) as was necessary.

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Greek Moussaka

Moussaka, Μουσακάς
3 medium eggplants
1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
2 medium onions,
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 1/2 6 oz. can
   tomato paste
2 dashes of cinnamon
1/2 cup water
Remove 1/2-inch wide strips of
peel lengthwise from eggplands,
leaving 1-inch of peel. Repeat
around eggplants. Cut into
thick slices (1/2 to 3/4-inch)
and sprinkle with salt; cover
with dinner plate for pressure
and let stand 1 hour.
Melt 2 1/2 tablespoons of butter in a frying pan and saute
onions, then beef. Add tomato sauce, tomato paste,
cinnamon, and water. Cook 30 minutes.
Bechamel Sauce
1/4 lb. butter
1/2 cup flour
1 pint cold milk
1 dash nutmeg
salt and pepper
3 beaten eggs
3 ounces grated
 Parmesan cheese
Heat butter in a large saucepan
until lightly browned.
Stir in flour until well blended,
then the cold milk. Add nutmeg,
salt, and pepper to taste. Cook,
stirring fequently, until mixture
thickens like a pudding. Remove
from heat and cool. Stir in
beaten eggs.
Final Preparation
Brush slices of eggplant with olive oil and broil on both sides until tender. Arrange a layer of slices in a rectangular baking dish. Cover with a layer of meat mixture. Continue, alternating layers, until all the meat and eggplant have been used. Cover with Bechamel sauce and sprinkle with lots of grated cheese. Sprinkle paprika over the top and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, or until slightly firm.
When I visited Greece, the meal I enjoyed the most was Moussaka, which I often ate for both lunch and dinner. Other Greek dishes seemed much like Middle Eastern food, but I actually didn't try a lot of different things. When I find something I like, I stick to it. My favorite Greek food story, however, was about the time I was eating lunch in an Athens restaurant and saw two businessmen come in. They both ordered plates of spinach and then poured little jars of straight olive oil all over the spinach. I do like olive oil as a food (see above), and I don't even mind spinach; but this seemed a little much.

Eventually I found a recipe for Moussaka right in the Honolulu Advertiser and began making it. As given at left, all the quantities have been cut in half. The original recipe made a lot of food. Cutting, pressing, and broiling the eggplants is the biggest project in the recipe. Otherwise, it works a lot like lasagna, with the eggplant instead of noodles.

One of my favorite restaurants used to be a Greek restaurant that was in Princeton, New Jersey. It was a little unusual, since although it had Greek food and was decorated with scenes of Greece, it had a lot of other food as well, and in fact was called "Athenian Pizza." I ate a few different things there, incuding Moussaka (not the pizza, as it happened), but in fact my favorite thing was a meatball sandwich, really an Italian meatball sandwich, but at Athenian Pizza they did it better than any other meatball sandwich I've ever had. I really liked it. The service tended to be unsmiling and brusk, and lone diners were often seating right in front of the too cold air-conditioner, even in an otherwise empty restaurant. Perhaps the staff and owners didn't like being in the restaurant business. In any case, Athenian Pizza, like, alas, some other old restaurants in Princeton, closed a few years ago.

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Cantonese Beef Tomato

In the 19th century, most Chinese who came to the United States were from Kwantung (Guandong) Province, the hinterland of the city of Canton (which is just an English pronuncation of the province). For many years, Chinese cooking in the United States thus tended to be Cantonese cooking -- but also domesticated with Americanized variations, separating it from "authentic" Cantonese cooking in China. After World War II, when immigration by Chinese was allowed again, for the first time since the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, and especially after normalized relations were established with China in the 1970's, people from all over China began coming to the U.S., and different regional cuisines began to be introduced.

Soon Mandarin, Szechwan, Hunan, and other styles of Chinese cooking were widely available. Unforutnately, since this food was often more highly spiced that the old domesticated Cantonese, it became more popular and began to actually replace it. Also, as the older generation of Chinese restaurateurs in the United States began to retire or die out, even Cantonese cooking began to become more "authentic," with the Americanized dishes dropped and forgotten.

Now, I like Szechwan and other cooking, but I also still like the old Cantonese dishes, which now are becoming positively hard to find. In my own former area of Los Angeles, I patronized a restaurant called "Ho Toy's," on Van Nuys Blvd, until the ownership changed and the Cantonese items I liked disappeared from the menu.

The main restaurant of Ho Toy's was upstairs, and downstairs was the kitchen and a take-out counter. The first time I showed up to find unfamiliar staff and a new menu my dismay was great. I never went back; and, evidently, neither did many others, since the new restaurant actually didn't last that long.

I quickly found another restaurant, "Moon Light," , not far away on Woodman Avenue, and bought their food for many years. Then disaster struck again. "Moon Light" changed hands and replaced the Cantonese menu. Even some items that didn't change were cooked so differently that they were irrecognizable. The changed Moon Light survived many years but is now also gone.

One of my favorite dishes was "Beef Tomato" (or "Tomato Beef"), which cannot originally even have been a Chinese dish, since tomatoes are from the New World. Since I was not, apparently, going to be able to find this in local Chinese restaurants, I was going to have to cook it myself.

A search of three Chinese cook books failed to turn up any Beef Tamato recipe.
Cantonese Beef Tomato
Recipe OneRecipe Two
2 lbs. tomatoes, cored, cut into wedges
3 small onions, cut into 8 wedges
1 tbsp. minced ginger root
2 ripe tomatoes, seeded, cut into wedges
12 green onions, sliced
1 large green pepper, seeded, cut into strips
2 tbsps. soy sauce
1 tbsp. sesame oil
1 tbsp. cornstarch;
mix in large bowl, stir;



1 lb. flank steak;
cut beef into 2 x 1/4 inch slices,
toss in bowl to coat

1 tsp. rice wine
pinch sugar
2 tbsps. soy sauce
1 piece ginger root, minced
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. cornstarch
2 tbsps. oil;
mix in large bowl;

3/4 lb. flank steak;
cut steak into 2 inch thin strips,
toss in bowl to coat, marinate 30 minutes

1 cup beef broth
2 tbsps. brown sugar
1 tbsp. cornstarch
l tbsp. cider vinegar;
mix in small bowl
1/4 cup chicken broth
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 tbsps. ketchup;
combine in small bowl
heat 1 tbsp. veg oil in wok, stir fry ginger, add beef, stir fry 5 minutes, remove to bowl heat 1/4 cup oil in wok, stir fry beef for 2 to 3 minutes, remove with slotted spoon to bowl
heat 1 tbsp. veg oil in wok, cook onions about 2 minutes, stir in 1/2 of tomatoes, add broth, boil & thicken; add beef & other tomatoes; heat through heat 1/4 cup oil in wok, stir fry onions & green pepper 1 minute, add tomatoes for another minute, add broth mixture & cook 1 minute or until thickens; add beef & mix
The more, I suspect, a Chinese cook book is trying to be "authentic," the less likely it would have anything of the sort. But my wife finally found a recipe, given as "Recipe One," and I have turned up another on the Internet, given as "Recipe Two."

There are interesting similarities and differences between the two recipes. The Beef Tomato from the "Moon Light" restaurant had a very red sauce, with some sliced bell pepper in it, which sounds like Recipe Two, but white onions, not green onions, which is like Recipe One. The "Moon Light" Beef Tomato was soupy enough that it was placed in containers that otherwise were actually used for soup. Both recipes, indeed, use soup broth, though Recipe Two very oddly says chicken rather than beef broth. These are going to take some testing.

One part of the heritage of Cantonese cooking is the name of the cooking pan. Everyone in the civilized world probably knows what a wok is, but that word is the reading of the Chinese character in the Cantonese language. The character itself, , Mathews' Chinese-English Dictionary [Harvard, 1972] character 2209 [p.328], is shown with each use of "wok" in the recipes. This character, , however, is pronounced huò in Mandarin. Asking someone in Santa Monica if they cook Chinese food with a "huò" would probably set off a sort of Abbot and Costello routine ("Who?").

I also remember a story from a friend in Hawai'i, who was a teaching assistant in the Chinese Department. She had spent time on Taiwan; and when moving back to the States, she had packed up some woks to take with her. As it happened, her trip transited through Japan, and her luggage was inspected by Japanese customs. They seemed perplexed by the woks, which also perplexed my friend. Didn't they know what a wok was? Not being that friendly to Japan, she often called situations like that "Nanking all over again"; but this one seemed to resolve itself rather better.

Cantonese Beef Tomato
Recipe Three
2 ripe tomatoes, seeded, cut into wedges;
2 onions, cut into wedges;
2 large green pepper, seeded,
cut into strips
2 tbsps. soy sauce
1 tsp. rice wine
2 tbsp. cornstarch
pinch sugar
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 tbsp. sesame oil
1 piece ginger root, minced;
mix in large bowl, stir;

1 lb. flank steak;
cut beef into 2 x 1/4 inch slices,
toss in bowl to coat,
marinate 30 minutes

1/4 cup beef broth
1 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tbsps. brown sugar
l tbsp. cider vinegar
1 tbsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. sesame oil
8 or 16 oz. can tomato sauce;
combine in small bowl
heat 1/4 cup oil in wok, stir fry beef till brown, remove with slotted spoon to bowl, leaving the heavy gravy to be discarded
heat 1/4 cup oil in wok, stir fry onions & green pepper 2 minutes; add tomatoes, stir fry until tender, add broth mixture & boil; add beef & mix, cook until broth thickens, cook down to taste
My experiments with the above recipes led to me developing the combined recipe at right. This tends to use all the ingredients from different parts of the old recipes, like white onions from one and bell peppers form the other. A difference with both is the use of tomato sauce instead of the small amount of ketchup from Recipe Two. Neither recipe had resulted in the tomato soup looking base of the beef tomato from the "Moon Light" restaurant.

The result was still not quite the same as the restaurant recipe. Perhaps it has too much beef broth or sesame oil, or perhaps beef broth at all, instead of chicken (I haven't brought myself to try that yet). Nevertheless, it is pretty good, and I am not strongly disposed to try anything radically different, unless I come across another recipe that looks promising. I have recently simply doubled the amount of tomato sauce -- indeed, I've been creeping up with more of all the liquids -- and this produces a more recognizable result.

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Cantonese Shrimp Curry

Curry Shrimp
3/4 lb. shrimp
1 onion
2 carrots
1 red bell pepper
1/4 lb sugar snap or snow peas, edges removed
4 cloves garlic
1 small ginger
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons curry powder, or 1 tablespoon curry paste
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
3.4 cup chicken broth
3 tablespoons oil
Combine cornstarch, curry, and sugar. Mix in soy sauce, vinegar, and chicken broth.

Heat oil, add carrots, pepper, peas, ginger, and garlic. Fry about 1 minute, remove.

Heat oil, cook shrimp until pink.

Return vegetables to pan. Stir in sauce mixture. Simmer 2-3 minutes. Serve.

My favorite dish at the Moon Light Chinese restaurant in Sherman Oaks, besides Beef Tomato, before the ownership and menu changes, was their Curry Shrimp. However, where I found a number of promising Beef Tomato recipes on line, none of the Chinese shrimp curry recipes looked like what they had had at the restaurant.

Years go by. Meanwhile, I had not seen a Curry Shrimp at a Chinese restaurant like what Moon Light used to have. But I've finally gotten around to looking at recipes on line again.

This looks more like it. I also found a Thai shrimp curry recipe, which has hot chilis, coconut milk, black pepper, fish sauce, and cilantro in it. It also has onion, which the Chinese recipes don't, but I have included that here. I might try all that, but not yet.

The recipe here is about the simplest one. Another Chinese recipe has "blanching" the vegetables, in boiling water, except for the ginger and garlic, which sounds like a lot more trouble than it is worth. On the other hand, you fry the ginger and garlic and then add the shrimp to that, which sounds good. But then you take that out and fry the vegetables, then adding the shrimp. OK.

I've just gotten this all together and have now tried making it. It came out good, altough I can't say I can even remember well exactly what the curry was like at Moon Light. Quantitites will need to be adjusted, especially since I use a ton more ginger and garlic than any recipe calls for. Curry powder is yellow, but I used some curry paste, which was brown. That gave an overall brown color to the sauce. I think I like yellow better. Since curry powder is made up of other spices, I added extra cayenne, corriander, cumin, and tumeric. I also added celery to the vegetables, thinking, "Why not?" My wife and I always increase the vegetables in our recipes, so this has both snap and snow peas, as well as onion and celery, which are not necessarily in the recipes. It works fine. I did make one real mistake. Instead of "rice wine vinegar," I just read "rice wine," and so put in sake instead of vinegar. Not sure how much of a difference that makes.

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Malay Chicken

Malay Chicken
1 lb. boned chicken breast, cubed
2 medium onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small (3/4 inch) ginger
grated peel of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Heat wok (or skillet), add spice mixture & stir fry, toast lightly to release aroma. Return to spice to bowl.

Drizzle 3 tablespoons of oil in hot wok (or skillet), cook onions, garlic, ginger, and lemon. Stir fry 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Add chicken & spices. Stir fry until chicken is no longer pink.

2/3 cup water
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon corn starch
Add water, vinegar, etc. Stir & simmer down to taste, 10-20 minutes. Serve over rice.

This dish, Malay chicken, my wife found in a cookbook. She has found other good things, which I may add here, but I like this so much that I could eat it like candy. There is a lot of chopping to do, but otherwise it is pretty easy to cook.

My addition to the recipe here is the corn starch. I like thickening up the liquid without a long attempt to cook it down.

Some of the chopping has become a little easier with a tool I found. I've seen it advertised on television, but the one I got was just in the market. It has a zig-zag blade inside a plastic holder. You put the whole thing over garlic or ginger, hold it in place, and pound down on a spring loaded handle on top. This forces the blade down on the food, cuts it, and then rotates the blade as it retracts. Just a few pounds and the food is pretty thoroughly diced. Onions need to be cut up a bit just to fit in, and I have not been as happy with the results. So I cut the onion separately. But garlic and ginger work great.

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Barbecued Beef Brisket

Barbecued Beef Brisket
4 1/2 lb. boneless beef brisket
1 medium onion, quartered
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 bay leaf
2 cups ketchup
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons liquid smoke
2 teaspoons celery seeds
1 teaspoon chili powder
In kettle over high heat, heat to boiling brisket,
onion, garlic, bay leaf, and enough water to cover.
Over low heat, simmer covered 2 1/2 hours until tender.

In medium saucepan over medium heat, combine ketchup,
1 cup water, and remaning ingredients; briefly heat to
boiling. To serve with meat, reheat over medium heat.

Drain meat; place in foil-lined, shallow baking pan. Brush
meat with ketchup mixture. In 325o oven, bake 45 minutes,
basting occasionally with sauce.

This barbecued beef brisket is not, of course, actually barbecued. It is boiled and baked. It even contains an ingredient specifically disparaged by Calvin Trillin, viz. "liquid smoke," which presumably is to give the meat the taste that it might have were it really cooked over the coals from a wood (perhaps hickory) fire. Nevertheless, it comes out pretty good.

This is a recipe my mother used to make. Looks like she got it out of a magazine. I usually can't help putting a little more chili powder, and perhaps even cayenne, into the barbecue sauce.

This is not one of the unusual or international recipes that I have mostly given here, but today (9/15/02) I was looking at cookbooks in a local bookstore when a woman, rather flustered with two children on her hands, asked me if I knew a recipe for cooking brisket -- she was not having much luck finding one in the (many) cookbooks on sale. I had to admit that I did have a favorite recipe, but of course I couldn't remember it very well off hand. I gave her my card to get in touch with me. So, in case she does, or in case such an encounter (incredibly) ever happens to me again, now all I have to do is give this URL.

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Fried Chicken

My adventure over beef brisket above was not the end of strange encounters. In Austin I learned how to make a "Chicken Fried Steak." It got to the point where I hadn't made one in more than twenty years, but I got a sudden urge. So I called my old neighbor from Deep Eddy, Donna, in Texas to check up on the procedure. Simple enough.

Then at the market I was buying a can of Crisco for the frying (the more authentic lard, of course, is just too much), when a nosy and rude woman starting lecturing me on how bad the stuff was. I might have responded that since this was the first time in twenty years that I was going to use it, she might lighten up. I was more tempted, however, to ask if she was someone who voted for Democrats (California Democrats, of course, not Texas Democrats). Instead, I just thanked her for the lecture. Since I had been running for political office at the time, I didn't want to unnecessarily offend any constituents, even if she was in the local health Nazi movement to ban deep frying. My favorite cooking maxim now comes from Nigella Lawson, "There is no food that can't be improved by deep frying."

Since I was preparing to do chicken fried steak, it occurred to me that I might just fry some chicken also. It works the same way, which is how "chicken fried steak" got its name.

I did not have much experience with fried chicken. My mother never made it, and all I ever saw of it at home was when she would occasionally get some Kentucky Fried Chicken that she had picked up coming home from work. I wasn't impressed, and it never occurred to me to order any at any restaurants.

But I was feeling experimental.

As it happened, the fried chicken was a revelation. I liked it better than the chicken fried steak, and now I make nothing else of the same sort.

I quickly developed an approach, which actually might not be to everyone's taste. I mix a batter of flour, milk, paprika, cayenne, salt, and pepper. A half, boned chicken breast is not just coated in this, I let it sit for a while, turning it over and recoating it. This makes for a relatively thick coating, which many people might not like, but I do.

This cooks in just twenty minutes in some Crisco. Not so deep as to cover the chicken, but I turn it over every 5 minutes. After the first turn, I cover the pan and turn down the heat. Otherwise the Crisco begins to splatter, and turning the chicken is a little perilous enough already. A fork and spatula help.

Meanwhile, I heat of can of black-eyed peas. Also, I usually have bought mashed potatoes that have been made at my supermarket, which I divided and froze in convenient amounts. That is reheated, with some water, in the microwave. I also get a packet of chicken gravy, which, with water and corn starch, cooks up in a few minutes. The corn starch gives it some consistency.

When the chicken is cooked, I towel off some of the Crisco, cut it up, coating and all, and then dish it up with the peas and mashed potatoes. I liberally shake Tabasco sauce over the chicken and peas, and then pour gravy over the chicken and potatoes. No matter how much Tabasco I use, the result is tasty but never seems all that hot.

This makes for the kind of meal that I often feel I would like to eat all over again. And, oddly enough, it digests very easily. The chicken is so moist and tender, I can't imagine getting anything of the sort from Kentucky Fried Chicken or even from any restaurant -- although I'm sure some restaurants can do it. But I don't need to go looking.

And with things prepared in advance, like chicken and potatoes ready in the freezer, this all can be whipped up in less than half an hour. So it's not just a great dinner, it is quick and easy. The clean-up involves three pans, but, since the Crisco hardens when cool, it can be scraped off and put in the trash, often the next morning. The extra black-eyed peas can often be added to chili.

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Orange Guava Juice

When I lived in Hawai'i, I discovered a local brand of fruit juices, Hawaii's Own, that I've never seen on the Mainland -- although at the Hawaii's Own website, I see that there are some retailers as far East as Texas; but I haven't come across them. I think I went through every one of the fruit juices that they had back then (1974/75). My favorite ended up being Guava juice. This was available in frozen concentrate. The guava juice I've seen in other brands on the Mainland, like the Libby's I've got in the refrigerator now, says it is "from concentrate," with "other natural flavors." It's not bad, but I wish Hawaii's Own was here.

Despite liking the guava, I did think it was a bit too sweet. Since I was experimenting with combinations of fruit juices (which is now all the rage, apparently, in the industry), I came upon a very happy combination. Orange juice had always seemed to me too sharp and acidic. But orange and guava together (half and half) ended up being neither too sweet nor too sharp or acidic. Just right. It also has a nice Tequila Sunrise color.

Over the years I've gotten in and out of drinking the orange-guava combination, depending on whether I was interested in fruit juice at all. In Hawai'i, I used to drink nothing else for many days, which I think was a bad idea, since I seemed to gain weight. Now, however, a glass of juice seems like a better idea than something that would be even more fattening, like cookies or candy. So a sparing and appropriate use may be a good plan for the future.

Oddly enough, I find that I like to drink orange-guava together with cornbread and bacon. This is definitely a sparing use, although I can't say why it feels like they all go together.

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Corn Bread

Corn Bread
2 Cups yellow cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons Crisco
Preheat oven to 425o with a 10 inch cast iron skillet inside. Mix dry ingredients in one bowl (fairly large). Mix the eggs and buttermilk in another bowl.

When the oven is heated, remove skillet to sink or hot-rack. Put Crisco into skillet. Tilt skillet until Crisco is melted and spread around thoroughly. Pour wet ingredients into dry bowl. Mix thoroughly. Pour excess Crisco from skillet into bowl. Mix again and pour all into skillet. Cook in oven for 25 minutes or until browned to taste.

My grandmother grew up and lived her life in Arkansas until moving with her family, and my father, to California in 1923. I've never been to Arkansas, but culturally a little bit of it was around when I was young. Part of that was the amazing cornbread that she used to cook and that I got to eat whenever there was some family dinner at her house.

Many years later, long after my grandmother's death, I asked my aunt Lorraine about the recipe. Although Lorraine could cook up a storm, she actually didn't know her mother's recipe -- there wasn't ever one written down, and apparently at the time Lorraine had never followed carefully how things got tossed together. She did remember, however, that it involved a cast iron skillet, one that was never washed but just wiped out, and that it used straight corn meal, no wheat flour added. But Lorraine did have her own recipe, which I give here.

This also involves a cast iron skillet, which I was surprised and fortunate to find at Bed, Bath & Beyond, and no wheat flour. Curiously, the instructions with the skillet advised not using soap on it. I just scrub it out with water and a Tuffy. I did have to be careful handling the thing when hot, since the handle is just iron also. The original use for a potholder (near the beginning of Kramer vs. Kramer, Dustin Hoffman tries picking up such a hot skillet bare handed). And the thing is heavy. But the recipe is fairly easy to make quickly, and it is easy to have all the ingredients on hand, except for the buttermilk. I have often been eating just a piece of cornbread with bacon or sausages for breakfast or lunch.

The images display the Mayan association of different colors of corn -- yellow, white, red, and blue -- with the cardinal directions and parts of the body. When I encountered blue corn tortillas in New Mexico, I had no idea of such a thing; and while I see blue corn tortilla chips in various places around the country, I have never seen actual soft tortillas outside New Mexico. My local supermarket has yellow and white corn meal, but I have never seen blue or red corn meal in a store.

In the age of the internet, however, these things can be ordered. The white corn meal I buy, and the red corn meal I can order, are both finely ground. The yellow corn meal, on the other hand, and the blue corn meal I order, from New Mexico, are more coarsely ground. Thus, what I have begun doing is mixing red with yellow corn meal, and blue with white corn meal, which results in similar consistencies, and a red color for one and blue for the other.

These two mixes I combine in my corn bread recipe by preparing them separately and then pouring one of them into cookie cutter forms in my skillet, with the other mix poured around them. The forms are then removed, and the skillet put in the oven. The result is corn bread that has the red/yellow and blue/white meal cooked together in distinctly separate areas.

I don't know if this really tastes any different, but I like the look. And it is a tribute to the history of corn of different colors.

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3/4 cup water
1 tblsp paprika
1 tsp beef bouillon granules
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 tblsp tomato paste
[1 tsp mustard]
1. Combine water, paprika, bouillon, tomato paste, and pepper in a bowl, stir
1+ lb. stewing beef2. Brown meat & garlic;

add mushrooms, onion, and bell pepper; mix;

add water mixture from bowl

whole chopped onion
2 cups sliced mushrooms
2-3 chopped bell peppers
[crushed tomatoes]
3. Cover with aluminum and bake at 325o 1.5 hrs
3/4 cup sour cream
1-2 tblsp pastry flour
4. Mix sour cream in bowl with flour and with 1/4 cup pan juices
5. Place skillet on medium heat. Add sour cream mixture and boil.

6. Serve over noodles, rice, etc.

"Waiter, there is too much pepper on my paprikash," is a memorable line from Billy Crystal, delivered with a funny voice, in When Harry Met Sally [1989]. We also have the testimony of Jonathan Harker at the very beginning of Dracula [Bram Stoker, 1897] that he had a dish, "chicken done up in some way with red pepper, which was very good but thirsty." The "red pepper" turned out to be paprika, which I suppose nobody but the English would think of as hot (although there is a variety of Hungarian hot paprika). Let's do it for him with cayenne. In Bram Stoker's Dracula [1992] Keanu Reeves, as Harker, doesn't get to talk about the cooking.

But paprika is good; and so is paprikash. The paprika, sour cream, and mushrooms strike me as characteristic of Russian or Eastern European cooking. Here I use a large onion, rather more than 2 cups worth of mushrooms, a large bell pepper, and a single beef bouillon cube. My market already sells ready cut stewing beef, though I cut the pieces up smaller. I use a deep, no stick dish that actually has a grip on the opposite side from the long handle. This makes it easier to lift it out of the oven. I like eating it with noodles, but I also throw in some Minute Rice, so that the extra juices will be soaked up and not wasted.

I recently made the original recipe here and liked it. However, looking at recipes on the internet, my original recipe was lacking garlic, which must now be added, and some other ingredients, like tomato paste or tomatoes, mustard, caraway seed, and parsley. I sure that all of these are worth some experimenting.

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Zucchini Chicken

Zucchini Chicken
2 tsp olive oil
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions
3 cloves garlic
1 zucchini, quartered lengthwise & cut in 1/4 inch slices
1 red bell pepper, diced
1.25 cup salsa
1 tblsp lime juice
1 cup long grain rice
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/2 lb skinless, boneless chicken, cut in 1 inch chunks
2 tblsp chopped parsley
1. Heat oil; add scallions & garlic; add zuchini & bell pepper; sauté; remove to bowl; add salsa & lime juice.


2. Put rice in pan; add broth, oregano, thyme, & cayenne; boil, simmer covered 12 minutes.


3. Add chicken, add vegetables, add parsley, simmer, covered 9 minutes.

I don't know how to classify this dish by history, nationality, or ethnicity. So I will give it a New Jersey identity, since I began cooking it there with my wife.

Scallions are green onions, and I use five or more of them. This might be the only dish on this page that uses them. The garlic in the recipe is gravely deficient. We use at least six cloves. At my market, zucchini is labelled "Italian squash." I use more like two tablespoons, rather than two teaspoons, of olive oil. I use La Victoria medium Salsa Suprema (from California) and Texmati rice (from Texas), though there are certainly many other fine brands. Probably the biggest difference in the way I make this, from the original recipe, is that I use a good pound of chicken, and then cook it a good deal longer than called for. I let the whole dish simmer twenty minutes or so. The original recipe called for 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne, but that is so little that you could miss it. Indeed, with 1/4 teaspoon and the salsa, the dish is still not noticeably hot to me.

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The flag I've got here is Texas, even though jambalaya is undoubtedly a Louisiana dish. However, I have not lived in Louisiana, and I have lived in Texas, which is next door. And when I ate at a Cajun restaurant in the French Quarter in New Orleans, they did not have Tabasco Sauce on the table,
1 cup diced sausage
8 oz raw, peeled, deveined shrimp
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup sliced celery
1/2 cup sliced okra
1 tsp crushed garlic
1 diced bell pepper
14.5 oz can stewed tomatoes
1 can black beans or black-eyed peas
2 tsp Cajun seasoning
1.5 tsp paprika
2 tsp cayenne
3 cups cooked brown rice
1. Sauté sausage, onion, celery, garlic, bell pepper, and okra in oil; cover and cook, stirring frequently, four minutes.


2. Add tomatoes, shrimp, beans/peas, and spices; cover and cook, stirring occasionally, five minutes; add rice and cook two minutes.

even though that is famously made in Louisiana, but something else that was made in Texas. Also, my friend Donna in Austin gave me a
Shrimp Creole recipe which I have never made because I don't know how to make some intermediate item that is in the recipe. I am going to need to get her to show me how to do it.

With this recipe I have taken to putting an entire Polska Kilbasa in it, with half a pound of shelled and deveined shrimp, which I can buy ready fixed at the market. I use a whole onion, three celery sticks, perhaps half a dozen okra pods, and five or six cloves of garlic. I vary the bell pepper by using a red, orange, or yellow one. The original recipe we found didn't have any cayenne in it, but, hell, it hardly tastes like anything without it. I use Texmati brown rice. A cup of that cooks up into the three cups called for by the recipe. Since I have increased the amount of ingredients, I cook everthing a bit longer than called for, perhaps even twice as long. This is the only recipe on the page I have been using okra with. The original recipe didn't mention it, but a little research on the web about jambalaya suggested all sorts of additional items (like the beans or black-eyed peas). My experience is that markets in California and New Jersey don't always have okra available. I have been really pleased with how this turns out. Sometimes we've put a small can of tomato sauce in it, but the last time around that didn't seem necessary.

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Shrimp Creole

Shrimp Creole
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup flour
1. Combine oil and flour in deep pan; cook over medium heat, stirring, until mixture turn gold (brown), about 15 minutes.


2. Add onion, celery, green onions, bell pepper, and garlic; cook, stirring often, about 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender.


3. Stir in tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, water, salt, black pepper, red pepper, bay leaves, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, and Tabasco (to taste); bring to boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.


4. Add shrimp and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until shrimp turn pink; remove bay leaves, stir in parsley, and serve over rice.

1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
3/4 cup chopped green onions
1 large diced bell pepper
2 gloves garlic
14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
8 oz. can tomato sauce
6 oz. con tomato paste
1 cup water
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne
2 bay leaves
1 tblsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
dash Tabasco sauce
2-3 lbs medium peeled, deveined shrimp
1 tblsp. chopped parsley
cooked rice
Some years ago my friend Donna in Austin gave me a Shrimp Creole recipe. I never made it because I didn't how to prepare the base, a fish sauce, that it required. On the Internet, however, there are many Shrimp Creole recipes, and I have adapted and made this one several times, to good results.

Mixing the flour and oil and browning them is a step I'd never done in any other recipe -- now learn from Julia Child that this is a roux. With my deep, no stick pan, the process goes smoothly -- though there is some danger of melting the plastic spoon that is needed for the no stick pan. After a good while, the mixture turns brown quickly and dramatically. I've been using a little more than a 1/4 cup of oil, since I usually have somewhat more in vegetables than the recipe calls for. The first time I made it, without some extra oil, the mixture seemed to coat the vegetables unevenly.

With the vegetables, I simply use a good sized onion, three stalks of celery, a bunch of green onions, a bell pepper that may be green or red or orange (etc.), and more like four or more cloves of garlic.

The last time I made this recipe, I forgot that it needed to simmer for an hour, so dinner was a little late. I have been pleased with the result, which tastes, as well as I can remember, like the Shrimp Creole I had in the French Quarter in New Orleans in 1997. At the time I thought it was an all but divine dish, and I'm glad to now have a relatively simple recipe to make it.

In January 2010 I finally returned to New Orleans. I wanted to find the restaurant I had liked in 1997 and compare their dish to what I had been making. I wasn't at all sure I would be able to find it again, and I had not remembered the name. Not to worry. I walked down Royal Street from Canal and eventually came to Pere Antoine, at the corner of St. Ann (note the Valois "Banner of France" flying on both streets in the photo). This was it. And their Shrimp Creole was still marvelous. Mine, however, does not suffer in comparison. Indeed, although the taste was great, Pere Antoine seemed a little short on the shrimp and vegetables. I had to particularly commend them, however, that now they had actual (native Louisiana) Tabasco Sauce on their tables, instead of the made-in-Texas hot sauce they were featuring in 1997.

For further comparison I ate the next night at the Desire Oyster Bar on Bourbon Street. They had much more in the way of shrimp and vegetables than Pere Antoine. But it was not at all (spicy) hot and did not have the same (lively) taste. My wife and I had noticed in making jambalaya, where our original recipe used no cayenne, that the taste was rather flat, until we gave it a good dose of the red pepper. That really opened it up. I would suggest something of the sort to the Desire Oyster Bar. Unfortunately, I also had a bit of indigestion from their dish, which made me wonder that the shimp might have been a bit off.

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Gingerbread Pancakes

Dry Ingredients
flour2 1/2 cups1 cup1 cup1 1/2 cup3 cups
1/2 tsp.1 1/2 tsp.
1/4 tsp.1 tsp.1/2 tsp.1 tsp.2 tsp.
salt1/2 tsp.1/4 tsp.1/4 tsp.1/2 tsp.1/2 tsp.
cloves1 tsp.1 tsp.
cinnamon1 tblsp.2 tsp.3/4 tsp.1 tsp.
ginger1 tblsp.1 tsp.1 tsp.1 tsp.1 tsp.
nutmeg1 tblsp.1 tsp.
allspice1/2 tsp.1 tsp.
1/4 tsp.
Wet Ingredients
1/4 cup5 tblsp.1/3 cup1/2 cup1 cup
buttermilk1 cup1/2 cup3/4 cup
water1/2 cup2/3 cup1 cup
1/4 cup
molasses1/2 cup1/4 cup1/2 cup1 cup
cream of
1/8 tsp.
butter4 tblsp.1/4 cup3 tblsp.5 tblsp.
lard1/2 cup
raisins1/3 cupyes
This has been a work in progress. Here first I have listed five different gingerbread recipes found on the Internet. The aim here was twofold:  (1) Reproduce the unique gingerbread pancakes of the Omlettry and Magnolia Cafe (originally the Omlettry West) in Austin; and (2) Simply have a gingerbread mix on hand because my otherwise reliable local market in Los Angeles,
Gelson's, no longer reliably carried the Betty Crocker Gingerbread mix that I liked. Now, having moved to New Jersey, and not much interested in gingerbread mixes anymore, gingerbread pancakes are the sole concern.

Recipe #1 is given on the Internet as the actual Magnolia Cafe gingerbread pancake mix. When I first made it, I did not believe it could be the actual recipe because the result was too light in color and didn't look like gingerbread. After studying these other gingerbread recipes, I realized that for the dark color what was missing is a key ingredient of gingerbread:  molasses, which figures in all the other recipes and certainly accounts for the color. The recipe also makes far too large a batch if one is looking for to make something for one person for breakfast. I do like the presence of cloves and nutmeg in the spices, which otherwise occur in recipe #5, billed as the personal recipe of Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867–1957), author of Little House on the Prairie books but also the mother of Rose Wilder Lane (1886-1968), one of the major lights of mid-20th century libertarianism (and apparently silent collaborator in her mother's writing).

I started experimenting with recipe #3, which is given as a waffle recipe, adding the cloves (1/4 tsp.) and nutmeg and leaving out the mustard, cream of tartar, and raisins (several other recipes suggest adding other kinds of fruits). I have cut the brown sugar down to a quarter cup and the buttermilk to half a cup. The molasses seemed a little excessive at 1/4 cup. I thought I would try 3 tablespoons (4 tblsp.=1/4 cup). The "brewed coffee" in recipe #1 sounds good, but I thought it would make the mix too watery. The operation here is to mix the "dry" and the "wet" ingredients separately, then combine them. Then stir in the shortening. The large spoonful onto a hot greased pan makes a pancake. The result was pretty satisfactory, although still a bit too much for one person and one meal. I continued tinkering.

In January 2010 I returned to Austin. Since I wake up before dawn while on the road, I got to the Magnolia Cafe early, before the crush of Saturday morning diners (it is open 24/7). To my surprise, the gingerbread pancakes seemed light enough in color that they could actually have been made without the molasses. Since my last visit was in 2005, I may have been misremembering. I do like having the molasses, however. The other surprise came with the first bite:  a very marked taste of ginger, which means they may be using a lot more ginger than most other recipes. I see in recipe #1 that it calls for a tablespoon of ginger, but that is for 2 1/2 cups of flour. They had to have been using a lot more than that.

Gingerbread Pancakes
Dry IngredientsWet Ingredients
flour1 cupeggs1
1 1/2 tsp.brown
1/4 cup
1/2 tsp.buttermilk1/4 cup+
1 tblsp.
salt1/4 tsp.molasses1/4 cup
cloves1/2 tsp.brewed
1/2 cup
cinnamon1 tsp.Shortening
ginger2 tsp.+butter4 tblsp.
nutmeg1 tsp.
So the recipe at left is the current result of my experimentation. The buttermilk has been cut down, as noted, but the full molasses and the brewed coffee are retained. This not too watery. What had confused me is that the batter does not need to be solid when it is poured into the pan. It firms up as it is cooking, when it rises a bit and bubbles begin to come up, first of all around the edges. At that point the pancake can be flipped. The recipe seems to make about six moderate sized pancakes. Two make a good meal.

In Austin, the restaurants seem to prefer very large pancakes, but I think it is harder to tell how they are cooking. That has been the principal challenge with the recipe. I didn't have a special pancake cooker but originally simply used a frying pan. This does not warm evenly and easily gets too hot in places. So it takes some practice to get the pancakes cooked evenly and not too much. Then I found a stovetop griddle (with handle) to use. This works much better than the frying pan. The batter that isn't used goes into the refrigerator. Cooling makes it very thick indeed; but you drop a thick serving into the griddle, and it spreads as it warms, then cooks normally.

Since the color of gingerbread comes from the molasses, and the sweetness from the brown sugar, cinnamon, etc., I've been wondering exactly that the ginger contributes to the gingerbread. I can't imagine that it would be bad without the ginger, but I am tempted to make a batch sans ginger just to judge the difference. I also thought that the recipe could use a bit more liquid. I began adding an additional tablespoon of buttermilk. That maked the pancakes thinner, and they cooked faster.

As it happens, not only have I been adding an extra tablespoon of buttermilk, but I've actually doubled the amoung of brewed coffee from the original 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup. My fear that this would make the mix too watery was unfounded. This cooks a lot better as pancakes, and I'm very pleased with the result. There was also an issue with the sequence of measuring the liguid ingredients. The molasses sticks to the measuring cup, so I think it helps to do that after all the other ingredients, except for the hot coffee, which will melt the molasses and help use all of it.

As noted, I have been wondering about the specific contribution of ginger to the taste. My wife and I use a lot of fresh ginger in our cooking (see Malay Chicken), but I had difficulty connecting that taste to the taste of gingerbread, gingersnaps, etc. Tasting raw ground ginger gave me a better idea but still did not bridge the connection. After my visit to the Magnolia Cafe in 2010, the strong ginger taste of the pancakes finally seemed to answer my question. It also meant that I begin to experiment with larger doses of ginger in the pancake recipe. So far, even three teaspoons hasn't made it as strong as that taste I just got in Austin.

I still wonder why I have never found gingerbread pancakes anyplace other than these restaurants in Austin. Certainly they must be made elsewhere.

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Boeuf Bourguignon

In 2009 we had the delightful movie about Julia Child and cooking, Julie & Julia. Like many people, apparently, I was inspired by the movie to buy Child's book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking -- although, in general, I have not been particularly attracted to French cuisine. A dish featured in the movie, however, boeuf bourguignon, looked good. Indeed, the director, Nora Ephron (1941-2012), said that it even still tasted good after being burnt, which was done for the plot of the movie.

On the other hand, the recipe in the cookbook (pp.315-317) was something else. Blanching bacon, braising "small white onions," etc. My grocery store didn't even have small white onions. But as luck would have it, PBS was running shows on Child, probably as more of the fallout from the movie. They featured Child's very first cooking show, where she did a simplified version of her boeuf bourguignon. The bacon and some other complications were now gone.
Boeuf Bourguignon
garlic6 clovessaute garlic & onions, add beef, add carrots, mushrooms, & potatoes
white onions2
stewing beef1 lb.
carrots3 large
mushrooms1 lb.
white potatoes2
red wine3 cupsadd wine, beef stock, salt, pepper, thyme, bay leaf, & tomato paste; simmer three hours, covered [!?], stirring occasionally
beef stock2 cups
salt1 tsp.
pepper1/4 tsp.
thyme1/2 tsp.
bay leaf1
tomato paste1 or 2 tblsp.
to thicken, remove some of the liquid & mix with 2 tablespoons corn starch, stir until it thickens, add to stew; and/or, mix throughly 4 oz. butter/margarine with 3 tablespoons four, add to stew, boil until thicker
I tried to combine the book and TV versions of the recipe in a way that seemed the simplest and best, and got what seemed at the time a good result.

Then something occurred to me:  In both versions of the recipe, the onions and mushrooms are cooked separately and added to the meat after it has cooked. Yet Child says to mix everything thoroughly to "blend the tastes," and she also says that this all can be done ahead of time and the dish reheated, perhaps much later. Now, if something is better when reheated, I take this to mean that the tastes have been blended better than at the original cooking. So why are the mushrooms and onions cooked separately, which also messes up more pans in the kitchen? It didn't make a lot of sense to me. I was already cooking mushrooms with the meat in paprikash. So I cooked everything together in the first place, with a result that seemed fine to me. Also, Child was adding the garlic raw along with the liquids. My wife and I are great lovers of garlic, and I like to sauté it first. So I have multiplied the garlic and added the meat to it, rather than vice versa.

So I formulated the recipe at left. This retains the carrots that are in the book but not the TV recipe. Indeed, I've added to them. Since Child describes the dish as a stew, and I think of stews with potatoes, I've also added some potato. My aunt advised me not to use russets, which fall apart, but white or red potatoes. Indeed, the white potatoes I cut up for the dish held together even after three hours of cooking. Also, I have cooked this on the stovetop, with a lid, rather than in the oven, as described by Child. She says it cooks more evenly in the oven, but I think we can compensate for this just by stirring occasionally on the stovetop. It is easier to inspect the dish when one does not need to remove it from the oven, or stand in the hot blast of the open oven door. You can get burned unless really careful when working in the oven.

In the book Child described thickening the sauce simply by cooking it down -- although the recipe calls for cooking it covered in the oven. On the TV show, however, she thickens it by adding a mixture of butter and flour. Since I'm a great believer in thickening sauces just by adding corn starch, I've done both with the dish, to what seemed at the time like a good result. Child drains the meat to work with the sauce separately. Since the first step then is to remove some of the fat, but the meat I use (and which I cut up into smaller pieces than used by Child, or provided by my market) has little fat to remove, I have eliminated that step. Thus, by cooking things together and by not separating the sauce, this greatly simplifies the process and means that only one bit of cookware will be used. I am sure everyone would appreciate avoiding the cleanup of additional pans, collanders, etc.

The name identifies this as a dish from Burgundy, whose history is extensively recounted at this website. Burgundy also has its own regional wines, though I've noticed that good wines tend to be identified by the grape (e.g. Merlot) rather than by the region. "Burgundies" where I was buying wines (at the supermarket) tended to be cheaper and sold in bulk, even by the gallon. At first I was getting Gallo "Hearty Burgundy." Now, there is nothing wrong with a cheap wine for cooking; and Child herself recommended a "young" and inexpensive wine even for the table. Certainly, one's practice should follow one's taste.

Asking for Gallo "Hearty Burgundy" at Vendome liquors provoked expressions of horror. I could get a real Burgundy, I was told, cheaply, without being reduced to something "that is not even wine." And I did learn that the true red Burgundy wines tend to be Pinot Noirs. Answers more than one question. The "three cups" of wine in the recipe is actually going to be an entire 750 ml bottle.

As of 2012, I had never had boeuf bourguignon at a restaurant. In 2009 I had looked for it in the French restaurant in the Venetian hotel in Las Vegas, but it actually was not on the menu. Otherwise, I am not much attracted to French restaurants and have not gone out of my way to investigate them. Then, in 2012, oddly enough, my wife and I ate at a French restaurant in, of all places, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. They had boeuf bourguignon, and it was very, very good. Better than mine. This was alarming and would occasion some considerable thought and soul searching.

Part of the problem was thickening the sauce. Child's original recipe involved cooking the dish in the oven covered. Well, you could cook it that way three or four hours without it cooking down at all. Trying to thicken it with flour and corn starch has really not proven very effective, and I think a lot of the taste was lost in how watery the result was going to be. So I can't say that this recipe, as it is, is entirely successful. In 2015, I've also had their boeuf bourguignon at a little French restaurant in New York City. Their dish was meat and sauce, with no visible vegetables at all. It tasted good, and the sauce was pleasingly thick. So the dish here is necessarily going to be a work in progress; and reading Child's original recipe, it is still appallingly complicated.

In 2019 I returned to France for the first time since 1970 -- attending the Richard Burton conference in Boulogne-sur-Mer. I took the opportunity to have boeuf bourguignon for dinner twice, at different local restaurants on the Rue de Lille in the old city -- with the street signs saying Autrefois Rue des Cuisiniers. Indeed, for lunch and dinner I ate at at least six different cuisiniers.

The key thing about the dishes was that the beef had been cooked to the point where it all but crumbled on the fork. So tender seemed to be a major goal, which long cooking could accomplish. It was also good cuts of beef, lacking gristle, bones, or such things. Also, while I could detect onion and carrots, there was not a lot of that, and perhaps no potato. My dish would be heavier on the vegetables. Of greatest interest to me, however, was, apart from cooking down, I could not tell that any particular device had been used to thicken the gravy. So the worries I have had about dealing with that can perhaps be forgotten.

The experience was encouraging. I saw no reason why I could not make a dish much like that in these restaurants. At this point, I don't remember what was quite so discouraging about the meal in 2012, but I am prepared not to worry about it. I perhaps should take Boulogne-sur-Mer over Gettysburg for authenticity any day.

Another kind of a dish, that I didn't get to, were steaks served with Hollandaise or Bernaise sauces. This is how I prepare steak myself, although I have never seen such a thing in an American restaurant. Many Americans would be appalled at the idea of puting such sauces on steaks. Americans might also be appalled at cooking steaks "well done." I don't know about France, but in London on the same trip, I had a hamburger at an English restaurant (as opposed to at an American fast food chain, like MacDonald's). Asking the waiter for it to be well done, he replied that they always cooked it well done. I had run into this years earlier in England, where fear of Mad Cow Disease led to this practice -- although no one was quite sure that this would take care of the problem or not. But well done it still is. The way I want it anyway.

In France I also witnessed an amusing incident. A customer came in after me at one restaurant. He was speaking English, but it was with what seemed a Dutch or German accent. The waitress couldn't understand him. He was having some difficulty figuring out how to order some wine. So the waitress fetched the manager, who spoke English. He suggested a wine for the customer. Since I had already ordered, and had no problem, even with adding something to my order later, I got some sense that even my very limited French was not that bad.

Francia Media, Burgundy

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Huevos a la Mexicana

My favorite breakfast dish at Casita Jorge's was huevos borrachos con queso. There was also a simple huevos borrachos. I never understood how these were borracho, i.e. "drunk." I have not been able to find such a dish on the web, and the only borrachos I see are for soaking beans in beer. Otherwise, what these dishes looked like was scrambled eggs with various vegetables chopped up in them. Perhaps Jorge threw in some beer.

That is where things stood until I returned to Texas in November 2016, going along with my wife to her conference of the American Academy of Religion in San Antonio. The break in the case came when I had breadfast at the venerable and famous Mi Tierra. This was on the "Historic Market Square" on the west side of Downtown San Antonio, with an entrance on the pedestrian mall, "Produce Row," and on Dolorosa Street, in the back, with its own small parking lot.

Over the years, I had been in San Antonio quite a bit, even attending the Texas Folklife Festival as one of the people demonstrating spinning, of all things, but I had never stayed there overnight or eaten there very much, not even on the River Walk. When I taught at Alamo College in 1982, I tended to eat at a nearby Wendy's. So, venerable and famous as Mi Tierra was, I was not previously familiar with it.

Huevos a
la Mexicana
bell pepper1
This time, what I got for breakfast was huevos a la Mexicana. Imagine my surprise. This looked like Jorge's huevos borrachos. And there were no lack of recipes on line.

So now I can do it myself. Chopping up onions, bell peppers, jalapeños, and tomatoes. I like using a yellow or orange bell pepper to contrast with the green jalapeños and the red tomatoes. Actually, one dish with two eggs does not use all of the indicated quantities, which can be saved for another breakfast. First I sauté the onions and peppers. I've gotten in the strange habit of cooking with ghee, the clarified butter of India. When the onions and peppers are cooked up a bit, I add the eggs, usually cut with some milk, as I would do for regular scrambled eggs. As the eggs are beginning to cook, I add the tomatoes.

I have not been using any spices with this dish, which seems to be quite flavorful already. And one thing I like is that I really don't have any trouble with the eggs burning, which is something I must watch carefully with regular scrambled eggs.

This is served onto three or four corn tortillas on a plate. I add grated cheese on top, and then microwave the dish to melt the cheese and warm up the torillas some. So this is actually huevos a la Mexicana con queso.

I love this, and I have made it regularly since returning from Texas. My wife often uses the chopped vegetables for some other things she likes. Altogether splendid.

Returning to San Antonio in 2023, one still sees the "We Never Close" sign at the south entrance of Mi Tierra, on their parking lot; but sadly this is no longer true. Previously open 24 hours, the restaurant, post-Covid, now is only open from 8 AM, and I was there three times just as they were opening. The parking lot attendant told me they were having trouble hiring staff. That seems odd with people moving to Texas all the time, but that area of downtown San Antonio is afflicted with torn up streets and empty storefronts. So I not sure exactly what is going on. No empty spaces, however, along the River Walk.

As at the old Magnolia Cafe on Lake Austin Blvd., the overnight hours of Mi Tierra made it popular with the local police, whose headquarters are just down the block. Now, however, I didn't see any police cars there at 8 AM, or any police in the restaurant, as I had in 2016.

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Teriyaki Sauce and Teriburgers

My experience with teriburgers goes back to my happy days in the East-West Center Cafeteria at the University of Hawai'i. In a way, their method was all wrong. They took the hamburger patties they cooked, in the standard way, and then dropped a bunch of them into a little vat of teriyaki sauce. And there they sat, until someone ordered a teriburger. This may have violated some laws. They did much the same thing with their tempura, with results that were appalling. I had the wrong idea about tempura for years, remembering it as something greasy and oil-soaked. I didn't get straightened out until someone, Lynn Burson, who had taken a cooking class in Japan, cooked some for me. It was a revelation.

With the teriburgers, however, the effect had been quite different. What they were soaking in was slightly thickened teriyaki sauce, and probably the longer they sat there, the better. The result was really teriyaki, and it was great.

Years later, in 1988, my wife and I were back in Honolulu, and I eagerly dragged her to the East-West Center. Unfortunately, the old cafeteria was gone, and the space had been broken up into conference rooms. This was distessing in its own right. And if we wanted lunch, we were going to have to go to the Student Union. I ordered a teriburger. They took a plain, cooked patty and dipped it in teriyaki sauce. This did not produce the same result. I was crushed.

Indeed, my experience with teriyaki dishes over the years has been disappointing. The sauce always seems thin and minimal, and I often feel that I can barely taste it. I suspect this is intentional. Japanese cooking is not famous for strong tastes, except for the wasabi (green horseradish -- often actual horseradish, with food coloring, since real wasabi is expensive) one puts on sushi.
Teriyaki Sauce
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup water
2 tblsp sake
3 tblsp brown sugar
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp ginger powder
2 tblsp cornstarch
Mix everything together with wisk, bring to boil, stirring, until mixture thickens
After taking my Korean officemate, Gun-Won Lee, and his wife to dinner at a Mexican restaurant in Honolulu (the late La Paloma), he pronounced that Mexican food was for eating, while Japanese food was for looking at. I do like both, and I even like some Japanese things that my wife regards as tasteless ("I draw the line at rubber," i.e. squid -- which I don't much care for myself), but I can see the point.

So here is a teriyaki sauce, with cornstarch for thickening. Other recipes I see have more (white) sugar and even honey. With the latter, I can't see it. But all this is experimental. I have only recently (2018) returned to working with the dish.
Teriburger Mixture
l lb ground beef
1 egg
1 small onion, chopped
1/4 cup bread crumbs
2+ tblsp brown sugar
2 tblsp green onion, chives
1 small piece chopped ginger
2+ cloves chopped garlic
1 tblsp sesame oil
1 tblsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tblsp Liquid Smoke
1+ tblsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
Blend every-
thing together and form into 6 or more patties, cook, soak in Teriyaki sauce to taste

And for teriburgers the actual hamurger meat is a separate issue altogether. Recipes on line for Hawaiian teriburgers have hamburger recipes that include onion, green onion, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, sesame seed oil, and other ingredients. I've tried some of this and now post a recipe at right. The ingredients here include some things that might be more appropriate for a simple hamburger recipe, like Worcestershire sauce and Liquid Smoke, but I believe in a lot of experimentation. See what tastes good.

I now cook my hamburgers on the George Forman Grill. The next step, of course, is to soak the patties in the teriyaki sauce. I can't say for how long this should be done. Obviously, the patties should be cooked ahead of time, and they could be left in a container of the sauce for hours or longer -- probably in the refrigerator, and not indefinitely in the open on a heating table, which may actually have been the East-West Center practice. So the experimentation here should include some consciousness of food safety.

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Sloppy Joe Hamburger

Sloppy Joe Mixture
l lb ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped peppers
8 oz. can tomato paste
1/2 cup ketchup
1 tblsp brown sugar
1 tblsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tblsp Liquid Smoke
1 tblsp white vinegar
1 tsp ground mustard
2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
Brown onions and meat in skillet, blend other ingredients and add to meat; simmer 20 minutes; serve up on buns.

I have no experience with Sloppy Joe hamburgers. They always looked good in television, and at the market I finally bought a can of "Manwich" to make some. I was interested in the ingredients listed on the can, looking ahead to making my own. It all looked very good.

When I made the "Manwich," however, the can seemed to contain nothing but tomato sauce. The volume of the other ingredients must be minimal. I needed more than that, so I chopped up some peppers to add to the meat. Obviously, the next round needed to be from scratch; and there are many recipes for Sloppy Joes on line. This combines some of those, which vary slightly in their ingredients. Not all have garlic or peppers, and I have added Liquid Smoke. Some experimentation is in order.

For peppers, I have been using bell peppers and jalapeños, as in my Huevos a la Mexicana. Again, experimentation is in order.

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Lebanese Manʾūshe

When I lived in Lebanon, 1969-1970, I discovered an appealing breakfast item that I used to go out and buy near my dormitory. It was rather like a small pizza, covered with olive oil and a spice mixture. I liked it a lot, and when I returned to Los Angeles, I went looking for it. What we called this in Lebanon was "manushe."

In Los Angeles in 1970, resources for Middle Eastern food were limited. Markets did not yet carry ḥummuṣ, which had not yet been popularized by people returning from Israel. My market did carry cans of ṭaḥīneh, (طَحِينَة), i.e. pureed sesame seed, which I could use to make ḥummuṣ. Otherwise, I focused my efforts on obtaining the materials to make Kibbe, whose recipe is above. I ultimately found those in an Armenian market in Van Nuys, but neither they nor Arab markets I found in Hollywood had manushes, or even seemed to know what they were. I began to doubt that I had a right word or knew what I was talking about. So I gave up looking.

Now, of course, everything is on line. One problem I had been having was with the word. The full Classical Arabic is , manqūshah (مَنْقُوشَة); but the Arabic "q" turns into a glottal stop in Lebanese, and the feminine ending becomes an "e" or "i." So we end up with manʾūshe, where the glottal stop is usually not going to be very noticeable, since it is not intervocalic. There is the further complication that the on-line treatments tend to use the "broken" or irregular plural of manqūshah, namely , manāqīsh (مَنَاقِيش), which is rendered in various ways.

The recipes for the manushe bread are pretty basic, with just flour, water, yeast, and salt, treated much like pizza dough, i.e. allowed to rise and then rolled out flat.

The manushe topping is a particular mix of spices called , zaʿatar (زَعَتَر), to which is added olive oil, and smeared on the bread before it is baked. Different versions of the zaʿatar can be ordered on line, even from

I haven't tried making a manushe yet, but I'm going to try.

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Spaghetti alla Carbonara

There are said to be four pastas of Rome: (1) Pasta alla Gricia, (2) Cacio e Pepe, (3) Carbonara, and (4) Amaracitiana. All of these have a minimum of ingredients but characteristically feature guanciale, a cured meat made from the jowl or cheeks of pigs. Pork products, including the offal, i.e. various internal organs and the head, seem to be characteristic of the cooking of the City of Rome and of the surrounding province of Lazio, i.e. Latium. One explanation of this is that keeping pigs doesn't take up much space, while the offal was cheap food for poor people, who ended up making a kind of delicacy of it.

The explanation about size makes sense in some other contexts. China has been a crowded place for centuries; and while Chinese cooking uses all sorts of meats, pigs do seem to have a special place -- a character for "house, family, home," (), actually shows a pig under a roof. If you keep pigs in your house, it is probably good that they don't need to be that big (although some hogs and boars can be quite large).
Pasta Carbonara
olive oil.
4 slices of bacon.
4+ cloves of garlic.
2 eggs.
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese.
parsley for garnish.
warm water with corn starch as needed.
Mix eggs and cheese with corn starch for a creamy mixture.

Chop up bacon and garlic.

Cook bacon in some olive oil and then add garlic, cooking to taste.

Add cooked pasta to bacon and garlic, stir together.

Add eggs and cheese to dish, stir together on low or no heat, avoid scrambling eggs, add corn starch to desired consistency.
Similarly, the only such domesticated food source among the Polynesians were pigs and chickens, which makes perfect sense when these were carried in canoes with settlers to their distant island destinations. No cattle.

I was in Rome in 2019, but I never had had, didn't have, and still haven't had any of these dishes. I had heard of carbonara because Calvin Trillin wrote about it. I noticed it on the menus, but I went for other dishes. Now in 2021, the actor Stanley Tucci started doing a series of shows on the regional cruisines of Italy. The Roman show covered the four pastas and went into the use and history of the pork products. I hadn't heard about that before.

The origin of carbonara, and even the reason for the name, are lost to history. Since the dish does not seem to be attested until after World War II, one story is that American troops occupying Rome missed their bacon and eggs in the morning, so the Romans cooked up a pasta with bacon (or something) and eggs. Sounds reasonable, but like many origin stories for food, it can't be verified, and there are other accounts.

So I figured it was about time to catch up with Calvin Trillin and make the carbonara. The recipes generally call for "freshly grated" Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese; but, of course, I just use grated Parmesan off the shelf at the market. The guanciale might be good, but it doesn't sound that appetizing to me. So it's bacon. Recipes also say that garlic is mostly not used for this in Rome, but I can't see Italian food without garlic. Some recipes add cream along with the egg and cheese. Other recipes find this appalling. Most recipes like the idea of cooking the pasta along with the dish and using the pasta water for the egg and cheese and then in the final mix -- on the principle that the water holds starch cooked off the pasta. This is too involved for me, especially since I often cook a bunch of pasta in advance to use with a number of dishes. So if starch is what you want, I can't see why some corn starch can't be dissolved in water, however outrageous this sounds.

The result is agreeable and tasty. I have no complaint. Very cheesy. A very reasonable addition to the breakfast menu, or even other meals. And it looks like it gets better with some Tabasco sauce. Doesn't surprise me, but Italians may be puzzled.

Calvin Trillin, of course, offers no tips on cooking. He says that he is a "specialist," i.e. he only eats and doesn't cook. His piece about carbonara is "Spaghetti Carbonara Day," the first essay in Third Helpings [1983], the book that completed the "Tummy Triology." His idea is that Americans should have spaghetti carbonara instead of turkey on Thanksgiving. He finds that others have little enthusiasm for that. However, finally, one year when his family wasn't invited to Thanksgiving elsewhere, he persuaded his wife Alice to make carbonara for them. Worked well enough.

Well, I like turkey, although I tend to buy sliced deli turkey to use on Thanksgiving or at other times, with boxed stuffing and packaged gravy. All easy to make, and not like the production of cooking a whole turkey, as my father used to do. Also, as may be evident on this page, I got into cooking because some of my favorite dishes, like my mother's spaghetti, or the beef tomato at Moon Light, ceased to be available.

So now, with anything I like a lot, I think I should be ready to make it myself. And it can often be improved. My wife and I have improved dishes that she began making by inspiration: a pasta and clam dish that she found in a restaurant in Japan, and a potato breakfast hash that she had enjoyed at a restaurant in Gettyburg, Pennsylvania. We've reproduced and improved both of those. And of course, my sprimp creole is here because I can't go down to New Orleans very so often to enjoy it at Pere Antoine.

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Butter Chicken, Murgh Makhanī, मुर्ग़ मखनी

Butter Chicken
chicken, boneless breasts, cut bitesized1.5 lbs
Greek yogurt, labni (لَبْنَة), or raita (रायता); more liquid than American yogurt3/4 cup
lemon juice1 tablespoon
garam masala1 tablespoon
ground cumin1 tablespoon
turmeric1 tablespoon
red chili powder/cayenne1 teaspoon
Whisk together the yogurt, lemon juice, turmeric, garam masala and cumin in a large bowl. Put the chicken in, and coat with the marinade. Cover, and refrigerate (for up to a day).
Heat oil in large skillet or pot over medium-high heat. When sizzling, add chicken pieces in batches of two or three. Fry chicken until browned for only 3 minutes on each side. Set aside and keep warm.
butter/ghee2 ounces
vegetable or canola oil2 teaspoons
medium-size yellow onions, peeled and diced1 onion
garlic, peeled and minced2 cloves
ginger, peeled and grated or finely diced1 1/2 tablespoon
cumin seeds/ground cumin1/2 tablespoon
garam masala1 teaspoon
In a large pan over medium heat, melt the butter in the oil until it starts to foam. Add the onions, and cook, stirring frequently, until translucent. Add the garlic, ginger and cumin seeds, and cook until the onions start to brown.
cinnamon stick or ground cinnamon1/2 teaspoon
tomato, diced/crushed1 tomato
OR, whole medium can of diced/crushed tomato
red chiles, like Anaheim, or 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced1 pepper
ground coriander1 teaspoon
red chili powder/cayenne1 teaspoon
Add the cinnamon, tomatoes, chiles and salt, and cook until the chiles are soft, about 10 minutes.
chicken stock1/3 cup
Add the chicken and marinade to the pan, and cook for 5 minutes, then add the chicken stock. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for approximately 30 minutes.
cream/heavy or thickened cream 3/4 cup
tomato paste3/4 teaspoon
OR, whole small can of tomato paste
sugar1 tablespoon
kassori methi/dried fenugreek leaves1/2 teaspoon
Stir in the cream and tomato paste, and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, approximately 10 to 15 minutes.
My favorite Indian food is Chicken Tikka Masala. This has also been voted the favorite food in Britain. Its origin is unclear, but the consensus seems to be that it actually originated in Britain, perhaps specifically in Glasgow, Scotland.

I always assumed that Chicken Tikka Masala is based on simple Chicken Tikka (ṭikkā, टिक्का, "steak," marinated), which is marinated chicken cooked, on spits, in a tandoor oven, which basically looks like a large pot where a fire has been built to produce hot coals in the bottom.

While masalā," मसला, just means a mixture of spices, the Chicken Tikka Masala is Chicken Tikka then cooked in a curry sauce.

The question then arises how Chicken Tikka Masala differs from what may have been the original Indian dish, Butter Chicken, or Murgh Makhani, "Chicken" (murgh, मुर्ग़) in a butter (makhanī, मखनी) sauce. This is not clear. There are so many different recipes for both dishes, literally dozens, that the only certain rule seems to be that Butter Chicken has butter (i.e. ghee, घी) in it. Chicken Tikka Masala may have more tomato, but this also depends on the recipe.

It may be noteworthy that murgh is Persian, (مُرْغ). The "gh" is not the aspirated stop from Sanskrit, but the voiced fricative from Persian. Devanagari indicated this by using the letter "g" with an underdot, ग़. The actual "gh" can be seen in the Devanagari for "ghee" above.

I might have thought that Chicken Tikka Masala necessarily used the tandoor, while chicken for Butter Chicken might not be entirely deboned. However, again, this all depends on the recipe and even the particular chef. For both dishes, the chicken can be cooked in a tandoor, on spits over a grill, on a baking sheet in a conventional oven, or simply in a stovetop pan. There is also the story that the first Moghul Emperor required that chicken be deboned because he was concerned about chicken bones. This would long antedate Chicken Tikka Masala, and perhaps even Butter Chicken.

Looking at all the recipes on line, including cooking videos at YouTube of the dishes being prepared, I've tried to formulate a combined recipe that uses what seems appealing to me from all of them. My principle is also simplicity. Many recipes call for a blender, especially to make the ginger, garlic, and some spices into a "masala sauce" that is added at different points. My rule is that if Bābur (the first Moghul), didn't have a blender, then I'm not going to use one -- especially if it means there is something else to clean. On a similar principle, the various ways of cooking the chicken come down to a single frying pan, which also means less to clean up. The whole dish can be made using one thing: the pan.

The quantities in the table are mostly what is cut down from a larger recipe, with some extra things added. So the quantities are more suggestions than requirements. A special issue is about the tomato. I've ended up using a small can of tomato sauce and a medium can of crushed tomatoes. This may make the Butter Chicken more tomato-y than some might think proper. Tough. With the cream, I ended up going with what was available in the market, which was mostly light rather than heavy cream.

It all turned out marvelously well. But it also impressed me how similar it smelled and tasted to the Malay Chicken, above, despite several more ingredients. That's not a complaint. I actually didn't use the Fenugreek, for which I have seen cautions in relation to some medications I am taking. Also, many Butter Chicken recipes end up with almonds or other nuts added, which does not really appeal to me. One can also garnish with cilantro, which is just coriander. That's already in the dish. It doesn't seem necessary to me, although my wife always likes fresh cilantro on things, including Malay Chicken.

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Latkes, לאַטקע

With Ḫanukkah, חֲנֻכׇּה, approaching in 2022, my thoughts turn to potato pancakes, latkes, לאַטקע. The word, in Yiddish, is ultimately, by way of Slavic, from Greek ἐλάδιον, for olive oil. Since the Yiddish word isn't from Hebrew, it uses Hebrew letters to write all the vowels, where in Hebrew, and Hebrew borrowings, only long vowels are indicated with letters, while the letters themselves are all consonants. If one is only famliar with Hebrew, the result can look a little odd, since the actual Hebrew value of the letters may be altered.

2 potatoes
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
1 egg
3/4 cup matzo meal
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt
There are a lot of ways to make latkes. After some experimentation, this is what I like. The first challenge was a universally recommended procedure. You grate the potatoes and immediately put them in water. This is to prevent the potato from turning brown. Unfortunately, this means that you must then squeeze the water out. This is a mess, and inevitably a fair amount of potato gets lost in the process.

Finally, I decided to skip the water part. If you do everything else fast enough, then there isn't enough time for the potato to brown very much anyway. So what happens immediately is to mix the potato, onion, egg, matzo meal, pepper, and salt. I use a chopper on the onion, since larger pieces don't blend well.

A dollop of the mix then goes into a oiled pan, and flattened. In the past, I've been using a fair amount of oil, but lately I've been using less, as when I sauté vegetables or hash a potato. This will be a matter of some experimentation with the latkes.

The idea, of course, is to let the latke brown on one side, and then flip over to the other. Latkes I get in delicatessens are often heavily browned and cooked. I like them, but they also can seem overcooked and heavy. Mine are a little lighter, and, of course, moister, since none of the moisture has been squeezed out -- a goodly amount remains from the potatoes themselves, and the onions.

The Jewish Calendar

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Spaghetti all'Assassina

Stanley Tucci introduces us to something new again. Visiting Bari, which was the last city in Italy taken from Romania by the Normans, in 1071, Tucci (who is there now, not in 1071) is introduced to pasta or spaghetti assassina or bruciati, i.e. "burned" (bruciare, to burn). It is the "assassin" spaghetti because it has chilis in it and comes out hot. I think this is unusual in Italian cooking. I put tabasco sauce on spaghetti carbonara. I doubt they do that in Rome. Assassina is also "burned" because the tradition involves letting the pasta burn in the pan a bit.

What astonished Tucci was that the chef threw raw pasta into a pan where he had garlic and chili flakes cooking in oil. He had never heard of this. Neither had I. Otherwise, you cook the pasta in water and then either put sauce on it or put it in the pan, as in carbonara.

On line, there are different ways of doing this. For one thing, you can add different things to the oil. I've used actual chilis as well as the garlic and chili flakes. Everyone says to use a cast iron skillet. I have one, but I've used a regular no-stick pan, big enough that full length spaghetti will fit in the pan.

The next step involves some variations. We see the Bari chef throw the pasta right in the oil, but on-line recipes sometimes add water or tomato sauce first. Tucci's chef adds the sauce and water after adding the pasta. The water and sauce can be added separately, or mixed.

The tomato sauce itself can be plain tomato puree, or it can be a more prepared spaghetti sauce, perhaps with garlic and onion or more. I've used just some plain store-bought spaghetti sauce, as a compromise between puree and my own prepared spaghetti sauce.

So the Bari chef cooks the pasta for a while in the oil, then he adds the tomato sauce. With that and water I let it cook, turning it over occasionally. The tradition, indeed, is to let the dish brown or burn a bit before turning. I haven't gone too far with that. Besides ending up hot from the chilis, the result can be a bit crispy. In any case, the consistency is different from regular pasta cooked in water. This is interesting.

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Yakisoba, 焼きそば

1 lb chicken breasts, sliced into bite size strips
2 (5.9 oz.) pks. soba noodles
Salt, if needed
2 Tbsp vegetable oil

1/2 cup chopped green onions, white and light portions only
1 1/2 Tbsp Garlic
1 Tbsp Ginger
1 red bell pepper, cored and sliced into 2-inch fairly thin strips
5 oz. button mushrooms, sliced
3 cups shredded green cabbage
1 cup matchstick carrots
2/3 cup 2-inch strip sliced green onions, green portion only
2 Tbsp vegetable oil

2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp ketchup
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp oyster sauce
1/2 tsp sesame oil

Bring a large pot of water to a boil while prepping ingredients.

Add noodles to boiling water and cook stirring occasionally, just until noodles separate, about 1 minute. Let drain well in a colander and set aside.

In a small mixing bowl whisk together soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, brown sugar, oyster sauce and sesame oil. Set aside.

Heat oil in a non-stick wok or 12-inch (and deep) non-stick skillet over fairly high heat. Add chicken, just lightly with salt if needed (a pinch or two). Give space between pieces add cook, turning once halfway, until cooked through about 5 minutes.

Transfer chicken to a plate. Reduce heat slightly, heat oil in skillet. Add in green onions, ginger and garlic and saute 30 seconds.

Add in bell pepper and mushrooms. Saute 1 minute. Add in cabbage and carrots and green onion greens and saute until cabbage it's just wilted, about 1 - 2 minutes longer.

Add drained noodles to skillet along with cooked chicken. Pour sauce over top and toss. Saute 1 minute. Season lightly salt as needed. Serve warm with Sriracha if desired.

In Princeton, we have been getting yakisoba at
Nassau Sushi.

This is a recipe my wife found, and we just made it (10/23), with some modifications. We've been getting 9.5 ounce packets of soba at our local market or at the Japanese deli Maruichi on Nassau Street in Princeton. One packet does just fine for this recipe. It is easy to overcook soba, but my wife thought that a little more than 2 minutes was better than the 1 minute of the recipe.

I think I have just used 1.75 lbs of chicken, not 1 pound. It was not too much.

The recipe called for garlic and ginger "paste." We would never do that. Whenever a recipe calls for garlic, we just use a whole head of garlic, in this case with a comparable amount of fresh ginger. Otherwise we may have used the list of vegetables as given, with about 10 button mushrooms. I don't know how that would match the weight in the recipe. On the other hand, garlic is rare in Japanese cooking. I've examined a number of yakisoba recipes and have hardly found one with garlic. Most were also missing ginger. In this household, however, ginger and garlic are de rigueur.

The first time we made this, there wasn't enough sauce. So now we've doubled the amount, if not a little more. I think that is enough. The cooking times seem a little short, so I stir-fry as much as seems appropriate. 30 seconds is nowhere near enough for the ginger, garlic, and onions, certainly for as much as we use.

The Sriracha is good with this, but we're thinking about using hot chili oil in the sauce, if not jalapeños among the vegetables. And I think we've used black bean sauce for Yakisoba in the past.

My other favorite soba dish is tenzaru soba, 天ざるそば, which can be cold soba with tempura (shrimp or vegetables). We been getting this at Sumi Ramen, not in Princeton but in Plainsboro, south across US Route 1. I will not be having a recipe for this because the soba part of the dish is just plain soba, while the tempura part of the dish means you need to know how to cook tempura, which neither my wife nor I have ever tried to do. My late friend, Lynn Burson, cooked tempura, masterfully. I wish she was still around to do it.

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