1969

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My granddad, William Silas Hill, a Congressman at the time and an “Eisenhower Republican,” conversing with Richard Nixon in 1956 – 13 years before Nixon became President.

It’s 1969….50 years ago. On January 19 Richard Nixon is sworn in as President of the United States.  He promises to achieve “Peace with Honor” in Vietnam, hoping to begin to withdraw the approximately 500,000 U.S. troops who are serving there.

Andy and I are in Huntsville, Alabama, at that time, thanks to the draft (read all about it in the last Andy’s Corner).  Following Andy’s advanced ordnance training at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, MD,  we completed our “dream sheet” – where the Army allowed you to indicate your preferred areas to be stationed next;  we had naively put “no place in the South.”  Remember, it was 1968 and the South was not our idea of a happy place.  We can still picture some military person assigning Andy – with unabated glee – to Alabama.

So Andy is serving as a 2nd Lt in the Army stationed at Redstone Arsenal.  When his orders for Vietnam arrive (accompanied by lots of tears), we begin to figure out what to do next.  I will go back to my folks in Ft. Collins, Colorado, and look for a teaching job.  Raggedy, our kitty, will go with me.  After the move to Colorado, we’ll go together to San Francisco and see the sights as our last fun(?) trip before Andy departs for Qui Nhơn; I’ll wave him goodbye at the San Francisco airport.  It is all surrealistic and awful.  We’ve only been married 20 months and have already been apart 12 of those months.

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Note the “Hill’s Hellions” on the truck.  They weren’t MY “Hills.”

But there’s clearly a light at the end of that tunnel.  We both survive the year – and learn a lot about ourselves and our relationship.  Raggedy thrives on our 5-acre “tract” in Fort Collins.  I find out what teaching middle school in Loveland, CO, entails.  Andy deals with more than he ever needed or wanted to. And we add our first Australian Shepherd, Marcus (named because Andy arrives home from Vietnam in March) to our family.

One of the more satisfying things to ever happen is when Andy and our adult son Travis travel to Vietnam in December of 2000.  They land in Hanoi, fly to Hue and then bicycle down the coast, ending in Saigon.  They are both surprised and delighted by the warmth that the Vietnamese extend to these Americans – 25 years after the United States had finally withdrawn from the country – in a most ugly and traumatizing manner (the Nixon-promised “peace with honor” certainly didn’t pan out).  Andy shares some lessons learned from that trip  – about lycra and noisy horns and riding in crowds – in today’s Andy’s Corner.

viet bike tour andy with kids

Vietnam – December 2000

In addition to the appeal of the country and the Vietnamese people, both Andy and Travis raved about the food.   Andy and I had already become somewhat immersed in Asian cooking prior to his 2000 bicycling trip, since we had helped our daughter with her cookbook Asian Vegetables and, in doing so, had discovered a most amazing little Vietnamese grocery in Baton Rouge, the Vinh Phat Oriental Market, which became the source of many fun and – to us – exotic ingredients.  Andy has written about it too.  It was there that we first bought Asian fish sauce (Red Boat is our present go-to; our daughter recommended Three Crabs in her cookbook) and the most-interesting daikon radish, and rice (or vermicelli) noodles.

 

 

When I need help with Vietnamese recipes I frequently turn to the website and cookbooks of Andrea Nguyen.  She is from one of those many Vietnamese families who – in 1975 – fled the country.  Her family ended up in Southern California and she now lives in the Bay Area.  On her website I found a good basic recipe for daikon and carrot pickles, which are a must for Banh Mi sandwiches (here’s a link to Nguyen’s history of the sandwich as well as her basic Banh Mi recipe) and as a side dish for so many other Vietnamese dishes  – plus yummy to munch on just by themselves. Continue reading

What If?

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Visiting our Baton Rouge friends’ Maine family

What if Andy and I had never had boiled lobster, freshly caught, in Owl’s Head, Maine….or Swedish Meatballs in the Andersonville neighborhood of Chicago.  Or Jamaican Jerk Chicken in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, or Jambalaya in a little cross-the-tracks restaurant in Baton Rouge, or Coho salmon in Gig Harbor, Washington?  Or what if we’d never had two little tortillas filled with carnitas at Tacolicious in San Francisco?  We’d be diminished both food-wise and culture-wise.

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Near and dear to our hearts: the Original Tacolicious on Chestnut St in SF – which moved to a new space 2 blocks down Chestnut in 2016.

There are a lot of What Ifs being discussed by the family for this year of 2019.   What if the Dodgers win (or – gasp – lose again) the World Series.  What if Manchester United could win the Premier League for the first time in six years?  What if Tacolicious opens in L.A.?  What if Stephen Curry loses his magic?  What if we get tired of blogging?  What if our grandson, Moss, gets into high school at SOTA, the SF School of the Arts ?  And what if our 17-year-old grandchildren Silas and Mia do (or – gasp – don’t) get into a college of their choice?  Andy, on the other hand – in Andy’s Corner, is asking whether Fortuna has a role in all of this.

 

I’ve been conflicted as I’ve watched our two high school senior grandkiddos agonize over the college application process.  They both seem so young and so needy of some perspective – and maybe maturity – before entering university.  Gap Years are certainly trendy at the moment…send those young’ns off to another continent to experience the world.  But my thinking is that a year devoted to our country would have immeasurable worth.

I have polled the elder members amongst our friends and family (including – gasp – my elder self).  We all feel strongly that some form of  public service for our country’s 18-year-olds would be a wonderful thing.  The conversation began after re-reading the details of George H W Bush’s World War II experiences….joining the military right after graduation from boarding school, becoming a navy pilot at the age of 19 and getting shot down at the age of 20.  Of course, we don’t wish anything remotely like that for this upcoming generation (dubbed Gen Z), and we acknowledge that the internet has already made them worldlier – at least online – than most of us elders would even want.

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This opened on Broadway Christmas 2012…with Anne Hathaway playing Fantine.

Fantine from Les Miserables – as well as many others of us – might belt out “but there are dreams that cannot be.”  And, admittedly,  the ifs ands or buts to a universal year of youth service seem almost insurmountable, but isn’t it fun to think about what if all of our 18 year olds had both the opportunity and the requirement to not only provide service to our country but to get acquainted with other folks and other regions – and, yes, other foods – of our lovely, complex United States.

Below we’ve linked already published recipes for jambalaya, jerk chicken, carnitas, and salmon.  And we’ve got a new one from our Bestie, Terry B, a native of Wisconsin, who assures us that when we finally venture that direction, we’re gonna love it.  Great Lakes, here we come!

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“Sconnie Soup” (Wisconsin Cheese and Beer) from Terry B

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In addition to Terry’s d-lish Wisconsin soup (recipe below), be sure to try our other regional recipes:

Baton Rouge Pork Jambalaya

Brooklyn Jerk Chicken

Gig Harbor Slow-Roasted Salmon

San Francisco Tacolicious Carnitas

And here’s a favorite old family photo from 1968, when the U.S. Army brought us – very unwillingly – to New Jersey and we met – very happily – the Ed Davis family.  If it had happened today, we might have hashtags that would read #FortDixNewJersey  #friendswhenwereallyneededfriends #lifeofanarmyprivate  #CA&COkidsgotoNJ #drinkmilkinsteadofwine

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Food brings us all together – in this case our newly-made friends from 1968 –  the very-New Jersey Davis family, and Andy and me (Andy took the photo)

Wisconsin Cheese and Beer Soup

Our Bestie from Milwaukee didn’t suggest the popcorn, but I read a few recipes that called for it, so don’t blame Terry, blame me if you think that’s crazy.  We served this to a bunch of Northern Californians – and they loved it!

  • 1/2 c butter
  • 1/2 c flour
  • 1-2 minced garlic cloves
  • 2 t onion powder
  • 2 t Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 t dry mustard
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 3 c chicken broth
  • 1-1/2 c half & half
  • 12 oz beer
  • 1-1/2 lb shredded cheese  (cheddar is traditional but mixing in jalapeño jack or any other similar cheese works too)
  • buttered croutons – or popped popcorn and minced chives, optional

Spoon flour into measuring cup. Melt butter in soup kettle then whisk in flour. Stir constantly and cook until smooth. Add garlic, onion powder, Worcestershire sauce, dry mustard, salt and pepper. Stir well. Gradually alternate stirring in broth, half & half and beer.

Stirring constantly, cook until thickened.

Slowly add cheese(s) and stir until melted.

Continue to cook on medium to low heat for about 10 minutes. DO NOT BOIL.  Serve with croutons or popcorn and chives.

Recipe brought to you by Terry B in Milwaukee and BigLittleMeals.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nightcaps and a Morning Dish

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If cold weather and the busy holiday season have you longing for nothing more than to lounge around a blazing fire (which is, hopefully, in a fireplace!) with a good book in hand, soothing music on your Sonos, and sipping on something stronger than hot chocolate – we’re here for you.

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As for good books, we can’t recommend A Gentleman in Moscow enough.  Yes, it’s been around a couple of years, but it’s the perfect novel for a long winter’s night.

 

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For music, how about something of Leonard Cohen; Closing Time might be nice; Democracy is Coming to the USA might be better yet.  The video is great, too – an official one from Cohen.  FYI – Cohen began writing the song after the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall – and finished it in 1992.

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“Leonard Cohen,” this very cute dog, lives with our Portland friends.  It appears he’s snuggled into bed after a cozy night around the fire with his people-mates.

For adding a bit of humor to the season (“ho, ho, ho,” or “ho hum” is TBD) be sure to read today’s Andy’s Corner

As for nightcaps, the sentiment of most bartending pros seems to be “stick with brown liquor, ” so we’ve picked dark rum, cognac, brandy, and rye for our nightcaps.  We’re big fans of the 2″ silicone ice cube trays for the cold nightcaps.  And we’re believers that less is more when it comes to nightcaps, so tend to like ones that aren’t more than about 3 oz total (except for the hot drinks).

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Bulleit – our choice for rye

The next morning, when you’re still feeling lazy after your warm and cozy and relaxing night (hope there was at least a dog – and maybe a cat – but not two cats – in bed with you :)),  there is nothing easier than popping a savory bread pudding into the oven.  You make it the day before; refrigerate it. Bake it the next morning.  If it’s the holidays and you’ve got overnighters, it is the perfect breakfast recipe. Continue reading

Yelp and Repentance

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How many of us are lucky enough to receive not one but TWO hand-written thank-you notes in the mail on the same day?  And both those thank-you notes are on cards created by the folks doing the thanking!

I’d give our guests very, very positive reviews on Yelp – if only they made being house guests their business: FIVE stars!!!!!!!!!!!! Cleaned up after themselves!!!!  Appreciated our cooking!!!!  Good conversationalists!!!!  Stayed LESS than 5 nights!!!  Wrote and snail-mailed thank-you’s!!!!

My positive Yelping would not be typical of what seems to be the norm on Yelp.  The definition of “yelp” is a short, sharp cry of pain or alarm.  Those who created Yelp reviews must have known that this was not going to be a necessarily positive kind of thing.  And, judging from our kids’ experience with their restaurant(s), Tacolicious, Yelp can definitely cause a sharp cry of pain or alarm.

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“Tacolicious is AWESOME and the manager is the BEST!” “Great tacos.”  “Yummy tacos.” “Prime location; good vibes and good food!” “God, this place is good.” Yes, there are lots and lots of positive Yelp reviews about Tacolicious, but then…….

Well, you’ll just have to read our daughter Sara’s recent article in online Bon Appétit:  10 Lessons on Opening a Restaurant.  It’s not all about Yelp; it’s about the restaurant business in general.  And it’s about repentance.   It’s pretty funny, even if her mama is the one saying it.

In case you’re interested, a little Googling comes up with the following info re how the name Yelp was selected by its co-founders:  it was short, memorable, easy to spell, and connected “the help” and “yellow pages.”

Andy, meanwhile, can’t help thinking about his on-going angst resulting from RateMyProfessors.com.  A little like Yelp – but for the world of academia.  Check out Andy’s Corner.

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Guacamole – and more from Tacolicious

I’ve got four recipes from Tacolicious for your review.  One – D-lish T-lish Guacamole – we blogged about before; it’s SO perfect.  I just KNOW your reviews will be stellar. 🙂

Three other recipes are for dishes which are all currently on the menu at the restaurants, if you’d like to eat out in San Francisco (or Palo Alto or San Jose) and Yelp about it.  Just remember that restaurant owners have feelings too.

Also – just so you know – I am not exactly unrepentant.  Wikipedia says that “repentance is the activity of reviewing ones actions and feeling contrition or regret for past wrongs, which is accompanied by commitment to change for the better.”  I hereby promise to send out hand-written thank-you notes post-holiday – which will be a first since email was invented (but I hope my family doesn’t hold me to it!) Continue reading

How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways.

shakespeare in love

My apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning.  While thinking about love poems the other night, her sonnet was the first that came to mind.  Except that I was thinking Shakespeare wrote it.

How do I love thee?
Let me count the ways. 
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height 
My soul can reach….

I did get this sonnet by Shakespeare attributed correctly (#116):

Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken….

Then I remembered the gorgeous and sad and possibly-too-relevant love poem “Dover Beach” by Matthew Arnold:

Ah, love, let us be true 
To one another! for the world, which seems 
To lie before us like a land of dreams, 
So various, so beautiful, so new….

Why love poems?  After all, Valentine’s Day is a long ways off.  Well, come late fall I’m feeling more than a little sad about the absence of delicious peaches and nectarines, plums and strawberries, blackberries, melons and even blueberries.  And only two things relieve that sadness: the appearance of pomegranates and persimmons in the markets.  I LOVE them!  I should write a poem about them!

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It’s November; no plums in the markets.  Thanks, Sara D, for the photo.

Actually, I don’t need to write a pomegranate poem.  Kahlil Gibran has already written the perfect piece about the fruit.  Bear with me (as the pomegranate tree doth bear her fruit :)) – and take time to read his essay.  It’s thought-provoking, relevant, and will make you smile.  I may start looking into quince.

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Thanks, again,  Sara D,  for the nice pomegranate photo!

The Pomegranate

Once when I was living in the heart of a pomegranate, I heard a seed
saying, “Someday I shall become a tree, and the wind will sing in
my branches, and the sun will dance on my leaves, and I shall be
strong and beautiful through all the seasons.”

Then another seed spoke and said, “When I was as young as you, I
too held such views; but now that I can weigh and measure things,
I see that my hopes were vain.”

And a third seed spoke also, “I see in us nothing that promises so
great a future.”

And a fourth said, “But what a mockery our life would be, without
a greater future!”

Said a fifth, “Why dispute what we shall be, when we know not even
what we are.”

But a sixth replied, “Whatever we are, that we shall continue to
be.”

And a seventh said, “I have such a clear idea how everything will
be, but I cannot put it into words.”

Then an eight spoke—and a ninth—and a tenth—and then many—until
all were speaking, and I could distinguish nothing for the many
voices.

And so I moved that very day into the heart of a quince, where the
seeds are few and almost silent.

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Quiet Time with Quince

 

I believe that Gibran’s little essay might be the perfect topic for a Thanksgiving dinner discussion.  Andy believes he has the perfect solution for transporting Thanksgiving pies and staying out of jail (see today’s Andy’s Corner).

And now to the recipes.

While it’s obvious that pomegranate seeds are beautiful as a topping for almost any salad – and even meat and vegetable dishes, they’re also wonderful incorporated into a dish.

Continue reading

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