The Cat’s Meow

Our very small house is home to 2 senior people and 4 mixed-age animals…2 noisy, loving dogs (Oakley and Wynn) and 2 quiet, neurotic cats (Ono and Choco). During the heavy rains we had in Glen Ellen this year, we wondered if we would all survive the togetherness.

Our Aussie, Oakley Devine (named after Annie Oakley and Andy Devine), and our Cardigan Corgi, WynnSome
Andy and OnoMoore

Our neighbors (bless their hearts) put up with a lot of noise from the especially-noisy young Wynn. But Wynn doesn’t only bark at the dogs and cats and people walking by, she also barks at Oakley. A lot. Check out the following video…it’s a typical morning in our house.

Looking at our dogs’ interaction made me wonder why cats don’t interact with “meows” to each other – or at each other. Little did I know that there is a ton of research on that topic. It took me about one second to find a Library of Congress document: “How Do Cats Communicate with Each Other?” Here is a brief summary:

For the most part, cats meow only to communicate with humans, not with other animals, according to anthrozoologist John Bradshaw in his book, Cat Sense: How the New Feline Science Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet (2013). Part of his evidence is that feral cats do not meow nearly as much as domesticated housecats.

Additionally, scientists believe that the meow is a manipulative behavior cats adopt to get what they want. Nicholas Dodman of Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine argues that cats can learn which noises are most effective at getting their owners to do what they want them to do.

And here’s an excerpt from a cute video about the 8 sounds cats make; naturally, we’ve focused on the “meow.”

If you’re wondering why I posted separate photos of each of our cats, rather than a photo of the two of them sitting lovingly side-by-side, as I did our dogs, let me just say that the artwork below does a great job of portraying their relationship with each other – except that our big 19-pound Siamese boy, Choco, would be the one cowering in fear of our 8-pound Siamese girl, Ono. And though they interact badly and often, I have never heard either of them address the other with a “meow.”

Charles Fenderich, Philadelphia, 1832

In today’s Andy’s Corner Andy provides another brilliant BigLittleMeals video on how Wynn, the dog, interacts with Ono, the cat. It’s way funnier than seeing the two cats interact.

If you want to know more about kitties – you may want to read this just-published book.

An aside here: did you know that lions and tigers CANNOT meow – but a cougar can both meow and purr?

Which brings me to “the cat’s meow.” If you had been around in the 1920’s you’d likely have been very familiar with the expression… meaning something that was really cool – like “that girl is the cat’s meow.” Apparently there were many similar expressions invoking critters in the early 1900’s such as “lounge lizard,” “bee’s knees,” “horsefeathers,” and “hair of the dog” (if you want to know more of these, check out this list).

Our cats – being very atypical for Siamese – don’t meow very much. But if they’re really hungry, this Tuna Entree is what might provoke a meow…a special meow formulated just for our human ears!

Here’s a tuna recipe from Rick Bayless that is “the cat’s meow.” We don’t recommend it for your cats, however…only for their people.

Roasted Poblano Potato Salad with Tuna

Roasted Poblano Potato Salad with Tuna

I’m sure you could use leftover roasted or boiled potatoes in this, rather than the microwaved ones suggested. Just chop them and warm them up before pouring the warm dressing over them. Adapted from Rick Bayless and Mexican Everyday

  • 1-2 fresh poblano chiles (the amount depends on your love of heat)
  • 4 medium (about 1 pound total) red-skin boiling or Yukon Gold potatoes, each cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • Salt
  • 1/3 c vegetable or olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 3 T mild vinegar (I recommend seasoned rice vinegar)
  • 1 tsp crumbled dried oregano, preferably Mexican
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • One 7-oz can cooked tuna, drained
  • 1/2 c chopped cilantro
  • chopped Little Gem, Romaine, Boston/butterhead or Bibb lettuce, for serving

Roast the poblanos over an open flame or 4 inches below a broiler, turning regularly until blistered and blackened all over, about 5 minutes for the open flame, about 10 minutes for a broiler. Place in a bowl, cover with a kitchen towel and let cool until handleable.

Meanwhile, scoop the potatoes into a microwaveable bowl. Sprinkle with a teaspoon of salt and toss. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave on high for 4 to 5 minutes, until completely tender. Leave covered. Rub the blackened skin off the chiles and pull out the stems. Rinse the chiles to remove bits of skin and seeds. Cut into 1/4″ wide strips – each about 1″-2″ long.

Heat the oil in a large (10-inch) skillet over medium-high. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until golden but still crunchy, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the vinegar, oregano, black pepper, and poblano strips. Stir well, then pour the mixture over the warm potatoes. Let cool to room temperature, then gently stir in the tuna and cilantro. Taste, and add a little more salt, if needed.

Arrange the lettuce leaves on dinner plates. Spoon a portion of the salad mixture in the center of the leaves. Drizzle any dressing that’s collected at the bottom of the bowl over the greens, and serve.

Recipe brought to you by and Andy and Ann.

The Summer of Love

I can’t get that song, “San Francisco,” out of my mind. Maybe it’s because we drove over both the Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge last weekend on our way to our grandson’s college graduation ceremony. Maybe it’s because San Francisco is in the news so much – for both the good and the bad. Maybe it’s because I think we all need a “summer of love.”

Scott McKenzie recorded the gorgeous song back in 1967 – the summer now referred to as “The Summer of Love.” Although in today’s Andy’s Corner Andy questions just how “lovey-dovey” that summer may have been, to me the reference to a summer of love seems incredibly apropos, given the fact that Andy and I got married in May of 1967.

However, while around 100,000 folks were gathering in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury in June of that year, dreamily talking about love and peace, Andy and I were saying our (very, very teary) good-byes, as he prepared to leave for Army basic training at Fort Dix, New Jersey…with a year-long tour of duty in Vietnam almost inevitable. Having been drafted made the situation even more difficult. Believe me, we thought more about Canada than San Francisco!

It’s hard looking back at that summer and imagining those two different and conflicting scenes. The nation was so divided.

Another memorable song – recorded in July of 1967 – was the Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love.” Upon listening to the song in May of 2023, Andy and I both commented that “love isn’t all we need!” Fifty-six years later cynicism may have overcome us. Nonetheless, hearing and seeing the Beatles when they were so young – and were performing in such a casual setting – is a treat. As you watch the video below, be sure to be on the lookout for another very famous musician among those gathered around. Admittedly, I had to check in with our son to make the absolute identification. I’m not as “hip” as those 1967 hippies!

I was 23 the summer of 1967. That summer, while I was consumed with thinking about love…and war, another young woman, born just a day after I was, was thinking more about food – and plotting her first book on that subject. Her name? Frances Moore Lappé.

Frances Moore Lappé in the late 1960s while she was researching Diet for a Small Planet. (Courtesy of Frances Moore Lappé/Penguin Random House)

Diet for a Small Planet, Lappé’s first book, didn’t come out until 1971, but she was working on it in the late 60’s at Cal, where her husband was in graduate school. At first Lappé thought of the book more as a political manifesto – pushing us away from meat and toward plant-based diets. But her very-supportive publisher, Betty Ballantine of Ballantine Books, encouraged her to soften it a little by including recipes.

In 2021 the 50th Anniversary edition was released – with some recipe updates, moving the ingredients toward a more world-view of food, rather than Mediterranean-focused. Over 30 million copies of the book have been sold over the years. Not bad.

Lappé has kept up her activism throughout her life. Her publications include 2004’s You Have the Power: Choosing Courage in a Culture of Fear and 2017’s Daring Democracy: Igniting Power, Meaning, and Connection for the America We Want. Her 2021 updates describe the good and the bad and the ugly, relative to changes to food and farming and the environment. I love that Lappé has such an upbeat conclusion to that edition – the final lines of this Amanda Gorman poem:

The new dawn blooms as we free it.
For there is always light,
If only we’re brave enough to see it,
If only we’re brave enough to be it.

Today’s vegetarian recipe comes from the 2021 edition of Diet of a Small Planet (surprise!), and it’s based on a 1970’s recipe which was served for lunch to the patrons of San Francisco’s Ecology Center. It was tweaked a bit for the new edition by adding coconut milk. I think those who participated in the Summer of Love would approve. Or should I say they’d LOVE it! 🙂

And here’s a shout-out to all of those new college graduates who are looking forward to a life committed to working together to improve our world – and to Silas, our grandson, whose major at Cal, fittingly enough, was Society and the Environment.

And let’s hope that love returns. Fingers crossed for a lovely and love-filled summer of 2023…”for there is always light.”

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The Raggedy Awards – Year Six

April blossoms on Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights, Brooklyn

Though T.S. Eliot penned “April is the cruellest month,” we here at BigLittleMeals find May to be the most difficult. Why? Well, we have to award the Raggedys! For those of you new to our blog, let me update you. As of this May, we have blogged for six years; we’ve traditionally celebrated the passing of each year by my presenting a Raggedy Award to Andy for his best Andy’s Corner and Andy presenting a Raggedy Award to me for my best blog. This year we’re putting a bit of a spin on the award ceremony. I have picked MY favorite blog and Andy has picked HIS favorite Andy’s Corner! :). AND, instead of picking a favorite recipe, we’ve picked a favorite ingredient.

Because we’re a food/life blog, we’ll begin with the year’s favorite ingredient. The whole “fam” has unanimously agreed that this ingredient is a winner. It’s not pretty; it’s not tasty; it’s not particularly cheap; it’s not easy/peasy to use. But it can be a game-changer. And the winner is


small seeds with big benefits

We blogged about flaxseeds back in January, but to refresh your memory, according to the Mayo Clinic, flaxseed “may be small (I measured – they’re less than 1/4″ long), but its health benefits are big. It contains numerous salubrious components, with highlighted nutrients being omega-3 fatty acids….Omega-3 fatty acids are good fats that may help lower total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL or bad) cholesterol levels, reduce inflammation and reduce the risk of certain cancers. Fiber can help relieve constipation, control cholesterol levels and keep you feeling full longer. Flaxseed also contains lignans, which provide antioxidant protection.”  

Aren’t you impressed? If you’re still trying to figure out how to incorporate flaxseeds into your diet, we’ve got a flaxseed muffin recipe below for you to try. One muffin and you’ll get enough flaxseed (be sure it’s ground, of course) for the day.

Ann’s Pick

Ann’s pick for Ann’s BEST BLOG goes to “I Like the Lady Horses Best!” Though I love all of my tales about both racehorses and my horses in that blog, what I really love about the blog is this poem I included – “How to Triumph Like a Girl” by Ada Limón. In that poem is the line “I like the lady horses best.” Ada Limón, U.S. Poet Laureate, grew up in and around Glen Ellen, our current home, so that makes her especially interesting for us to follow. But mostly, both Andy and I think she’s written some amazing poetry – even if you’re not a poetry enthusiast. Her poem below, published in 2017, seems especially poignant given this day and time.

And now it’s Andy’s turn:

Deciding on what I consider to be the best Andy’s Corner from the past year was an excruciating experience. Each of my creations was a labor of love and is like my own child. The labor part is because I’ve never been a fluid or prolific writer and tend to agonize over the minutia of word choice, logic, and sentence structure. For each paragraph you see in print there were three or four that I discarded.

The love part comes from how much I enjoy discovering and researching topics I would never have considered if I had no Andy’s Corner to think about. How else would I have been inspired to learn about and discuss such topics as Monopoly’s sordid history, the terrible puns created by Artificial Intelligence, the super power of mushrooms that may save our planet, beef pizzle as food for dogs, or meal worms as brownie ingredients for humans?

And then there are the videos I’ve produced for Andy’s Corner. With a rudimentary understanding of the iMovie app and many hours on my laptop painstakingly cutting, pasting, and rearranging snippets of video, I managed to create four feature movies for Andy’s Corner this past year. So, beyond selecting the best Andy’s Corner narrative, Ann and I agreed that it would be fitting to award an additional Raggedy to one of my videos.

With that said, here are my picks:

Andy’s Picks

Andy’s pick for the best ANDY’S CORNER goes to SUP: An Annoying Small Thing with a Big Impact 

One of the reasons I picked this post is because I believe that in-person greetings are important to the quality of our social lives. These little informal rituals that we pretty much take for granted keep our relationships with others humming along. And writing about greetings offered me the opportunity to vent a bit about a pet peeve of mine (“Sup dude!”) as well as revisit one of my favorite Vonnegut novels.

Andy’s pick for the best VIDEO in an ANDY’S CORNER goes toAn Elephant in the Room” which appeared in Ignoring the Elephant in the Room – or Not 

An Elephant in the Room features our dogs Oakley and Wynn. These two furry clowns provide us with entertainment and comic relief on a daily basis. I’m sure you’ve noticed that they’ve appeared in number of my videos. What sets this particular video apart from the others is its muted canine-esque political undertone. And besides, who can’t help feel a bit upbeat with Henry Mancini”s Baby Elephant Walk playing in the background?

And, as promised, here’s the recipe to help you incorporate our award-winning flaxseeds into your meals. And these muffins are a delicious way to start the morning.

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She Hath-a-Way

I’m been thinking a lot about Anne Hathaway recently. And not the American actress, Anne Hathaway, who was born in 1982; rather I’m thinking about Anne Hathaway, wife to William Shakespeare, born in 1556. Anne married Shakespeare in 1582 when she was 26 – and pregnant. Shakespeare was 18 – and needed his father to okay his marriage. They were married 34 years – and were still married when Shakespeare died on April 23, 1616 – at the age of 52 (Anne lived another 7 years).

The 19th-century German print-maker, George Edward Perine, did this rendition of Shakespeare with his family. Anne is on the right, sewing.

Was theirs a happy marriage? Well, if you remember Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116, you’d think he was quite a romantic and surely must have known true love:

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. 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.

Turns out that Shakespeare left his wife and children in Stratford-upon Avon around 1585 (their children, Susanna and twins, Judith and Hamnet, were about 3 and 1 at the time) to go to London with a troupe of actors. He returned home infrequently after that. Did he love Anne dearly – and his being gone was just a necessity of that day and time? Who knows.

Since it’s been 400 years since Anne’s death, a group of poets have put together an “Anne-thology” of poems about her which you might want to consider. And there’s a play, focused on Anne, being performed in Stratford-upon-Avon now – and this fall in London; it’s based on the 2020 novel which I loved, Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell. Since almost nothing is actually known about the real Anne Hathaway, the book is clearly fiction.

Of course, you can’t think about Anne without also thinking more about William. He was born on the same day he died – April 23 – which is the same day Andy was born. Fortunately, Andy did not leave me in Fort Collins, Colorado, with our young children while he pursued his love of sociology at LSU in Baton Rouge. I got to go along (Anne Hathaway never went to London). And – VERY fortunately – Andy did not die at the age of 52. 🙂 Happily, Andy just celebrated his 80th birthday! And we celebrated the occasion with our family in New York City, seeing the just-opened Broadway play Fat Ham, which is a modern – and raucous – re-creation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

A scene from Fat Ham

And – before we offer up a delicious recipe that actually has some connections to Elizabethan England, let me remind you of this wonderful line from The Merchant of Venice. What could be a better wish for one’s 80th?

As for food, we know that in the theater pit of Shakespeare’s time, walnuts, hazelnuts, plums, cherries, peaches, raisins, mussels, periwinkles and crabs were often eaten. And we also know that the Elizabethan English loved “marchpane” – which we now call marzipan.

The Virtues of the “Compleate” Woman. Read it over…you’ll be glad you weren’t a woman back in 1615.

An excerpt from The English Huswife:

To make the best Marchpane take the bset Jordan Almonds and blanch them in warm water, then put them into a stone mortar, and with a wooden pestel beat them to pap, then take of the finest refined Sugar well searst, and with it Damask-Rose-water beat it to a good stiff paste, allowing almost to every Jordan Almond, three spoonfulls of sugar, then when it is brought thus to a paste, ….”

The brand Odense is often recommended.

Our recipe for today uses almond paste, not marzipan. Both have similar ingredients – mainly sugar and almonds – but in different proportions. Almond paste is less sweet and has more almonds, so do not substitute marzipan in this recipe. I gave up frosting cakes a long time ago, so Andy is used to simplified birthday cakes.

If you’re wondering where Andy’s Corner is today, it isn’t. He’s too busy celebrating his birthday week with mirth and laughter. He “hath-a-way” of doing that!

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The Conversation

The Conversation” by Forrest Gander (who won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry with his collection Be With)

All the while he talks to
the boy, their son, on the phone,
she is interrupting, telling him something
to say, not to say, indicating
that she needs to talk to the boy
herself. Rather than dampening
her enthusiasm or trying
to listen to both at once, finally
he hands her the phone. And rather
than resentment, what he feels
inside himself is the primordial
upwelling of tenderness.

Ah, yes; somehow I feel that Gander was observing us when he wrote this, though I’m not absolutely certain that Andy feels “primordial upwelling of tenderness” when I grab the phone from him. You’ll have to ask him. Or better yet, go to today’s Andy’s Corner and find out about his phone-chat disability.:)

“The Conversation” is also the title of another good read. I have been a fan of The NYTimes Gail Collins for a long time. Gail is impressive (and I feel I can call her by her first name, since she’s just about my age). For example, she was the first woman to edit The Times editorial page and did that for 6 years; she wrote the well-received 2009 book The Amazing Journey of American Women; and in 2017 she joined with Bret Stephens to have “The Conversation” which appears every Monday in The Times…a written conversation – usually about politics – which I always enjoy.

The appeal of “The Conversation” is that both the participants are always very civil to each other, even though they may have wildly diverse takes on the political scene. Obviously, I’m not the only one who follows them. Their April 3 column had 1,300+ comments.

Maybe I’m also unusually interested in the two-some since their age difference is almost identical to the age difference between me and our son, Travis. In fact, Stephens – who has written for The Wall Street Journal and The Jerusalem Post, as well as The Times – was born the same month and year as Travis – November, 1973.

Gail Collins and Bret Stephens in conversation – May of 2017

Personally, I would like to have a conversation with some very dear family members (“hello, Brooklyn!”) about chicken thighs vs chicken breasts. It may be just as tense as a conversation between liberals and conservatives, but I’ll try to incorporate Gail’s approach. If she can do it, I can do it. Rather than lambasting the family with “who in god’s name eats dry, flavorless chicken breasts?!,” I will take the high road. I will say that maybe there is a solution to our differences and let us strive – together – to find this solution.

And, in fact, the solution IS a solution. A solution of warm water and salt. OMG – if all solutions were so easy.

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