Tag Archives: food

Deb Turns 70

Deb Turns 70

I worked for weeks to spruce up the house and the garden to host a Saturday lunchtime party to celebrate Deb’s 70th birthday, which also marked her retirement announcement. We invited all the boating regulars and several of Deb’s friends from the YMCA and her neighborhood. I hung the Market Canopy from India for a festive touch. Dahlias graced the wooden flower bins front and back. I polished up the front garden and planted kale and marigolds in the raised beds on the side. Potted some bright calendula. Put a red serape on a folding table.

I was pleased that everyone brought something to share. Lots of sweets from Deb’s girlfriends. One brought a fabulous salad with homemade vinaigrette that was gobbled up in a jiffy. Brent brought a beautiful veggie platter.










The big thrill was the chocolate cake that Wayne made, and the chicken Parmesan that Justin (background) made. I cooked up some Trader Joe’s Lasagna that was popular.


Lori, Brent and Liam join Deb’s Friends

What I learned: No one sat in the living room, or at the kitchen table, or at the dining room table (which was unexpectedly covered with gift food), or on the teak settee in the back yard. The men sat at the little table covered with the serape. The plastic tablecloth clashed visually with the red Market Canopy. Justin’s dish required a knife and fork which was tricky on paper plates with plastic cutlery — chicken cut into bite-sized squares would have been easier. I should have used real plates because I had 11 guests. I used real forks for the cake.

No one asked for coffee. No one drank my beverages, they all brought their own, as requested. No one ate my sliced porcini or Mt. Tam cheese or sopresatta. It went 12 noon to 3pm.

Not Too Old To Cut The Mustard

Not Too Old To Cut The Mustard

On the morning of my birthday I found a package from Peggy on my doorstep that contained a deluxe bluetooth sport headset I can use while jogging. This morning, I was delighted to discover more birthday presents on my front porch. I love my wonderful, generous sisters!

Travel-Themed Treats: France, Sicily and Morocco

Mary Rose sent me FOUR jars of Dijon mustard from the East of France, not far from Lyon and the Rhone River. A taste of mustard always reminds me of Germany. The lemon drops are from Siracusa in Sicily. Yum-yum.

Shonda Rhimes “Yes”

Shonda Rhimes “Yes”

Shonda Rhimes was a guest on Andrew Ross Sorkin’s annual DealBook Summit and I was intrigued by her intelligence so I read her 2015 book “Year of Yes” when she forced herself out of her writing shell by accepting speaking and social invitations, learning to stand up for what she really wanted, and how to gracefully accept a compliment.

I knew about “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Private Practice,” and “Scandal” all being in production at the same time but Andrew Ross Sorkin pointed out that she had shed 150 pounds. Knowing, as I do, that the five food groups for writers are caffeine, sugar, nicotine, alcohol and fat, I wanted to learn more. I loved how she captured the nuttiness of TV production but the first three-fourths of the book has almost no self-disclosure. The photos start on page 233 and the good stuff follows.

She was the youngest of six to academic parents with a very strong marriage. Her older siblings are insightful and supportive and Delorse muttered, one Thanksgiving, “You never say yes to anything.” Shonda chewed on that as she realized that, as successful as she was, she wasn’t really happy. It’s nearly at the end of the book when we learn that she was engaged to a wonderful man that she didn’t want to marry and that’s when her weight started to really go up. By saying “yes” to telling the truth, she broke off the engagement and broke her pattern of suppressing her feelings with food.

Over the course of the year she discovered that healthy, kind people find each other and that some of her friends did not like how she was changing and growing. She realized they were not really on her side and she had to let them go. She explained, brilliantly, why it is SUCH a problem when people interrupt a writer who is in flow with dialog and story.

Five Miles

She describes “five miles filled with chocolate cakes, good wine, books I want to read, emails that have to be answered” and she has to get past this five miles every times she sits down to her computer to write. In the beginning it takes a day, or an hour, but it never takes less than 20 minutes to get past the five miles of distractions and get back into the flow. Even if the interruption is a well-intended, “would you like some coffee or water?” breaks the flow and she has start running again to get past the five miles.

You Needed Permission

At the end, Shonda explains to big sister Delorse how much the muttered phrase “you never say yes to anything” changed her life — saved her life. Delorse shrugged.

You did all the work, but it’s like you needed permission. I’m your big sister. I gave you permission and I’m extremely proud of you. You were joyless. All you ever did was sleep. Now you have completely transformed. You’re alive. Some people never do that. You are this happy because you said yes to not getting married.

Shonda explains that having it “all” is no guarantee of happiness, especially if what you want doesn’t conform. We spend our lives punishing ourselves for not living up to some standard we think applies across the board to all of us. The book is a plea to recognize that happiness comes from living as you need to, as you want to.

Pathological Overconsumption of Food was Cured by Telling the Truth

Marseille – 2023

Marseille – 2023

At Bus Rest Stop On The Way from Lyon to Marseille

The Berkeley Folk Dancing group finished the boat tour in Lyon and took a coach to Marseille on Monday, 3 July and had a minute of trouble getting to the Hotel Mercure because of civil unrest troubling the city. Protests against police brutality in the Paris suburbs escalated to opportunistic looting in the commercial sections of Marseille and our hotel was right downtown in centre-vieux-port. The desk waved us away from the main Cours Canebière for the entire four-day stay. We were steps from the archeological site of the Port Antique and the adjacent Musèe d’Histoire, but they were closed down due to the unrest.

Marseille is the oldest city in France, founded about 600 BC by Greek settlers. It is today the second largest city in France with a population of nearly two million with a whopping 20% immigrants, half of whom are from North Africa especially Algeria, a French colony until 1962.

Camargue Marsh on Left, Dots Outline Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. To the right, Calanque Cliffs

Museum of Soap where Lynne Personalized Her Bar of Soap

About six centuries ago, Marseille was famous for french-milled soap and the second thing I did was visit the Musée du Savon. The first thing was to visit the Tourist Information and have them show me on the map the location of the two restaurants Google suggested for the best bouillabaisse.

Lynne from Canada joined me on the search for the best bouillabaisse, but the restaurants were reeling from the rampages the previous two nights. Not only had the storefronts of the luxury shops been vandalized, but also the glass wind barriers surrounding the bistro tables outside the restaurant. A shaken woman at La Daurade, 8 rue Fortia explained that while they served lunch, they did not know if they would open for dinner at 7 pm because the marauding gangs roamed at night.

We were too hungry to wait until then so Lynne and I had charcuterie at Pub Le Shamrock on the edge of the harbor and returned the following night to enjoy their bouillabaisse. It is just steps away from Chez Loury at 3 rue Fortia, also recommended by Google.

Bouillabaisse at La Daurade, 8 rue Fortia in Marseille.


Notre Dame de la Garde

The next day we set out by coach to visit the jewel Our Lady of Protection, the well-loved church of the faithful of Marseille which dazzles in comparison with the cathedral near the waterfront which is unadorned inside. As you can see below, the church nicknamed “Belle Mère” dominates the skyline.

Marseille sailboats

Harbor of Marseille featuring Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde on top of Hill

Berkeley Folk Dancing About To Visit Notra-Dame-de-la-Garde

Interior of Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde with Hanging Ships as Prayers for Protection

The devotion in the south of France to the feminine face of God comes from the tradition that, after the crucifixion of Jesus on political charges, his known followers had to flee for their own safety. This is a detail of the mosaic over the altar that shows the small, single-sail boat that tradition tells us that Mary, the mother of Jesus and Mary Magdalene used to reach the area they call Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, the dotted area in the Camargues marsh in the map above. There is a huge church in Paris, the Madeline, in honor of Mary Magdalene.

Detail of Mosaic over the Altar of Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde


Walking Marseille

Here’s a quick zoom of some of the highlights. The city has an underground reservoir of fresh water and they show it off with this lavish fountain.

Marseille Fountain over City Water Supply

In the late 1800s an impressive cathedral was built near the waterfront so visitors could instantly be impressed with the power and wealth of the church and the city. Unfortunately, the cathedral is not popular with the people and it is unadorned inside.

Marseille Cathedral near Waterfront

Bougainvillea in Marseille Alley

One of the special treats on our walking tour was a visit to Cafe 13 (the number of the Marseille department) where our guide Dominique taught us the customs around “pastis” which is pronounced with the final S. The waiter put a bottle of tap water and two small tumblers in front of each of us and poured us a 1/2 inch of Ricard and Jayot. He showed us how to dilute it (3:1) and we had a taste test between the two top brands. Horrible both, Ricard less so, but I really appreciated learning about the custom.

There are many beautiful alleys and this steep one with stairs sported a magnificent bougainvillea. I could not resist a very-Marseille selfie.

We also visited the former poorhouse, a hospice for indigent women and children, La Vielle Charité which has restored its magnificent three-story cloisters. Part of it is now an art museum with separate admission so we didn’t visit that. I took a selfie in front of the building, too.

La Vieille Charité Cloisters

Hospice de la Charité

Dominique told us an riveting story about the prehistoric cave at the foot of a Calanques cliff with a below-water entrance that was discovered by the diver Cosquer. Because he tended to be a braggart, people didn’t believe his claims until he produced a photograph that showed a painted handprint on the wall.

Cosquer Museum on Marseille Waterfront – David Hillis photo

We were spellbound as Dominique told us that when the archeologists realized the magnitude of Cosquer’s find, they had to become scuba divers in order to visit the site. Cave diving is very dangerous and two divers lost their way and ran out of air, perishing. Many of us were so intrigued we visited the museum, and the next day Dominique revealed to me that she has written an novel about the cave called “La Main Immortelle” and she showed me on her phone a website featuring the book with the hand on the cover.


Quinoa Breakfast

Quinoa Breakfast

Quinoa cooked
Quick and yummy breakfast because the quinoa is precooked with Japanese yam, turmeric, ginger, green onions and fresh kale from my garden. To add texture and crunchiness, I add slivered almonds or pistachio nutmeats or walnut pieces, toasted sesame, chopped red onion or green onion. A hard boiled egg or thin-sliced porcini to add some protein. Peach mango salsa adds zest and tang. Sliced fresh peaches are the best!

To cook: saute onion, ginger, yam, kale, turmeric, then add washed quinoa to toast slightly before adding 1.5 as much stock as quinoa. Cook 12-15 minutes.

Saunterer Brunch April 2022

Saunterer Brunch April 2022


Front: Joe, Betty, Marsha, Eileen, Martha, Jane, Delores, Nicole, Anet.
Back Row: Graalfs, John, Jason, Wendy,, Bob

asparagus-saladBob’s wife, Eva, and their daughter, Susie, had just left for Sicily when Bob hosted a potluck get-together at his home. Because asparagus was in season, I wanted something to serve cold that would be easy to eat with a fork. No hand-twirling asparagus spears in hollandaise for people standing up holding plates! I combined two recipes from the Food Network to make asparagus-campanile-kalamata salad with honey mustard vinaigrette. It was good, and even better the next day. I think maybe people mistook it for ordinary bean salad. Next time I will buy three bunches of asparagus and use only the top halfs for the buffet dish, reserving the lower stalk for myself at home. I will slice on the diagonal a use a smaller red bowl and a tablespoon for a serving spoon. My gluten-free friends simply picked out the pasta. I ran out of time to sliver the kalamata olives so there were too few. It should be mostly asparagus tips, 1/3 pasta and 1/6 olives.

asparagus-recipeTo really look like asparagus on a crowded buffet table, it needs to be bright emerald and half “spear tops.” I should take it out of the boiling water as soon as it turns emerald. It will cook a few seconds more before cooling, and marinating it overnight will make it taste “cooked.” Marinating the pasta will also soften it, so cook it al dente. Chilled dishes should be a little crunchy. I substituted seasoned (salt and sugar) rice vinegar for white vinegar, and whole-seed Dijon for smooth which did not improve it. The honey is important for the body of the dressing so I am showing the original recipe because that’s probably the best.

2 lemons, juiced
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons smooth Dijon mustard
4 tablespooms olive oil

The video shows how to stiffen the stalks in an ice bath, poach them briefly, then plunge back in the ice bath again. The color and crunchiness of the asparagus is crucial for the attractive presentation. Leave some time to drain thoroughly so that you are dressing dry stalks. Cut on the diagonal. Cut off white, then cut in half and reserve bottoms for home. With the pretty top-halfs, cut into fork-size pieces so that at least half are clearly spear-shaped tops. Marinate overnight.

Martha's table

Clockwise from top: Jill, John, Betty, Ezra, Nicole, Jeanie, Frances, Jason, Martha, David

Lorelei, RG, Nicole, Frances, Jason, Rachel, Marsha, David, John

Birthday Lunch for Betty

Birthday Lunch for Betty

Last month, Betty took me to lunch for my birthday. She commented that she loves curry and has been to India seven times, so for her 87th birthday, I made chicken and cauliflower curry and brown basmati rice. Mary Rose joined us, along with with singing friend Linda.

What went well: the low flower arrangement that we could see over. Instead of spring colors, I might have picked up the blue of the tablecloth and the burnt orange of the plates.

The mandarin oranges on the buffet in the center of the image were dessert, along with a single dark chocolate truffle from See’s candy. The salad was spring mix with cruciferous crunch with my sesame/ginger dressing. Mary liked the dressing. I heated fresh naan bread in the oven too long and it was hard on the bottom. I hated firing up the oven just to heat the bread, but it was 68° outside and the windows were open slightly and the kitchen vent fan on because the Covid Omicron variant it peaking here and two of my guests are in their 80s.

I had set out dolmas and peanut-butter filled dolmas on the coffee table as appetizers, but the air was redolent with the fragrance of the curry and everyone wanted to sit right down and eat. Betty left about 2 and her thank you note said, in part, “What a fun, exciting afternoon I had with you yesterday. I really enjoyed every minute of it. Mary Rose is stimulating and provocative. I really enjoyed her, and Linda is lovely to be with, too. You are the best. Thank you for producing that delicious lunch. I ate every last drop and it was so good.”

Mary left at 3 because she needed to give Peggy’s dog its medication, and Linda stayed until 4, saying:

Thank you! It was the most enjoyable lunch I’ve had for many years. I loved the conversation, the sharing of ideas and confidences and backgrounds. I don’t know whether the fact that for me it was one of the most stimulating conversations Ive had means that I lead a very boring life, or that it was really good. I am happy to have met (or re-met) Betty, and your sister, sweet faced Mary. For me she is a charming puzzle. The food was delicious…. “

Do better: I left the naan in the oven too long and the bottoms became hard — I inadvertently cooked them a little. Only Mary drank the Early Gray tea. Betty liked the Stella beer and Mary brought some Italian Pirone beer.

Today’s NYTimes ran this graph of the current thinking on the Omicron variant of Covid-19.



I have been experimenting with how to make a quick, delicious puttanesca sauce, and Joyce’s garden peppers make the difference.

While cooking the gemelli, heat some olive oil in a separate skillet and sauté a few anchovy fillets with the minced peppers. When they are sizzling, pour in Trader Joe’s Arrabiata (angry) sauce in the amount suitable for the pasta you are cooking.

Add to the sauce some black kalamata olives sliced from north pole to south pole, and a similar volume of capers. Simmer until the pasta is cooked, combine and enjoy!

Camp Fare

Camp Fare

It has been over 100° in Santa Rosa for a couple of days. To avoid cooking, I am enjoying my favorite camp fare: previously grilled chicken thigh, quinoa, and caponata (eggplant, zucchini, peppers, onions, capers, olives, vinegar).

Caponata, Quinoa, grilled chicken