Archive for February, 2013


I found this handy cookbook at an estate sale and obviously couldn’t resist … even though it cost a whopping 25 cents as you can see by the fancy sticker. It was copyrighted by the Hearst Corporation in 1958. I don’t know if it’s that Hearst Corporation, but you may need a hearse after trying one of the recipes inside. What intrigued me about the particular recipe I’m making fun of tonight was the name, and naturally the ingredients made me shudder:


First of all, what is Ham Ling Lo supposed to mean? I could make lots of jokes about it, but they probably wouldn’t be politically correct. Second of all, why in the world did people eat “canned luncheon meat” back then? I remember my Mom often kept cans of deviled ham in the cupboard. I also remember never wanting to eat it. It was in a little metal can, wrapped in paper — paper that had a picture of a devil on it. It’s like they did everything they could to keep you from getting to that deviled ham inside. That was very noble of the deviled ham-maker’s, but apparently it didn’t work in my house. Of course, any deviled ham sandwich I found in my lunchbox during my childhood was quickly tossed into the garbage can at school. You couldn’t trade deviled ham sandwiches. Or liverwurst. I think they’re the same thing. Anyway, see that little brown drop on the recipe page? That’s the 50-year-old tear of someone who had to make this recipe.

So, deviled ham, pineapple, pineapple juice (hurl), peppers and celery. Well that just about covers everything I hate. Yes, I saw the potatoes, but even they can’t help this recipe. Not even this fancy picture of Ham Ling Lo can make me change my mind:


Well, that’s part of the Ham Ling Lo in the upper left corner. You may not have noticed it because you were fixated on the fancy casserole topped with deviled eggs in the upper right corner, or the green gooey casserole that looks like it’s topped with plastic toast. I won’t even try to find those recipes for you; I’m not that heartless.


Oooohhh, there’s obviously something wrong with Johnny. But wait, what’s that “P.S.” at the bottom? Ketchup? Nope, I’m fairly certain even my Dad wouldn’t eat that sandwich …


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Back in the late ’90s I worked for the Coppolas. Yes, the Francis Coppolas. Nice, nice family. One afternoon, Francis and Eleanor wanted to get some of their favorite foie gras for a dinner party. And when you’re Francis and Eleanor Coppola, you simply call up your friend Andrew Sutton, Executive Chef at the world-class restaurant, Auberge du Soleil, and ask him to make you some. And you have your lady servant, Lisa, go pick it up.

I arrived at Auberge du Soleil early that same evening, sliding my bitchin’ 1993 240sx into a parking space between a jaguar and Mercedes. When I approached the front desk, the hostess looked at me like I had an alien protruding from my chest. I imagine she thought I was lost. But once I mentioned Francis and Eleanor Coppola, Andrew was immediately in front of me with a big smile and handshake.

Though I’m no pushover for celebrity-type nonsense, I thought it was really cool (or, potentially a health code violation) that Andrew was leading me through his kitchen at Auberge. Yes, in Napa we referred to the five-star resort as Auberge only. It was one of our rights as Napans. I had never been there before; I only knew that the rich folks wined and dined there and people with money to blow would stay there and get exclusive massages and what not. While walking through the kitchen, the staff were eye-balling me — they must’ve figured I was some kind of honcho, so they smiled, but I knew they were secretly telling me to “Bite It” in their heads.

Andrew made interesting small talk and acted as if we were old friends. He didn’t think I had an alien protruding from my chest.  But one of the prep cooks must have; he made me nervous with his fake corner smile and twitchy stink eye. He kept that stink eye on me as Andrew took the freshly prepared foie gras from the large refrigerator.

Now, I realize most foodies would give their left pepper mill to have this opportunity. Don’t get me wrong, I was soaking in the soleil all throughout the beautiful restaurant, kitchen and grounds. It was a pleasure meeting and talking with Andrew. I knew it would be a while (if ever) before I could afford to come back to this famous Napa Valley resort just 15 minutes from my own house. It was an exclusive experience that budding chefs would die for. But very quickly, I was wishing that what Francis had really requested was Alaskan king crab legs or chocolate mousse torte.

Instead, the foie gras was presented in a nice to-go container and Andrew wanted to be sure I saw the goods before I took them back to Francis. In fact, he wanted me to taste the foie gras before he packaged it up, kinda like a drug dealer who makes sure his clients take a hit of the good stuff before they exchange money and brown bags.  I began to sweat. I mean, it was … duck liver. Maybe goose liver … I couldn’t be sure. Andrew was persistent and wouldn’t take no for an answer. And why would he … an exceptional chef who had prepared an incredible, highly desired gourmet treat. You have no idea how much I wanted what was in that container to be anything else on the glorious Auberge menu, instead of foie gras.

Oh, I did politely refuse, a few times. I should’ve said “I’m too full,” or “I’m allergic to duck innards,” or “I’m frightened,” but in any case, he was handing me a tiny fork with a big hunk of smushy pâté and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it. Now, you all know I am a discriminating eater, and you would be correct to assume I do NOT care for liver, therefore I do not care for foie gras. It doesn’t matter how fancy, how lovingly prepared by how famous a chef … I did not want to get it anywhere near my mouth, let alone eat it. But I was trapped. It was an honor – thrilling for most people — and I couldn’t deny this kind culinary master. Smiling, Andrew looked adoringly at his special foie gras prepared for the Coppolas, and at me as he anticipated the joy I would experience once the delicacy reached my palate. So, I tried to get it over as quickly as possible. I shoved the fork in my mouth. I breathed through my nose while Andrew awaited my reaction. I smiled and shook my head up and down. Then, like a miracle, Andrew turned away, while at the same time I saw a garbage can to my left. I was THIS close to hawking that mouthful into the garbage — until Twitchy Prep Cook moved closer and raised his eyebrows. Son of a BITCH. Yeah, I swallowed it. And I have never wanted to barf so much as I did at that moment saying good-bye and thank you in the kitchen of Auberge du Soleil to the friendly, renowned chef, Andrew Sutton.

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I love cooking shows. I love to cook and I like to find inspiration from all the shows on Food Network and all the others. I certainly don’t find inspiration in the dishes I post about on this blog. When I was a kid, the only cooking show I remember was “Julia Child.” But I wasn’t that interested in Julia Child, until the Dan Aykroyd version on Saturday Night Live. But my real favorites are sitcoms. “Modern Family” is the best. That show makes me laugh out loud. That hasn’t happened since Frazier ended its last season. If you haven’t watched Modern Family, do yourself a favor and tune in to ABC on Wednesday nights.

I’ve loved sitcoms since I was a kid … a really little kid. It was kind of an extension of family dinner—we’d all eat together then sprawl out on the couch or the floor and watch TV together.  When I was growing up, we had just one TV. That’s right all you youngins  … one TV. And guess what? There was no remote. We were the remote. And we watched what our parents wanted to watch. Oh yeah, I’m not kidding. If we were lucky, we got to watch comedy shows like “Laugh-In” or “The Flip Wilson Show.” (“Killer!!”) Other times we had to watch “Gunsmoke,” or “Dragnet,” or “Perry Mason,” or something just as riveting. Of course Mom and Dad indulged us on Friday nights so we could watch “The Brady Bunch,” ” Nancy and the Professor” and “The Partridge Family.” Hey, sometimes we didn’t watch TV at all. Maybe we played Bingo for candy; Dad took great pride in being the Bingo Caller. Sometimes we’d play another board game. Sometimes we’d just hang out on the living room floor and give each other Indian burns while Dad slept on the couch and Mom piddled around in the kitchen. Or sometimes we actually went to our rooms to READ A BOOK or something insane like that.

I remember our first TV in Vallejo. It had rabbit ears on top. No children, not actual bunny ears, but an old antenna that had a box with a dial that you would turn to try and turn the antenna on your roof so you could get one of those THREE local TV stations to tune in a little better. Sometimes it would only work if a kid stood there and held one of the antennas. You’re welcome, Dad.

Kids today are so spoiled. I guess every generation thinks the younger generation is spoiled. I imagine my Grandpa B.K. sat around thinking, “These damn kids … they expect me to buy two radios so they can go listen to “Inner Sanctum” instead of the “Grand Ole Opry.”

I’ve always loved TV. My Mom said I loved it from the beginning. Apparently when I was a baby, Mom would have to sleep on the couch, waiting for my baby self to be tired enough to go to bed. She said I would lay awake in the playpen (which for whatever reason she’d prop in front of the TV) and watch “Johnny Carson.” I would lay awake and take in every second of his show, and once it went off the air, I dropped off to sleep. I guess I loved good comedy even as an infant. So why I’m watching Andrew Zimmern eat a 100-year-old egg on “Bizarre Foods” right now is beyond me. Jay thinks something as innocent as fish is gross, yet he is zoned in on this show like Andrew’s about to read off our lottery numbers. And he’s even giggling. I’m breathing through my nose and waiting for Jay to drop off to sleep so I can revisit my Netflix copy of ” The United States of Tara.” It’s like getting five TV shows for the price of one.

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