Around 6 years ago, our family took a trip to France. Our friends have a house in Ramtuelle, a Medieval city built in a circle overlooking the sparkling Mediterranean. Honest, it does sparkle. We frolicked on Pamelonne Beach, made famous by the production company filming And God Created Woman with Brigitte Bardot and we ate at Club Cinquante Cinque (55).
You know how you often hear “oh, the restaurant’s right on the beach”? Well, Club Cinquante Cinque (55), really, really IS right on the beach. Sitting around a large table in the canvas-shaded patio of this beautiful place, we had no idea how hard it was to get a reservation. Our girls, aged 12 and 7, adapted to the lifestyle like seasoned European travelers. The kids ate everything that came to the table. Fried smelt were eaten like potato chips…that is, until the real thing came along (one of the restaurant’s specialties). Lena and Hannah devoured catch of the day and seasonal vegetables such as artichokes without the usual suspicion, wrinkled noses and coaxing. Score! After 2 weeks in Ramatuelle, we went off to Paris.
I live in a great neighborhood. Westfield Century City Mall and Westwood Village are both walking distance. Walgreen’s and Coffee Bean and Tealeaf are too. There’s even a stellar newsstand adjacent to Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. That being said I could count the times I’ve actually walked there on both hands and I’ve lived there for 27 years. Ahem.
The thing is, when it’s a neighborhood business, you’re liable to stumble upon it and think you discovered it. But no, I just happened to live up the street from the best caviar store in town.
The Bel Air Caviar Merchant’s storefront looks more like a Psychic Reading parlor than the premier caviar supplier for the Westside. I’d say it’s a well kept secret, but its really not. People stake out their orders and wait patiently on folded chairs in a makeshift lobby. Business is done behind a screen.
My husband Chad went to New York recently to drop our oldest daughter
Lena off at college. That same week, our 14-year old attended a cheer
camp at UCLA for four days giving me a rare glimpse into the gaping maw
of my Empty Nest Future and lemme tell ya, it was bleak.
I won’t mince words. I walked around the house weeping. No kidding. I went into Lena’s room and smelled her pillow and the skeletal remains of her wardrobe. Each article of clothing summoned a sweet memory that only served to drive the knife in further, launching another torrent of bawling.
“Oh, those Gladiator’s from Urban Outfitters that I warned her not to wear at Coachella. But didn’t we have a kick-ass time?’ (Sob) “Oh, and look at this high collared floral shirt that she called “sexy secretary” when she wore it with that over-the knee pencil skir-hir-hir-hir-hirt, oh God, oh God, my ba-bee-he-he-he-he-heeeee.” I just stopped short of falling to my knees, pounding my chest and bellowing “WHY, WHY?”
Jane Curtin, my former colleague on Saturday Night Live, characterized school cafeteria food in a way I’d never thought of. One day, on the set, I was waxing poetic about the fact that I loved the stuff. I think Spaghetti Day was my favorite.
“I don’t know what it is. It was pretty simple. Tomato sauce with ground beef and noodles. I usually had chocolate milk with it. You know, the holy trinity, savory, starchy and sweet. It was just so… divine..”
“Oh, yeah.” Jane said, as she tugged slowly on her cigarette. “Institutional food”.
“Hmmm.” I thought. “Really?”
I pictured all the movie close-ups I’d seen of miscellaneous slop being slammed on to metal trays in various pre-riot prison scenes. Some burly lifer upends the new ‘fish’s' meal. But what he doesn’t know is, the new “fish” was often Jean-Claude Van Damme or Chuck Norris. Usually canned corn and peas, white bread and mystery meat. Probably saltpeter as well.
This past weekend I was in San Francisco for The 8th Annual
Sketchfest. This was a two week long Comedy Festival with comic
performers ranging from Stand-up, One Person Shows, Improv Groups,
Sketch Companies and then there were shows that sort of defied
description. Some of those were the ones I took part in.
I was lucky enough to see a few shows besides our own. I saw
The Lampshades; the best fake lounge act I’ve seen in a long time. The
physical work they do is sublime and hilarious. I took a peek at
2-Headed Dog, but they were doing a sketch that had three men running
around in their underpants and little else. They were dancing in a
manner that had their peculiar distributions of body fat jiggle in a
way that caused me to run out of the theatre. I’m not saying I’m the
Venus DeMilo, but I don’t choose to subject anyone to the sight of my
sorry flesh sac.
The Theme Park Improv Show had Scott Adsit from 30 Rock and Oscar Nunez from The Office. They were outstanding, but what was really impressive was two of the performers in the troupe were the event promoters. You just never figure people that talented would have it together enough to pull something like this off. They did some of the best improv I’ve seen in a long time.
My husband’s last name is Einbinder. We’ve always assumed the
German translation (one binder) meant that it was the moniker for the
trade of bookbinding. It’s a rare name. In fact the only other person
we’ve ever met with any connection to that name is the movie director
Mike Binder. One day, years ago, at the Pumpkin Patch in our
neighborhood, we struck up a conversation with him. Blank Man, a movie
he directed, was absolutely the funniest movie that year. It still
holds up. David Allen Grier kills in it. Of course, he always kills. It turned out that Mike’s last name was shortened from
Einbinder. Since then, when we see him places, we exchange that
twinkle of recognition of our ‘kinship’.
Recently I decided my copy of The Joy of Cooking deserved better than duct tape holding it together. Months ago I’d read an article in Daily Candy about Charlene Matthews who practiced the lost art of bookbinding. I put it in my email archives under “of interest”. I’m actually getting things done on my list of long avoided tasks and this was one of them. What an adventure.
Tis the season of Sample Sales, or so it seems when the mailers start
arriving announcing this 40% off (but it's in downtown LA) or that 80%
off, but not until two weeks from now when I’ve completely forgotten
about it and f*#k it anyway, where’s the instant grat? I subscribe to
Daily Candy and Top Button, the latter being exclusively an online
sample sale site. There is also a mother at my younger daughter’s
school whose clothing line I happen to love that has her sample sale
around this time too.
It’s taken me a long time to become a savvy shopper when it came to these 'deals’. I was the sucker that clipped the coupon for something at the market I would normally never eat. I would be under the illusion my family might try the yogurt covered zucchini chips for 50% off. Invariably it would linger past its expiration date and get thrown out. This always jettisoned me into the ‘I’m gonna be homeless someday, why oh why did I waste my money like that??” fear fantasy. I would vow never to make that mistake again and I finally learned that the only coupons worth clipping for me are batteries and toothbrushes. Do I really need that 35¢ off the second four pack of Charmin? Hell no!
One of the things I feel is emblematic of being a California Girl is the love of cars. The Peterson Automotive Museum is having a Low Rider exhibit right now. Bitchen, right? Personally, I can’t wait.
My earliest memory of the low rider culture was a song by Thee Midniters, probably the first significant Chicano rock bands to come out of Los Angeles. They had several hits, like Land of 1,000 Dances, but anyone who grew up loving music and cars in the 1960s couldn’t forget “Let’s take a trip down Whittier Boulevard, yeehaa, Arriba , Arriba!” It’s part of my DNA just as much as the love of surfing. In fact, when you listen to the song, it has that early surf sound. That reverb electric guitar Dick Dale made famous. But that’s a whole other story for another time.
When was it ok to just blithely accept that products are now engineered for obsolescence? Case in point: our stinkin’ Panasonic cordless phones!!!
We were perfectly happy with our KX-TGA650B Panasonic cordless phone when one day we found one of the handsets sprawled on the living room floor, like eviscerated lion prey. The antennae had been mangled by our dearly departed dog Satchmo. Here’s the evil part; not only had that model become obsolete, but once you’ve lost the use of one handset, you have to replace the whole effing system!
Now we have the Panasonic KX-TGA939T. We have 4 around the house and I hate it! The handset in my office, where I do all my work, is haunted. At first it was just an irritating quirk it had where if my ear was close enough to the receiver, my mouth wasn’t close enough for people to hear me and vice versa. So, my husband suggested I put all my calls on speaker. Personally, I think putting people on speaker makes everyone an automatic douche bag but what was I gonna do? And, it was no solution. The quality of the sound began to erode that way too!
My twin brother’s name is Paul Newman and when we were growing up in
Beverly Hills in the 1960s, because Paul had his own phone line, and
because he was listed in the phone directory, we often got calls from
fans thinking it was the home of the movie star. When you’re a
teenager and you’re desperate for something to feel superior about,
this fit the bill quite nicely.
“How could they possibly think he’d be listed?” we’d scoff.
I never had a crush on Paul Newman, the movie star. He was no David McCallum, that’s for sure. But I could certainly appreciate what a good actor he was. After seeing him in Slapshot, The Verdict, Absence of Malice, Sometimes A Great Notion and The Hudsucker Proxy (the funniest I’d ever seen him) I was an admirer.
by Chef Mark Shoup