This morning my daughter sat and ate a croissant with her hot chocolate. It was store bought but it was fresh and good. I watched her peel off some of the top and scoop out some of the insides and drop it down on her tongue. Then she sipped her hot chocolate through a straw and repeated the process.
Pastry chefs and many Chefs de Garde Mangers are like artists, and overall, in part, what distinguishes a pastry chef from a patissier, a Chef Garde Manger from a cold food person and an Executive Chef from a first cook or even a Saucier is that artistic quality, the ability to make a masterpiece out of a suckling pig or a decorative turkey. The saucier will make the sauce for that turkey, a cold food person will slice it and rebuild it on its frame, but the Chef Garde Manger will take it like a canvas and make it a work of art for display and even eating if that is part of the purpose. Like the visual tricks in the making of movies, sometimes display foods are made for looks and not for consumption.
Arturo was a true pastry chef and he ran the baking department at the St. Regis. That was his career, his job and his life. He was from Italy. Working with him in the pastry department (that name in English does not do justice to the work these people did) were two Frenchmen. One of them mainly baked and decorated cakes. The other made all the French pastries that you could ever want, from the delicious little cookies to the exquisite eclairs and everything else in between.
A moment’s pause to celebrate gourmet food. One of the great things about working in that hotel’s kitchen was that anything and everything you ever wanted to eat was simply there for the taking if you had the position and authority to take it. When I became Saucier and then moved on to Floor Chef, I was in that position. I could walk into the bakery department and take any pastry I wanted. I could walk into the Garde Manger and eat as many cocktail shrimp as I wanted, or whatever else I wanted, and I could have anything to drink I wanted, from espresso to Rum 151. I rarely abused this privilege, but sometimes when the craving for meat would hit me I would go to a freshly made prime rib, cut it in half and take the middle piece for myself. I generally never ate that whole piece of meat. I cut it into squares and shared with the workers on my shift.
Dominic was the baker. He was the fifth man on the Pastry Department team. He made the breads, rolls, challahs, croissants, brioche and everything else of that sort served in the hotel. When I started in the hotel, he worked days, but then the management began making payroll cuts and after awhile he went to working nights so that he would come in while we were doing dinner, at around nine or so, and he would start baking. He worked into the wee morning hours.
The first trays of croissants came out of the oven around 11:00 PM. By that time dinner was over although there were always late orders and room service orders that came in. My friend Francisco and I would be cleaning up and getting ready to get off work, but we took to having a quiet moment together every night. So I would order us espresso from the pantry and we would walk back to the pastry department and choose from the several trays of them the exact croissants we wanted.
Imagine. I liked them light and moister inside. Francisco liked them darker and drier inside. We would sit at the table and shoot the breeze with Dominic, an Italian from Brooklyn, and we would enjoy the best of the best. MMMMM.
I don’t get too excited about gourmet food. I’ve had it all up to a certain point. But some thirty-five years later, I remember the smell of those croissants. I remember the smoke pouring out of them and how they melted on my tongue. I remember looking at maybe a hundred of them and picking the very one that pleased my fancy.
I am not a youngster although most of the time I feel like one. It’s the cliché. My mind feels like eighteen and my body…I am sixty-six now and sometimes it feels sixty-six and sometimes it feels younger, but not all that much younger. I would say that sometimes it feels eighty, but I don’t know what an eighty year old body feels like.
That said, when I refer to my grandparents and even my aunts and uncles (because my father was the youngest of 13 children so most of my aunts and uncles were approaching my grandparents’ ages) I am talking about people basically born somewhere around 1900, and since my father and mother were born in 1918, it could be in the 1890s or even slightly earlier, hence circa 1900.
My Uncle Martin was really cool. He was a great cook who made his own coleslaw and sweet and sour stuffed cabbage and potato latkes and brisket, you name it. He was married to my Aunt Matilda who was my father’s sister. Aunt Matilda was a dear; she was the sweetest woman you could want to know, as I remember her, and as I write this I see her shy face with a smile on it that caused her dimples to show. But her eyes—they were the most kind and loving eyes, eyes that looked at you with pure love and adoration.
If Aunt Matilda was a softy, Uncle Martin was harsh and abrupt and opinionated and terribly, terribly outspoken. He always spoke the truth as he saw it, a good thing, but often it was critical and judgmental. When he went there, people would laugh embarrassedly at what he said and no one knew if he were telling the truth or joking. As a good example, my wife was a dancer, always thin and always concerned about her weight and waistline, but boy could she eat, and boy, she loved food, and she loved Uncle Martin’s food, ethnic food. She was Polish and Russian by heritage, mostly Polish. My Uncle was Hungarian. I am Hungarian and Czechoslovakian. Some of the ethnic foods are very similar, some aren’t. When my wife and I visited, usually at a family gathering like a birthday or anniversary, she would eat and eat and eat, happily so. My Aunt Matilda would look at her lovingly and enjoy watching her eat. Uncle Martin would say something like “Why don’t we just put all the food in front of her?” There were many variations. Sometimes he would push the serving dishes to her and say “Here, this is for you,” or “Is this enough?” or “Where does it go? You’re feet aren’t fat.” Sometimes he would just spoon more food on her plate and say, “Here, have some more.” Aunt Matilda would ameliorate, telling him to leave her alone or telling her he was just kidding, and everyone would laugh but no one knew if Uncle Martin was being funny or bitterly sarcastic. Much to her credit, my wife didn’t care; she just enjoyed herself eating.
When I was a kid, well before my wife, we thought Uncle Martin was cool because he had pin-up pictures inside his dresser. Like good old furniture (I still have my parent’s bedroom furniture, two dressers, one of which was a chest of drawers), his dresser was a chest of drawers that had cabinets on the top which had doors inside of which were shelves. The pin-ups were on the inside of the doors. The one I most remember was Jayne Mansfield sitting with her legs folded under her. She was in a bathing suit and you could see her big breasts almost fully bare. He had others around, Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable and more. None were real nudes, though he had magazines too that were nudie books, but for kids back then, he was real cool.
There are lots of stories about Uncle Martin and Aunt Matilda. More to come.
About three-quarters of the way down the street from where I live they are building a new Holiday Inn Express. For all the time I have lived here that lot has been fenced off and empty and has remained undisturbed except for a little traffic from vehicles which went inside every so often, part of what I thought was the business of the construction company who owned the lot as per the sign that was on the fence.
One day, out of nowhere, the fence was gone and a three-foot high curtain type border went all around the empty field. Since that day, the sign for what is being built was put up and the hustle and bustle of construction has begun. They are still in the process of leveling the lot, and since I’m not a construction worker, what I suppose is still happening is they are readying the lot for laying the foundation of what’s to come. Thus far it has meant clearing rocks and boulders and leveling and steam rolling the dirt, et. al.
The lot is a corner lot at the intersection where the street I live on meets a State Route which is patrolled by the State Highway Patrol. Directly across the State Route where my street ends in it is a Highway Patrol Station (10-4? 10-4, if you remember Broderick Crawford and Highway Patrol), and turning right along that road next to the lot is a turtle crossing area and what was a turtle reserve. I don’t know now if it still is. I’ve never seen a turtle crossing; I’ve never seen a turtle there. Right beside the Highway Patrol Station is the entrance to a major State highway, the beginning part of the trip back to New York from where I now live. Directly across the lot on my street is a barber shop and that is what this is about.
I’ve never been in that barber shop, but I see the cars in the parking lot and occasionally the customers coming and going. Further up the street are houses on both sides. These houses are relatively close together and set on smaller plots like what you might find in the suburbs of NYC or any city. Further down, maybe a quarter of a mile, the characters of my street and the houses change somewhat. It becomes really country. Where I am is very country and the houses on my side of the street, like mine, have large woods, forest-like woods, in the back yard. Along these forest-like woods is a salamander preserve. Behind many of the houses across the street from mine, though not immediately, is a lake, perhaps where the turtles that I’ve never seen come to and from.
Luck. That barber shop and a pottery studio are the only two businesses on the street. I believe they both will greatly benefit from the people who stay in the new Holiday Inn. People always need haircuts and it couldn’t be more convenient. All you have to do is walk across a two-lane street. Since our town is noted for being an antique center, and since the pottery studio is long-standing and well-known, I should think it will get many new visitors. You could walk there if you wanted in an easy ten minutes.
Luck. As far down as where I live, I think we will be unaffected by the new Inn. But I keep wondering about the houses right there, the noise, the dust, the construction vehicles, the dirt and the tumult. Wow! That will end, but then there will be the traffic and congestion and noise and smells from the Inn. And what about the property values? Personally, I wouldn’t want to live in the house next to the barber shop or the ones on the same side as the construction right next to the lot.
In the end, when all is settled and the thing is built and operational, who knows what will be? But it reminds me about luck and one of the questions that has interested me all my life. How come one dog in the shelter is adopted and the one right next to it is euthanized?
October 16, 2015
My father spent three and a half years in a Nazi POW camp, Stalag 3B Furstenberg, during WWII. When he was liberated he was so thin this government isolated him for six weeks to fatten him up. The truth about the Holocaust and what occurred in the concentration camps and POW camps matters to me. It should matter to everyone, but I can only speak for myself.
My cousin Jon was killed in nine-eleven. He was on the 87th floor of the World Trade Tower, exactly where the plane hit. The details about what was found of his remains are too gruesome to put here. I truly hope he died instantly and did not have to suffer. The truth about what occurred and why matters to me. It should matter to everyone, but I can only speak for myself.
Yesterday, Mrs. Clinton testified on Capitol Hill. Personally I am not a Hillary Clinton fan. I don’t think she can do any worse than Obama as president but only because it will be pretty hard for anyone to do worse than him, not impossible, but pretty hard. I’m not crazy about most of the Republican candidates either, and I’m certainly not crazy about their performances over the past seven years. I am probably one of that vast majority of people who believes our government has gone haywire, is completely lost and needing to find its way back to being our representatives rather than our Politburo-style bosses.
The old joke about how you know if a lawyer is lying applies here. The response to that is if his/her lips are moving. I don’t blame Hillary for everything about Benghazi, but she is complicit in what happened and she clearly lied to the American people about what happened. So did Susan Rice, Jay Carney and most importantly, so did Obama. The truth about what occurred and why matters to me. It should matter to everyone, but I can only speak for myself. I know for sure it matters to the families of the four people who died.
I’d like to know where Obama physically was that night and what he was doing. I’d like to know why they held to the story of the video and who created the story. I’d like to know if help was told to stand down and why, and I’d like to know why the accounts of first-hand observers and people who were involved first-hand there in Benghazi differ from the story we’ve been told.
The joke is on us.
Harry Reid admittedly lied about Mitt Romney’s taxes and was proud of it because Romney did not get elected. President Clinton was impeached for lying about marital infidelities (they said it was about lying under oath but that wasn’t true since it was about an attempt to get rid of him as president or at the very least undermine his presidency) and Newt Gingrich, who led the charge against Clinton, had to resign his office for the same lies about infidelities. Nancy Pelosi says you have to sign it to see what’s in it and Hillary says she should be elected president simply because she is a woman.
Our government should be ashamed of itself but it isn’t. We should be ashamed of ourselves for tolerating what our government does by electing people who continue to perpetrate the obvious idiocies we are repeatedly seeing now. The Democrats showed all day yesterday and especially in that rift between Cummings and Gowdy that the truth is not what is wanted or what is important, that their power and keeping it is their utmost importance and their only priority. Perhaps the Republicans showed that too if you believe their whole goal is to destroy Hillary.
The joke is on us American people. They, that American-Politburo, is perpetrating a farce upon us, and they are dumbing-down our education system to be able to continue doing so.
What really happened in Benghazi? Where was the president while it was happening and what was he doing? Exactly who made the decisions about help for those on the ground in Benghazi? Was the help told to stand down? Who told them what to do? Why did Susan Rice hold to that video story on all the Sunday shows when, as we now know, the government clearly knew it was a lie?
Will we the American people ever know? The joke is on us for tolerating this outrageously dysfunctional government.
The other morning I was thinking that one overriding question which has evolved seven years into this particular presidency is: Why should we be worrying about the same things our parents and grandparents worried about?
For me, this brings up a whole set of remembrances dealing with my heritage and my family. Most immediately, I think about my Uncle Martin who used to carry around a transistor radio listening to the news in Yiddish. He was listening to the Jewish news, ever-concerned about the survival of a then fledgling country named Israel. Israel was and is about as old as me, born May 14, 1948. (I was born in June 1949.) As a human being I am a bit to the latter part of middle-age, even perhaps old, but as a nation Israel is a mere infant. The USA was two hundred thirty-nine on its last birthday and it is still only a baby.
Israel’s birth came a short three years after my father was liberated from Stalag 3B Furstenberg after he spent more than three years as a prisoner of the Third Reich during WWII. Yes, he was a Jew in a POW camp. Yes, unlike the two men in front of him in line at their arrival at the camp, he told the truth, that he was Jewish. Those two men who lied were shot the next morning. My father never spoke about his war experiences and he never spoke about his POW time except for two stories, one of which was that one. The other has to do with his interment in Italy and my Aunt Matilda, but more of that later. The reason he told the Germans the truth, he said, was because he had been in an Italian prison camp first and by the time he got to the German prison camp he no longer cared if he lived or died.
Uncle Martin worried about Israel. He worried about the survival of the Jews. My father’s family emigrated here legally from Hungary. Two hundred seventy-five thousand (275,000) Hungarians were killed in the Holocaust, you know, the Holocaust the Iranians deny ever occurred. My mother’s family emigrated here legally from Czechoslovakia. Approximately two hundred sixty-three thousand (263,000) Czechoslovakian Jews were killed. If not for their having made their ways to this country, I would not have been born and perhaps the whole of my father’s and mother’s families, like many, many families of Jews, would have been obliterated. And you might once again add, as I do in my thoughts, obliterated in that Holocaust which according to Iran, the country this president negotiates with despite its steadfast and unrelenting commitment to permanently removing Israel from the face of this earth, never occurred.
Tell that to the eleven million (11,000,000) people who were killed during the Holocaust.
I have to stop for a moment to record here that a total of eleven million (11,000,000) people, 1.1 million of them children, were killed during the Holocaust. Six million (6,000,000) of those victims were Jewish; two-thirds of the Jews living in Europe at the time of World War II were killed by Nazis. Other groups targeted by the Nazis were Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals and disabled people, to name just a few, such that a full five million (5,000,000) non Jews were killed as well. Only fourteen million (14,000,000) Jews remain alive today.
The other day this US president referred to the Israelis as terrorists, likening them to those who kill Jews simply because they are Jews, likening them to those who join Iran in the quest to eliminate Jews from the face of the earth, likening them to those who wantonly kill women and children and innocent elderly people, to those who would deny Israel’s right to exist. Israel’s survival under this US administration is already in great peril. This president’s reckless terminology, which he purposefully and repeatedly utilizes, now makes its survival even more difficult. This president seems to have no regard for Israel or for any of the American allies. This Obama would give more than one hundred billion (100,000,000,000) dollars to Iran to further its goals of annihilating Israel, conducting terrorism throughout the Middle East and arming terrorists throughout the world. He fashions himself a man of peace; in reality his is the greatest funder of Islamic terrorism ever. No wonder nearly a third of Americans still believe this president is a Muslim. He celebrates a Muslim boy who built a bomb-like structure at the White House because the boy got into trouble with school and the police, but he does not even contact the family of Kate Steinle, the woman killed by an illegal alien who had been deported 5 times. And there are countless examples of his biases in favor of Muslims (and others) and against Americans—I’m sure I don’t have to name them.
My Uncle would find America’s behavior under this administration inconceivable. Anyone with any relation to anyone who suffered losses in the Holocaust would find its behavior the same. And that is not even putting judgmental terms to it, because, in fact, its behavior is simply reprehensible and very often bizarre.
So, why should we be worrying about the same things our parents and grandparents worried about? Why has this administration brought the free world back to a real concern for its very survival? Haven’t we as a nation, we as a people, we as human beings learned anything?
By this administration’s behavior, apparently not. This Obama demonstrates the greatest (and most blatant) hypocrisy I’ve ever seen. He truly believes, and this is the scariest part, that because he says he is right, he is right, that because he says he is transparent, he is transparent, that because he says he cares, he actually cares.
Take a look at this. See what the Jews are up against, what the Americans are up against and what the world will be more and more up against as we move more into the midst of a religious war and fail to act accordingly. Didn’t Europe and the U.S. try to appease Hitler? That worked out well, didn’t it?
Once they began to change the definition of marriage, I said as a joke that I wanted to marry a second woman and a horse too because that is my right. (Huckabee has spoken to this, to polygamy and marrying animals, as the natural extension of messing with the traditional definition of marriage.) Bestiality be damned! If we’re not concerned about the genocides taking place under our noses (we even celebrate some of the people who have committed them as heroes) why be concerned if I marry a horse? Shouldn’t my horse-spouse be entitled to my Social Security spousal and death benefits?
So what really is going on?
I’ve talked before about Nancy Pelosi’s wealth curve since she’s been in public office. Way back when, when my father was about my age now, he thought the world had gone crazy. Sometimes I ask my friends if that is an age-related perception. Is it just my perception that the U.S. is going crazy (and the world too), or is that perception real? Talk about craziness, when I was in public school and all the way through high school and college, we learned about the USSR and its Politburo, that ruling class of leaders who were better and better off than the common folk. Isn’t this exactly what our Congress has become? Take a good look at them, our Congressmen: more than half of them millionaires. Look at what they say and do, both the Donkeys and the Elephants. Crazy! Despicable! How are we, the U.S., any different or any better now than what they taught us the Soviet Union was like?
Wait a minute! Let me pinch myself. I’m not supposed to think that way about the land of the free and the home of the brave. You know, the place where all of a sudden the IRS investigates political foes of the president. The place where the Secret Service investigates Congressmen who present them in a bad light. The place where all of a sudden you can get into government trouble, to wit an audit, for not belonging to correct political party, where you have to hesitate before declaring a party for fear of government retribution.
I’ve mentioned before that my father-in-law used to say that man, by nature, oops, sorry, humankind, by nature, oops sorry, people-kind, by nature, are selfish and greedy. Is that what’s really going on? Is all this craziness about greed?
As a reality check: can I write myself a mortgage contract and go into the bank and ask the loan officer to sign it before s/he reads it? I don’t think so. How can Harry Reid simply get away with lying about Mitt Romney’s taxes and when caught say it was okay because “Well, he didn’t get elected.”
So what is really going on and why are we deluged with inanity and insanity instead of head-on reality aimed at solving some of the big issues out there? If we put our self-centered and selfish personal feelings and ambitions aside for a moment, we might actually be able to work on some of them, or at the very least we might be able to begin to see what we actually believe in and figure out how to start living up to our beliefs.
October 6, 2015
Originally written September, 2015
I was going to do a blog called Reflections based upon some pictures I took at the park the other day when we were walking Nikki. Nikki is our Chihuahua; Rachel loved Nikki and spent hours soaking her with licks. Boy, I think, how great it would be if we could just quit our stupidity and spend our time loving each other. (Soaking with licks, for us, would be strictly optional and only by mutual agreement.)
Instead of Reflections, a question about wondering. The question itself is simple, the answers, as you might expect, or suspect, are difficult and complex at best.
The question: what is really going on? The question a bit more guided: what is really going on while we are being continually deluged with inane subterfuge?
After reading other entries on this blog, in case you still didn’t know it, I do have political opinions and I definitely have political leanings. I try not to be too political because I’ve seen some opinions posted on Facebook by people I know and love that really put me off, not so much for the opinion as for the advocating of the opinion with a presentation of facts that are clearly not facts but which are presented as facts. When one of my Freshman Debate Teams could poke holes in an argument wide enough for a tractor-trailer to pass through sideways, I wonder how some really, really educated adults can post political opinions based upon non-facts they call facts and then choose to say they are facts and to believe them as well.
I guess you know: it depends upon what the definition of is is.
To debunk the politics angle here, I go back to the riots at Ohio State University that directly led to the Kent State shootings, 1970. Richard Nixon was president. Undercover police and FBI agents started those riots. I was there; I personally saw it. Why? What was really going on? I’m not going to answer the question. I leave that to you and suggest that they had an agenda, Nixon on down, and the agenda conflicted with the wave of demonstrations that had swept the nation and grown to such magnitude that something had to be done.
Why was Bill Clinton impeached? We have 535 Congressmen. Why weren’t they all put under oath and asked if they’d ever cheated on their spouses or significant others? How many of them would’ve lied under oath? How many of them would have been guilty of the same perjury Clinton was accused of? What was really going on? (And don’t forget that the Speaker of the House mostly responsible for the impeachment had to leave office for the same need-I-say-more reason.)
So what is really going on in this world? ISIS is out there and growing and Obama thinks global warming is our biggest concern. Yesterday another 88 Christians were taken captive.* The news reported that some of the teenage girls are being sold on the slave market for as little as a pack of cigarettes. Really? Global Warming? (Others of those girls are being used to lure new ISIS members.)
Education? Check this site out just for fun, because in our dumbed-down U.S. world it puts the stats out easily understood and without having to look too hard (God forbid anyone should have to do that, God forbid I should say God).
Political correctness, gay marriage (or changing the traditional definition of marriage), racial relations and the police—why are these the issues dominating our news and behavior these days? Why aren’t we concerned with the budget deficit (now over 18 trillion), or that for the first time in history more than 50 percent of our leaders are millionaires and these millionaires seem to be quite out of touch with reality? Or, why is Congress so dysfunctional? Why is Russia taking the Ukraine while the United States is doing nothing? What about China and the islands being seized? And then, the pièce de résistance: why are we even negotiating with a country that has as one of its prime directives the annihilation of Israel? Okay, we might have started, given it a shot, but when it refused to move away from being committed to obliterating one of our greatest allies and in-your-faced it at us instead, why are we still there?
What’s really going on in our world today and why?
* Written 8/2/2015
RIP Nikki (succumbed to heart failure on September 18, 2015 at age of 7)