Archive for September, 2011

My Funny/Yummy Food 4 Thought Column 15

September 11, 2011


                              Everyone’s A “Wanna’ Be”

In my last column, I fondly recalled the daze of my life when I took two years off from writing to be a waiter at The Magic Pan Creperie in Santa Anita, CA.  We were “waiters,” for sure: young people who served food while waiting for something better to happen in our lives. (Is a crepe a pancake wanna’ be? Does a pancake wanna’ be a crepe?)

Ron was going to be a film director. Tom was going to be an actor. Kurt was going to be a clothing designer. Darla was going to wear a brassiere sometime (the guys weren’t pushing it). Jan Udomwathanaufong , (yes that’s correct) was going to own a restaurant in Thailand. It was right out of the lyrics of that Jim Croce song: “You were gonna’ be an actor, I was gonna’ learn to fly. You set off for the footlights. I set off for the sky.”

 Ron Rumsey—one of the all-time great characters at the Pan—was going to be going to be a rock star.  There was no rhyme or reason to his dreamin’, except he looked so rockin’ good. He had the anorexic body of a rock star.  He had Big Hair—a cool thing in those days—that was frizzed, frantic and constantly jammin’ on his head. He had tight fitting pants and, of course, a thoroughly spaced out personality. The two things he didn’t have, unfortunately,  were a decent voice and any kind of work ethic. Ron was a waiter in his spare time; his profession was goof off and air head.  His instrument of choice?  Air Guitar, naturally, which he whipped out and played constantly while providing shrieking vocal accompaniment. 

Partying his brains out, showing up late or not at all, and being completely irresponsible were Ron’s fortes and if you expected anything more of him, well that was your mistake. Lend Ron 20 bucks and expect it back? Ha ha ha ha .

 As far as his rock star dreams went, I guess he figured it would happen automatically — some record label mogul would bop into the Magic Pan one day, order a spinach soufflé, look up at Ron and say…”Holly, Crepes, man, you’re the rock star I’ve been looking for. Here’s a contract, and a $100,000 thousand dollar advance!”

Yup, rock star status bequeathed from happenstance heaven. “Money for nothing, chicks for free.” Amazingly enough, Ron did get his shot at the big time and it happened in a surprising way.

 Halloween was in the wind and the wait-staff at the Pan decided to throw an awesome party. We rented a Knight’s of Columbus hall and even hired a Deejay to spin platters.  Everyone had to show up in a costume and when it came to the big event, people outdid themselves.  

 Kurt, the designer showed up in a LBD (Little Back Dress), he designed. Tom, the actor, played the part of Brando from A Streetcar Named Desire.  Darla?  Well, Darla wore what every good looking babe with long legs wears: a she-devil outfit or was it a pussycat or maybe a naughty nurse? Whatever it was, she looked great. I dressed up as the Invisible Man, which was a concept but not a costume.  And Ron? What else? Ron Rumsey showed up as a rock star, but this time he was dressed to the nines and tens for the part.  Two of the girls had helped him achieve rock-star costume perfection.

 He wore a skin-tight outfit right out of Mick Jagger, Elvis and Liberace attire—only more exaggerated. Instead of an air guitar, he had a real one—glitzed up outrageously  for the occasion with fake diamonds and rhinestones all over it. And his hair, god bless his hair – it was loaded with a pound and a half of glitter. You had to wonder how he kept his head erect.

 The evening was a huge success. We all got up stage, showed off our costumes and strutted our stuff. And then, at the very end, over a microphone we heard… “And now ladies and gentlemen, direct from Las Vegas, on our stage tonight, there are only two words that can describe this amazing instrumentalist and heart-throbbing talent… ladies and gentlemen…Ron Rumsey!”

 Ron dashed on stage . The spotlight zeroed in on him in all his tight-fitting glory. He  stopped for a second and posed,  frozen in light and time. Then he swung that rhinestone guitar around, aimed it directly at the audience and struck one piercing note that echoed off the walls of that Knights of Columbus hall. Ron swung his hips around ferociously and shook his leonine head. The glitter in his hair shot upward where the spotlight caught every spec of it, creating a spectacular and dazzling fireworks display! My God! The girls shrieked and screamed their pleasure and they weren’t faking it!

 Ron Rumsey thestar had arrived to rock the place to its very foundation. 10. 0 on the Richter scale! Off the charts!

                          Magic Panini

To me, this Panini is as magical as my days at the Magic Pan. It’s filled to brim with the spice of life, tasty memories and Italian stars that rock my world, like pepperoni, prosciutto and provolone cheese.  What are you waiting for, an invitation from a waiter? Build that sandwich. Mangia! Dig in!

What youza Need (for crepe’s sake)

4 nicea slicea Italian bread (big round loaf enough for 2 hungry paisanos)

4 Tbls mayonnaise or extra virgin olive oil

6 slices genoa salami

6 slices provolone cheese

6 slices capicola (Italian ham)

4 slices ripe tomatoes (little bitta salt,  pepper & orgegano)

2 Tbls hot jardinière


How Youza Rock this Roll

Uno: Lay out 4 slices of bread

Due: Spread mayonnaise lovingly on all slices

Tre:  Pile two slices high with equal luscious amounts of salami, capicola and provolone cheese

Quattro: Top with tomatoes and jardinière  

Cinque: Close ‘em up, cut each sandwich in half if you want

Sei: Put in Panini machine or put a little olive oil in an iron skillet, heat it up, put Panini in and put a plate on top to press. Flip over and grill until all is golden brown.
Otto: Get that thing out of the pan and into your mouth!


My Funny/Yummy Food 4 Thought Column 14

September 11, 2011

              Days of Magic (Part 1) – a 6.0 on the Richter Scale

 I have lived on three coasts: the East Coast, where I was raised, the Midwest Coast – so named because Chicago sits on what is truly the Michigan Ocean, and the West Coast, specifically, Los Angles, where I lived for two glorious, non-productive, and incredibly fun-filled years when I was in my late twenties.

I ostensibly went out there to continue my career as a TV show/freelance writer, but I really went to pursuit of lost love and a girl named Jeanne who had dumped me back in Chicago. I pursued her in L.A., but could never rekindle the flame. She may have worn flip flops, but  never flip flopped on bagging me. I remained in the dumpster.

I took it seriously and ended up doing what other folks on The Coast do: I coasted. I joined the stream of L.A. driftwood who parked cars, pumped gas and waited on tables while waiting for real life to kick in. That was the L.A. mode and though I slipped into it, I never regretted it for one second because I had the privilege, nay the esteemed honor of working for almost two full years as a waiter at the Magic Pan Restaurant in Santa Anita, CA.

Remember the Magic Pan? I know I’m dating myself, but it’s better than dating Jeanne.  They served fabulous crêpes, which rhymes with Schweppes if you want to get French about it. But who are they to talk about speech? The French\ have no word for “rendezvous.” The Magic Pan’s food was delicious. They had an incredible seafood crêpe filled with shrimp and lobster that I still dream about, but forgive me, I digest, er digress. I was noting how much I loved working at “The Pan,” which had advantages galore. One day, for example, I got to wait on Mr. Richter, the guy who invented the Richter Scale. The menu shook when he ordered. Just joshing.

Everyone should be a waitperson at some time. It teaches you humility, the art of service, how to plan ahead and organize. You’re on stage, so you have to be an entertainer. Plus, you’ve got to be neat, clean, courteous, good at food promotion and you have to move fast. You can’t be half-fast and be a successful waiter. 

Waiting tables is a great learning experience, but not much of an earning experience. Most waiters don’t make much, plus it costs money since you’re forced to tip exorbitantly for the rest of your life. And don’t even get me started about iced tea. (Huh?) When someone orders iced tea, forgetabouit. You need an extra tall glass, ice filled to the brim, a special spoon, regular sugar, Sweet and Lo, plus a lemon wedge as a garnish. Whew, that worked up a sweat. I need an iced tea!

I had my first panic attack the night I started, but I got through it and soon learned the ropes. In fact, I got so good at waiting that I turned it  into a sport one night, as ye shall see in a subsequent story about a duel I had with a Thai waiter who worked with me named, Jan Udomwathanafong. Would I kid about a name like that? I have three stories to tell about some fascinating characters I worked with and hopefully you’ll read them and not toss the paper into the dumpster.

 I loved the crew at the Magic Pan and the lifestyle. We worked during the day and early evening and partied long into the night. I didn’t have to worry where my next freelance writing job was coming from, or think thoughty thoughts all the time, or hustle for new freelance business. I could waste away with the rest of the gang in Margaritaville and I loved it. 

I knew it was just time off, however, and that I would eventually return to writing for a living. Something was missing; call it a future, call it a calling, call it the ability to go to my grave having written my own epitaph:

“Here lies a writer who skirted the plan        

and leapt from the fire into The Pan.

He loved and he laughed and never felt lost;

he was fulfilled like a crepe and frequently sauced.

                                    Chicken Rustica

                                 Chicken No Fustica

                              Chicken Other Coastica


                          (Chicken & Potatoes in the Oven)

This dish is magical, done in one pan and reminiscent of L.A. in its laid back nature. You really don’t have to fustica with Chicken Rustica. It’s Tuscan originally (not French), but this is an  adaptation. For crêpes sake, I mean cripes sake, don’t under- spice it. Don’t under-spice life either. Keep it tasty, toasty and coasty. Sometimes instead of running, you’ve got to glide.

 What Youza Need

6 (yup 6), whole cloves garlic

3-4 large peeled potatoes, drawn and quartered

2 medium onions, quartered

2 medium-size ripe tomatoes

1 whole frying chicken drawn and quartered

Spices (salt, pepper, dried oregano and basil, garlic powder)

1 oven with temp at 400º

What Youza Do

Wash chicken and pat dry. Put chicken, potatoes, onions and garlic in medium-deep roasting pan and coat it all with olive oil. Now, spice the beejeebies out of all of it. Season everything (front and back, top and bottom, up and down) with spices. Next, squeeeeze the tomatoes by hand over it all and cook at 400º (pretty dang high, just like the folks in L.A.) for about 45 minutes. Check pan in about 20 minutes to make sure you’re not making chicken soup. If there’s too much juice, remove all but a third of a cup or so. You may also have to remove the potatoes if they get done before the chicken. That’s it. Mangi, balli, si diverta (Eat, dance and enjoy)!