Category Archives: Newsletter

A Tribute to Anthony Bourdain…and the People of Mexico

One year ago today, June 8, 2018, Anthony Bourdain died by his own hand in France at the age of 61. News of his suicide shocked the world as he appeared to be living and loving life to the fullest.

I literally ran into Anthony and his daughter, Ariane, about six years ago in Schmidt’s Market in Southampton, New York. We were both bent down to pick something up on a low shelf and got up at exactly the same time. He couldn’t have been more polite and I was surprised at how tall he was in real life and, in my opinion, far better looking than on television.

I always admired how “real” he made food and the tribute he paid to people and food culture around the world. What I admired most about him was his advocacy of the hard-working people from Spanish speaking countries: Mexico and the many countries of Central and South America. There is nary a restaurant kitchen in the United States that could or would function without these people and he championed his admiration of the people of Mexico in the following article entitled “Under the Volcano” which he wrote in May of 2014:

“Americans love Mexican food. We consume nachos, tacos, burritos, tortas, enchiladas, tamales and anything resembling Mexican in enormous quantities. We love Mexican beverages, happily knocking back huge amounts of tequila, mezcal, and Mexican beer every year. We love Mexican people—we sure employ a lot of them. Despite our ridiculously hypocritical attitudes towards immigration, we demand that Mexicans cook a large percentage of the food we eat, grow the ingredients we need to make that food, clean our houses, mow our lawns, wash our dishes, and look after our children. As any chef will tell you, our entire service economy—the restaurant business as we know it—in most American cities, would collapse overnight without Mexican workers. Some, of course, like to claim that Mexicans are “stealing American jobs.” But in two decades as a chef and employer, I never had ONE American kid walk in my door and apply for a dishwashing job, a porter’s position—or even a job as a prep cook. Mexicans do much of the work in this country that Americans, probably, simply won’t do.

We love Mexican drugs. Maybe not you personally, but “we”, as a nation, certainly consume titanic amounts of them—and go to extraordinary lengths and expense to acquire them. We love Mexican music, Mexican beaches, Mexican architecture, interior design, Mexican films.

So, why don’t we love Mexico?

We throw up our hands and shrug at what happens and what is happening just across the border. Maybe we are embarrassed. Mexico, after all, has always been there for us, to service our darkest needs and desires. Whether it’s dressing up like fools and get passed-out drunk and sunburned on spring break in Cancun, throw pesos at strippers in Tijuana, or get toasted on Mexican drugs, we are seldom on our best behavior in Mexico. They have seen many of us at our worst. They know our darkest desires.

In the service of our appetites, we spend billions and billions of dollars each year on Mexican drugs—while at the same time spending billions and billions more trying to prevent those drugs from reaching us. The effect on our society is everywhere to be seen. Whether it’s kids nodding off and overdosing in small-town Vermont, gang violence in L.A., burned out neighborhoods in Detroit—it’s there to see. What we don’t see, however, haven’t really noticed, and don’t seem to much care about, is the 80,000 dead in Mexico, just in the past few years—mostly innocent victims. Eighty thousand families who’ve been touched directly by the so-called “War On Drugs”.

Mexico. Our brother from another mother. A country, with whom, like it or not, we are inexorably, deeply involved, in a close but often uncomfortable embrace. Look at it. It’s beautiful. It has some of the most ravishingly beautiful beaches on earth. Mountains, desert, jungle. Beautiful colonial architecture, a tragic, elegant, violent, ludicrous, heroic, lamentable, heartbreaking history. Mexican wine country rivals Tuscany for gorgeousness. Its archaeological sites—the remnants of great empires, unrivalled anywhere. And as much as we think we know and love it, we have barely scratched the surface of what Mexican food really is. It is NOT melted cheese over tortilla chips. It is not simple, or easy. It is not simply “bro food” at halftime. It is in fact, old—older even than the great cuisines of Europe, and often deeply complex, refined, subtle, and sophisticated. A true mole sauce, for instance, can take DAYS to make, a balance of freshly (always fresh) ingredients painstakingly prepared by hand. It could be, should be, one of the most exciting cuisines on the planet, if we paid attention. The old school cooks of Oaxaca make some of the more difficult and nuanced sauces in gastronomy. And some of the new generation—many of whom have trained in the kitchens of America and Europe—have returned home to take Mexican food to new and thrilling heights.

It’s a country I feel particularly attached to and grateful for. In nearly 30 years of cooking professionally, just about every time I walked into a new kitchen, it was a Mexican guy who looked after me, had my back, showed me what was what, and was there—and on the case—when the cooks like me, with backgrounds like mine, ran away to go skiing or surfing or simply flaked. I have been fortunate to track where some of those cooks come from, to go back home with them. To small towns populated mostly by women—where in the evening, families gather at the town’s phone kiosk, waiting for calls from their husbands, sons and brothers who have left to work in our kitchens in the cities of the North. I have been fortunate enough to see where that affinity for cooking comes from, to experience moms and grandmothers preparing many delicious things, with pride and real love, passing that food made by hand from their hands to mine.

In years of making television in Mexico, it’s one of the places we, as a crew, are happiest when the day’s work is over. We’ll gather around a street stall and order soft tacos with fresh, bright, delicious salsas, drink cold Mexican beer, sip smoky mezcals, and listen with moist eyes to sentimental songs from street musicians. We will look around and remark, for the hundredth time, what an extraordinary place this is.

Anthony Bourdain”

At a time when many Americans embrace everything Mexican from its food, beverages, imports, etc., Bourdain challenged the hypocritical attitudes towards immigration and was a tremendous champion of the underdog and stood up for these people who make up the backbone of many sectors of the American economy.

I love Mexico – its people, cuisine, culture, music and the beauty of the country itself. It is diverse, rich and beautiful. Thank you, Anthony, for being a champion for this amazing country and its people. Rest in peace.

Our Family’s Acme Juicer

“Old Faithful”

I always feel, when I pull this bad boy out of the cupboard, that we’re part of the Bugs Bunny/Roadrunner Hour. Acme was always the brand that the Roadrunner featured and it always puts a smile on my face when I use it.

My parents bought this centrifugal juicer back in the 50’s – sometime after my brother, George, was born in 1956 and before I arrived in 1959. Lots of fruit and vegetables have been juiced in this machine and I am so grateful to have it with us in Cabo.

Getting the juicer here was no small feat. It’s heavy, and I mean REALLY heavy and there was no way that it was ever going to be part of my luggage. Mom’s neighbors and friends, Rob and Kathy, drove down every year from Alberta to Vicente Guerrero, a small puebla located on Highway 1, approximately 175 south of Tijuana, Mexico. They come, at their own expense, to do missionary work at the orphanage located there. We admire their commitment and selflessness very much. Anyway, Rob and Kathy agreed to stow boxes for me for three different years so that I could get some of my heavier articles here. The Acme juicer arrived last winter and we were so grateful to receive it.

After my parents bought it, my Dad belonged to a health club that had a steam room. Dad loved onions and decided to make onion juice for himself using the Acme juicer. It seemed like a good idea until he went to the steam room after drinking the juice. One by one, every single man got up and left. It finally dawned on Dad that the onion juice was coming through his pores and he stunk out the other steam room users. They say that a skunk smells his own smell last! I guess that was true in this situation.

My Mom processed high bush cranberries in that juicer and so much more over the years. One of the highlights when I was a kid was the treat of fresh carrot juice when we dug up our garden. I loved carrot juice then and I absolutely still love it now!

Some years ago, the lug nut in the centre of the machine stripped out and I was desperate to find a replacement. The internet is a wonderful thing as I located a parts provider in Minneapolis, MN, who sent me the part I needed to keep the juicer going for a few more decades (this machine was definitely made to LAST!)!

The other day I dug out “Old Faithful” and did up a batch of juice using fresh organic carrots and beets from our local market, ginger, apple and cucumber that we grew in our Tower Garden, ginger and apple. It was absolutely delicious and transported me to those years on the farm when we made our harvest carrot juice in the fall.

Thanks, Mom (and Rob and Kathy), for finding a way to send this treasure and piece of family history to its new home in Mexico!

Pomegranate Harvest

Pomegranate Harvest

We had the pleasure of having my precious Mom here for just over three weeks. She wanted to contribute, so was given the job of checking the pomegranate trees for ripe fruit, then picking and seeding them (and a couple of other jobs as well, but not as fun as this one).

Our Pomegranate Queen!

We had a beautiful rain and, unlike most days when there are one or perhaps two ready, we had over a dozen bursting and ready to harvest the day following when the sun came out. We managed to give a few of them away, but Mom faithfully seeded the ones we were left with and put them in containers in the fridge for our consumption.

Pomegranate Harvest

Pomegranates are absolutely DELICIOUS when picked off the tree, as any fresh fruit is, and we kept Mom very busy with this task. I promised to make her a very famous Mexican dish called Chiles en Nogada, but we just ran out of time. I committed to practicing and making them for her next year and I made my first batch last night, inspired by a recipe from the Atlantic magazine by Rick Bayless.

Traditional Chiles en Nogada originates from Puebla, is tied to the independence of Mexico, and celebrates the three colors of the Mexican flag: green from the Poblano chile, white from the walnut cream sauce, and red from the pomegranate seeds. This dish is usually served at room temperature, but I reheated the chiles, stuffed with picadillo (a mixture of ground lamb, fruits and spices), then topped them with the cold walnut cream sauce and garnished with the pomegranate seeds. I served the Chiles en Nogada with steamed romanesco, beautiful and fresh from the organic market up the street.

Chiles en Nogada and Steamed Romanesco

This is definitely a time-consuming dish to prepare, but I look forward to making it for Mom next year when she visits. It’s the least I can do for all the pomegranates that she picked and painstakingly seeded for all of us to enjoy!

Now This Is Customer Service!

REAL customer service! What a concept! So RARELY experienced anymore, which makes it so much more special when it is!

I had ordered a Coravin Wine Preservation Opener (a device that allows you to insert a needle into a bottle of fine wine, allow you to pour and enjoy the wine, then reseal the cork to protect the wine from oxidation) from Bed, Bath and Beyond for Ron for Christmas. What else can you buy for a man that has too much of everything! Our friend, Steve, is coming down from Santa Barbara on Christmas Day, so I had it delivered to him and he’ll be bringing it down to Cabo. By the way, I can write and post this before Christmas because there is NO WAY that Ron would ever look at this blog beforehand.

Anyway, the Coravin Wine Preservation Opener comes in three different models and I had opted for lowest cost unit, Model One. It will do everything we need it to do and saves a minimum of $100 for the next model and and $200 on the Elite Pro or top-of-the-line product.

Christmas is fast approaching and on December 20th, I received this email from Bed, Bath and Beyond:

“Dear Linda;

We’ve just received shocking news.  The Grinch was seen sneaking into Santa’s workshop and we’ve discovered that he has stolen ALL of the Coravin Model One Wine Systems!  Apparently, you have chosen a very popular gift.

We’ve alerted the North Pole Police and they are searching the area, but time is running out!  Luckily, the manufacturer has come to Santa’s rescue and is providing the Coravin Model Two Wine System just in time for Holiday delivery!

Here’s the best part.  The Model Two is more expensive ($100 more!), but you will be charged the same price as the Model One.  That’s our gift to you for this inconvenience.  Santa will soon be on his way!  You should expect your shipment on or before Saturday, December 23, 2017.

Thank you for your patience.  We wish you and your families a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Sincerely,

Order Fulfillment Team
www.bedbathandbeyond.com”

WOW! I was absolutely blown away by this response and action taken! I loved the humor they delivered the message with and the fact that Coravin is supplying their higher priced model and that Bed, Bath and Beyond is honoring the same price is nothing short of astounding!

In an age when price doesn’t necessarily determine loyalty but rather the EXPERIENCE a shopper has, my allegiance is firmly behind Bed, Bath and Beyond after this Christmas!

Happy holidays everyone and sincere best wishes for 2018 and far beyond!

Opting Out

I have long struggled with using Facebook for personal purposes and have posted very little while I have been signed up on it. The few times that I’ve gone on it to see what’s happening in people’s lives have amazed me with the amount of time that can be and is wasted by people NOT living their own lives. I feel the same way about television: I’d rather LIVE my life in prime time than WATCH it, so I spend very little time in front of it (and I’m very selective about what I do watch). I’ve experienced where people post things without thinking, forgetting that employers, customs officers, police and others in power, check social media and what has been posted earlier and thoughtlessly in their lives, can come back to impact them later. I’ve experienced people using Facebook as a surveilance tool and compromised personal relationships because of their response to something happening in other’s lives.

I believe that Facebook was tampered with during the American election in late 2016 and that it continues to be responsible for promoting and spreading hatred and ignorance to people who do not have the capacity or intelligence to think more critically and check sources.

I have been using Facebook for professional purposes, but I’m rethinking that now. In my opinion, Facebook is for personal use, although it can and is used by many for professional purposes as well (Mexico, for example, uses Facebook extensively for everything, both personal and professional uses).

There are better tools for professional use, like LinkedIn. We can keep the standards high by reporting anyone who is abusing it or using it for inapproporate social contact. It is purely a professional network and needs to be kept as such. 

I refuse to ever use Twitter. I refused long before watching a moronic President send out his impulsive and reprehensible “tweets”. He sends out unfiltered garbage that is so far from behavior I expect from ANYONE, and especially from a “world leader”. He is clearly NOT that.

The good news is that we get to vote with our participation and subscription to social media. I, for one, have decided to extricate and opt out of Facebook and Twitter. I hope others decide to do the same.