The wild sight is burned in my memory – Chinese Joe the cook, enraged, crazed, chasing fleeing terrified Lupe the housemaid with a carving knife held high to plunge into her back. His slitted eyes were on fire, his lips drawn back from his teeth, gaunt cheeks sucked in in fury. It was reflex – glaring, I bellowed “Joe Stop!! – give me that knife!” and lunged forward to grab it from him. He stopped, trembling.
I was eight years old, a yellow-haired brat, daughter of the conqueror. It was 1946, on Luzon. End of WW2. Head wavering, he gave it to me. The commotion drew my parents to the scene. “Give me the knife, Mike!” said Daddy, grimly – mother horrified and Daddy appalled. What had happened?
Joe was a gifted cook, master of the delicate merengue and flaky crusted rolls, creator and chef of dream-like, mouth-watering cuisine. He had come to us via an old restaurateur friend of my father, one he had bailed out of a Manila restaurant closure before the Conflict, back during a prewar posting. Lt. Morgan, my Daddy to be, had coughed up $50 to keep his restaurant open (a lot back then) – this money had enabled him, through the intervening years, to expand throughout the south pacific. He believed he owed his success to my father, and in the philosophy of the East, he was indebted for life. He was known to us as Charlie Corn, a vague approximation of what his name sounded like to Yankee ears. So when Charlie Corn heard that my father was back on Luzon, he appeared like a welcome genie with a cook for the household, someone he drew out of his army of restaurant cooks. And he had only the best. That excellence is what had prompted my father to keep him afloat all those years before.
Joe was a genius – but a temperamental one. Like most artists, he held his secrets close to his chest. NO one could watch him cook. Once day mother peeked in and saw him making his golden buttery rolls… he was spitting the glaze from between his teeth onto each before slipping the pan into the oven. Pit-tooey! pit-tooey! pit-tooey! And so on… Quietly she snuck away, deciding the oven’s heat would burn off the germs. The glaze was so lovely.
But foolish Lupe was not smart. She teased paranoid Joe relentlessly, peering into the kitchen from around the corner. His artistic license was threatened… He had secrets he would not, could not, share. He loathed Lupe and her teasing… He finally snapped. Violently. They were on a chase through the living room when high-pitched oriental screams reached my ears, and I stepped up.
You never know what life will bring. If I had been older, I might not have been so bold. Yeah, I would have.
Some of us don’t have much sense.
As we poked along, near Moreton-in-Marsh by now, we came upon another of those huge runways – this one adapted to creative reuse as both a truck-driving training school at one end (lots of maneuvering room) and a flight school of ultralights and microlights at the other. It would never happen in the USA. We were bemused. And drawn in. As pilots, we were itching to get the overview of all the hedgerows and villages, sprawling picture-book pretty across the rolling countryside. Would the school sell us rides? Hesitating, we idled the car down the concrete till we found a shed, a few winged moth-like contraptions parked outside. Neither of us had been in one before – this could be a first. Inside, the instructors acted as if they had been waiting for us. Fiona would be mine, Hal got the very heavyset guy. And the microlight. Hal was tall and hefty… he hid his angst over the strain the two of them would be putting on the little craft – quietly sharing his worry with me. Fiona liked the enclosed ultralight, so that was that.
Fiona was a slender, lovely, fair-haired young woman, coolly assertive and authoritative. Tall. I felt like a shrimp, beside her. But we were to be cabin mates for a brief half-hour, and I could take that. My logged flight time, many more than hers, had been built in single engine aircraft and gliders – this invention I was climbing into was another class… like a glider with a motor. But smaller.
So we signed up and rolled out… belted in firmly with the advisory to stay at or below 2,500’ – Fiona stated that was the permissible layer of airspace available to us in that area. The ceiling was flat and pale gray above us, a little disappointing.
I of course acquiesced to Fiona’s know-how. The little winged thing was, well, worryingly kite-like. At least we were out of the slipstream. Took a moment or two to get used to it. Then I found a bit of lift and attempted to circle in it to gain altitude – an action that startled and sent pretty Fiona into a dither. “Fiona,” I chided, “I’m a glider pilot!” Never mind. She reminded me of the altitude restriction for us in this area, so I straightened out and flew level. And did what I was there for – enjoy the overview, while carefully managing the controls. The hedgerows did indeed mark off one field from another, with intriguing peeks at medieval villages here and there – we could even see ancient footpaths trailing town to town across lots, avoiding roads. (Author Bill Bryson has written a definitive tome on his walk-about through Britain. Amazing place.)
The half-hour whizzed by, and we aimed back towards base (always within sight) to compare notes with Hal. He was happy. The avoirdupois of the two men seemed to have no effect on the microlight’s performance; they leaped aloft quickly upon the initial acceleration, much to his relief. He had no desire to have his corpse shipped back to the States. Me neither. Fiona was relieved to offload her curious American passenger.
We paid and thanked the flight school, clambered into our car, and wound our way through the byways onto an A something or other, and got back to our digs high on our day’s discoveries. In the air or on the ground, travel is wonderful, from tight little one-track roads to soaring the overview. Life was good.
So there I was, on a hot summer day, sharing a flight with fellow student Danny. Danny was a Boston bartender with flying dreams. (We all liked to split expenses in those days, when we could.) I’m in the pilot’s seat, and Danny is directing me over a big Boston area reservoir, to see if we can spot a sunken boat. We’re circling and circling, and Danny opens the window to see better. And cool off. He forgets the force of the slipstream – it could rip his nice sunglasses off and fling them into the reservoir… oops. And sure enough, whip-snap there they go. “Oh s**t” says Danny. But what can we do? Not a thing.
On boats, especially. I mean, there you are, rocking about in the breeze… Or maybe still tied up at the dock?
The silliest, saddest I ever heard of – way above the angst of fleeing glasses – was when a friend was getting ready to sail the Atlantic, taking along a techie know-it-all sailing pal. Captain John was a Master, one who gave advanced celestial navigation classes. (Having taken his classes, I can give five stars to his expertise.) He sniffed at his pal’s marine GPS (global navigation system) but was argued into it. “Hey, captain, we’re headed to Bermuda, you know!” Seemed like a cheat, to him. So our second-in-command places his treasured GPS on the flat rail, unsecured – I mean why not, they’re still at the dock, right? Caught up in the details of helping with casting off, he forgets the GPS. A motion catches his eye… he sees with horror from across the deck its response to the physics of the rocking boat – and watches helplessly as it slides with a happy splash into the harbor. Rushing to the railing, he watches it fade into the dark waters. Try to recover it? Not an option. They had cast off, they were moving out. Search in the harbor muck below? A time-waster. The salt water would have totaled it anyway.
OH yes… S**t happens. Especially when you’re not watching.
THE INNER VOICE
Can it save your life?
We all get nudges from our Inner Voice. Some say it’s your Conscience – some insist it’s your Guardian Angel – some say instinct. Or psychic events. Whatever you call it, I pay attention whenever I get that scalp-prickling Heads Up. You know… “Don’t get into that elevator with him.” And “Your kid is straight ahead through the crowd“ – and wow, there he is.
Another thing. If you listen, people will spill their guts when it’s something you really should know. It’s weird.
We were at the annual 7-day EAA Oshkosh, Wisconsin, fly-in event, a gathering of aviators from literally everywhere. It draws the aviation field’s smartest inventors and cleverest entrepreneurs. You rub elbows with fighter pilots, old and new test pilots – and astronauts. Lord Branson of Virgin Air shows up to tout his newest. They all come to strut their stuff. There’s a magnificent line-up of antique warbirds, a splendid separate area for ultralights… It’s vast. Acres of giant hangars are committed to sales booths – av-related products: avionics, aircraft parts, theme clothing… even jewelry and gorgeous paintings. And yes, grandly tented pavilions of new aircraft for sale… yum.
Some 15,000 aircraft and a cajillion motor homes assemble to offload aviation buffs for seminars, new products, view the latest aviation improvements and static aircraft displays – and watch, of course, fabulous flying shows. Rooms are booked a year in advance or more. Many camp in wing tents in the aircraft parking area.
A couple of years back, we were humming along in a van from Oshkosh to Appleton’s airport, with the pilot of his own Meridian – a guy who was going to give us a demo ride. The oh-so-upscale Piper Meridian is the fancied up version of Piper’s Malibu Mirage. (Remember aviation’s early days and the sweet little Piper Cub? They’ve come a long way, baby.) We were browsing, admiring – not buying. It’s SOP. Everybody does it. We had assured the folks at the Meridian pavilion that we were not in the market for a plane, especially not one that cost over $1,000,000, but they insisted we experience it. Pushy salesmen, but what the heck? Maybe we’d want to trade up from our sweet Cessna 210.
Ok. A free ride in a Meridian – why refuse it? They were hopeful. They were forceful. They were salesmen. We were weak.
So along the highway we rode. It was an hour’s trip away, our pilot-to-be got chatty. Apple-cheeked and gray-haired, a comfortable, nice-looking man. He had brought in his Meridian from another state on behalf of this company, to demo. As he prattled on, turning around to talk to me from the front seat, I started paying attention.
Whoa….! What’s this?! He was telling us how for terrible years he had suffered debilitating convulsions that ruined his life, until finally a chip was implanted in his brain, a nano-width from the focus of his illness, blocking its malfunction. My scalp crawled. Overwhelmingly, I sensed the Nudge. Hm.
“So… What does the FAA say about this?” (One must advise FAA of all medical problems and surgeries.)
“FAA? Oh – they don’t know about it.”
Oops. The hair stood up on my neck, like a dog.
I desperately peered at the leaden skies stretching way beyond the horizon – no blue. Appleton would be no clearer than Oshkosh. An escape! We could tactfully duck out of this. I glanced at my husband and said in a voice that carried, “You know, I really would rather go up on a nice day. With this overcast we won’t be able to experience the Meridian the way we’d like.”
The pilot looked at us and said “Oh, we can fly right up over the deck – I’ll file IFR (instrument flight plan to be in clouds). It will be sunny on top.” I pretended to chew this over (no way was I putting my life in his hands) and said – “I’m sorry. That doesn’t do it for me.” The consensus was to turn around, return to home base – and go on a sunny day.
The Inner Voice whispered “Atta girl;” my guardian angel smiled.
Maybe it would have been absolutely ok – I never later heard of an accident happening to this nice guy. But I just knew that day I wasn’t supposed to go with him.
The artsy world of eating drifts continuously through culinary phases – nouvelle cuisine, mexican fusion, asian fusian, classic french… And so on. And even the dearly-beloved American burger (with cheese) has not escaped unnoticed. Here I’ve named and pictured two of the most mouth-watering creations in the USA. Move out of the way Mickey D, you too In-and-out. This place is for those who dream of, lust for, the best of the best of the best.
Please check my Magnificent Hamburgers post – and comment with your own suggestions?
Sadly, a masterpiece has vanished with the closing of Phoenix’s Fez Bistro. A tragedy, for the addicted. Its complicated, many-faceted sauce was a resistance-melting aphrodisiac, soaked into its homemade sourdough. RIP Fez Burger. But Phoenix seems to be a champion among champions for towering mouth-watering burgers. Google them before you hit the city – you’ll find a panoply of choices.
Sorry Australia. I cannot be tactful…. I cannot recommend the sliced raw beetroot and slaw-laden McDonald’s burger. What on earth were they thinking?
|Hangover Burger Lordsburg Taproom, La Verne CA|
When I was high-chair size, I remember a busy-body lady leaning over to me and chirping “Look at those lovely carrots… Are they what make your cheeks so rosy?” Speaking to strangers was a no-no, but this needed a reply.”No… meat.” I glared at the carrots. I knew what I liked.
The world today seems to be becoming anti-beef. Perhaps we Americans eat too much of it – but there it is. Most of us love it – especially the iconic burger. Here I give you a couple from our travels.
Hangover Burger, version from CA:
This jaw-widening treat is a half-pound patty of ground Kobe or Angus beef on a brioche bun, layered with onion strings, melted Muenster cheese and, importantly, chipotle bacon and chipotle mayonnaise and sauce. Smoked chipotle peppers (nee jalapeno) smoked after they dry out. You might be able to buy this salsa, or sauce. It isn’t overly picante – just smoky delicious.
*(Bacon recipe below, if you can’t find it at your market).
When the thick patty is cooked and the cheese slice well melted (I find medium rare best for flavor and juiciness, but my daughter-in-law recoils at pink) place 2 pieces of that outrageous bacon on it, spoon on a little chipotle salsa (chopped tomatoes and cilantro, 1 and 1/2 Tbs chopped canned chipotle peppers) – and slather chipotle aioli on the bun (more canned chipotle, mixed with mayonnaise – easy peasy) – then lay on some pungent arugula. Add a scant handful of thinnest onion strings for a perfect crunchiness – and top with a tender fried egg. Cover with the bun, pick it up with two hands, and have at it. Bon appétit!
Sooo good. And maybe it is good for a hangover… Or maybe it’s just that everything hangs over. (See photo above.)
- 6 slices thick-cut hickory smoked bacon
- 2 tablespoons agave nectar
- 1 tablespoon southwest chipotle seasoning, mix (Mrs. Dash, Tones, Konriko or homemade)
- 1⁄4teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Arrange slices on baking sheet; bake until almost crisp (8-9 minutes). Drain the drippings from baking sheet and discard.
- In small bowl, combine agave nectar, chipotle seasoning and pepper. Brush bacon with the chipotle mixture; bake until glazed (8-10 minutes).
Then there’s the glorious, succulent, unimaginably delicious Zin Burger, from the bistro of the same name, in Tucson. The caramelized onions can be sautéed in zinfandel, should you wish – or so can optional mushrooms, pictured here. The homemade buns are fresh-baked from potato flour with a touch of honey. And the cheese, warmed Manchego, nicely fits itself to the primo Kobe beef patty – all this sits on a blanket of delicately shredded lettuce.
Even my lettuce hater man likes it – the bed serves as a sponge for the burger’s savory juices. Soooo good.
3 Axes (plural of axis)
Learning to fly – to maneuver an aircraft – isn’t hard, once you get it into your head that it’s nothing like a car.
A plane can be a slippery eel. It maddeningly wallows and bobs if you don’t remember it’s got three axes to slither around on. Happily, it has controls to manage all that. It’s all a battle with centrifugal force and the pull of gravity.
Axes. The three are Pitch, Yaw, and Roll.
The Pitch axis – an imaginary line that runs one side to the other through the plane, wingtip to wingtip. The nose goes down, the tail goes up, spinning around on that string. Scary ride.
The yaw axis? Picture the plane skewered on a flag pole, ground to sky, right through the middle. Where it can rotate on the horizontal, around and around, flat spinning parallel to the ground. You see how pesky that could be?
Roll… the bead on the string line going through the plane front to back. Run amuck on that axis and you’d be like a screw drilling a hole through the sky.
A car is so different. Your four-wheeled ride moves comfortably about on a flat plane. The ground. No actual roll, pitch, and yaw, the movements on the three axes of the airplane. Well, you can skid any old which-way if you get sloppy. It moves on the straight ahead one, shall we say the pitch axis. Throws you back when you accelerate. Throws you forward when you brake. The car tilts to the side when you turn it, the faster the turn the steeper the tilt. Naturally you lean sideways into that turn – countering that force, the centrifugal force.
You’re used to doing that on the ground – your body is trained. But now you’re not on the ground. In the airplane, a coordinated turn keeps you firmly erect, vertical, to your seat – no leaning. If you’re leaning, you must be slipping. Not good. You can always tell the newbie by the way they sag sideways when the plane turns – the tilted horizon they see cues them to do that. At first, from habit, you do too. But that’s silly. You do not feel any centrifugal force – that is, not if the turn is done right.
“Coordinate, coordinate, coordinate” was the muttered mantra.
Another thing. Your plane won’t back up, like a car. You have to work around that little handicap.
Alert. You’ll have to deal with a lot of “negative transfer”. It can be hilarious, it can be embarrassing. So often in the beginning days, when you’re parking your car say, at the grocery store? Or maybe at the watering hole… (At the “O” Club, Officers Club, military fighter pilots like my old friend “afterburner Art” were ever thumping backs and raising a glass to still being alive, after successfully rolling, pitching and yawing – dog-fighting – around the sky.)
So here you’re coming in for the “landing juice” (post-flight nip) to celebrate – or to settle your rattled nerves. Or scarf a burger, if food is your comfort thing. You roll into the parking place, checking outside the car, right and left, to make sure the wingtips will clear whatever is beside you – then give yourself a head-slap. No wings on the car, ninny. And when you fumble for the fuel/air mixture control to choke off your engine, you panic. Where’d it go?? That’s “negative transfer”.
Learning to fly is not easy, but it’s a fine challenge, and it’s fun. You can do it. Probably.
But before I could get into the air, I had to speak that Arabic numeral thing… the new language. He reached over, clicked on the radio, and twiddled a knob. We listened to a string of babbled numbers coming from the speaker. (The ATIS, automated terminal Information Service, telling us airport stuff.) And then he handed me the microphone. “Call Ground Control. Say who you are (aircraft ident), where you are (location on field), with the ATIS, and your intentions (what you want to do).” I took the mic numbly, looked at it, put it to my lips, and said “Hanscom Ground, November four seven 22 Foxtrot at the terminal, taxi for takeoff with the ATIS.” Oh believe me I didn’t do it like that right away – we had sat parked and practicing that, running through the script for at least 15 times before I could get it right. Stiff with fright, I wheezed and gasped out the transmission – and sank back in my seat. “Good,” he said, “Now let’s change the frequency off the ATIS to transmit, and try again.” I could have hit him. So I gasped it all out again, and listened for Ground to talk back. None of which I could unravel.
Later back at the flight school counter, the guys’ eyes turned to me as we walked back in. “Wow” they said… “You sure sound sexy on the radio.” (Tower transmissions were loud-speakered in at the school.) Startled, baggy eyes looked me, and I at him. “That was a voice gripped by terror” he said. And chortled. And I laughed. Weakly.
The moment I had fantasized, been dreaming about, anticipating with sweaty palms – had arrived. Two weeks before, my world had rocketed out of humdrum grey with a mere phone call. I was poking around for a glider ride. (Missed out on that during a ski vacation out west, and I really wanted to do it.) Midwinter, not much glider activity. “You have your power license?” the man on the other end of the phone had asked. I was stunned, speechless. Women fly! Women fly! Not to overstate and get irreligious, but like Paul on the road to Tarsus, I right there experienced an epiphany. “Why, no…” I said – and he responded with “Come on down for an introductory flight!” OH yessss…
As I entered into this new world, I looked at the airspace around me. Not empty. Miles of cubic measures of atmosphere hummed invisibly with busy electrons… electrons passing along communications in strings of Arabic numerals – av-speak. It was the language of aviation: aircraft identifications, compass headings, altitudes – rattled off by male voices (a female voice was an anomaly back then) and I had to learn to understand it, and to speak it. I was breathless. It was all bizarre gibberish, of course. In we had climbed, closed the doors and buckled our belts. The panel full of dials in front of me was puzzling, intimidating, marked with lots of numbers – not my forte. Never mind. We were going to fly! And I was at the controls. We had first done a walk-around outside with explanations of things like hinged wing ailerons, flaps and tail rudder. And I’d seen the tiny hole, static port, on the side – that senses the pressure of passing wind. It works along with air ramming into the Pitot tube to calculate airspeed (that hangs pointing forward from a wing, providing a hidey-hole for bugs… when not flying. So at rest – cover it up .) “Ok… Listen” said the middle-aged, obviously impatient, baggy-eyed instructor. You think you wanna fly? Well then pay attention,” he barked. “Learn it right.” I chose not to be insulted. He explained the enigmatic dials, especially the turn coordinator. “Coordinate, coordinate, coordinate” he said –“with the ailerons and rudder I showed ya, keep that little ball centered, make all your movements smooth and together to get a propah turn,” he rumbled. “Use a light touch. Think fragile eggs. It will take lots of practice.” He continued. “To turn right, put some pressure on the right rudder with your right foot, and, with hands on the yoke at the same time, tilt it a bit to the right. When you get the aircraft turning like you want, stabilize its position – take the pressures off foot and yoke…. Now you’re what we call ‘established in the turn.’ See that little ball there? Keep it in the middle.” He pointed to a small round window showing a needle at its bottom that swung left and right, with a ball in the center at its base. The turn coordinator. (In principal, the ball worked like a carpenter’s level.) “But also pull back a little bit on the yoke” he said.
(Yolk? Looked to me like a half steering wheel). “The turn adds weight to the plane, so it wants to sink. It’s physics. You know – centrifugal force.” I only knew centrifugal force from driving around a curve too fast. I nodded, “Right, ok.” Oh no… I’m supposed to understand and do this? I can’t fake it! Slippery little weasel, that plane… wobbling, bobbling and weaving up and down, all over the sky as I over-controlled everything. I laughed at the erratic performance.
Some would have vomited.
He peered at me and said, “It’s not a car! It operates on all the dimensional planes, like a fish – not just the flat one we walk on.” “Right,” I nodded wisely. I could look wise. I had to learn about yaw – the nose’s back and forth action on the vertical axis, that imaginary line up and down through the center of the plane, like a weather vane. Yaw, then, was a back and forth motion eliminated by rudder pressures. And I had to learn to control unwanted pitch, the upsy-downsies of the nose on the horizontal axis (line reaching across the plane, wingtip to wingtip) – often caused by panicked fingers clutching the yoke, pulling it toward you. (Well, you have to hold it up don’t you, to keep it from falling?) And the roll… the danged roll, action around the axis that goes from the nose to the tail. A bead spinning on a string, if you will. No spinning please on any of those three axes. We don’t want rolls, spins, or plunges. (Not till you take up aerobatics…) So we learned about control surfaces, and the fine points of pressures, and skids and slips. Oooofff.
You know about practice? They call it, in lesson-speak, the Law of Frequency. It does make perfect. So learn it right.
Lettuce Free Salad?
Hard to fathom, but there are people in this world who really don’t like lettuce. When they order their juicy cheeseburgers, it’s “hold the lettuce.” The same for any sandwich, even the iconic Club. And when they’re served unrequested side salads (unless spinach of course), they mine it for extraneous items like tomatoes – leaving behind the lettuce, rejected, wilting on the plate. My husband is a lettuce-loather. Sees no reason for it. But these days, fluffy lettuce salads come flaunting wonderful additions like raisins, pine nuts, slices of bell peppers, carrots julienned, grated cheese… Even meats. The fluffy lettuce, of course, being the vehicle to transport goodies into our inner selves. (Who doesn’t know that?)
So how to get these palate picky people to enjoy your salads? Create one without lettuce. One of chilled florets of cauliflower, broccoli, slivered colorful bell peppers –and of course, tomatoes. Those raisins and pine nuts. Even a handful of pecans festooning the top. But the way to lure all this into their gullets, is with a gleaming luscious dressing, a dressing that pops out the vibrant colors of your art. One with a tiny bit of zip, one that will tease the palate into one forkful after another. And don’t forget topping it off with curls, or petals, of avocado (accomplished by a judicious scooping out with a spoon – so quick and easy). Some don’t like avocado. If the slices are not mixed in, just fanning out atop the artwork, they can be pawned off to dining companions, the aficionados. My husband doesn’t like them, nor does he condone the use of cucumber. My father wouldn’t eat those either – said they gave him the “burning burps.” So the cukes are up to you. I find them weak in this combo.
But don’t eschew the avocados or “alligator pears” (southern speak). They are soooo good, and so good for you. Just ring or top the salad with them.
Here’s my dressing suggestion to start you off:
½ Cup good orange juice; ¼ Cup red wine or rice vinegar ( – or a mix thereof); 1/4 C cold pressed olive oil; 2 T ketchup; 1 T mustard; 1 T honey; optional dash of tabasco; several very thin slices of red onion; 1 T dried tarragon. Salt and pepper. Add a bit of water if it needs thinning or extending. If OJ unavailable, no worries. You can use lemon juice or more vinegar, to make the oil-to-vinegar proportions to your liking.
Mix all this up, sample it and adjust to your own preference. Let it sit and chill and meld for a bit in the refrigerator, before drizzling it onto to your heaping mélange of crudités (for the uninitiated, the French word for raw veggies). This salad, unlike the lettuce ones, can be dressed way ahead of time, and kept chilled.
This would sub for cooked vegetables, on the plate – colorful, easy, and toothsome.
In the past, vegetables occupied what they called “the quiet corner” of the plate. No more. Carnivores might even dig into this beauty first!