Getting to Know My Father’s Funny Bone

BrockLast April, my father passed away. That event, for me, was sad-ish, but not tragic or heart breaking. In life as I knew him, my father, Brock Brower, was not an easy person. In fact, he was downright difficult and sometimes scary -- not an easy combination for a child, or a teen, or even a young adult.

Since his death, though, I’ve come to know and remember him differently. My father was a writer, and in the past few months I’ve had the gift of the words he left behind, which have provided a sort of access to his inner world.

While he was alive, my father never overtly encouraged any of his family to read his work, which included several books, short stories, numerous articles and a large collection of poetry written during his last years. He did give us copies of his books from time to time, and would share special poems written for weddings, anniversaries and birthdays. He had a masterful, comprehensive and sometimes impenetrable vocabulary, and we considered ourselves ahead of the game if we understood half of what he read at those events.

One of his dying wishes, however, was that I and my four siblings celebrate his life with a reading of his work. To do this, I had to read it. I was initially dreading the preparations for the memorial event, but once I started I learned something new about my father: Underneath all his bloviating was a really funny guy who could make me laugh out loud, long and loudly.

Read more: Getting to Know My Father’s Funny Bone

You Know How To Whistle, Don't You Steve?

aladdinIt was a rough week for movie fans.

First, comedian Robin Williams died after suffering from severe depression for many years. His death sent the world into shock and prompted moving tributes from fellow comedians Whoopi Goldberg and Billy Crystal, describe the loss, and from President Obama, who made a nod to Williams’ debut as an alien on the TV show "Mork and Mindy:" “He arrived in our lives as an alien -- but he ended up touching every element of the human spirit.”

The next day, actress and Hollywood legend Lauren Bacall died at the age of 89. With her debut in the 1944 film “To Have and Have Not” alongside the man who would become her husband, Humphrey Bogart, Bacall projected “an indelible screen persona: that of the tough, quick-witted American woman who could fight the good fight alongside her man,” noted The New York Times in its obit.
Everyone has their favorite movies and favorite moments from these two very talented stars. Here are my picks (with a big thank you to YouTube):

Read more: You Know How To Whistle, Don't You Steve?

Joining the Sharing Economy. The Real One.

Anita and her family lived next door to the first home my husband and I ever owned, in a quaint San Francisco neighborhood. I knew from the start we would get along -- she brought over a plate of homemade Greek butter cookies to welcome us.
Over the next few years, Anita, her husband, and her teenaged son became good friends, helping us with babysitting, driving me to the doctor when my toddler was injured and I was too shaky to get behind the wheel, and inviting us over for many dinners with their extended family of relatives and close friends.
From her, I learned about parenting, about Greek traditions, and about how to fight to win after a disgruntled neighbor threatened to destroy our close-knit neighborhood association by suing everyone she disagreed with. But that’s another story for another day.
What really made the day-to-day so great, and why I still think of Anita as the best neighbor I’ve ever had, is that she introduced me to the joys of cooperative cooking, or dinner swaps. She’d call me in the morning, telling me she planned on baking a ham that day or letting me know she was whipping up a tray of spanakopita. I’d make the vegetables and a salad. Come dinner time, we’d swap platters and dinner was done. When you’re a working parent with small kids, having a delicious meal without going through an enormous effort is a huge deal.
We'd also split the bounty from our visits to the local farmer’s market, which took turns visiting on the weekends. And when she baked, I knew my cookie jar would be full – and it would prompt me to return the favor my baking the cookies and cakes that came easily to me.
I thought about Anita recently as I was listening to NPR on the drive to work last week and heard Chris Kimball, host of America’s Test Kitchen, talk about the foods we should make at home rather than buy at a store. His list of foods, easy to make and more cost-effective when homemade, include graham crackers, instant-aged balsamic vinegar, and coconut-milk whipped cream (dairy free).

My first thought was, ‘Who the heck has time to make all that stuff?’ But then I thought about my years living next door to Anita. We would have divided and conquered, with her baking the graham crackers and me whipping up the coconut-milk cream so our families could both enjoy a homemade and easy dessert.
This is the kind of sharing economy I can get behind (like carpools, the original ride share system.)  I realized, since moving away from Anita and dealing with a bigger job that leaves me even less time at home, that I haven’t synced up with any of my current neighbors on sharing food adventures.  
And that’s a shame, because I have a completely fabulous recipe for olive oil crackers. They’re quick and easy to make and taste so much better than the expensive gourmet ones you’ll find in stores. It takes less than half an hour to whip up a batch that can easily feed eight people (more if there are kids in the mix).
I encourage you to try it out – but only after you find a neighbor or friend willing to make hummus or some other spread. That way you can share the load. -- Connie Guglielmo
Easy Olive Oil Cracker Bread
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh chopped rosemary
1 ¾ cup unbleached white flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt (I use sea salt)
½ cup water
1. Mix olive oil with rosemary. Let sit for 30 minutes or more so the oil is infused with flavor from the herb.
2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
3. Put flour in a bowl and add the baking powder and salt. Then make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the water and olive oil. Mix, knead and form into a ball.
4. Break the ball up into 4 smaller balls.
5. Roll out each ball into a thin sheet. How thin? Well, this is a matter of opinion. I don’t like my crackers super thin because I think they get too brittle and break up into dust when you bite into them. But if you make them too thick, then your crackers can be gummy. So do a test on the first one -- roll it out to the thinness of flat bread, bake it and see what happens. Then you can adjust for the next cracker.
6. Place the rolled out dough onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment. If you have a baking stone, place the parchment right on the stone. Bake for about 6 to 8 minutes. Baking time will depend on your oven and how crispy you want the cracker. Again, do a test with that first dough ball and see how it goes.
* Note: Once you get the gist of making the cracker bread, try substituting the chopped roasted garlic for the rosemary. The key, as I note above, is to put the garlic in the olive oil and let it sit for a while before you mix your dough. Trust me, it just tastes better that way.
July 31, 2014

Missed our last issue? Here you go:
A *Third* Helping of No-Calorie Comfort Food for the Brain

If you liked this story, you might also like:
Breakfast, Solved
Confessions of a Tomato Snob
Hot Bread in 30 Minutes. No Fuss. No Fooling.
Got a story idea? Think we're fabulous? Email us at more [at] onethingnew [dot] com, follow us on twitter, or visit us on facebook. And help us spread the word. We appreciate your help in getting the word out about what we're up to!

Image courtesy of Rebecca Siegel 

Dress, Perfected

thedressI recently fell back in love with dresses. I’m not sure when or why I fell out of love, but at some point it became much easier to wear tops and bottoms. Now that I’m in love again, I can’t quite fathom why I haven’t always worn dresses. 


How did I fall back in love? I went into Jeremys Department Store in San Francisco one day looking for something -- who knows what. That’s not a usual haunt for me, or typical shopping behavior. But I walked in, looked around and snagged a dress that was in a print featuring my favorite acid green. Even better, it was an Alberta Ferretti, which, at full price, is out of my comfort zone. It needed a belt, but otherwise was the perfect dress for me. The salesperson was taken aback when I came out of the tiny dressing room to get a better look. She went off to find a belt, and while waiting for her, I discovered pockets. Yes, this dress, that felt like it was made for me, had side pockets -- which were completely camouflaged so no one else would ever notice they were there. At this point I was in a swoon. I grabbed the dress and hurried to the register before I could question my purchase.


This dress truly showed its stuff when I was in New York a couple of years later. I forgot to pack the lower half of most of the outfits I  intended to bring. It was hot, so a sleeveless dress that skimmed without grabbing was just what I needed. I wore that dress, in comfort, to a matinee performance of Master Class with Tyne Daley, followed by an afternoon of drinking, then dinner. I wore it shopping, out to a fancy lunch, and to another dinner. We hit the Met, got on and off the subway, and in and out of cabs. 


The dress was perfect. I got compliments on it, dealt quite well with the East Coast heat, and forgot that I was wearing the same thing over and over again.

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To Every Thing, There Really Is a Season

When I think of June, a few things come to mind. The end of the school year. The start of summer. Father’s Day and graduation ceremonies. Sundresses, sandals and coconut-scented sunscreen. Barbecues, lightning bugs and summer storms. 
But one thing stands out more than anything else: cherries. They’re my absolute favorite, and for a few weeks in June, when I go to the farmer’s market on Tuesday at the Ferry Building in San Francisco, I know I’ll find the sweetest, most delicious cherries. I also know that I have just a few short weeks to enjoy them. Though I can buy cherries for a few months here in California, the ones sold after the Fourth of July just don’t taste as good to me.
Which got me thinking about the whole cycle of life thing -- at least when it comes to fruits and vegetables. My mother and grandmothers, who were raised in the country, could tell me what fruits and vegetables are in season at any given time of the year. But beyond knowing that cherries, tomatoes, basil and watermelon are summertime enjoyments, I’m fairly clueless about the best time to buy certain foods.
I blame my ignorance in part on globalization. Supermarkets now carry fruits and vegetables shipped in from other places at all times of the year, making it difficult to get a sense of seasonality. And that’s a crying shame. Because anyone who’s eaten a Ranier or Bing cherry at the height of the growing season knows that it’s a taste you just can’t beat.
Of course, my ignorance also sent me on quest to find out just what I’m supposed to be buying when I ‘buy local.’ So I found a “What’s in season” buying chart for Northern California and got up to speed. These charts are available for all parts of the country, but here are 10 things I learned.
1. Almonds and apple come into their own in August through November, while May, June and July are the best months to buy apricots.
2. Avocados are harvested year round. And avocado pits are an excellent source of  fabric dyes. If you boil them, you get a fabulous deep-purple ink or dye.
3. Chestnuts, which I associate with the Christmas holidays, are actually harvested in September. I found a whole bunch of recipes that use chestnuts. Let me just say if you ever make chestnut fritters and need a taste tester, give me a call.

4. Figs come in June and July, and then again in September and October.
5. Lemons and oranges are in season year-round, though I always thought that oranges were at their peak in December. Or maybe I thought that because the kids in the Dickens’ novels always got oranges in their Christmas stockings as a treat.
6.  Peaches are harvested between May and October, and pears between August and November. If you haven’t tried grilling peaches (brush them with a little melted butter), you don’t know what you’re missing. And if you’re into smoothies, I recommend adding half a pear. It’s incredible.
7. Raspberries and strawberries are both in season May through November, though you can find some strawberries a few months earlier.
8. Beets, bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, kale, leeks, lettuce, mushrooms and spinach are grown year round, but if you’re into green beans, then buy them fresh June through September.
9. Potatoes, which you'd think would be a year-round crop, are in season June, July and August.
10. Corn on the cob should be enjoyed June through October.
If you don’t live in California like me, I encourage you to go to Google and search out the ‘What’s in season’ charts for your area. There’s a really good reason, beyond enjoying great tasting food: Buying fruits and vegetables when they’re plentiful means you can buy them for less. Buy in bulk and then freeze, pickle or jammify (if that’s not a word, it should be) them to enjoy later in the year. I like to freeze strawberries, pears, bananas, blueberries and raspberries and use them to make smoothies.
As for the cherries, I make sure I get my fill in June. -- Connie Guglielmo 

June 5, 2014

Missed our last issue? Here you go:
Be The Sugar Cookie

If you liked this story, you might also like:
Eat Fresh, Eat Local, All Summer Long
Tasty Treats, Hot off the Grill
Apples and Domestic Happiness

Got a story idea? Think we're fabulous? Email us at more [at] onethingnew [dot] com, follow us on twitter, or visit us on facebook. And help us spread the word. We appreciate your help in getting the word out about what we're up to!

Image courtesy of flickr user David Wright 

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True Love