Conversation with Tom Vitale, Conclusion

October 27, 2021

By Karen

Tom Vitale is author of In the Weeds: Around the World and Behind the Scenes with Anthony Bourdain. Days after the interview excerpt with him that follows, I was watching the Roadrunner documentary DVD and had another “Cats Working May be Haunted” moment related to today’s post.

In the same instant the video shifted to Asia the girlfriend, the table lamp blew its bulb. My light bulbs always fail when I first switch lamps on, not after they’ve been burning a few hours. Maybe it was coincidence, but it creeped me out.

Commenters here have discussed Tom’s treatment of Asia in the book, so I had to ask him about…

Anthony Bourdain’s Last Girlfriend

CW: On page 217, you wrote…

“Tony’s ethic of relentlessly pushing the envelope — the very drive responsible for getting us where we were — had reached such a fever pitch, it felt like the pace was becoming unsustainable.”

It seemed you felt this while you were making the 2016 Rome episode with Asia. Why then? Was she trying to direct? What was the dynamic?

TV: A lot of scene ideas, like the boxing and pasta, and the stornellis [Italian street songs] that were so beautiful, were her idea. Those Roman folk songs are dirty and hilariously dark. She made a lot of creative contributions, but she was definitely not directing the episode. But it was very high stakes because Tony wanted to not fuck it up.

I think that period in general was particularly tough. The shoot with President Obama was coming up and completely top-secret. Constant battles with the accounting department were grating. Tony wanted to do fancier, more expensive things just as they were clamping down on the spending.

CW: Were you on the shoot with Tony and Asia in Southern Italy?

TV: I did do that one, yes.

CW: How were they together then? It seemed joyous. He was in love, and they were having fun at the beach, on the boat. Was the vibe good? Putting it in historical perspective, they had come out as a couple, right?

TV: I think we were in Portugal when they became public in February 2017. And Italy was June 2017.

CW: They were in their honeymoon phase.

TV: But it was an incredibly difficult shoot for a host of reasons. Italy is one of the greatest countries to visit, but also the most difficult and stressful from the production standpoint. For example, we set up this whole scene for a big party at a farm, then at the last minute the police shut us down because the location was being used as refugee resettlement area and it didn’t have the right permits. We lost an entire day of shooting due to some stupid bureaucratic miscommunication. Things like that were happening.

On the other side, I don’t think Tony was ever so nice and happy, to me, as he was on that shoot.

CW: Something we’ve debated at Cats Working is how you went to Rome seeking answers and met with Asia. She asked about his will and supposedly missing fortune. In the book, it seems like the first thing out of her mouth, but was it really further into the conversation?

TV: No, she pretty much opened with that.

CW: So, in so many words you conveyed her priority. Some seemed to fault you because they felt you were giving her a pass. Did she ever take any responsibility at all?

TV: I certainly don’t think she wanted Tony to kill himself. That probably screwed up her life in a lot of ways, too. I’m not saying she handled things the right way, by any stretch of imagination. But in my book — I wasn’t in Hong Kong or Florence — I only write about things I saw.

It was really difficult for me in that when Tony got together with her, he became a lot nicer to me. She was always very good to me. I think it’s unquestionable she played some role in his downfall. I guess I was blinded to the fact that something wrong was happening, whether it was her fault or not, because he got nicer to me.

CW: It sounds like she didn’t feel you were any threat, like maybe she did Zach or Helen.

TV: I knew how important pleasing her was to Tony. I moved mountains to make things happen, whatever he wanted, as I always did for Tony.

CW: Maybe she thought you were her ally. Perhaps you can confirm or debunk a rumor that circulated after he died. Did he ever buy her a house in Rome?

TV: No, he didn’t.

CW: In hindsight, that now makes sense. Where your book made my eyes Boing! out like a cartoon was when Tony told you she would be moving to New York in fall 2018.

TV: That was the plan.

CW: We dodged a bullet there, in a twisted way. The mess it would have created for everyone related to both of them. And to promote her “career,” he’d have found ways to get her in our faces every day.

TV: He was in love. He acted like a teenager about it. But he reacted to a lot of things like a teenager. That was part of his magic. He was really a romantic.

CW: He did have a certain boundless child-like enthusiasm. When he found something he really loved, a place a food, a person… That’s what made him inspiring for so many people. He pulled out all the stops.

TV: Back to the topic of giving Asia too much of a pass, in the book I don’t try to judge. It’s up to the reader, in the same way it was to me, to try to derive meaning from those things. It wasn’t always clear.

CW: I think you were even-handed. The Oral Biography seems more damning.

TV: I’m sure everything in the Oral Biography is true. What I include in my book is what I saw directly.

CW: That’s what sets your book apart. The Biography puts several degrees of separation between Tony and the reader. Your book is firsthand. Plus, you’re fair to the point of being too hard on yourself. Tom, the fact that you could go toe-to-toe with Tony for so many years and survive, while creating amazing TV, is proof that you’re much stronger than you probably think you are.

TV: Tony used to talk about how your greatest humiliations are most entertaining or funny for other people to read. I don’t think I 100% consciously set out to do that. But after having been steeped in Tony’s storytelling process for so long, I see the book is definitely a collection of my biggest fuckups and worst moments and failures. He was right, again. Those do make the most interesting stories.

CW: On page 282 you wrote…

“I’ve struggled with persistent questions of whether he actually cared enough about me to give me his best.”

I think if you can’t picture what his best would have looked like — had it been even better than what you got from him — that answers your question. I believe he did give you his best.

TV: He did.

CW: And I think a lot of people would agree.

BONUS: Tom loves cats.

Tom back home after a shoot, sacked out with the late Frida, aka “Mr. Whiskers”

CW: Being Cats Working, I have to ask about the many random shots of cats on your B roll that made it into the shows.

TV: Tony would joke a lot about my cats and my relationship with cats. I adore cats. So, the camera guys knew whenever a cat was around they would film it, and I’d use it in the edit.

CW: Do you have any cats currently?

TV: I do, Lucy and Tabby.

CW: Are they both females?

TV: They are. Both Tabby and Lucy are tabby white, which is half white, half tabby. But I think Lucy, because of her very distinctive meow and incredible elegance, is actually at least half or mostly Siamese. They’re rescue cats.


Chapter 141: COVID Chronicles

December 21, 2020

By Roc and Karen

Day 282

Karen Get Crafty & Cooky for Christmas & Roc Feels Punky

Roc here…

We’re fans of a blog called Summer’s Fabulous Cat Life, featuring this brilliant Somali therapy cat/supermodel named Summer Samba. If the lovely Tater Tot wasn’t my girlfriend, I could get ideas about Summer, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, Summer’s human posted simple instructions a few years ago on how to make Nip Knots and Karen decided to make us some because we already have just about every toy ever made. She made a few from felt. They did the trick and had us all nipping out — even Tony. Here I am with them…

I’m also sitting on the red flannel Karen bought later to make nip knots for the family kitties. In the foreground you can see our new pinking shears to give the knots jaggedy edges. Karen said it was fortunate she was wearing a mask at Joann Fabrics when that scissors rang up at $35 because her expression was pained.

(In the background, you can also see our faithful Saturn in the driveway.)

I hung around to supervise and inspect the outgoing product…

Here are all the knots, packaged and ready to go (with extra nip to keep them fresh…

Later, I sneezed about 20 times in a row, and it’s been downhill from there. All I had for dinner last night was a few fish flakes because Friskies Shreds just didn’t appeal to me.

Karen was worried we’d be seeing the vet today, but I ate a decent breakfast and did my toilette, if you know what I mean. Still, my nose is hot and dry and I kind of look like the new scissors pinked me around the edges.

Christmas is the only time I ever get sick. My very first Christmas ever, I caught a cold…

So, I’m dictating this from Karen’s bed, curled up under my blankie with only my stuffy nose poking out…

Karen taking over now…

Success with Nip Knots inspired me to tackle Maple Spiced Glazed Nuts after I scored a huge bag of walnuts at Big Lots, but you can use pecans as well.

This recipe says 1 1/2 cups of nuts makes 6-8 servings, but that’s absurd. I multiplied the ingredients below to six cups of nuts (for six portions) because they’re so delicious, they go fast.

Preheat the oven to 375°, with a rack in the middle. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

1 1/2 cups unsalted walnut or pecan halves

3 tablespoons maple syrup

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Put the nuts in a bowl or a bag. Combine everything else separately, then pour the mixture over the nuts and toss to get them all coated. Spread the nuts on the parchment…

VERY IMPORTANT: You must turn the nuts every 2-3 minutes while roasting or THEY WILL BURN. My shortcut is to lift the parchment one side at a time to toss the nuts toward the middle, then I respread them all.

The recipe says roasting takes 8-10 minutes, but it’s closer to 20, including turning time. I do 5-6 rounds of turning, or until the maple syrup dries and congeals on the parchment, like this…

You can roast the nuts as dark as you like, the darker the crunchier. They’ll seem soggy during roasting, but they crisp right up as they cool. My six cups of nuts filled three festive reused Chinese takeout containers (small order size), and about one extra cup…

In addition to snacking, you can serve them on a cheese tray, or use them as garnish for sweet potatoes and salads, or in yogurt or oatmeal.


Chapter 114: COVID Chronicles

July 30, 2020

By Karen

Day 141

Baking Bread & Trump’s Headed For a Fall

Before I get started, Tony sends his regards, relaxing by his favorite mess…

BTW, it’s day 13 and still no sign of the rubber band.

Now, to the kitchen: I don’t care much for the bread my borrowed bread machine puts out, which my parents LOVE, so I made Jacques Pépin’s quick and easy-peasy Soda Bread the other day. I know I made it once before and liked it.

The book it’s from, Essential Pépin, also has a PBS TV series I’m slowly working through. Writing this, I just discovered he makes this bread in episode 17, so I must jump ahead to see that. These are the only ingredients it requires…

You spend no time letting the dough rise because it’s never dough, but a pile of goo…

I think my first mistake was not mixing the milk into the dry ingredients fast enough, and probably stirring it too much.

I lowered the oven rack to accommodate the stainless steel bowl you put over the bread for the first 30 minutes of baking. The bread steams rather than rises because there’s no yeast in it. Warning: Removing the bowl releases steam that can easily scald you. Trust me. Here’s how the bread looked after the bowl came off…

The lowered oven rack was too hot to move, so I think the bread was too close to the heat and the bottom almost burned. I was also worried the parchment paper it was on would catch fire because it got crispy, too. The finished loaf looks decent enough…

It didn’t rise much, and I could have used a chainsaw to cut it, but once I did manage to break some off, it tasted good with butter.

My third mistake was putting the loaf in the fridge because I couldn’t really slice it thin for freezing. Now it’s like a paving stone. Tonight I may try to whack some off, soak it in egg, and make French toast. I think that’s my only hope to salvage it.

Meanwhile, COVID creeps ever closer to Trump. Dipshit Texas Congressman Louis Gohmert has it now, blames it on wearing a mask, and will treat himself with hydroxychloroquine. I wish he’d asked his witch-doctor for a Clorox enema.

Every time Trump wears a face mask, which must be disorienting, Trump flirts with face-planting on camera. He was in North Carolina the other day and fell backward (splayed hands to steady), then lurched into a jerky little bow before he could settle into his knuckle-dragging ape stance to balance…

When Trump inevitably does fall, he’ll blame the mask. Ninety-six more days before we vote and send that monster to hell, where he belongs.

THIS JUST IN: No sooner had I pressed “Publish” on this post than I came across the news that Trump’s BFF Herman Cain has died of COVID, after a month in the hospital, after have the last time of his life at Trump Tulsa rally. Wonder if Trump will skip Cain’s funeral the way he dissed Rep. John Lewis this week?


Chapter 93: COVID Chronicles

June 29, 2020

By Karen

Day 110

With Trump, No Surprises Left & I Get Creative with Leftovers

As if it weren’t enough for Trump to be killing us in droves with COVID at home, we learn he’s been happy to let Russia take out our soldiers by proxy in Afghanistan.

It seems Putin pays the Taliban bounties for American hides. And Trump now denies that he and Pence have known it for months.

I’ll concede it’s possible that Trump, with his dwindling mental capacity, has no memory of it. And Pence’s standard line for everything is, “Nobody never tells me nuttin’ about nuttin’.”

And maybe whenever Chickenshit Cheetos Cadet Bone Spurs salutes a soldier, it’s not his secret “Fuck You!” signal to our generals because he’s been helping his BFF Vladdy wipe out U.S. troops without wasting any Russian bullets.

When did we make it OK for presidents who commit cut-and-dried treason say, “You can’t blame me for treason because I’m too mentally incapacitated, but you still have to let me run the country”?

What I find most tedious about this latest crime is everyone’s totally predictable outrage and continuing questions.

If there’s one thing 100% consistent about Trump, whether he’s manifesting any heinous human trait you can imagine, or behaving with such depravity that it defies description, it’s that it’s always EXACTLY as bad as it looks.

Trump has NEVER said or done anything that left anyone saying, “Well, that certainly wasn’t as bad as we feared.”

Moreover, it usually gets worse as you peel away the putrid layers of corruption that envelop everything he touches.

These bounties will be no different. Trump has been green-lighting Putin’s Kill-Americans-for-Fun-and-Profit project.

Don’t be surprised if it’s eventually revealed that Putin pays Trump a percentage on every American kill. Trump’s never been one to pass up an opportunity to demand a cut for his beneficence. This will probably be no exception.

Back on the culinary front, last night I had leftover beef lo mein in the fridge from my favorite takeout place, China Taste. I jazzed it up with onions and broccoli doused in soy sauce and sesame oil, and sprinkled it with bits of boneless pork spare ribs. It turned out delicious…

For today’s lunch, I still haven’t bought lunchmeat, and had only a dab of Mediterranean pasta salad left. It swims in olive oil, so I added some diced tomato sprinkled with oregano. Then a few Kalamata olives. And for protein I had some hard salami sitting around, so why not? For that touch of green, capers. Finished off with feta cheese. Voila! Tasty little lunch…

Speaking of lo mein, does anybody know a good recipe for whatever’s on the noodles? I’ve tried several, but have never been able to duplicate that restaurant taste.


Chapter 82: COVID Chronicles

June 18, 2020

By Karen

Day 99

It’s Tough Being a Statue & My Tasty Tuna Salad

Richmond’s down to 10 Confederate statues (from 13). Earlier this week, protesters spray-painted and yanked off its pedestal a rather nondescript one called “Richmond Howitzers.” I’m sure I’ve driven past it multiple times over the years, but can’t say I ever noticed it existed until it bit the dust…

Alexa Welch Edlund/AP

I think my Yankee-bred radar has conditioned itself to ignore Civil War blips because they never quit. It even comes up in some of my work, in academic contexts.

But Richmond being Richmond, some tit for tat to Black Lives Matter was inevitable. Yesterday someone spray-painted White Lives Matter graffiti on the pedestal of tennis hero Arthur Ashe’s statue. I’m not a tennis fan, but the Ashe statue is truly fascinating. I get creeped out every time I see it…

Sports Illustrated

He’s posed as if he’s about to serve a stack of books. And what’s with those sawed-off children? They’re straight out of Stephen King.

The Ashe statue was placed on Monument Avenue in 1996 after a protracted battle to get it there. But they made sure he was well apart from the Confederates. Here’s a rough map of where they all sit…

Sacred Ground Historical Reclamation Project

After erecting the statue, believe it or not, Richmond honored Ashe AGAIN.

Richmond had this wide old street named just “The Boulevard.” It’s home to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and the new “Rumors of War” statue, and crosses Monument Avenue at one point. One year ago, on June 22, The Boulevard was renamed Arthur Ashe Blvd.

There’s some talk of renaming myriad streets around here that have Confederate names. But if they start on that path, it will directly affect a large portion of the population, cost a fortune for address changes, and nobody will be able to find anything anymore.

Footnote: I didn’t mention this because it wasn’t initially reported, but when the statue of former Confederate President Jefferson Davis was pulled down, his face got bashed in. I don’t know if it happened in the fall or deliberately. Assuming no one will pay to restore him, he’s probably toast. It’s all for the best.

Back on the home front, I’m out of lunchmeat. I only buy it at Aldi because it costs considerably more in Food Lion, so today I made tuna salad for lunch. It never turns out the same way twice, depending on what I have on hand.

I do prefer giving it crunch with radishes over celery because 1) radishes are spicier, and 2) I can never use up a bunch of celery before it goes bendy.

I eyeball the quantities and use just enough mayo make it hang together. Old Bay seasoning is excellent on just about any fish (and popcorn!). Here’s all I threw into this batch and it turned out delicious…

Of course, as soon as they heard the can opener, Tony and Roc came running for tuna juice. I gave them some of the plain people tuna as well, but Roc turned up his nose and left it for Tony.

By the way, Roc sends his regards. Windows are open today and he’s enjoying the outdoors from a kitty perch…

Max, still determined to keep his new spot on the couch, has been there since breakfast. He’s got amazing bladder capacity…

Tony just brought to my attention his resemblance to the little cat drawing that’s hung for years above the Kitty Condo near Clark Gable…

BTW, we’re all prepping Tony to watch his first Triple Crown race Saturday, the Belmont. We’ll see if horses are his thing. Adele would be so pleased.

 


Chapter 79: COVID Chronicles

June 15, 2020

By Karen

Day 96

Meatloaf Results & Trump’s Dirt About to Become an Avalanche

It’s a gloomy, drizzly Monday. After owning the couch again last night, Max is spending today upstairs. The temperature is in the low 60os, so I opened windows to air the place out, which immediately had my office crawling with cats…

Last night I made the meatloaf from yesterday’s video recipe. I used the same amounts of everything despite being four ounces short on ground turkey. I was afraid that was a mistake when the raw loaf looked more like mushroom laced with meat than meatloaf. But I forged ahead. Here it is before I baked it (left) and after 50 minutes in a 400o oven, which was long enough to cook it thoroughly…

You can see how it expanded and cracked, but there wasn’t any grease. Two thin slices I cut off broke in half, but it didn’t totally crumble. And it was the moistest meatloaf I’ve ever eaten. Although it didn’t taste like mushrooms, it was a little bland. Prepping is a lot more work with cooking onions, garlic and mushrooms, but I’d definitely make it this way again. Can anyone suggest an herb or spice that might jazz up the flavor while keeping it meatloafy?

It was too loose to move, so I lifted it foil and all from the baking tray into my storage container…

The upside: no cleanup!

Maybe you’ve heard that Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton’s tell-all book about Trump comes out on June 23 despite Trump’s threats to sue. The Room Where it Happened is full of misdeeds Bolton should have told Congress during the impeachment when he could have helped get Trump removed.

Since COVID-19 blasted Bolton right out of the news, I hope his belated bombshells result in poor sales and be greeted with, “You call this news? Trump’s killed 117,000 people (and counting) since he pulled this stupid shit. Get a life.”

Bolton flogging dead horses for fame and profit feels like the MAGA crowd still going on and on about Hillary’s emails. It’s pointless and meaningless.

But ANOTHER book called Too Much and Never Enough comes out August 11. The author is Trump’s 55-year-old niece who has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, Mary Trump.

Mary is the daughter of Trump’s older brother Fred Jr., who died prematurely in 1981, when Mary was about 16. Fred Jr. was an alcoholic whom Trump claims turned him off booze forever (so instead Donny snorts drugs, whose dust is sometimes sprinkled on his lapel).

Mary is purportedly the family insider who helped The New York Times on their Pulitzer Prize-winning exposé of Trump’s finances.

Her main beef with Trump probably began in 2000. Details about that are in this Business Insider article. But it boils down to Trump and his siblings’ indulging their greed by cruelly trying to block health care for their late brother’s children, Mary and Fred III, when Fred III had an infant son with cerebral palsy. They were all fighting over Fred Sr.’s will, which omitted Fred Jr.’s portion of the inheritance.

If any book might bury Trump under more damning personal dirt than even he can lie his way out of before November, this knife in the guts from a member of his own family has a shot.

BONUS: Brilliant Sarah Cooper, using Trump’s own words, shows us “How to Lincoln”…


Chapter 78: COVID Chronicles

June 14, 2020

By Karen

Day 95

Trump’s Self-Inflicted Birthday-Eve Fiasco & Roc Meets His Match

Today is Trump’s 74th birthday. He celebrated at his golf club in New Jersey to elude protesters swarming around the White House.

Yesterday, he gave his first and last commencement speech at West Point, where he bumbled references in the prepared test to “Ulyssius S. Grant” and “General Douglas MaGarther” (the latter several times, even though he’s said to be a big MacArthur fan). When he ad libbed that today is his birthday, he got almost no reaction.

He was also seen again using two hands to drink from a water glass and he crept down the ramp (video) from the podium post-speech in baby steps, with a soldier spotting him, lest he face-plant.

Of course, he was all “it was the ramp’s fault,” tweeting…

We know the truth. We have the video. His only honest observation was no handrail.

Over 1,000 socially distanced cadets were forced into two weeks of quarantine before they could sit in the hot sun and listen to Trump bloviate. The setting greatly muted whatever applause or laughter he got, which must have pissed Trump off no end.

But I know you’re really dying to hear how it went with Max last night. When I settled down for some TV, Max was still on the couch in Roc’s spot. Roc checked it out from all angles, seeming genuinely perplexed by this new development…

Max ignored him, and Roc finally gave up. He wrapped himself in the blankie and sat with me…

When I went to bed, Max went upstairs to the Man Cave. But this morning he promptly came down for breakfast, and then went straight back to the couch. When Max picks a new spot to hang out, he can stay there for months. So far, Roc accepts this arrangement, but he’s not pleased. (Max is the black blob with white whiskers)…

What impresses me most is how Max quietly asserted himself without lifting a paw. It’s more than I can say for the Richmond police. Last night, protesters were again rallying peacefully around the Lee monument when a police SUV inexplicably drove up onto the sidewalk to cut through them “like a knife through butter,” as Trump would describe it. Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt…

Tonight I’m making a new turkey meatloaf recipe that uses mushrooms to keep it moist. I’ve never tried this. Here’s a 3-minute video that shows the recipe far better than I can…

The recipe calls for 92% lean turkey and mine is only 85% lean. The meatloaf in the video doesn’t look very firm. That’s my problem with meatloaf; it always falls apart. I’ll let you know how it goes.

PS: After checking my remaining shopping list and finding no “must have now” items on it, I skipped my Aldi trip today. I’m so predictable.


Chapter 62: COVID Chronicles

May 29, 2020

By Karen

Day 79

Another Tree Gone & Chihuahuas ROCK! (Shh… don’t tell the cats!)

Woke up to chainsaws and a wood chipper roaring suspiciously close by. Roc and Tony were dying for me to get up and open the blinds so they could see what was going on. The house across the street was losing a large tree in front.

I saw them grind up a big dead section, so maybe it needed to come down, but I hate it when any tree goes. Without that shade, they’re going to love their air conditioning bills this summer.

The house next door to them had EVERY tree removed by its latest owner. She’s the only one on the block with an actual lawn. But I wonder why anybody who prefers the prairie would buy a house in a neighborhood with a mature forest. Her house isn’t any safer; lots of neighbors’ trees could still fall on it.

Anyway, my not-chives are five days in the pot and coming along. They have a new leader, and the new runt has a microscopic shoot…

I’ve tried to determine the difference between chives vs. scallions vs. green onions vs. spring onions and, as far as I’m concerned, they’re interchangeable. Chives apparently aren’t as oniony. The others have thicker green stalks.

According to the link above and thekitchn.com, green onions and scallions are different names for the same thing. Spring onions are mature scallions/green onions.

I guess if what I’m growing ever gets pink flowers, I’ve got chives. Since I only use the greens as I’d use chives, that’s what I’m calling them. The differences between the others are all about the bulbs’ size and taste. Some people who cook with scallions throw away the greens altogether. Since my bulbs are staying underground, what kind they are is moot to me.

If I’ve never mentioned it before, I have a thing for talking animals. I love them all. For a COVID escape last night, I watched Disney’s Beverly Hills Chihuahua 3: Viva la Fiesta! (now on HBO Family)…

It stars Chloe, the original pampered Beverly Hills Chihuahua. She’s married to Papi Cortez, a scrappy Chihuahua who grew up on the mean streets of Mexico. They have five puppies, four boys and a girl, and belong to a young couple looking for a new place to live. In exchange for free room and board, the humans are hired for menial jobs at a posh hotel that caters to guests with dogs because the hotel manager wants to use glamorpuss Chloe for marketing.

The story is all about the dogs, with the humans as subplots. It’s filled with music, romance, mystery, drama, adventure and lots of laughs. The highlight is a colorful and joyous canine quinceañera that Papi hosts for his little girl, Rosa.

The amazingly talented cast is real dogs and they talk. What’s not to love?

I’m a cat person, but I enjoyed this sweet movie so much, it’s one I could watch again and again.

 


Chapter 56: COVID Chronicles

May 23, 2020

By Karen

Day 73

ABCs & Mail-In Ballot Retraction

I woke up at 9:30 and it threw the whole day off. Doing chores, I went outside to sweep tree crap off the deck and my new sliding glass door went wonky and refused to close all the way — by about 2 inches. Now there’s a gap at the top you can see daylight through. I had to physically lift the door above the track to close it and then slide a wad of cardboard under one end (best done by two people, BTW) to balance it enough to lock it until one of my handymen texts me back about a fix. I have every reason to believe they will ghost me on this.

The stress of finding this new home repair project (with its security implications in the meantime) propelled my masked self out the front door on a vodka run. But first, some context: Virginia controls all hard liquor sales through state-owned ABC stores (but you can buy beer and wine anywhere). This is solely due to a mix of latter-day prudishness and greed.

When I travel, it always amazes me when I see someone nonchalantly picking up tampons and Jack Daniels at Walgreens.

Anyway, I live equidistant between two ABCs, and my father told me yesterday that COVID had closed one of those. So I drove to the other one.

Well, guess what? Also closed. The sign directed me to the “nearest” store, in a dicey part of town I avoid. At this point, anyone with a functioning sliding glass door who didn’t need a stiff martini would have just gone to Food Lion for beer and been done with it.

But I knew of a fourth store, so I took the scenic route there to give my Saturn a highway workout because it hasn’t been driven in two weeks. It was open and everybody was wearing masks.

Yesterday, Governor Northam said he’ll probably make wearing masks in public mandatory on Tuesday. I don’t know what’s magical about Tuesday, but will love watching all the Trumpers who paraded around the state capitol in their cute little camo outfits with assault weapons stick that mask decree right up their Second Amendments.

RETRACTION: If you live in Virginia’s 7th District, forget what I said about getting a mail-in ballot. Upon returning from the ABC, I had a letter from the county registrar’s office saying my application was denied because the only Democratic primary is in the 4th District. Is my face red!

I blame the pathetic Richmond Times-Dispatch, the only newspaper available in this region, which I read front to back EVERY DAY. I pay attention to this stuff and had no idea what’s going on with the primaries. The RTD is so intent on keeping Trump’s crimes buried, local political news must also be getting lost — or going unreported. In their newsroom, who has time for CURRENT events when you’ve got pages to fill with Civil War developments and sports that aren’t being played?

For dinner tonight I had some leftover baked chicken thigh, so threw it together with rice, onions, green beans and BBQ sauce. Here’s what I mean about having no patience for caramelizing onions…

That’s as brown as they got before I ate them. They were good. Now I need a drink.

BONUS: The amazing Sarah Cooper telling us “How to Obamagate”…


Chapter 55: COVID Chronicles

May 22, 2020

By Karen

Day 72

Fat Chives & A Big Batch of Beans

I think the chives (scallions, whatever) are ready to harvest. It’s amazing how they regenerated in just 12 days. The pointy ones are new shoots, the flat-tops are regrowth of the originals from Food Lion…

And here’s the poor runt, Day 10 to Day 12…

It grew, but come on, runt! Over the weekend I’ll cut them back and plant the bulbs (including runt) in potting soil to see what happens. The cats will take more interest in this new phase of the experiment because they love digging in dirt.

Last night I made pork and beans for my father because my mother isn’t much into fiber. I use 16 oz. of dried Great Northern beans, and usually soak them overnight. But time was short, so I just rinsed and boiled them hard. Naturally, my culinary kitty supervised…

Once boiling, I added kosher salt to the water, lowered the heat to a simmer and covered. They took about 90 minutes to soften. Meanwhile, I assembled and had my ingredients inspected by the FDA (Feline Dietary Authority), who made sure there was extra bacon so I’d have to offer a bribe in exchange for his approval…

I eyeball everything, so I can’t give specific quantities except there’s a large diced onion and six strips of crumbled bacon.

Originally, my intent was to make beans that look like what’s in a can, but not mushy. Depending on whether you want them tomatoey, tangy or sweet, you can go heavier on whatever you like. You can’t break this recipe.

First, I add the onion. Usually I’ll sautée it, but I was on a deadline so I threw it in raw.

Then go heavy squirts of ketchup and BBQ sauce, followed by lesser amounts of mustard, molasses, honey, and the bacon crumbled. I used to use brown sugar instead of honey, but found honey is tastier. This is what they look like after I throw in everything…

Then I stir…

Covering again, I left them on very low heat to cook the onions and meld the flavors. For richer color, I did end up adding more ketchup and BBQ sauce.

After an hour of simmering, they were done, but a bit too tart for my taste, so I gave them another heavy squirt of molasses. That did the trick. I think molasses is the key to the richness I’m going for.

Once cool, I put half-cup servings into Ziploc® bags for freezing. This batch made 5 1/2 cups. Bags save a lot of space; the beans slip out cleanly after thawing. Tony gave his final inspection before I put them in the fridge overnight…

My father just picked them up. He likes them with a couple of hot dogs. It’s a New England thing.


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