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Experimenting on foods.


One Too Many
The Barbary Coast
Over The Holidays, a cousin gave me this plant. No explanation. Just, "here, take this".

It was winter, and the plant had lush green leaves, and flowers.

Over The Winter, it grew this thing. I didn't recognize it, or know what it was. Bigger than an egg. Smaller than an orange.


I saw the same in the market. It's called a pepino. I asked the produce clerk. She didn't know what to do with it or how to eat it. They don't train them anymore. Gone are the days of the store produce department manager actually teaching the clerks about the inventory. No more cutting them open for a tasting.

So I cut it up, and ate it for dinner.


Not something I would buy.


One Too Many
The Barbary Coast
She was some sort of refugee. Indo-Chinese family from Vietnam, with a few French ancestors when Vietnam was colonial. By way of a refugee camp in Thailand, with a stopover in Australia. She was born and raised in Australia, and speaks with the accent. Here in America, she's like any other mixed race mutt, who speaks with an accent.

I'm just a boy from Chinatown.

I was in Pahrump. Waiting on a cell phone call. Questionable coverage in those days, when the cell phone was the size of a loaf of bread. To kill time, I decided to roll over to a local brothel for a beer and a burger. Brothels aren't busy on a Tuesday morning at 0600. I declined the line-up, for fear of what might come out of the back. There was no bartender. No waiter. No cook. The manager told me to have a seat, and she would send out one of the girls.

What? Suzie Wong? You've got to be kidding me. You couldn't come up with a better stage name?

"Not so loud, you idiot. Suzie Vuong. And that's my real name. What do you want? You're not here to REDACTED. The madam sent me out here because all the workers are gone. I don't get paid for this, you know. I'm not here to wait on tables."

Why did they send her out? Because you're some sort of half-Asian and I look like Yan Can Cook in leather pants?

"Because I'm new. My first week. I've got to do whatever they tell me, if I want to make money here. So I've got to come out when everyone else doesn't want to. Like right now. 6 AM on Tuesday morning. And you're not even here to REDACTED."

I wanted beer and a burger. She said that she didn't know how to cook a burger. Since nobody else was around or awake, I told her to show me the kitchen. It was pretty well stocked. There were strip loin steaks in the fridge, so I grabbed a few. Half dozen eggs. Some veggies. I asked her if she knew what nuoc mam was.

"Of course. What do you think? I have some in my room."

This is the part where I didn't know whether to laugh, or cry. People carry their own condiments. I've never carried around a bottle of soy sauce. But Hillary Clinton was known to carry a bottle of hot sauce in her purse. And a hooker in the desert had a bottle of fish sauce.

I tell her that I'll make breakfast for both of us. I count off a few bills, and hand her $100. I'll expense this out of petty cash. I tell her to put whatever into the cash register for the house, and keep the rest as a tip. She wasn't wearing much. Lingerie. She tucked the bills next to her hips on the waistband of her string panty. I guess the bar's register will not ring up a sale, and she's getting $100 tip.

NY steak, 3 poached eggs, and pickled vegetables. Cabbage, raisins, carrot, cucumber - fish sauce, sugar, lime juice, vinegar.


"What the REDACTED is this? It's not coleslaw. It's not Vietnamese. All the ingredients are wrong. There's no daikon. Are you just mocking me?"

No. It's from Chinatown. Like me. Where everything is little bit of different Asian and American, with whatever else might happen to find it's way in. Sort of like you. A Chinese girl, with green eyes. And a 'down under' accent.

Then the shoe box sized phone rang. I answered. The Captain said for me to swing by Long Beach and see the Khmers before I came home. Make sure that I have clean underwear for a few days. They're very clean people, and are easily offended by body odor. A-Firm. I'm having breakfast with a hooker. I'll saddle up within the hour. Let them know I'm enroute.

I put the phone away and continue eating. I really enjoy red meat. It's sinful. Like drinking beer at 6 in the morning. Or shamelessly staring at the hooker's body. It's not my fault that she is wearing lacy, see through lingerie.

The meal was mostly in silence. There was nothing about myself I wanted to tell her, and nothing about her that I wanted to ask. Mostly me drinking a few more beers, and staring at her body. But that girl ate. She ate and drank like they didn't feed her. She ate as much as I did. She had 3 beers, with a steak and 3 eggs.

She says, "can I leave with you?"


One Too Many
The Barbary Coast
In the days of my youth, I had a training officer who was really old. On his way out, as I was coming into The Life.

One of his main teaching points, was eating. Meals. On long shifts, and overtime, you have to find sustenance. This guy would find food, no matter where we went, or what the assignment was. Mostly, we got free meals.

Hotels downtown, we got into the employee cafeteria. Same food as the guests ate in the dining rooms or from room service carts. The airport was a buffet. There were restaurants, employee cafeterias, and in-flight catering companies who stocked the planes. Suppose a 737 has 20 1st class seats. The plane stocks every meal option for those in 1st class. 20 of each chicken, fish, steak, vegetarian meals, plus extra snacks, etc. At the end of the flight, there's always at least 60 or 80 leftover, unserved 1st class meals. Today, companies like Google, FaceBook, and Tesla have corporate cafeterias where the employees get gourmet meals. Hospitals and jails always have a surplus of food.

This guy had a knack for knowing people who would feed him. We could go to The Wharf, walk in the loading door of a seafood restaurant, and get fed oysters. In the industrial part of town, a food processing plant gave us a 5 gallon bucket of meatballs. My favorite was this Afghan place that would load us up with ziplock freezer bags full of rice and lamb. There was an Eastern European guy who was the lead cook at a nursing home, who would make these cabbage rolls on certain days. We would get it in rinsed out milk cartons. The jail used to get milk in boxes like boxed wine. Plastic bladder with a spigot. I remember an inmate kitchen worker ripping open the cardboard, and handing him the the plastic bag full of milk. 10 liters of milk. Unorthodox to say the least. But I got used to eating that way.

So there I was today, at a secured government facility. I had a lot to drink the night before. I was literally there, just to be there. No work assignment. Just be on "stand by". If they needed me to do anything, it was better to have me on the premises, than to have to call me to come in. Typical of the way government and large institutions spend extra money to save money. I found a parking space between a utility trailer and a dumpster. Since the utility trailer was for a backup power generator, it was secured. Another guy with a dog was guarding it. I decide to open all the windows for ventilation, climb into the back seat, take my boots off, and take a nap. It was safe.

"You don't come around no more. I haven't seen you in awhile. Where's your partner? The old man? Did he finally retire?"

One of the kitchen workers, having a smoke break. He was 1 of the people who used to feed my partner. We make small talk. He's had a promotion. Now, he is the supervisor. And he's had another kid. He shows me pictures. I can't remember his name. But I act happy for him. Congratulate him. He goes back inside. I go back to taking a nap.

A few hours later, a woman from the kitchen is out by the dumpster. She has all these garbage bags on a cart. She wheels the cart over to my car and hands me one of the bags. "The boss said this is for you."

I look inside the garbage bag. It was full of little snack containers. Maybe 30 or 50 of them.

"in case you get hungry." She laughs at her own joke.

I shrug my shoulders. No spoon? I guess this is what they feed a President with dentures.



One Too Many
The Barbary Coast
For the most part, I try to keep a low profile. It doesn't always work. Inevitably, sometimes I catch the wrong attention. I had to do a little service work on my old Jeep. The house is on a hill. So I have to find a parking spot on flat ground, not blocking someone's driveway, and in an area where nobody will call to complain about someone working on their car in the street.

Nothing major. Just "drain & fill". Radiator fluid, differentials, transfer case, transmission, engine. New belts & hoses, and a thermostat. Ignition & spark plug. Stuff that is simple, but time consuming. A cooler full of beer and a few hand tools, plus half a day off. Open a drain plug, then refill with fresh fluid, all the way around. I start early in the morning, I'll be done by lunch time.

I was wearing a t-shirt, with the logo of the television show "Cheers", screen printed across the chest. This was when Cheers was still on the air, and a television sitcom set in a bar full of alcoholics was funny, instead of politically incorrect. Decades before anyone becomes "woke". I had a beeper.

I can't make this up. Maybe I can, but I'm not making it up. She was "power walking". And wearing a leotard with panty hose. Leg warmers, a headband, and a belt. Reebok high tops. She stops. Stares at me. Takes the Walkman headphones off. A clear sign that she was ready to engage in conversation. "Isn't it a little early for Miller Time?"

She had an accent. I just couldn't place it. And she had this exotic look. I just couldn't place it. Do I even ask why she needed a belt over her leotard? I shrug my shoulders, and hand her a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon. She must have been thirsty. Water bottles weren't trendy yet, and she wasn't carrying one. My dirty thoughts were wondering where she had her drivers license.

We chit-chat. I explained to her what I was doing. I found a book of matches in the glovebox. I wrote my beeper number inside the cover. She went down the block, doing some sort embarrassing half-dancing, half skipping move. Finger snaps. Thumbs jerking. Little kicks. Head nodding and jerking. No matter what was playing over the Walkman headphones, she was out of step.

I go pee beside a tree.

She reappeared a few hours later. I only had 1 can of beer left in the cooler. I started the morning with a 12 pack. Again, I was peeing beside the tree. By now, she has watched me pee next to that tree, twice. She didn't try to look away. She stared right at me. She just watched.

I didn't even recognize her. She was wearing a Guess? denim jacket and Guess? jeans. But still wearing that stupid headband. Like she forgot to take it off. Or it's a new headband, that just looks like the other headband. Maybe, it was a part of her cultural hairstyle. Which I found out, that she is from Trinidad and Tobago. As she said, "I'm Chinese, just like you." Both of her grandfathers were Chinese. Business partners. They were merchants who sold soy sauce and ginger. The stuff that's used to "jerk" the chicken. Her grandmothers were both local Creole. "You said you would be finished by lunch. Are you finished? What's for lunch?"

I dip my hand into a can of Gojo and start cleaning myself up. She helped herself to the last beer, and jumped in the passenger seat. She says, "A Jeep with no doors. Just like MacGyver." She took the last beer. I drove back to my house, where I had another case of beer.

I went out to the yard, and dug some carrots, potatoes, onion, and celery out of the dirt. She hands me a cold beer, with a smile. I don't even know her. We just met. She's acting like it's her house, and she's offering me one of her beers. I mix up some yeast and flour, put it in the oven. Cut the veggies. Toss it in a pan with some clams. Pour in a few ounces of the beer. Lunch is served. Clam chowder and bread.

"What is this? This is like what the tourist eat on Fisherman's Wharf?"

I'm Chinese. I made it. It's Chinese food. I thought she said that she was Chinese. In the 80's, I didn't know what Creole meant. I thought it had something to do with VooDoo.

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One Too Many
The Barbary Coast
The cat is out of the bag. A local reporter has written an article, which tells the rest of the world, that the local clam chowder and sourdough bread bowl is not that good. And she reveals that locals don't eat it. Only tourist.


Screenshot 2022-04-29 20.24.22.png


It's true. Nobody takes a whole loaf of bread, cut off the top, then throw away all the bread inside of the crust. Then pour soup into it. That only makes a soggy, mushy, mess inside the bread crust. You only get about a half a serving of foup, and all of the bread is wasted.

I'm a local. We do eat clam chowder and bread. We just don't eat it the way it is sold to tourist. We slice our bread, and put the soup in a bowl. We just don't tell the tourist about it. The same way Chinese do not tell the tourist that the food that they order, isn't really Chinese food. Well, actually, all Chinese people, all over the world, don't tell anybody that their "chop suey" is not really Chinese food.

Greed. We're all too happy making money off it. We don't care that it's all wrong.



One Too Many
The Barbary Coast
"I am from Africa. We eat bush meat. You have nothing that will be strange to me."

That was how it started. My cousin. From South Africa. His ancestors and mine were closely related. Now, we're about 5 generations removed from 3rd-cousins-by-marriage. Still, we are somehow related. It gets blurry as the history is by way of storytelling, and memories are fuzzy.

He is somewhat of a hybrid - with Asian and Afrikaner lineage. A mix of mostly Chinese and Dutch. A DNA profile would look like a bowl of M&M's, with different colors of plain and peanut, after someone picked out all of the green ones.. His wife is mostly French, with a sprinkle and a pinch of Cambodian and Thai, with an Algerian on the side. Over a century of colonization sat before me. I don't know what any of that means. The kids are like a bowl of Skittles, with a few Reese's Pieces mixed in. The only African Americans I know, who are not Black.

What I do know, is that not everything is as it appears. He had a little storefront in South Africa, that sold Panda Express type food. He still has it. 1 location is now 4. It makes enough to provide him with an income to live in the USA. Nothing fresh made. Actually, nothing is made. I've been there. I've seen the operation. Everything comes in plastic bags in buckets - like a 5 gallon MRE. A 5 gallon bucket, with plastic bags of food. They have cauldrons of boiling water. The bag goes into the cauldron, heats, and then goes into a pan on the steam table. And none of the food is good. It only needs to sit on a steam table, under heat lamps, for 90 minutes. Everything sells fast, since the resale price is set to make profit in volume. It is cheap enough that people don't complain, and they buy lots of it. As he says, "It's Africa, nobody knows what real Chinese food is, so it doesn't matter. They get a fortune cookie, and a packet of Sriracha sauce. It's authentic enough." Not soy sauce. Hot sauce from Southern California.

I found eel at an Asian market. It was seared on a cast iron pan and splashed with some "Asian" sauce from Costco. I told him and his family that we were eating rat tail. The kids dug right in, and ate it without a 2nd thought. These kids will eat anything. American kids will only eat mac-n-cheese out of a box.



Nothing unusual if you've had Unagi. In this part of the world, a bowl of eel and rice sells for about 2 hours of the prevailing wage. Or you pay an hour's wage, for 2 pieces of sushi.



A-List Customer
Father's Day Treat

For those of you who want a good tasting treat for Dad's day, here is one that is a family favorite. We will be serving it with a shrimp boil and lots of other goodies supplied by family members.



1) One bag of Ore-Ida fries (your choice)
2) One package of Ball Park hot dogs (or your choice) cut into 1” pieces
3) One tblsp cooking oil
4) ½ cup finely chopped onion
5) 1 cup ketchup
6) 1/3 cup water
7) 2 tsp vinegar
8) 1 ½ tsp chili powder
9) 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
10) 2 tblsp yellow mustard


1) Prepare fries according to package directions
2) Heat oil in large skillet, add onions and stir
3) Stir in ketchup, water, vinegar, chili powder, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, hot dogs. Heat to boil.
4) Simmer 5 minutes.
5) Fold potatoes into sauce

Serve up. Should feed six (good luck with that)
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One Too Many
I made ratatouille for the first time yesterday, with roast chicken and a dollop of yogurt (well I forgot the bloody yogurt as I knew I would). I was surprised how nice the ratatouille was, I think the olives made the difference, I rarely eat olives, not a big fan of food that makes you wince.

Eva Granch

New in Town
The ingredients: cut-up broccoli florets, cubed sweet potatoes or yams, brown sugar, butter, olive oil, dijon mustard, vinegar. I found some recipes that called for baked sweet potatoes and broccoli with a miso dressing. I couldn't afford to purchase the ingredients for miso just for this recipe, so I substituted my homemade dijon vinaigrette. I thought it would be tasting bad, but the brown sugar caramelized just enough with the sweet potatoes that the whole combination tasted like I'd poured Thai peanut dressing/sauce over it (which is great, because I react terribly to peanut sauce!)
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