carol's kitchen

Wednesday, August 05, 2015



First of all, let me say this: I want to outlaw all financial contributions for political campaigns in this country; and immediately fire all the lobbyists.  Turn them into social workers & send them out to do good works in troubled neighborhoods, like ours, for example.  Vallejo can use all the help we can get – or can we?

Investors, please take note; I read this startling information online:
“…Standard & Poor’s has raised the City of Vallejo’s investment rating from BB- to BBB - with a stable outlook. This equates to a three step jump, which equates to the City has been moved out of the “speculative - grade” category and has returned to having an “investment grade” rating. Having an investment - grade category rating means potentially improved investment or borrowing opportunities…” 

No doubt the mayor will carry this message to the world when he travels to the Philippines & Japan later this month.

More good news: Andrew Young, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations came to Vallejo to inaugurate an institute whose purpose is “to improve the fortunes and futures of those 15 to 25 years old.”   Young spoke at a meeting in a downtown waterfront restaurant.  He gazed through the windows & said, “…I don’t know Vallejo, but people tell me y’all have problems here. I can’t imagine that. I can’t imagine a waterfront like this, the beautiful hills and mountains. Problems? Problems are challenges that make you invent new solutions.”

Great sounding stuff.  Tidbits like these give me goosebumps & confirm the reasons I chose Vallejo in the first place.  What we need, in my humble opinion, is a city council full of savvy business people, interested in developing this jewel of a city to its rightful grandeur as a thriving, beautiful, historic place in the center of the bay area, and who know how to do it.  Other cities have done it. Why can’t we?

When I contemplate some of the decisions made by the powers that be in Vallejo, I think of the mythic wise men of Chelm, those infamous village idiots who made all the wrong decisions for their town.  Case in point: the waterfront utility storage boxes we paid some well-meaning artist, selected by a jury, to decorate “graffiti style.”

Other cities pay to get rid of that kind of stuff on their public walls, but we in Vallejo, with the astuteness of the wise men of Chelm, paid good money out of our participatory budgeting “beautification program,” to get graffiti painted on our public waterfront for all the world to see.   Ok, if they want, for drawings of birds & whatnot, but graffiti, in my opinion, sends out the wrong message. 

Don’t get me started on that sculpture item planted on the corner of Georgia & Mare Island Way, for all the world to see.  Who’s watching the new buildings & designs on the waterfront?   Who’s protecting our beautiful public spaces from the anything-goes attitude of our arts community?  What’s this about a cement factory on primo riverside property?  Really?  And how’d some dentist get a hundred year lease (is that true?) on what in my opinion is the best commercial spot in the entire city?  That gorgeous, grassy place between the ferry & Independence Park, should contain a fine restaurant, a lovely tea room, gift shop, hot-dog/taco stand, candy store/ice-cream parlor, bicycle rental, paddle-boat station, news stand, souvenir studio, summer bandstand… isn’t that what we want for Vallejo?

I’m off the meds now but unapologetically still cranky.  I wish someone would take out the garbage for me.

I got elected to the Vallejo Board of Beauty & Design & given the title of Board Member.  My outspoken nature might get me thrown out sooner or later, but meanwhile, let me tell you, sitting up on that dais, practicing the rules of order, speaking into a microphone in a room open to the public, discussing the beautification of our city with intelligent talented people who want to improve Vallejo is my idea of a real good time.

At my first meeting, the only people in the audience were my sister & brother-in-law who flew in from Florida to help celebrate my birthday that week, & took pictures of me sitting up there on my high horse. 

My squeaking caught the attention of the mayor who invited me to his office to make plans for Independence Park.  We both want a park we can be proud of, and the Mayor has promised he will make it happen.  I call him the Giver of the Green Light and believe he’ll keep his word.   

At the risk of being lynched, I wish to say I love Mayor Osby Davis.  I know it’s inflammatory & revolutionary to talk such words on these hallowed pages, in the very annals of the infamous angry finger-pointing VIB that I admire & respect, but I’m here to tell you I’m quite fond of this handsome dark-skinned fellow who lords it over our city, with his quiet voice & sharp zoot suits. 

The mayor is a gentleman, warm, charming, eager & able to help. When we sit & talk together, plotting & planning the creation of Independence Park, it’s as though I’m with my father.  His voice is gentle & reassuring.  With all due respect, I feel like I could sit on his honorable lap while he tells me he’ll support my efforts & that I should keep moving forward with my project.  He’s my daddy.

I went to City Hall last week and watched the vote on whether or not to pay for the mayor’s travels, with councilwoman Verder-Aliga, to Japan & the Philippines, which turned out as expected.  

That night, however, I was especially interested in the main feature of the evening, the final showdown between our Mayor & City Council members, and the lawyers for the medical marijuana dispensary people.  Our City Manager presented the case simply & eloquently.  He enumerated all the facts & figures that boiled down to this: spend a million dollars to fight them, or give them what they want.  The vote came in loud & clear; give it to them, with the mayor casting the only no vote. 

Then there were parents who got up to express heart-wrenching fear for their children’s safety in our schools, demanding a meeting with the school powers to deal with intolerable bullying & violence in our schools.   Violence in the schools!  Is there anything worse?  How did Standard & Poor miss that?   We must change that immediately.    

By 9 PM I was worn out & decided to return home & watch the rest of the show on TV.  Once home I did some stuff & started up the stairs to my bedroom when I realized I didn’t have my mobile phone.  Heart pounding, I ran to my garage (ha, I can’t run, I just think about it & lose my breath), drove back to City Hall, climbed the front steps, burst into the room where they were in recess, & stumbled right into the mayor. 

“What happened?” he asked, helping me with the oxygen tank falling off my shoulder.  “I’ve lost my phone,” I blurted, hardly able to speak.   Calmly, he asked, “Where were you sitting?” & while I led him to the spot near the front of the room, he told me he had lost his phone once & it was an awful experience.  I pointed to my chair.  He got down on his knees & searched under the seat.  After a moment he looked up, smiling from ear to ear, and handed my precious little Samsung over to me.  I was so happy I threw my arms around him and cried with joy.

So, if you happened to have caught me in the act of hugging the mayor in City Hall that night, and were wondering what the heck is going on, you now know. 



Sunday, June 07, 2015



     The Vallejo Times Herald reports student graduation is up & dropouts are down.  PBS aired a special feature on a program in the Vallejo Schools.  The Public Relations pro hired by the school board is doing her job.  Superintendent maintains high schools are safe and points to Vallejo’s environment for the reason why a kid got shot on school territory, and why she had to call the cops when 50 kids got into a fight on school grounds.  She got a round of approval from the board, the public, & her constituents.  I read that Vallejo is number 1 in the country for home health care; very promising for the likes of me, and our port in Glen Cove is also tops in the land. The Mayor is ridding Vallejo of pot & all the benefits that go with it.  We’ve stopped talking about the pool table.  I guess things are getting better in our fair city.
     We must elect Robert McConnell as mayor next time; don’t settle for less, and when their time comes get rid of the others.  And elect Bernie Sanders; I think he’s the best & makes a great case for how he’d run the country.  Yes, I’m still a leftie.    
     Meanwhile, I feel better, well, actually; strong enough to ditch the doctor who described my imminent demise with such lurid details I could see nothing but my funeral while I was his patient.  Found another doctor, a person who cares, and wants to help me, not intubate me & administer the coup de grace as soon as he can. 
    Best of all I’ve discovered the John Muir Pulmonary Rehab in Concord, which for me is like finding god.  They’re teaching me how to live with my disease, and making me exercise like training for the olympics.  They call it living in the "preventative mode rather than the rescue mode," and it's working.  They won’t accept negativity; I feel more positive.  By dumping the bad doctor I killed the messenger & put those thoughts into the trash, where I dumped his body. I’m going to live as well as I can as long as I can & to hell with the naysayer.
     One can live, I’m learning, but in a different way.  Hey, that’s why I moved to Vallejo. 
     So, I’m living La Dolce Vita, exercising every day, which makes me happy; I always did that. Working a lot in the kitchen, preparing healthy delicious meals for myself, like I always did.  Staying close to home – nothing new there.  Tethered by the nose to a 50 + foot green plastic tube that’s connected to a noisy machine that takes in air & spews out oxygen?  Oh man, this a new and strange experience; an odd road hithertofore untraveled.  Can’t say I like it but I’m learning to live with it. 
Oh yeah, “live” is the operative word here.  Next month I plan to celebrate the birthday I didn’t think I’d live to see.  I’m not dead yet, baby.  Fuck you, doctor L—!   (This must be the meds, I don’t talk like that.)
     I drive to Rehab twice a week, stop off at Trader Joe’s on the way home, and I’m good to go; two birds with one stone, so to speak, though I don’t care for that image.  I learn so much at rehab I’d gladly make the 17 mile drive + bridge tolls 5 days a week if they’d let me.   
     Still using my phone’s navigation system everywhere I go; I’m lost without it.   I drive to medical appointments in places named Fairfield Vacaville & Concord, words I never dreamed would be in my vocabulary.  I’m hopping onto freeways & trying to shut-up about it. 
     Efficiency is key; gotta re-think everything.  In addition to the long tube at home & the small portables, I’ve got 4 big oxygen tanks stored on my Patio.  I formed an “Oxygen Brigade” consisting of 6 neighbors who’ve agreed to think of me in case of a power outage & if they’re able, to come help me with my tanks.   Anyone else out there is invited to do that too.
     Good food has become more important than ever.  Thinking about doing a cookbook for invalids.  No kidding.  What a concept.  It might sell more copies than my memoir. 
     Have you gone to my website, to buy it yet?  
     Started walking along the river.  There, in my opinion, is the heart of Vallejo: the murky currents, the steady ebb & flow, the sparkling menacing sludge of it is so much like this city & it makes me feel alive.  It’s a challenge, I need to slow down, buck the wind, pace myself.  Gives me time to look around & see who’s there, recognize the true colors of Vallejo on a human level.  
     I meet other regulars who come down to the river at Independence Park – MY PARK – most days.  We wave, nod, sometimes stop to chat.  Walkers acknowledge each other and keep walking, bikers are careful with eyes ahead, parents pushing strollers are happy to stop & let me admire their beautiful babes.  Fishermen tend to be reticent but they’ll show me what they’ve caught.   Quite a few grandma’s with little kids, talking, enjoying each other.  I pity the moms who miss all that. 
One day I was struggling to walk in a strong wind, hanging on to the barrier, my teary eyes fixed on the oxygen meter dangling from the index finger of my left hand, when a young man dressed in black & silver, his hood covering his face, and pants below his tuchas, came up to me, touched his heart & asked, “where you goin’ mama?  Do you need help?”
     This guy looked like the lurkers in the alleys behind some Vallejo homes that I read about on Next Door.   I could tell he was up to no good, except for the fact that when he saw me he responded straight from his heart.  Later, we sat & talked.  I told him to stay out of trouble, don’t hurt anyone.  He said, “I’m black, they want my heart. You don’t know how hard it is.”  Then, what blurted out of me was, “shut up, MF.  I know it’s tough.  But next time the going is rough, think of me -- struggling to walk, struggling to breath, struggling to stay alive.  Then get on with it, and be good – like you are with me.”
     I don’t know where that came from.  It must be the meds.
     Then there’s S--, a truck driver in his 60’s from South America, who talks dirty to me.  He’s got a twinkle in his eye & says sooner or later he’ll get me into bed.  He tries to grab my hand, but I tell him “don’t touch,” and he obeys.  Imagine propositioning a little old grey haired Jewish lady with an oxygen tube up her nose, pushing a tank on wheels, barely able to walk for more than a few minutes at a time.  Obviously, a wack job, but he means no harm.  He shows up most days & pins the bait on the hooks of his friend in a wheel chair, who fishes all day long.  If he promises not to touch, I take his arm & let him help me cross the street.
     I’m thinking of joining the infamous Senior Center.  I actually used to shoot pool once upon a time in my life, & would like to take it up again.    And… if anyone is wondering, the Mayor & I are moving ahead swimmingly with the Independence Park project.  More about that anon.

Thursday, April 09, 2015


Where have I been, you ask?  Sick. 

Meanwhile, here’s what I’ve been thinking about:

Yay!  Fiber Optics is coming to town.  But the ganja is leaving, which I think is a wrong move.  Tell me, please, why do our city fathers and mothers need a fleet of limos to move them around the metropolis?  I don’t see much difference between the Republicans who wrote that letter to Iran, and the School Board Members who voted to hire a publicist, when we need teachers in the classrooms.  I’ve seen the Mayor & we agree that Independence Park needs to be fixed.  He told me, “We will do it,” and I believe him. 

There’s nothing like local politics.  If anyone wants to experience how it feels to take part in the making of history, I suggest they attend the General Plan meetings going on all around town.  These workshops, led by qualified professional city planners, who’ve done their homework, are planning the Vallejo of the future.  My neighbors & I were asked for ideas & we said:  good grocery stores, trees and a meridian on Tennessee Street, arches at the entrances of the city, and beautiful parks along the river, among many other wonderful things. 

I’m going to stop complaining about Vallejo being a wasteland where I can’t get anything I want, which it is, incidentally, because I’ve finally given in to the cruel reality of life in the suburbs: this is it: if I want something I must get in the car, hop on the freeway, and drive. 
Last week I discovered the Oxbow Market in Napa, where I sat down for a plate of fresh oysters and little neck clams, tasted a variety of tender local cheeses, and purchased a Tuscan pastry to nibble on while admiring aged steaks, exotic spices, and premium olive oils.  Pricy, of course.  It reminded me of the Ferry Building in downtown San Francisco – and only 16 miles away.   

Vallejo has its goodies too, little unexpected pleasures I’ve come to enjoy on occasions: a sunset Bloody Mary at Vic’s Wheelhouse, an apple-pie cupcake at the Humming-bird Bakery; a Cajun prawn Po Boy lunch at the Sardine Can, dinner at Pasta Pomodoro, and my latest discovery: breakfast at The Joy of Eating. 

Am I adapting?

I try to heed the Mayor’s advice and patronize local businesses, to the degree I can, and have encountered some far-out helpful shopkeepers whom I wish to honor.  Lipsey’s Garage figured out why my car phone charger stopped working, replaced the fuse in the cigar-lighter thingy and wouldn’t take money for their time, or the fuse.  When a few leaves of my gardenia plant started turning yellow, the friendly owner of North Bay Hydroponics pronounced my gardenia plant HEALTHY from a photograph.  I enjoy the patient ladies at the dollar Tree who always say hello & welcome when I enter the shop, the guys who clean & scale the fish I purchase at Seafood City, and so many more…  Vallejo is a friendly town if you know how to stay out of trouble. 

On the advice of a reader I went to Food4Less, off Blvd. 29 toward American Canyon.  Found two walls full of fresh organic produce, beautiful market-stands brimming with colorful spices, & grass fed organic beef bones -- to make broth I (used to) simmer in my cauldron for two days & two nights.  The accommodating butcher there made me feel like a special customer.  They also carry organic air-chilled (as opposed to water-logged) chicken, which if you’ve never tried, I urge you to do so. 

My sisters came from Florida to visit their sick sister.  I suggested they bring ear-plugs to block out the traffic noise I no longer hear in my home, and bullet-proof vests in case my neighbors at 201 Main Street start acting up – which they did. 

I had to laugh when I read about the closure of the golf course in Vallejo & the supervisor’s reaction to the proposal of putting a paintball operation in its place.
“I’m a little concerned about … a paintball operation,” said Supervisor John Vasquez. “…

Certainly I don’t think we want to (support) an operation that shows people running around shooting at each other. I think Vallejo already has enough of that.”

Until I moved to Vallejo I never used words such as Section 8 housing, or thought about parolees living in our midst, or participatory budgeting.  Vallejo has expanded my horizons in so many wonderful ways.

Okay, I didn’t get elected to the Board of Beautification & Design, but the fellow who did was so well-qualified I would have voted for him myself.  Meanwhile, I like attending meetings at city hall, love how accessible our city government is, as an observer, and participator, and have become an ardent activist for my Independence Park.

I presented my petition to beautify the park to the Mayor, the members of the City council, and the whole city staff, showed them the seven hundred signatures, told them this is a grass roots initiative, and the citizens of Vallejo have spoken.  I said I’d have gotten seven thousand but I got tired.  They listened and liked it; told me it was enough; I’d made my point.  The Mayor asked me for the petition & told me to come & see him.  I’ve got a couple of ideas up my sleeve, which I believe he might find hard to refuse.  I won’t give up until I get it done. 

My sisters loved the city.  I took them to my favorite places: Seafood City, Eco Thrift, Moschetti’s, The Farmer’s Market, the brilliant production of To Kill A Mockingbird at the Maritime Museum, a night of hilarious Gong Show fun at the Empress, and introduced them to the good friends I’ve made since I moved here last July.  We walked along the river.  They understand why I love Vallejo.  

My doctor calls it "end stage" emphysema.  Pretty bad, & now my house is filled with noisy machines & tubes & tanks & I’m attached by the nose to oxygen 24/7 -- not a pretty sight, nor easy to deal with.  A few weeks ago, I got yet another "exacerbation" that sent me to the ER for the day.  Another night my oxygen machine mal-functioned & I had to call 911.   

I’ve never been sick before and all this is new & scary.  Friends & neighbors have come forward to help me & I consider myself lucky to live in Vallejo, with good & kind supportive people.  I’ve had a great life & continue to enjoy what I can, given my challenges.  They tell me I’m feistier than ever, but I say it’s because of my meds.  Nasty stuff. 

At least I haven’t lost my appetite, nor my ability to cook for myself (no oxygen near the gas stove!), and continue to enjoy many good things in life.  It’s not over.  I’m still here.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

i live in vallejo parts 11 & 12


     Had the best day of my life on Sunday – worth every one of those thousand-dollar bills forked over to the bank for my condo – when I finally got to experience my beloved San Francisco family enjoying my new home in Vallejo.  There was eight year old Nico, lounging in the swivel chair in front of the fire, doing homework on his iPad, his beautiful mama relaxed, leaning back on the fainting couch in front of the window, watching the sky change colors behind the cranes of Mare Island, my son comfortable on the sofa, engrossed in the New York Review of Books, and me and nearly-three-year-old Mila looking at books at my desk in the library, and drawing pictures on every page in my notepad. 
     We’d had an early dinner, which I spent the morning preparing, hoping they’d love it & enjoy it, and that it would make them happy – and it did.  Mostly, I used what I already had in the house, except the pork, which I ran out specially to buy at Seafood City.  I’ve been looking at this Philippine specialty in that shop for a long time, but never could buy such a big portion just for myself.  Oh yes, this Jewess loves pork.
     I made Quinoa Latkes, pureed purple yams, sautéed Dover sole, and heated up that fabulous, succulent, Seafood City “family size,” deep fried pork shank, which I served with a dribble of coconut vinegar.  Last minute I made a salad of lettuces, plucked from my little garden planter, with avocado & one of those brown high-in-lycopene sweet  hot-house tomatoes that come in a long package with cellophane.
     Dessert was ready made, also from Seafood City: flat cakes of sticky rice steamed in banana leaves, with a coconut caramel sauce, another Philippine specialty, which they devoured so fast I had to fight for a taste.   Drink was coconut water & fresh eau de Vallejo gurgling up through a GE filter under my sink.
     I’m grateful to the Philippine Community in Vallejo who has brought a whole new culture into my life, with new people, tastes & experiences.  And, I’m eternally thankful for that precious moment with my family, that I’ll never forget, & which will hopefully get the kids to ask to return to grandma’s house in Vallejo.  Halleluja!   I don’t need to wait until Thursday, Thanksgiving is now.
     I walked over to the City Clerk’s office last week and found this sign on the reception desk: You, the customer, are the most important person in the service we provide.  Not an interruption of our work.  You are the purpose of our work.  You, the customer are not an outsider.  You are a fundamental part of our service.  You, the customer, are not dependent on us.  We are dependent on you.  Bring us your needs, and we will do our best to satisfy you.”  Below that, “City of Vallejo, CA,” with a simple graphic of a tree and a sailboat, in front of a big sun, over a green field & blue water. 
Isn’t that the way all business should be run?  Imagine if your telephone company adopted that policy.
     I’d gone to the City Clerk to apply for a position on the Board of Beautification & Design.  I have no special qualifications, but I’m a worldly old broad with a lot of experience, well-traveled, and call myself a poet.  And, I want to be involved with this city that is so accessible to its citizens, and participate in making it a better place.  Let’s see what happens.  If no one else applies, I might have a chance.
     While I was there, I walked over to the library and got myself a library card.  Did you know the Vallejo public library offers homework help?  And tutoring services, as well as a book group?  What a town!
     By popular demand, and by invitation only, I’m teaching “Healthy Cooking for One” in my home, starting in December.  And, for VIB readers, right now, hereby offer cooking instructions for 2 of the dishes I served to my family on Sunday, and one more delicious cold weather dessert. 
   Those who say I see my cup half-empty need to learn how to read.  I suggest the library’s tutoring services.   And, btw, buy my book.


Quinoa Latkes
About 2 – 3 cups of cooked quinoa, 1 med. Brown onion, chopped fine, 1 egg, a big handful of fresh parsley, chopped, salt & pepper.
Put quinoa, onion & parsley in a bowl.  Beat the egg in a cup with a fork & add it to the mixture.  Add salt & pepper, mix well.
Heat a couple of tablespoons of coconut oil in a large frying pan, when hot drop about 2 heaping tablespoons full of the quinoa mixture and flatten out a bit so it looks like an oval pancake.  Put as many of these into the frying pan as will fit without overlapping.  Leave them alone for the first few minutes, then peek underneath to see when the cooked side is golden brown.  Flip with a spatula & fry until golden brown on the other side.
Place on a folded paper towel to drain while you cook the next batch.
When used as a side it needs nothing else.  As a main dish, you could serve it with sour cream & apple sauce.

Purple Yam Puree
Wash & chop 2 big yams into 1 inch pieces, throw into boiling salted water, boil until tender when pierced with a tooth pick.  Drain, return to the pot, add a good heaping tablespoon of butter, a nice splash of cream, a dash of salt & pepper, and mix.  Use an immersion blender to turn it into a creamy, delicious deep purple puree.  If so inclined, grate a little bit of nutmeg over the top.  Serve with any meat, fish, or poultry.

Wash & core medium sized apples, or cut larger apples in half & core.  Sprinkle with salt, lightly dust with cinnamon, and stuff each one with approximately one teaspoon of crunchy peanut butter, or for a change of pace, try coconut jam, which can be found in Seafood City.  Pour about half an inch of water, or leftover wine & water, in a baking pan, add apples, place in pre-heated 375 degree oven for about 45 minutes, or until they are tender & melting.  Serve hot or cold with cream – or without.
General advice: Use the freshest, best ingredients you can find, organic, if possible.  Enjoy!