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<img src="http://forums.egullet.org/uploads/1164818704/gallery_29805_1195_8654.jpg" hspace="8" align="left">and, oh yeah, the Motorcycle Wreck

by Joseph Carey

Second in a series.

1968 - 1971

Try as I might (and I really have tried!) I can’t seem to completely separate my life in food from politics. I think it has something to do with the beatitude/vicissitude imbalance in my experience. Or maybe I’m just gullible. Maybe some of you know what I’m talking about here.

In April of 1968 I was released from military servitude in Oakland, California. I spent a couple of days reveling in San Francisco (I liked it there. A lot.) before flying to Chicago. Suzan was teaching in Chicago and we had determined to move to San Francisco when the school year was up, so I needed something to do for a few months. I had known Jeff Sharlet at Indiana University. He was a political activist and Vietnam veteran. I was neither when I met him, but Vietnam had changed my mind. I got in touch with him: he and Davy Komatsu and Jim Wallahan published the Vietnam GI, a pro-GI/antiwar newspaper. We had a few drinks and they asked me if I’d like to join them. I usually remembered to put on my turn signal when I was about to make a left turn. I forgot this time. They put me on the masthead and published several of my photos. They paid to print and mount about 60 of my black and white photos (relevance on the way).

My most indelible dining memories of Chicago are Diana's Grocery, a Greek restaurant -- there was a grocery in front and you had to walk through a beaded curtain at the back of the store to get to the restaurant (had my first fresh octopus and Retsina there) and a little French place, Michel's.

The school year ended and Suzan and I headed west in July of 1968. Davy had made arrangements for Barbara and Marvin Garson (Marvin published a local counterculture newspaper, The Express Times; Barbara was a playwright) to put us up. We all went to dinner one night at a black barbecue joint -- I love good barbecue. Marvin explained that they had three levels of sauce: hot, medium and mild. All my companions ordered the mild. He told me that if I liked really hot food (I do) to order the medium sauce. I’m thinking, huh, what does a New York Jew know about hot food? I’m from New Orleans! -- and ordered the hot. They brought everyone else’s ribs out before mine. We were facing the kitchen -- what I call a "semi-exhibition" kitchen -- where you get a glimpse into the kitchen through the pass-through window. Usually you can see from a little above waist high to just below the top of the head. I looked up as my plate was set down in front of me. Five black faces grinned at me. Oh, shit, I’d done it again. I sweated. I cried. I tried to say I was fine in response to multiple inquiries. I wasn’t, of course, unless it’s fine to play host to a small army of hyperactive pyromaniacal Romanian mercenaries wielding torches and doing dervishes in your mouth, throat and esophagus. I ate the damn ribs and a half a loaf of what they call in the south "light bread." I drank several beers. If you’ve read anything I’ve written before you’ll notice this kind of thing forms a leitmotif in my life. After much mulling it over, I've decided I just ain't very bright.

Barbara and Marvin lived in North Beach. We’d been there about a week -- had just begun looking for apartments -- when the boys called me from Chicago and asked if I’d like to go to Paris. The occasion, I inquired? A "war crimes tribunal" I was told. Shades of Nuremberg. Sure, I said. Marvin said he’d like to publish a few of my photos. Sure, I said.

The boys said they’d get back to me with the details. A day or two later Rennie Davis called. I was "interviewed" as to my appropriateness, I suppose. Why do I make people with agendas so nervous? He said he'd get back to me. The boys called back and said I needed to get to New York in three days. I said I had no passport -- and my birth certificate was still at my father-in-law's apartment in Evanston. A friend agreed to pick it up and meet me at O'Hare. I packed up a couple dozen of my mounted photos -- and not much more, and embarked. I was to go to the offices of Liberation Magazine when I arrived in New York. A ticket to New York -- with a stop in Chicago -- was sent to me issue-wire. That all worked. Barbara was very helpful through all of this facilitating here and there, pretending to be my secretary or assistant in those cases where I had to appear to be important.

Once in New York, birth certificate in hand, I took a taxi to Liberation Magazine, and met with Dave Dellinger. He gave me my Air France tickets and got me to the passport office, in Rockefeller Center as I recollect. I got a "rush" passport, since I was to fly that afternoon: my fifth ocean crossing -- the other four had been related to the unpleasantness in Southeast Asia.

A Dr. Kahn picked me up at the airport and took me to his place, where I was "interviewed" again -- this time by Tom Hayden. Somehow, I passed again. (For those of you keeping score: within the space of a few days in July I was vetted by three men who were to head to Chicago in less than a month and become three sevenths of the Chicago Seven.) By this point, I was very tired, but the "tribunal" was to be that evening. Dr. Kahn gave me something so I could sleep a few hours. He woke me and said it was time to go. He gave me something so I could stay awake for a few hours.

One of the first people I met that evening was Maria Jolas. I knew of her, but what I knew was totally unrelated to antiwar activities. She was mentioned in Richard Ellmann’s book James Joyce. She had hobnobbed with Joyce (and took care of his crazy daughter, Lucia), Beckett, Gertrude Stein and all the expats who were my English-major heroes. She sat next to me on the stage; since I didn’t speak French that was not related to food or genitalia, she translated for me. The tribunal was under the aegis of Laurent Schwartz, mathematician, staunch antiwar activist and cohort of Sartre. Much of the proceeding was in French, so I was lost after trotting out my photos and delivering a brief spiel about my experiences as a combat photographer in Vietnam -- just one of many times I would be lost over the next several years.

The next few weeks in Paris expanded my universe considerably. The quick tour: I was introduced to the North Vietnamese Minister of Justice (his translator had been a company commander at Dien Bien Phu); was taken to lunch at a great Vietnamese restaurant by the head of the North Vietnamese News Bureau in Paris; met Arthur Miller at a seminar; got my ass royally kicked in the Latin Quarter by the CRS (French national police force) -- they also smashed my Nikon and stripped the film I had been shooting. I was arrested briefly and let go by a supervisor who was tricked by my not-yet-out-of-date-signed-by-General Westmoreland press card; was interviewed by a Turkish reporter for a feature article in France Nouvelle, the Paris communist newspaper; was treated to a bunch of wonderful meals by Maria Jolas who also made me iced tea on my last Sunday in Paris and invited her neighbor, Mary McCarthy. We looked through all the volumes Joyce had personalized for her; almost had sex with an Australian babe (we literally slept together); ate a bunch of lunches with guys who worked for Le Monde; had two "dates" with a beautiful Russian woman, one at a movie theater and one at her apartment and that’s all I’m saying about that; met and talked with French photographer Roger Pic, who had been in Vietnam photographing the war with the Viet Cong -- we had taken photographs of the same 1967 battle from opposite sides of the lines.

Sadly, I was somewhat hampered in Paris. I really wanted to walk around and see a bunch of the stuff I’d read about. I couldn’t. I was hobbled. Like the moron I am perfectly capable of being, I had brought just one pair of shoes -- a new pair of kicks just for my Paris trip. I got around as best I could, spending most of my liberty in The Latin Quarter. Within limping distance, I found a little place that had great escargot and soupe a l'oignon. I could also trundle to a kinda French fast-food joint that had a great grilled entrecote. Around the corner from my hotel was a bakery -- a boy on a bicycle brought warm croissants and baguettes every morning. I wolfed them down with strawberry preserves and good French butter.

I can't think of a better way to introduce my post-Vietnam, post-Paris life in food than to start with an excerpt from my old friend Spencer’s newsletter. He is an unrepentant hippie (although some Food Network toady bestowed him with the title "King of Salsa"). Spencer and I worked together for many years, many years ago. He now owns a restaurant, Mama's Royal Cafe, in Cabo San Lucas. If he wants to, he sends this newsletter out on a monthly basis. While he may be a little shaky on dates and places, he’s right on ambience:

<blockquote><blockquote>Any of you who have eaten at my place have undoubtedly noticed the heavy Louisiana influence on my menu. Mexican style Jambalaya and a Mexican style Bouillabaisse that sounds a whole lot like a New Orleans gumbo. This is not an accident -- these two great cuisines have a lot in common and my very first involvement with a restaurant was back in the 60’s with a little Creole place in Berkeley called The Ordinary.

My friend Billy Kirschen has said, "If you can remember the 60’s -- you weren’t there!" The Ordinary was opened on a shoestring by a late-twenty-something Vietnam vet named Joseph Carey who was rapidly burning out, trying to do it all himself. Do the shopping in the morning -- cook all afternoon 'til 10 p.m., when the restaurant would turn into a live music bar. He would then tend bar until 2 a.m., go to sleep in the office -- wake up and do it all again. Ah, Berkeley in the '60s . . .

The streets . . . even had their own smell -- a funky mix of spent tear gas and patchouli mixed with the sweet smell of Columbian marijuana and burning bras and draft cards. I would like to tell you that The Ordinary was an island of sanity in this boundless sea of madness, but you wouldn't believe me. Besides, I’m inclined to believe that we were at the very epicenter of it all. In fact the madness of the '60s may have been spreading from the Ordinary like ripples from a rock tossed into Lake Merritt.</blockquote></blockquote>

The Ordinary

Suzan and I had separated. I was still living in Berkeley; she was teaching in the Oakland Public Schools and living in Oakland. She was having an affair with a married black school administrator and I was proceeding through her friends (I think the one I missed got mad at me for neglecting her), schoolteachers all. Hey, it was a different time and place -- what can I say? I cooked a lot. I read cookbooks, had joined a book club, when I wasn’t teaching or doing anti war work. Oh, yeah, I was writing songs, too and plunking on my Martin 00-21. I considered Suzan a good friend -- still do. She and her friends helped me with the work of getting the building in North Oakland ready to be a restaurant. I remember them helping me strip the bar I had found in the San Francisco redevelopment area -- it had been in The Palace Hotel during the big earthquake. We got the settlement from the motorcycle wreck and I opened The Ordinary in April of 1971. Damn, I forgot to tell you about the motorcycle wreck.

We were living in the flatlands of Berkeley on Chestnut St. and Suzan was teaching at an Oakland junior high. My income was a grant from The American Friends Service Committee to operate a draft-counseling center in southern Alameda County. I'd bought a Triumph 650 murdercycle and went to pick her up after school one day. We got as far as Berkeley and were broadsided at a yield sign by the Dean of Women at the Berkeley West Campus High School -- just a few blocks from home. Knocked us about 40 feet. Suzan landed in a bush; I landed on my right shoulder on someone’s concrete front porch.

They took us to the Kaiser hospital where Suzan had her insurance. I found out later I was in shock. She had an obvious broken leg -- they took care of her immediately -- and I was limping a little and couldn't lift my right arm. But when they asked if I could walk to x-ray myself, and then return to the emergency room with the x-rays, I said sure -- and did so. My right shoulder was beginning to hurt quite bit. When I returned, the nurse smiled at me as she inserted the film in the light box. She turned to look at them and gasped. “Sit down, I'm getting the doctor!” The humeral head of my right shoulder was broken all the way through. I was in two pieces: my right arm and the rest of me. There was therapy, agony, blah, blah, blah, poison oak from head to foot, blah, blah, blah. Took a couple of years to get the settlement. Back to our story.

I built a loft, about ten by twelve feet, over the restaurant kitchen and furnished it with a bed, a few books, a television set and a Modigliani nude -- had to climb up there with a ladder. I told the health and fire inspectors that it was dry storage; they didn't want haul their government-nurtured beer bellies up those rungs. This was to be my sometime home for the next few years. Suzan's apartment was just a few blocks away and I took long daily baths there, or showers at her friends' places. (For several years I was super-anal, having spent weeks on end without bathing while photographing the war in Vietnam.)

I hired a local artist to carve some signs for me -- going for a rustic look. I didn't want to scare anyone. It was to be a Creole restaurant. He was the inamorata of an old friend, Michelle, from Indiana University. Unfortunately, he was also, how can I put this delicately? Stark raving bonkers. She called us one day when she couldn’t handle him anymore and a friend of mine and I coaxed him down the stairs and hauled him off to the loony bin. This was a bad sign -- literally. The restroom signs weren't completed by opening day. On the restroom doors, I put up two of the signs that were finished -- Pickled Eggs and Sangria. Never changed them. It was a source of great amusement to the bartenders when stodgy folks would ask which restroom was the men’s -- or women’s. I always answered, "What do you feel like today?"

While working on the building I had been assisting a friend of mine, Don Campbell, a sculptor, in completing some pieces of sculptures for which he had a contractual agreement with a large gallery. Paid me a hundred bucks a week. He, in turn, was helping me build The Ordinary. Laser sculptures: a mirrored top with three motors mounted underneath. Each of the motors had three small mirrors attached to three facets. As the motors rotated, the mirrors would reflect the laser beam, which entered from the cabinet below, hit one small stationary mirror that reflected the beam onto the rotating mirrors (got that? I attempt to commit mathematics as infrequently as possible) in what I presumed to be an infinite variety of patterns. There was a tube in the side of the box containing the mirror through which we blew cigarette smoke so you could see the laser beam. Kinda nifty. I kept begging him to let me build a pinball machine with mirrors on the flippers. He didn’t. At any rate when I opened I hired Don as a bartender -- at a hundred bucks a week.

I was regularly seeing a friend of Suzan's at this point and took her with me to many really good Bay Area restaurants. Campbell and I also went out a bunch of times. We had one night at Trader Vic's where we had just finished a bunch of demolition on the building to house The Ordinary. We were really funky in dirty t-shirts and jeans. The headwaiter gave us both ties to put on -- proper decorum is important. The bartender then gave us a bunch of Mai Tais to put on. And we did. I think we forgot to eat. Not sure.

Don's wife was Greek and taught me how to make Avgolemono. After she and Don separated, she also taught me that the menage a trois (er, two-girls/one guy!) was not necessarily a good thing.

Damn, this piece was supposed to be about The Ordinary and I haven't even opened the doors and invited you in yet! I really am trying to stop interrupting myself and get to the Ordinary. Really. You believe me, don't you?

<div align="center">+ + + + +</div>

Joseph Carey, aka ChefCarey, is the author of Creole Nouvelle: Contemporary Creole Cookery and Chef on Fire: The Five Techniques for Using Heat Like a Pro. He cooks, teaches and writes in Memphis, Tennessee.

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Thanks, DG! Oh, just to fill out the picture, so to speak, here's what I looked like during that era. And a couple of the more innocuous photos I took. (I am the one at the top - although, truth be told I am closing in on the look right below me.)

And, in the next installment I do actually get to The Ordinary. Really.

Me, at the unpleasantness...

Another wonderful reading. Thanks ChefC! I really enjoyed that.

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Joseph,

Quite enjoyed the piece.

Now, I'm going to have to go digging for the previous one.

I grew up near Madison, WI, another hotbed of anti-war activity. I'm a bit younger than you; but, worked with quite a few folks who had been politically active in the 70s. In fact, for part of the year, the produce delivery man was one of the Sterling Hall bombers. Really nice guy.

Look forward to reading more of your further larger than life adventures <cue scary voice>INTO THE PAST</end scary voice>.


---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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More, please !

:biggrin:

Kinda surprised this post didn't generate more questions.

Maybe they are younger and don't appreciate the significance of the time, place and people that you were hobnobbing with. I was blown away........ :wink:

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I moved to Chicago as a child bride in the early 70s -- my bridegroom had all kinds of teacher deferments and dodged Nam-- and I remember that Diana's was a hot place, like Louis Szatmary's (sp?) Bakery or the ineffable green and gold splendor of the Empire Room at the Palmer House hotel. Where were you as a cook during these years? What made you believe that you could open a restaurant?

Or would this be a peek into Part III?


Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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Well, at least *somebody's interested.  :biggrin: Thanks! Oh, there's more. Lots more. Kinda surprised this post didn't generate more questions.

I was in college 66-70 and then medical school 70-74. How many memories your two installments brought back -- thank you for remembering, for being literate enough to write about it and being visual enough to photograph it.

I was in engineering in college, and several of my friends either volunteered for Nam or dropped out of school and were snarfed up by their draft boards ... there were lots of letters coming back ... and then they were coming back ... some intact and some not ... some physically disrupted and some mentally dislocated.

Forty years later, we seem not to have learned very much from our time in SE Asia ... we're still shipping back boys who will never be the same ... and leaving a country thinking they were far better off before we showed up to liberate them.

As Peter, Paul, and Mary said, "When will they ever learn? ...".

I can hardly wait for Part 3 ... and 4 ... and more ... keep 'em coming, Chef!


Edited by JasonZ (log)

JasonZ

Philadelphia, PA, USA and Sandwich, Kent, UK

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Joseph,

Quite enjoyed the piece.

Now, I'm going to have to go digging for the previous one.

I grew up near Madison, WI, another hotbed of anti-war activity.  I'm a bit younger than you; but, worked with quite a few folks who had been politically active in the 70s.  In fact, for part of the year, the produce delivery man was one of the Sterling Hall bombers.  Really nice guy.

Look forward to reading more of your further larger than life adventures <cue scary voice>INTO THE PAST</end scary voice>.

I had never heard of Sterling Hall, so I Googled it and got this result.

Excerpt:

[...]most powerful and the most damaging domestic terrorist bombing in the U.S. up until 1995.[...]

ChefCarey, I enjoyed reading your latest installment and will look forward to however many installments are left. I'm a bit younger than you. I was a little kid through most of the 70s and came of age in the AIDS-terrified 80s, not the permissive early 70s. Though my parents participated in the anti-war movement, I was a youngster at the time. When as a 5-year-old, my mother marched down 5th Av. with me on her shoulders, all I knew was that it was pretty with all the candles. I knew when I saw things exploding and body bags coming back on TV news that something bad was happening and people were dying, but not much else. And I thought that Watergate was the thing the good guys on the Senate committee were doing. Those kinds of political things were complicated for a 5/6-year-old. But Washington Square Park was a lot of fun in those days, with the friendly, already gently aging hippies (or so they seemed to a boy of my age -- maybe a product of their long beards). I used to hang out there around 1972 as a 7-year-old, with my older brother, who was already in high school. Some other things, like "open corridor" schools, as implemented in my local public elementary school, weren't good at all. And lots of families in my neighborhood were breaking up as a result of men not being able to deal with Women's Liberation and trying to tell their wives not to pursue a career or go to college -- a rather different situation from yours. My mother took part in the Women's Liberation Movement, went back to college at my father's suggestion and ultimately fashioned a second professional career for herself as an anthropologist (her first, to support my father through grad school, was as a legal secretary), and my parents stayed together. But none of what I'm talking about is really about food. Let's hear more about the food! :biggrin:


Michael aka "Pan

 

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Well, at least *somebody's interested.  :biggrin: Thanks! Oh, there's more. Lots more. Kinda surprised this post didn't generate more questions.

I was in college 66-70 and then medical school 70-74. How many memories your two installments brought back -- thank you for remembering, for being literate enough to write about it and being visual enough to photograph it.

I was in engineering in college, and several of my friends either volunteered for Nam or dropped out of school and were snarfed up by their draft boards ... there were lots of letters coming back ... and then they were coming back ... some intact and some not ... some physically disrupted and some mentally dislocated.

Forty years later, we seem not to have learned very much from our time in SE Asia ... we're still shipping back boys who will never be the same ... and leaving a country thinking they were far better off before we showed up to liberate them.

As Peter, Paul, and Mary said, "When will they ever learn? ...".

I can hardly wait for Part 3 ... and 4 ... and more ... keep 'em coming, Chef!

Thanks, Jason.

Peter, Paul and Mary may have said it, but Pete Seeger wrote it. I was a big fan of the Weavers. As was my wife, Suzan, the *real* singer in the family.

And, sadly, I agree with you. We don't seem to learn as much as we forget.

The name of the piece about me in France Nouvelle was: "Joseph Carey: A GI Who Doesn't Want to Forget."

There was a *huge* disclaimer box at the head of the article indicating that I was *not* a communist and that many of the things I said would not be in line with communist political theory. I said I loved my country and the GI's I had been with in Vietnam and just wanted to get us the hell out of there.

Perhaps if more people had seen this film by David Zeiger - it's dedicated to my friend Jeff Sharlet, who died of cancer at a tragically young age - we would not have repeated the mistakes of Vietnam. For me it's deja vu. Here's a link for those of you who don't know about this stuff:

The past...

(Disclaimer: I have absolutely no ties to this film although they do use a few photos of mine on the web site.)

Okay, I'll try to get back to food-related stuff now.


Edited by ChefCarey (log)

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Joseph,

Quite enjoyed the piece.

Now, I'm going to have to go digging for the previous one.

I grew up near Madison, WI, another hotbed of anti-war activity.  I'm a bit younger than you; but, worked with quite a few folks who had been politically active in the 70s.  In fact, for part of the year, the produce delivery man was one of the Sterling Hall bombers.  Really nice guy.

Look forward to reading more of your further larger than life adventures <cue scary voice>INTO THE PAST</end scary voice>.

Interestingly enough, I inadvertently brushed a broken shoulder entirely too close to the violence taking place in this country during this era.

Wisely, and for space reasons, a little aside was edited from my recent piece here.

Don't know how many of you are old enough to remember the Patty Hearst kidnapping, but here goes...

In 1974 I was plugging away cooking my Creole dishes at The Ordinary in North Oakland. Minding my own business. A scant few miles away on February 1, Patty Hearst was kidnapped from her Berkeley apartment by members of something calling itself The Symbionese Liberation Army.

Well, it turned out three of the founding members of this group, Bill and Emily Harris and Angela Atwood, had been at Indiana University at the same time Suzan and I were there. We didn't know them as they were staunch fraternity and sorority types and we were anything but. I take that back, Suzan was in a sorority when I met her.

The coincidences cascaded at this point. About a year later the feds nearly nabbed Bill and Emily Harris at an apartment in North Oakland, just a few blocks from my restaurant. There was still hot coffee on the stove when they burst in.

(Damn, I forgot the thing that probably tipped the scales for the FBI. Bill Harris had known my friend Jeff Sharlet at IU and was also on the masthead of Vietnam GI.)

Knowing nothing of this, Suzan moved into that very apartment. I took baths there.

The FBI was intrigued by all these coincidences apparently. They were already familiar with me because of my antiwar work. They asked a few of my friends (who all called me) if they thought I would cooperate with them. Guess my friends were candid with them as they never contacted me.

Okay, I really am trying to talk about food here!


Edited by ChefCarey (log)

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I moved to Chicago as a child bride in the early 70s -- my bridegroom had all kinds of teacher deferments and dodged Nam-- and I remember that Diana's was a hot place, like Louis Szatmary's (sp?) Bakery or the ineffable green and gold splendor of the Empire Room at the Palmer House hotel. Where were you as a cook during these years? What made you believe that you could open a restaurant?

Or would this be a peek into Part III?

Well, I suppose a little peek would be all right, don't you?

I didn't cook at all professionally in Chicago. Like many here at eGullet I was a "serious" home cook. But a professional eater. My evening's entertainment had been restaurants for years. I don't plan anything else when I am going to a restaurant where I anticipate enjoyment. I like to linger.

I *loved* Diana's! I remember portly Papa sitting behind the counter in the grocery section. And getting complimentary ouzo. When I was curious about anything on the menu the waiter would rush off and return shortly with a small sample - gratis. I remember more ouzo. I remember Papa giving Suzan some bakalava and me a cigar when we left. And I remember more ouzo.

Some of the places I cooked in California besides The Ordinary (these are not in my next piece for eGullet): I was consultant and opening executive chef at Mudd's in San Ramon:

(Scroll about halfway down the page and you'll see my recollections of opening Mudd's.)

Mudd's

(While at Mudd's I was fortunate enough to meet and spend time with Masa at Auberge du Soleil - had not yet opened Masa's in San Francisco and I spent most of a day in the kitchen at Green's with Deborah Madison. *Many* years later she was kind enough to read the proofs of my Creole book and give it a very nice endorsement.)

I was night chef at the original Scott's Seafood Grill & Bar at Scott and Lombard in San Fancisco. I ws executive chef at The Tides in Sausalito.

And I opened, again, as executive chef, two restaurants called Crogan's Bar & Grill in the East Bay, one in Walnut Creek and one in the Montclair section of Oakland. Basically, except for Mudd's, mostly seafood places. I would like to say at this point that the two Crogan's are nothing like what they were when I was there. And that's all I'm going to say about that.


Edited by ChefCarey (log)

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More, please !

:biggrin:

Kinda surprised this post didn't generate more questions.

Maybe they are younger and don't appreciate the significance of the time, place and people that you were hobnobbing with. I was blown away........ :wink:

I wasn't smart enough myself to appreciate what was happening all around me at the time. I was just groping my way through life. It was only later upon reflection that I realized important stuff was going on.

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Joseph,

Quite enjoyed the piece.

Now, I'm going to have to go digging for the previous one.

I grew up near Madison, WI, another hotbed of anti-war activity.  I'm a bit younger than you; but, worked with quite a few folks who had been politically active in the 70s.  In fact, for part of the year, the produce delivery man was one of the Sterling Hall bombers.  Really nice guy.

Look forward to reading more of your further larger than life adventures <cue scary voice>INTO THE PAST</end scary voice>.

I had never heard of Sterling Hall, so I Googled it and got this result.

Excerpt:

[...]most powerful and the most damaging domestic terrorist bombing in the U.S. up until 1995.[...]

ChefCarey, I enjoyed reading your latest installment and will look forward to however many installments are left. I'm a bit younger than you. I was a little kid through most of the 70s and came of age in the AIDS-terrified 80s, not the permissive early 70s. Though my parents participated in the anti-war movement, I was a youngster at the time. When as a 5-year-old, my mother marched down 5th Av. with me on her shoulders, all I knew was that it was pretty with all the candles. I knew when I saw things exploding and body bags coming back on TV news that something bad was happening and people were dying, but not much else. And I thought that Watergate was the thing the good guys on the Senate committee were doing. Those kinds of political things were complicated for a 5/6-year-old. But Washington Square Park was a lot of fun in those days, with the friendly, already gently aging hippies (or so they seemed to a boy of my age -- maybe a product of their long beards). I used to hang out there around 1972 as a 7-year-old, with my older brother, who was already in high school. Some other things, like "open corridor" schools, as implemented in my local public elementary school, weren't good at all. And lots of families in my neighborhood were breaking up as a result of men not being able to deal with Women's Liberation and trying to tell their wives not to pursue a career or go to college -- a rather different situation from yours. My mother took part in the Women's Liberation Movement, went back to college at my father's suggestion and ultimately fashioned a second professional career for herself as an anthropologist (her first, to support my father through grad school, was as a legal secretary), and my parents stayed together. But none of what I'm talking about is really about food. Let's hear more about the food! :biggrin:

I too frequented Washington Square Park. First, as an undergraduate. My girlfriend at the time was from Forest Hills and she and I went to a bunch of off-Broadway plays. I have left the couple of times I lived in New York out of my essays here. Spent my 21st birthday in a small French restaurant in Manhattan. That summer I was living in a seedy hotel near Madison Square Garden. Hung out in The Village when not working at Samuel Bronston Productions as a flunky. Saw Dylan at Gerde's Folk City right before his first album came out. Barbara Dane, Dave Van Ronk.

Hey, it ain't my fault! You people are bringing back many non-food memories!

I am penitient and will try to be more foodie-oriented. Promise.

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Thanks, well done, and more please!

You have a remarkable knack of being in places at significant times, with significant people. It's been fascinating to read your stories... looking forward to the next installation (and, of course, any tidbits you'd care to share to keep us going until then...)


Come visit my virtual kitchen.

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[...]Hey, it ain't my fault! You people are bringing back many non-food memories!

I am penitient and will try to be more foodie-oriented. Promise.

Don't feel penitent. Food-related or not, your life story is fascinating and a good read! I guess I'm just impatient to read the rest of the story. :biggrin:


Michael aka "Pan

 

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[...]Hey, it ain't my fault! You people are bringing back many non-food memories!

I am penitient and will try to be more foodie-oriented. Promise.

Don't feel penitent. Food-related or not, your life story is fascinating and a good read! I guess I'm just impatient to read the rest of the story. :biggrin:

Okay, I'll just toss in a little New York tidbit here. :biggrin:

It was the summer of 1963 when I worked for Samuel Bronston Productions:

Bronston

They were just wrapping up Circus World

(Timely seasonal movie trivia: The original director on the film was Frank Capra, probably best known for It's a Wonderful Life. He left unhappy with the script and budget. )

Guess I wasn't very good luck for them as they folded after this film. I suspected problems as one of my flunky jobs involved a more or less constant daily scurry around Manhattan taking *very large* checks from one bank to another. And once a week I mailed a large box, of what I strongly suspected was cash, to Spain. When I wasn't doing that I was humping score paper up to Dimitri Tiomkin in his suite at the Essex House.

I also xeroxed contracts for Rita Hayworth, Claudia Cardinale, and John Wayne and obtained all the data and photo details from the New Hampshire State Historical Society for the exact specifications for the replica of the Deadwood Stage featured in the film. Packed all this up and it to Spain for the craftsmen to build over there.

My girlfriend, Nancy, was in the same sorority with Samuel Bronston's daughter, Irene, and this led to a small taste of the high life, staying for a couple of weeks at the Bronston apartment in Sutton Place South - just me and the maid drinking Pimm's Cup No 1 and eating steaks. Bronston was in Spain. Nancy took me to dinner at the French restaurant for my 21st birthday.


Edited by ChefCarey (log)

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Well, at least *somebody's interested.  :biggrin: Thanks! Oh, there's more. Lots more. Kinda surprised this post didn't generate more questions.

I actually open The Ordinary in a future installment in The Daily Gullet.

I certainly am---I've just been POWER-less for a coupla days. Big windstorm and all.

You all had a look of timeless wisdom that NOBODY would want to learn, and you'd have been played in the movie by William Holden, a much YOUNGER William Holden, with a tiny morph into Robert Mitchum every now and then, when a sun-squint and cavern-deep pronouncement needed making.

And the pictures DID add a thousand words to this piece---the faces at that moment older than they'd ever be. I'm glad to see you're so much younger now.

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More, please !

:biggrin:

Kinda surprised this post didn't generate more questions.

Maybe they are younger and don't appreciate the significance of the time, place and people that you were hobnobbing with. I was blown away........ :wink:

Well, maybe if enough people here are blown away, the book proposal on which I am working will fly. :wink:

Basically, what you see here is just an outline, my experiences severly truncated, and - hope this doesn't scare anyone - about as G-rated as my life gets. :biggrin:

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Well, at least *somebody's interested.  :biggrin: Thanks! Oh, there's more. Lots more. Kinda surprised this post didn't generate more questions.

I actually open The Ordinary in a future installment in The Daily Gullet.

I certainly am---I've just been POWER-less for a coupla days. Big windstorm and all.

You all had a look of timeless wisdom that NOBODY would want to learn, and you'd have been played in the movie by William Holden, a much YOUNGER William Holden, with a tiny morph into Robert Mitchum every now and then, when a sun-squint and cavern-deep pronouncement needed making.

And the pictures DID add a thousand words to this piece---the faces at that moment older than they'd ever be. I'm glad to see you're so much younger now.

Damn, I liked both of those guys a lot. Thanks, again, Rachel. (I had a few dates with the daughter of Willam Holden's business partner in The Mt. Kenya Safari Club, Ray Ryan. Took her to see Buddy Hackett once. :biggrin: )

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Consider me young enough to miss out on the Vietnam War but old enough to be a vet from the first Gulf War. I thoroughly enjoyed your writing and I look forward to hearing some more! My two years I spent overseas were an eyeopener to say the least. I wish all "kids" could have an opportunity like I was allowed. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and please keep 'em up!


Executive Chef

The Villa

Alpharetta, Georgia

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Consider me young enough to miss out on the Vietnam War but old enough to be a vet from the first Gulf War. I thoroughly enjoyed your writing and I look forward to hearing some more! My two years I spent overseas were an eyeopener to say the least. I wish all "kids" could have an opportunity like I was allowed. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and please keep 'em up!

Thanks, John, it's always nice to be appreciated and to hear from folks who like my writing - encourages me to keep on keeping on. And from a fellow chef to boot!

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More, please !

:biggrin:

Okay, here's some more. :biggrin:

It's currently not in the cards to include the Memphis parts of my epic here in The Daily Gullet. So, I'll give you an anecdotal taste with the beginning of one evening in the restaurant.

The Saga of the Terrible Towel

This is another area where I found it handy to have one or two experienced line cooks in my classes. Kitchen towels are nothing to the inexperienced. They go through them like Sherman through Georgia or day traders through money. They are essential tools – manna, sustenance - to the restaurant line cook. The currency of the professional kitchen. White squares of terrycloth approximately 15 x 15 inches. We went through approximately 50 a day during classes. I told the students they would be issued two or three per shift in a restaurant. (Most of them just gloss over this ,yeah, yeah, now teach me something I really need to know - until they actually get in a restaurant environment. This despite my line cook student nodding vehemently when I say this.)

When I opened Café Meridien, my first restaurant in Memphis, I had what might have been the ultimate towel crisis. It was Friday evening, the restaurant was booked solid. I had a kitchen full of graduates of my ten-week class. All had been there a few weeks, there were no brand-newbies on the line. From my office upstairs I heard a ruckus in the kitchen below followed by my sous chef charging up and in and saying I had better get down to the kitchen pronto. Before I could get up from my desk I heard the sounds of footsteps clumping up the stairs. My lead cook and grill cook were in the office on either side of my desk, glaring at each other and breathing heavy. The sous chef wisely slunk out.

“What’s the problem?” I already knew they did not get along. Both started gesticulating and talking at once. Seemed we had a towel shortage. With a busy night ahead we found ourselves with only four clean towels in the building. The linen delivery was late - again. The grill cook, a fairly large woman of Armenian extraction - she looked like she could take care of herself, had a towel in each hand - with a white knuckle grip on each - and one tucked in her four-way apron string at either side. My lead cook, a young gay man from Kentucky, sported no towels.

“She has all the towels and won’t share,” he shrieked.

“I need them since I am working the grill,” she hissed back.

“Don’t you think you could part with a couple?” I foolishly asked. “It seems only fair.”

“No, they are not thick enough. I need to double them up.”

“See, Chef, she is completely unreasonable.”

“Faggot,” she spat at him.

“Rhinoceros,” he fired back.

"Civility, please," I attempted to interject to no avail.

“Fag,” she countered.

“Rhino,” was his riposte.

At least the vituperation was moving in the direction of brevity. This adroit thrust and parry continued for a few minutes until I couldn't take any more.

“Stop! Give him two towels and if you need to double them up grab some soiled ones – only keep them away from the food and the plates.”

Hesitatingly, reluctantly, she threw the two in her hands across the desk. While neither was entirely unrequited in their ongoing evident and voluble hatred of each other, neither was satisfied, either. They left, both grumbling.

Thus we began our Friday evening.

Of course, as their experience increased they learned, like all good line cooks, to hide towels in a rice bin or their lockers, up their butts – no, I take that back, not a good idea! - or behind something in the dry goods storeroom and, if asked by a fellow traveler if they had any extra towels, sin, prevaricate, lie through their teeth. This is the kind of in-the-trenches arcanum of which a beginning culinary student is blithely ignorant.

Anybody been there? :biggrin:

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