Among the tall trees, long before Google and Facebook moved in, even before the terms “dot-commer” and “Silicon Valley” were invented, we lived here. Bicycles outnumbered automobiles and the few restaurants that existed downtown or on California Avenue were mostly closed on Sundays, with the exception of Peninsula Creamery and Jim’s Coffee Shop. We ruled those bike lanes as most of us didn’t yet own cars zipping our way up and down the bike lanes, doing our best to avoid Officer Banks, who drove around town in his beige Ford Pinto (the local police department’s vehicle of choice) spending his time busting everyone’s chops, including my brother Lawrence, “Bags” and a few others whom I won’t reveal here.
Some weekends when we weren’t attending football games, basketball games, or dance and piano lessons our weekends were spent at Frost Amphitheater swaying and singing to the music of Tower of Power, The Chambers Brothers, Jefferson Airplane, Sly And The Family Stone, The Sons of Champlin and a host of other rock bands. God, those concerts were SO fun and, believe it or not, only about $11.00 to $17.00 for your ticket!
I recently spent a few days back in my home town of Palo Alto for a gathering of school friends. It’s funny, I haven’t lived in the Bay Area for over twenty years, but I often feel terribly home-sick . As soon as I disembark from my blue limo (Super Shuttle) and inhale the crisp clean air I feel a sense of peace. I am awash with joy and that “coming home” euphoria only those of us who really grew up somewhere can feel. I savor the cracks in the sidewalks. We don’t have cracks in our sidewalks in Las Vegas we keep everything looking brand new here. The old U.S. Post Office on Hamilton Avenue, designed by local architect Birge Clark, with its humongous and ornate light fixture in the foyer hangs today as it did in 1932. In Vegas we pretty much implode everything that is old, preserving only a few remnants of signage at our Neon Boneyard museum.
|Not much has changed along our streets|
It’s true, parking has become impossible and the number of people milling around downtown is almost overwhelming. Back in the ‘70’s, Palo Alto was a far quieter, practically boring place on the weekends. There was the annual art and wine festival, now Palo Alto hosts a myriad of art festivals and events almost monthly. Even the well attended Saturday morning farmers market with its abundance of ripe fruit, organic vegetables, artisan breads and cheeses didn’t exist back then.
Which brings me to the food segment of this week’s Blog. I should be focusing on a seasonal food/herb/ingredient that begins with the letter Qq. That would be quince. But quince isn’t actually in season until next month, so I will write about quince for my next entry. This week I’d like to share with you the details of my experience and delight in a homey-heartfelt meal prepared for a mere 140 or so of us old Palo Altons.
I pulled into the parking lot at the Palo Alto Arts Center on Newell around 6:30 p.m. Oh my gosh, there’s Mark Macres, and he’s wearing a suit! I thought this was supposed to be casual! A feeling of diminished confidence seeped into my pores. Fortunately it lasted only a moment. When I pulled into my parking space, another car pulled in next to me and there were my wonderful and beautiful friends, Janis, Terri, Jill and Jill’s little sister. Terri was wearing jeans, white, but they were jeans none-the-less. As we made our way into the Art Center, I hadn’t been there since my family hosted Lawrence’s funeral service, I felt a small gasp of breath catch in my chest. But the feeling immediately dissipated as I was met with smiles and hugs from Judy, Allyson and Skeeter. It was funny to see how some of us change while others are essentially the same. Most of us have gained a few pounds and wear the wrinkles of worry and joy over our children or bear the badges of loves known and lost, or for many here, badges of honor for sustaining the love of a still intact marriage. Wine glass in hand, I had to only look into the eyes to recognize those I competed against in track in, or who I missed the bus with on our way to summer school science class, or one who sat next to me in the car for Driver’s Education with coach “what’s his name.”
Conversations abounded; “You look great,” “Are you still living in the Bay Area?” “Are you married?” “How many kids do you have now?” Sometimes needing a quick peek at the name tag before inquiring. I struggled to find my friend Sue. “Where’s Sue?” I asked. “She used to have long dark hair I lamented but I can’t find her.” “Well didn’t you used to have long dark hair too Deborah?” someone asked. Good point.
As the sun went down, Sandra decided it was time to serve dinner. Sandi is married to her high school sweetheart, Vince. Actually I’m thinking they were Jr. High sweethearts. He played football, very well and as I recall, was always kind hearted. Sandi was rather tall and had the best pair of long, shapely legs in school. And she loved to laugh. My most memorable recollection of her infectious laugh involved our beloved Tony Rodriquez, Dickie Gould (I think), and our drama teacher Mrs. Atkinson, who possessed her own flair for the dramatic.
It was the end of the school year and Mrs. Atkinson was sitting in her “director’s chair” facing the stage directing a small ensemble of students in the art of projecting. Tony, Dickie, Sandi and I were bored and for some reason decided Mrs. Atkinson’s dramatic flair needed some taming. Every day of our ninth grade year, Mrs. Atkinson wore colorful silk scarves to accent the tailored suits she wore. One of her more dramatic behaviors was the way she would toss one side of the scarf around her neck to her back whenever it would fall forward. On this particular day Mrs. Atkinson was so focused on the kids on stage she left the rest of her students to fend for ourselves. But there was nothing to fend for, nothing to do, no scripts to rehearse so Tony deferred to his most high of talents; making us laugh.
Mrs. Atkinson threw her the one side of her scarf back over her shoulder for the twentieth time during that 40 minute class, Tony came up with an idea, a wonderfully, awful idea. This scarf was just long enough to extend a bit down the back of Mrs. Atkinson’s upholstered chair. As Sandi, Dickie and I watch in silent horror and mischievous glee, Tony crept up behind her and with a few pushpins he pulled from one of the classroom bulletin boards tacked the end of her scarf to the back of the chair, thereby securing our drama teacher to her seat. So intent on her task, Mrs. Atkinson wasn’t the least bit aware of Tony crouching down behind her and pinning her scarf. Tony was very careful as he worked. It was amazing to all of us, as now every student observed his movements that our teacher couldn’t feel or sense what was going on behind her. No one uttered a sound. Then sloowly he crept back to his seat on the drama room couch with the rest of us to watch the drama unfold. All we had to do was sit and wait for Mrs. Atkinson to jump up from her chair in heated passion, as she always did, to correct the actors on stage. It didn’t take long, within minutes she was lunging out of her seat towards the stage only to be bounced back by the pinned end of her scarf, which promptly brought her back down into her seat like Ricochet Rabbit. We howled with laughter, every one of us. Sandi and I laughed so hard, we ran, holding hands, to the girl’s bathroom. Of course no one confessed or ratted out the tacking down of our teacher. Now I know this may read like a sick, adolescent joke, but that’s just what it was. Because we were adolescents, but we weren’t sick, just rather bored. And it really was so funny!
|Here's The Original|
Now that we’re grown we no longer play pranks on teachers, but Sandra and I do stay in touch due to our mutual love of cooking, especially cooking for others. It was Sandra who prepared the beautifully presented crudités in glass, for our little gathering. The jambalaya with shrimp, the pasta and salad with homemade focaccia bread on the side. And for dessert Sandi’s Cobbler Cups. Now if you’re lucky enough to live in the San Francisco or the Bay Area, then you’ve probably enjoyed one of her Cobbler Cups while attending a Giants or 49er’s game. But since we all went to school together and this was a special event Sandra shared her talents and showed us the love by providing us with two versions of her Cobbler Cups, peach and mixed berry. She also does one with apricots. Sandi’s Cobbler Cups offer a hearty serving of fruit tucked into a flaky, buttery pastry then it’s all topped with a generous scoop of rich and creamy vanilla ice cream. It’s obvious by the taste and texture Sandra uses wholesome ingredients. I’ve seen on FB Vince’s expansive garden and the effort he puts into canning his harvest of fruits and vegetables. Sandi’s pastry is sweet but overly so, yielding but hearty enough to stand up to a cup brimming with fruit. At first bite your mouth is greeted by a provocative play of homespun goodness. It was hot that weekend and spooning something so symbolic of summer was the perfect finish to a meal that made us feel more like members of Sandra and Vince’s family rather than just an eclectic group of friends. Thank You Sandra!!
I can’t give you the recipe for her Cobbler Cups, you’ll have to go to Levi Stadium or AT&T Park for her original version (or I believe you can order them and she’ll ship to you). But I can share with you my go-to recipe for fruit cobbler.
*Cobbler Recipe to Follow . . . . .