Category Archives: Food-Cooking-and Eating

Is It Sauce or Is It Gravy?

food plate restaurant dinner
Photo by Anna Tarazevich on Pexels.com

I have always thought of the topping we’re most used to putting on pasta as sauce; generically spaghetti sauce, though we might differentiate between marinara and meat sauce. During the early 80s, when I was living in Playa del Rey, CA I recall a friend from Boston who referred to it as gravy. I had never heard that term used before and I was intrigued.

Never thought about it too much, but every once in a while I would wonder what it was all about. Gravy or sauce. Now I’ve spent my fair share of time in the kitchen and I know my way around, but I’m hardly a trained chef or a connoisseur. I’m just someone who enjoys eating and knows how to have fun cooking many of the things I like to eat.

Recently, I decided to “do my own research” and have discovered there is no simple answer to the question. Suffice it to say, for the most part gravy is used to refer to a thickened liquid made from the drippings of cooked meat or vegetables, while sauce is made separately from the item it is poured over or served with. Gravies are usually served hot while sauces can be served either hot or cold.

It seems clear to me, however, there is a lot of overlap and wiggle room for classifying something as either a sauce or a gravy and, rather than present an entire treatise on it, I’m going to share a couple of links to articles or sources I’ve encountered whilst doing the aforementioned “research”. I have to add that writing this has made caused me to crave a nice, steaming plate of pasta with my favorite kind of sauce/gravy poured all over it (that would be a meat sauce, say a nice bolognese.)

This page runs down a bit of the history of Italian immigrants to the U.S. and how their use of the words has evolved as they assimilated. The author points out how contentious the distinction has become. There’s quite a bit of fun history and speculation here.

This next page is from a source in India for hospitality workers to educate themselves. It’s got an interesting table setting forth the differences between gravies and sauces. It does not go into any arguments that exist regarding the difference; it’s just a decent source for understanding their components.

This blog post goes into what appears to be an ongoing argument over what to call the stuff that in Italy is referred to as sugo. The author also provides information about Italy and Italian-Americans, as well as recipes from salads to desserts.

Now I need to go out and find something to satisfy my craving for Italian. As a Ukrainian-Moldovan-German-Jewish-American, it’s not part of my heritage but my father’s best friend was a DeBiase and I spent a few of my early years eating homemade pasta (Rigatoni is my fave) or Lasagna, garlic bread, and fresh from the oven Pizzelle (Anise cookies) most every Sunday when we lived near each other in Panorama City, CA.

Pizzelle (Yum!)

Transference

What follows is an attempt at writing a short story from something like ten years ago. It’s based on an actual experience of mine that was both enlightening and humbling.

James had been napping for at least an hour. His lunch with Daniel proved a little too much for him, as the salt content of the food made him uncomfortable and a little uneasy. Jewish soul food sure was comforting and tasty, but it would never be mistaken for health food. This was especially true if one had hypertension, like James, accompanied by a deep love of Matzo Ball soup and kosher pickles. He was pretty sure, now that he had no choice but to think about it, he’d ingested at least three or four teaspoons of salt. Although it was now the middle of the afternoon and there remained things to do, the sensations he was experiencing were unsettling and he felt he had no choice but to nap, even if somewhat fitfully. He lay in bed, drifting between different states of consciousness, at times dreaming comfortably and at others becoming keenly aware of what was happening elsewhere in the house. 

His wife, Doreen, had come into the room earlier and asked if he wanted to get up for dinner, but James declined, choosing to allow himself a few more precious minutes of rest and relaxation prior to assuming the chores he had no choice but to perform. After all, the trash and recycle containers weren’t going to take themselves out to the curb and, since the kids were off from school the next day, he wanted to get it out that evening rather than arising early to make sure they weren’t passed up by the trash trucks that always came at daybreak. 

Unfortunately, things weren’t working out quite as he hoped they would. He could hear his children arguing at the dinner table . . . and the volume seemed to be increasing dramatically. Suddenly, he heard angry footsteps approaching the girls’ bedroom across the hall, followed by a triple slamming of the door and loud screaming. He tried to ignore it. This, of course, was impossible and he was shortly fully awake. And upset. 

He forced himself out of bed and popped his head into the girls’ bedroom. His oldest, Angela, was sitting propped up in the corner, sobbing uncontrollably. He wasn’t feeling sympathetic and fixed her with as menacing a glare as he could muster.  

“How many times have I asked you not to slam doors? I’m not feeling well and you woke me up.” 

He continued his glare. She seemed not to care, merely staring back at him with sad, tear-filled eyes. Of course, this infuriated him more. Fortunately, he managed to summon up his nurturing side; at least enough to realize he wasn’t going to help by getting angry with her. With a heavy sigh, he withdrew and moved into the family room. He sat down and instead trained his glare on the television which, to his surprise, also showed no sign of caring. 

Doreen, seeing him now awake, began to recount—step-by-step—the events leading up to this latest drama. He didn’t want to hear it. Most of the conversation, arguing, and yelling between the kids had made it into his consciousness while he was struggling to ignore it and remain asleep; he had no desire to relive it all from her viewpoint, thank you very much. If he had been feeling better, he would have listened better. He wasn’t. 

Ten minutes later, he could still hear Angela sobbing heavily in her room. James was finally convinced he wasn’t having a heart attack and now was becoming concerned for his oldest daughter’s anguish. He felt a little pang of guilt for having scolded her. Feeling a bit selfish and narcissistic, he wanted to do something about it. 

Softly, he knocked on the bedroom door. There was no response. He knocked again and heard a quiet, somewhat surly “What is it?” He now had permission to enter the room and state his business. 

James walked slowly over to the bed. Angela was still sobbing, not even looking up to acknowledge his presence. He gently sat on the bed and looked at his oldest. Her sadness washed over him and his guilt was replaced with warmth and the love he felt for this wonderful child he felt so privileged to have in his life. He took her hand. She looked up, somewhat surprised, and he stared directly into her eyes. 

“Sweetheart, I’m very sorry I yelled at you for waking me up. I know you had a fight with your sister and you’re very upset.” She continued to stare at him, softening slightly from the stone-faced, hurt child he’d seen when he entered the room. 

“I can’t stay mad at you, and it hurts me to see you like this. Is there anything I can do to help?” Her face again softened almost imperceptibly as he continued, “I’ll talk to Annie about teasing you and being so annoying. Would you like that?” The mention of her little sister brought Angela back to the feelings she had before he entered the room. Again she began to sob. James took a deep breath, wondering how he could make this better. 

Seeing one of the great loves of his life this miserable was overwhelming and, as he looked into her eyes, he felt tears beginning to fill his own. He could not look away from her and, therefore, could not hide the fact he was crying. As she saw the tears in his eyes, the corners of her mouth began to turn up ever so slightly, and her eyes took on a slight twinkle. 

“You know how much I love you, baby. Can you forgive me for getting angry with you? I really, really am sorry.” As he spoke, a tear slowly flowed from one eye and began running down his cheek. Angela’s eyes widened and she smiled at him with a look of both wonder and appreciation. 

“Would you like to come out of the room with me and see what Mommy’s fixing for dinner?” he asked. She nodded, and continued to look lovingly into his eyes. James was filled with a sense of deep relief and not a little wonder at what had just happened. He’d entered the room hoping to merely calm his daughter down a little. Now he had unwittingly achieved something far greater and more enduring. 

Somehow, his display of emotion had managed to suck the anguish out of Angela. Since he was much older than her, it was easy for him to deal with the depth of feeling he experienced and, in fact, once he saw her reaction he was filled with a profound sense of satisfaction. 

He arose and held out his hand. Angela took it and stood up beside him. “Feeling better?” he asked. She nodded. He turned and led her out of the room—this magical room where something special had just happened. Mommy was making dinner and Annie was still Annie, lying in wait out in the family room. This moment, though, was very special and he savored it. He knew there would be more—perhaps even greater—battles fought between the two of them but, for now he was content to soak up the intense connection he had found in his short conversation with Angela. Life would, indeed, go on. 


Preserving My Past

This is kind of a #FlashbackFriday#FF, since I missed #ThrowbackThursday#TT, though it’s more of just an addition to my life story as made possible through the wonders of Facebook and, especially, the Timeline. Since its inception, I have seen my Timeline as a way to share contemporaneously, as well as retrospectively. I have used it as a way to share both my present and my past, the latter being primarily with the thought my two daughters will one day be able to see who I was, in some sense from the beginning. If others enjoy it, that’s a bonus. Hell – I enjoy it myself once in a while and it gives me a reason to slowly digitize some of my favorite actual, printed photos, which would not be shareable other than in person if I didn’t scan and post them. This seems like as good a place as any; better than most.

The picture I am here sharing was taken quite some time after I owned the business that resided in this small, unassuming space. Nevertheless, the size and location haven’t changed since January of 1967, when my father (fearing I was on the road to becoming a bum) purchased what was then DEB’s Snack Shop and I began managing it. We were partners. My job was to spend 14 hours a day there and his job was to show up once a day and get pissed at me for something I neglected to do or didn’t do properly, as he saw it. He was very good at his job and so was I, though you wouldn’t have known it by how well he performed his special task.

This little place consisted of 14 stools and about a 10′ takeout counter. It sat in a parking lot across the street from the main entrance of the May Company store on Hill St., between 8th and 9th Streets, in downtown Los Angeles. It was small, but it was busy . . . and quite lucrative, especially for a nineteen-year-old who had recently just barely escaped High School.

It was here I learned some of the more valuable lessons I’ve been fortunate enough to benefit from. Perhaps the most important of them was given by my father when he admonished me to never ask anyone who worked for me to do something I wasn’t willing to do as well. I had five employees and every one of them was older than me, one by around thirty years. Earning their respect was of the utmost importance. Now that I think about it, I was fortunate to be raised with respect for most everyone. Another valuable lesson, which made this primary business one much easier to aspire to.

I also learned what I have always considered my first real marketing and sales lesson. This place was a snack shop. Hamburgers, hot dogs, tacos, burritos, ham sandwiches, fries, etc. We also opened up early enough for breakfast, so eggs, bacon, hash browns, etc. Of course, there were other items and most of the food was marked up 300%, that is the cost of the food item was generally 1/3 of the price we charged.

Then there were soft drinks, none of which were served in cans or bottles. We had a dispenser. The cost of a large soft drink was marginally more than a small one and the difference in cost of the cups was about a penny. The difference in profit, however, was spectacular, with the price of a large drink around two and a half times what the small one went for. I think it was $0.10 and $0.25. Let’s say I made $0.07 (in today’s money that would be $0.50) profit from the small drink. Since the cost of the large drink was marginally more than the small – let’s say $0.05 instead of $0.03 – I made a profit of $0.20 ($1.42 today) on the large drinks.

That’s the data behind it, but the real lesson was in behavior. Over a period of time, I did some experimenting. I didn’t keep a little notebook, nor did I design a devilishly clever test. People would place an order like “I’d like a cheeseburger, onion rings, and a Coke.” I merely responded in one of two ways and noted the difference in results. If I asked them “large or small” they would frequently opt for the small. However, if I merely said “large?”, they would seldom say “no”.

I don’t know how much more money I made by doing this, but I’m reasonably certain it was on the order of a few dollars a day. Extrapolated out over a year’s time, that would be around an extra couple of grand in today’s money. Not a bad result. Unfortunately, I didn’t last a year, but that’s another story. I have no regrets, btw.

PS – The name of the place in the pic is JEMP’s, which stood for Jerry, Eileen, Marshall, and Penny . . . the Silversteins. Jerry, who had worked at the Grand Central Market with my father for many years, bought the business at a discount when I kind of abruptly told the old man I was through with it. Shortly thereafter I found myself in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco. This was the Summer of Love, 1967. The rest, as you no doubt know, is history.


Halloween 2021

Last night I took my youngest daughter, Alyssa, for what is likely to be her last time trick-or-treating … with me, at least. She’ll be 18 in a week, though she’s small enough she’ll probably be able pass for a child for decades to some (with a mask on.)

There was a local Facebook group that had lists of the decorated houses here in Simi Valley, including maps and guides if you wanted to drive around and sight see. We didn’t actually do that, but we did use a couple of destinations to check out. The first video below is from the neighborhood we went to where one family had created a haunted house.

Alyssa wanted to go through it, but she insisted I accompany her, which I did. They had set it up so that if you went through with a flashlight the actors weren’t supposed to jump out at you, but just wave. That’s what Alyssa wanted to do, but the first character we met jumped out at her and screamed, scaring the shit out of her. I admonished him and we got an apology when we exited. It’s a good thing I was with her or she would have completely freaked out.

Here’s Alyssa in her “costume.” She wanted to be a French businesswoman; an entrepreneur and this is the outfit she put together using clothing she wears normally, as well as a piece she had designated to be donated to a local charity but decided it fit her concept. I ordered her a beret from Amazon Prime to “top” the costume off.

Alyssa as a French Entrepreneur

Below are some videos and photos of some of the houses she stopped at. We didn’t get any photos of the haunted house, as we were too busy going through it and navigating the maze they’d created. Both neighborhoods we went to were a bit more upscale than ours. In fact, the second place we went was an equestrian neighborhood and I’d venture to guess the houses there were about twice as pricey as our home. It was also jam packed with literally hundreds of people walking from house to house. We returned to our area of town to finish off the evening and it was comparatively dead. All-in-all it was a fun evening for Alyssa. Later today or tomorrow we’re going to head over to For The Troops, an organization that sends packages of hard-to-get supplies and goodies to serviceman and women stationed abroad. It was Alyssa’s main reason for going out last night.

This was her haul of candy for the night, not including the dozen or so pieces we ate while she was conducting inventory. I must admit I ate my share and, fortunately, my blood sugar wasn’t too elevated this morning.


Life Can Be Tough!

It’s been almost a month since last I posted which, given my desire to be more and more communicative, seems a bit self-defeating. However, there’s a good explanation. Several months ago my youngest daughter began presenting symptoms of an eating disorder. At the same time, I was working to navigate the changes I had to implement to get her transferred to another high school for her senior year.

Since nothing could be done during summer vacation, because the people needed to convene an IEP meeting weren’t available, and the meeting was a prerequisite to getting approval for the transfer, the entire summer felt a bit like a cliff-hanger. I had been told by the Principal of the new school she’ll be attending they would hold a spot for her, but my cynical self wasn’t convinced it would happen.

Fortunately, it did; last Friday. School starts in two days. I also had to help fill out a very long application to a facility that treats eating disorders. She is now on a waiting list, which may be as long as eight weeks; I’m unclear on what’s happening. Her volatility, depression, and anger have taken up just about all the energy I can muster and this next school year my prove to be the toughest yet. She’s transferring from a regular high school to one with independent study, which means it’s more like homeschooling … guess who the teacher will be.

So … my intention is to write a lot more once she’s back in school and I can have some tranquil time to myself. I’m not entirely certain it will happen, but Imma work for it.


GoFundMe Update

A Rare Family Photo

Yesterday I posted an update to my GoFundMe campaign to raise a little money while writing my first memoir. I’m expecting it to take at least six months of gathering info/memories/photos and writing, proofing, and editing it. I may have to make several trips to the Bay Area and Bend, Oregon to interview some of the families who traveled with us in 2002 and 2006. The money I’m seeking is primarily needed to help me with those costs. What follows is my update:


Just wanted to share a little update for all y’all (such as there are.) My current plan is to make this work around 50,000 words. I have found a file with at least a dozen heartfelt emails I sent back to the states from The China Hotel, in Guangzhou, PRC, when we adopted Aimee.

I have also discovered an essay I wrote, as part of a personal ethics journal I was required to write for a comparative religions class at Cal Lutheran Uni. It is about the ethical struggle I went through regarding being a much older parent and how I thought that might affect an adopted child. It was written prior to our first adoption and I will be elaborating on it. I’ve had almost two decades to be faced with, and contemplate, that reality.

I’ve begun contacting several parents with whom we traveled and became somewhat close. For the first 12 or so years we had reunions every year. Not all the families were able (or even wanted) to make it, but there were usually at least ten of us. It’s been a few years since that happened and, of course, all the girls Aimee’s age are now pretty much adults and are striking out on their own.

I have begun contacting some of those parents in order to interview them for this memoir. I’ve always felt parenting was similar to flying in an airplane. Long stretches of boredom, intermittently punctuated by moments of sheer terror and anxiety. I intend on finding out if others have felt the same.

My plan is to provide an update each month until the work is done, after which my final update will be the memoir itself.

My deepest thanks to those of you who have contributed. You have no idea what that does for my commitment to get this done … and done well. I’m adding a photo taken just this past Mothers’ Day. Alyssa had admonished me in the past not to post photos of her, or tag her in any way on FB. While we were driving to pick up our dinner for us to enjoy with Linda, she informed me she wanted me to post more photos, which she now sees as documentation of her family life. Hence, the photo, which I really like (though I wish I was actually looking into the lens.)


Support Black-Owned Businesses

I don’t get much feedback that isn’t spam on this blog site, but I continue to carry on despite it. I did, however, just receive a wonderful communication with some good information that I’ve been asked to pass along. I’ll share the text and the link that accompanied it for you to check out. I have and there are some interesting businesses represented at the site. Most of them appear to be closely allied with activists and social justice causes. The page, located at a site called “Website Planet,” is “Support Black-Owned Businesses: 181 Places to Start Online.”

Here’s the text of the feedback, as I received it:

Hi there , I saw your page rickladd.com/, and I wanted to thank you for supporting the Black community. The events of last summer (BLM protests and COVID-19) saw many people rally to support Black-owned businesses. Sadly, since summer ended, people forgot to keep sharing and supporting these businesses. I just found a new article with links to more than 150 Black-owned businesses. I was so happy to see that people still care about helping these companies thrive! The link is here: https://www.websiteplanet.com/blog/support-black-owned-businesses/ I think sharing this link on your page would be a great way to help your readers keep supporting Black-owned sites and stores. I think it will be a great addition to your site and that your audience will love this new resource! Thank you in advance for your support, Fabiola

I believe now, more than ever, we need to show our support for our black brothers and sisters. This seems a good way to do it. Thanks to Fabiolo, who I’ll be emailing shortly to thank for providing the info.

One caveat … while some of these businesses offer merchandise online, many if not most of them are located in Brooklyn, NY and aren’t easily accessible by folks like me, who are out here on the west coast.


Pizza Gaetz

A guy I follow on Twitter, Dave Weasel, tweeted asking why we aren’t calling the investigation of Matt Gaetz, Pizza Gaetz. It was in response to a tweet by Mehdi Hasan, who noted that QAnon believes this investigation is all part of “the plan”. It got me thinking and, here’s my contribution to the effort. I have nothing more to add at the moment other than to point out how I expect this years full load of schadenfreude to be exceptionally bounteous and eminently enjoyable.


My Girls (and Me)

I was going through some photos the other day and came across a couple I wanted to share with my friends on Facebook. I still post quite a bit there and I get a fair amount of feedback, but the one of my girls and me at a Wedding Vows renewal ceremony got 125 likes and a lot of favorable comments, so I decided to share it on Twitter. I don’t have nearly as many “followers” as I have “friends,” mostly because I was a bad boy last year and, after 14 years, Twitter suspended my account. I believe it was because, in an answer to someone else’s tweet, I suggested the former guy might benefit from a heart attack. Oh, well!

Since these are two of my favorite pics of my girls and, since they’re about ten years old, I figured I would memorialize them here. After all, this is probably the most accurate historical record I’m going to leave and these girls are such a huge, profound portion of my life, it’s probably where they belong. So … in addition to continuing to share my Photoshop efforts on occasion, I’m going to put up more pictures of the girls … especially now that they’re both approaching adulthood.

The photo on the right received a nice welcome as well, though not quite like the “dressier” photo. It was taken after we’d eaten dinner at Toluca Lake Bob’s Big Boy. We had finished a long day of entertainment at Griffith Park, including a miniature train ride, horseback riding, a stopover at the Observatory, and a stop at Travel Town on our way out. I really miss these girls. They’re teenagers now (my oldest, Aimee, will be 20 in three months) and you can probably figure out what that means. <Sigh!>


Wood Ranch BBQ’s Coleslaw

I am a lover of coleslaw, especially the creamy deli coleslaw I grew up eating in small Jewish delis in the San Fernando Valley, as well as the Fairfax area (I’m looking at you, Canter’s) and, later, Langer’s. However, I discovered a different way to prepare coleslaw when I first had the opportunity (at least 15 years ago, maybe more) to eat at Wood Ranch BBQ, near my current home in Simi Valley, CA. Instead of creamy and sweet, it’s oily, vinegary, and savory … and it’s delicious.

Since I’ve been cooking a lot more lately, and have spent some time searching out and gathering recipes, I had found a recipe for Wood Ranch BBQ’s peanut cole slaw and wanted to try it out. I had no choice but to make a few adjustments, as I didn’t have any red cabbage and only had a 14 oz bag of shredded cabbage and carrots. I had no intention of going shopping. I made some adjustments in ingredient amounts to compensate, and left out the salt, since the only peanuts I had were salted. I had two small bowls and am looking forward to dinner, when I will eat it again. My wife is thrilled as well. It tastes very much like I remember, and my memory tells me it was—and IS—deliciously wunderbar! I’m sharing the recipe, just in case you’d like to try it yourself. As the saying goes, “Try it. You’ll like it.”


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