Monday, June 2, 2014

"No animal should ever jump up on the dining room furniture unless absolutely certain that he can hold his own in conversation."  ~ Fran Lebowitz

"WAITER!!!  WAITER!!! Where are my in-the-shell, unsalted, roasted peanuts!!!  I've been waiting 10 WHOLE MINUTES!!! WAITER, I WANT THEM NOW!" screeched the nasty, raspy voice. "I said NOW, AND I MEAN NOW!"

"Richard, the scrub jays are out there and that big one wants his peanuts!"

"I just gave them some 15 minutes ago!"

"I guess you didn't give them enough, 'cause they're right outside this window, screaming their heads off. One of them is even standing in front of the screen door yelling!"

You see, I am the chef d'cuisine in those scrub jays' minds, and the best thing a chef d'cuisine can do when an angry diner starts to complain is to send the bistro's owner, that would be Richard, out to appease them... well, at least that's how it goes in our house.

All the scrub jays are sitting up in various branches of the Chinese orchid trees behind our fence, busy opening those peanut shells, so now I can write what I wanted to write in the first place...

Yesterday we were the patrons at our favorite little bistro in Laguna Beach, Watermarc, and nearly no one screeches there. I always have the very same lunch ~ their Salmon Niciose Salad. It's a decomposed salad with salmon so fresh that I swear I've seen it wriggle on the plate! It lies on a lightly sauted arugula salad on a long white plate. The chef arranges perfectly cut boiled egg slices overlapped in a row, and all the slices have the exact same yolk diameter! Amazing... Those eggs point you to the far end of the plate where lies a perfect salad made with the tiniest whole potaotes, red, white, and blue, each no bigger than a jawbreaker, and haricorts vert, with a few mild onion slices all tossed in a perfect house-made-fresh French vinegrette.  Oops, I almost forgot the small, hot-from-the-oven baguette with an olive butter spread that I'd like to eat by the spoonfuls, but, for Richard's sake, I don't.

Watermarc is right there on the Coast Highway and faces the Pacific Ocean. It has a sliding window that's more than 1/2 the size of the whole room, always wide open to that sea view and the salty air. It's lovely and quiet and very small.

Suddenly a lady, her daughter, her mother, and a friend came in and insisted on the table right next to us. As she came between her table and ours to sit on the shared banquette, she knocked into our table, sloshing my water all over... but then, I've done that, too. 

It was when she flopped down a few feet away from me that I saw her surprise package. She had a little dog in her hand, a dog that may have weighed 3 pounds, but 1/2 of that weight was hair! It was the smallest poodle... no, the smallest DOG I've ever seen in my life! He made a chihuahua look big!  She put him on her lap, but he turned to look at me and he smiled! Dogs have always liked me. Then he jumped off her lap and walked across the banquette, sat down along side of me, looked straight into my eyes, and smiled again! I picked him up and put him on my lap, and it was like picking up a dandelion tuft! He was happy. He didn't seem to want my food, he just wanted to rest a while on my lap.

Now, we are Old English Sheepdog folks. Ragland T. Tiger would have weighed out at about 80 pounds, Clancy weighed a perfect 88 pounds, and Oliver Hardy was a chubby 101 pounds. The vet said that he was just a "chub," and like people, some are slim-ish and some aren't. This dog on my lap, though, was just a wisp of the wind in weight!

About 10 minutes later the lady realized that her dog was missing, and I told her what happened, and she took him back. She was going to put him in her purse, but decided that her lap was a more perfect place. Her purse... really?

(Terry, this is a boring story, and no one cares... What's the point???) I thought everyone knew that it was against the health regulations to have dogs in restaurants! BUT, I found that it was soooo much nicer to share the seating with this little, smiling dog than it was listening to that lady screeching at her family during our entire lunch.

Cows, of course, are different animals altogether than dogs, big or little. And they eat in pastures, and sometimes cornfields when they aren't supposed to! I know this because my first time ever on a farm was nearly hazardous to my health... I think...

I was spending a long weekend at the farm of my college roommate in Nebraska City. I'd never been on an actual farm before, and this one was just what I'd hoped it would be like. Coming from big cities in California, Texas, and Connecticut, too, I couldn't believe that people could really own all the land that you could see from the farmhouse to the top of those hills! And this farm was on the smallish side, I was told.

As Sallye walked me around to the barn so I could see the calves that had just been taken from their Moms, we heard her Dad call us to come help. It seemed that the cows had "gotten into the corn field!" That didn't sound like an alarming thing to me. I thought "field corn" WAS cow food! Guess not...

Mr. Benecke yelled for Sallye to come help him get the cows out of the field, and she ran over to help. I sauntered over to lean on the fence and watch this... cooool! The cows started to rush out of the break in the fence towards the narrow dirt path between the fences. Coooool! Oops, I mean! That's where I was standing!

"Terry! Terry! Head 'em off! Head 'em off towards that other path on the left! TERRY! HEAD 'EM OFF!"

Who ME??? Cows are BIG... really, really big... well, bigger than I am... They have big, big brown eyes, and they were all trotting towards me, and they looked sort of dumb (no offense, cows, but it's true) and scared, too! The only time I'd ever seen cows being manuvered was on TV, and there were cowboy movie actors on horses doing it.

I pressed so hard against the fence as they all ran past me that I had to pick out splinters from my back later that night. It was a very quiet night around the dinner table, too. It was the first and only time that Mr. Benecke was angry with me. Do people actually "turn" 15 full-grown trotting cows being chased away from "off-limits corn" by just standing in front of them and waving their arms??? Not me... They looked just about as dumb as I was! Sallye said that they would have turned, but I said that they'd never met me, yet, so...

The next day Sallye said that I should try meeting the calves again, the ones who'd just been taken from their moms. They were about 4 days old, and they were lots smaller than those brazen, corn-stealing cows the day before. Well, calves are soooo cute! 

"Do you want to feed them, Terry?"

"You bet I do!"

"Here's the nipple-bottle bucket, and it's all filled with his mom's milk. Just let him suckle."

Sounded easy, so I did. The bucket was weird, though. There was a big metal hook on the back side of the bucket... hmmmm... I held the bucket to the calf's mouth and he glommed onto the plastic nipple and began to suck. That little baby 4-day-old calf was so strong that he actually pulled the entire bucket out of my hands! It crashed to the hay-strewn floor of the barn, spilling his mother's milk all over everywhere. Then he looked up at me, and HE bawled!

"Terry, next time we come to the barn to feed the babies, we're going to hook the bucket onto the fence with that hook, get me?"

Forget "turning" cattle running amok along a path... I couldn't even feed a 4-day-old calf! The humiliating part of the whole experience was that Mrs. Benecke had to explain to me, a college girl, about why the cows give their milk in the first place! You see, I thought that female cows gave milk PERIOD! They grew up and they just started giving milk for the rest of their lives so little children everywhere could have milk to drink. I thought they lived a sort of nun's existance in a convent-like barn... I thought they were milked twice a day, and that was their job, sort of like teachers going to work everyday. Actually, I realized finally, I had never given much thought to cows at all.

"Terry, sit down! You have a LOT to learn! You see, Mike, the bull over there in that field..."

"C'mon, Mrs. Benecke! I know about males and females and stuff and... WAIT! You mean that they have to be pregn... OH! OH! OH! No one ever told me that before... You mean... And that's why milk cows have to have babies..."

Luckily, I wasn't signed up for classes at the ag campus... I would have flunked out of university the first month!


  1. Laguna Beach one of my favorite places in the world. Your description of the restaurant with the sea breeze and view, well I was right back there. Loving every minute. I love how you described the little dog too. I think he would have loved to come home with you. I shall re-frame from telling you about my cow story. Needless to say it was a lot like yours except I ended up fanny down in a mud puddle. Thanks for the charming post.

  2. I'd LOVE to hear your "cow story," Sharon! My close friend told me that she would have slid out of the booth, dog in hand, and run out the door and down the street to our car and driven him home with her. I said, "Sheila, Richard is an attorney! He'd suggest a short jail term for m if I did that!" :} Thanks so much for your comment... loved it.