June 6, 2013

Just in time for my birthday: Chez Panisse is opening again!!!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Jane Stillwater @ 8:39 pm

Who the freak ever wants to get older? Certainly not me! So about ten years ago, I started searching around for some really hard-core reason to actually want to start looking forward to celebrating my birthday each year. And what could be more exciting and wonderful than having dinner at one of America’s very top restaurants in order to celebrate! So that’s what I did. And now I save up my money all year and then treat myself to dinner at Chez Panisse on my birthday. It’s a great idea.

Now I can actually look forward to getting older (well, sort of).

But there’s just one little fly in the ointment here. Chez Panisse caught on fire last March and the whole front of the building burned down.

Hot to worry, however. I just heard that Chez Panisse will actually be re-opening again soon — and just in time for my birthday! That is, if they ever decide to let me back into the place.

There’s a really good reason why we Muslims try to keep away from drinking alcohol — and therein hangs this tale. On my 70th birthday last year, I bought a bottle of my mother’s favorite brand of cheap vin rosé from the local CVS to take along to the big dinner event, thinking that this would be a great token gesture toward my now-departed mother on my behalf. After all, she did give birth to me, right?

But my kids just kept pouring the stuff into my glass without me noticing and, darn, by the end of the meal, I was totally smashed and completely passed out.

“Would you like me to call 911 for your mother?” asked a courteous and rather concerned waiter.

“Not necessary,” my son-in-law replied. “She’s just drunk.” And then he picked me up, threw my unconscious body over his shoulder and walked out. How humiliating. Thank goodness I can remember nothing!

But will Chez Panisse ever let me back in again to celebrate yet another year of getting older? If I promise to stay on the wagon? Since my next birthday will be coming up in a few weeks, we’ll soon find out.

Last year’s birthday dinner was definitely one that I will never forget (but sincerely hope that Chez Panisse won’t remember).

PS: Dinners at Chez Panisse are expensive, sure, but not anywhere near as expensive as one of those screwed-up Lockheed-Martin F-35 bombers that have already proved to be a complete waste of us taxpayers’ money

I figure that if our so-called leaders had just taken that $84,000,000,000 that they’ve totally wasted on the F-35 so far and spent that money on sending people to Chez Panisse for their birthday dinners instead, then approximately 700,000,000 birthday boys and girls could now be celebrating bigtime at the newly-reopened Chez Panisse — including you, me, and every single other person in the San Francisco Bay Area. “Cheers!”

PPS: And with regard to Homeland Security, which has spent most of its Boston budget allotment for the last several years checking up on Occupy Wall Street and other legitimate American protest groups instead of following known leads on known terrorists? Imagine how many more people could have eaten their birthday dinners at Chez Panisse with that wasted money too?

Homeland Security apparently spent billions in Boston investigating Occupy Wall Street movements in Bean Town. How much have they spent? Let’s say three billion. That would have been 2,500,000 happy diners celebrating their birthdays at you-know-where instead of so many people in Boston injured or killed because DHS didn’t do its job.

Three billion dollars is enough for every man, woman and child in Berkeley to celebrate their birthdays at Chez Panisse 21.9 times — or else for everybody in downtown Boston to eat there, including airfare here and back.

April 6, 2012

Starving by accident: Are Americans actually eating real food?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Jane Stillwater @ 11:22 pm

I’ve been thinking a lot about food lately. No, scratch that. I’m ALWAYS thinking about food. So the other day I wandered over to eat at Picoso, a family-run Mexican restaurant in north Berkeley that makes the world’s best guacamole. And while walking home past the world-famous Chez Panisse restaurant, I spotted a huge crowd of people standing around out in front.

“What’s happening here?” I asked one of the people in line.

“Michael Pollan and Maira Kalman are doing a book-signing event — and there is also free food.” Well, one of the major creeds that I live by is, “Never turn down free food” — so I bought a copy of Pollan’s and Kalman’s illustrated “Food Rules,” had it signed by the authors, went on a tour of Chez Pannise’s extensive stainless-steel kitchens and then sampled hors d’oeuvres that had been prepared using Pollan’s 83 rules about food.

And I also ran into Alice Waters herself. “I usually celebrate my birthdays at Chez Panisse,” I told her, “because it gives me something to look forward to each year besides just getting old — but this year my birthday falls on a Sunday and you guys will be closed. And it’s my 70th birthday too! So what should I do?”

“Perhaps you could celebrate it here on either the day before or the day after?” Waters replied.

“Or you could try Aziza, a Moroccan restaurant over in San Francisco,” added Pollan. Then other people recommended trying Camino, Dona Tomas, Pizzialol, Quince, Cotogna and Commis. But it just wouldn’t be the same — not going to Chez Panisse on my big Seven-Zero. So we worked out a compromise. I’d have my dinner celebration at Chez Panisse the night before, eat very slowly, and then celebrate turning 70 at the exact stroke of midnight — even if it meant sitting out on the restaurant’s front steps after they closed. Perfect.

PS: Here are some of Pollan’s 83 really helpful food rules:

2. Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food [and nothing highly processed or containing unpronounceable chemicals either].

5. Avoid foods that have sugar or some form of sweetener listed in the top three ingredients.

11. Avoid foods that are advertized on television [this rule should also apply to restaurants too. Thank goodness Chez Panisse doesn't advertize on TV].

40. Make water [not soda] your beverage of choice. Do what animals do when they’re thirsty.

42. “The whiter the bread the sooner you’ll be dead.”

45. Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself.

56. Eat when you are hungry, not when you’re bored.

82. Cook! Cooking just might be the single most important thing you can do for your dietary health.

Pollan then summarized his book in just seven words: “Eat [real] food, not too much, mostly plants.”

Which brings me to the “main course” of this article: Why food is so important to us: WITHOUT FOOD WE WOULD STARVE. So bear that in mind the next time you read about how Monsanto or Archer Daniels Midland or Congress is screwing with our food supply again.

Christopher Cook, author of “Diet for a Dead Planet,” states that, “It is no longer news that a few powerful corporations have literally occupied the vast majority of human sustenance. The situation is perilous…. This corporate occupation of our food isn’t just unfair and wrong; it’s impractical and destructive. It’s ruining farmers, the land and our future food supply.”

Yes, large for-profit-only corporations are endangering the food supply in places where people are barely subsisting and we’re always seeing photos of starving babies from there. However, here in America these same corporations are highly endangering you and me as well. Why? Because Americans just THINK that they are eating real food — when much of our food merely consists of the three Cs: Cardboard, chemicals and crap.

Americans may think that we are nourishing ourselves when we eat corporate junk-food but the reality is that all too many of us are dying young from heart disease or cancer or obesity or diabetes; that our thinking has become fuzzy due to lack of nutrients; and, even worse, we are always hungry even though we keep stuffing our faces with imitation “real” food.

A photo from Peter Wenzel’s book, “Hungry Planet,” shows a typical American family sitting around a kitchen table with all the food they will eat in a week — and there’s hardly even one real fruit or vegetable among all of that stuff!

PPS: For a month now, I’ve been eating by the food rules of Dr. Terry Wahls’ famous “nine-cup” diet — which consists of having every meal include one cup of colorful fruits or vegetables, one cup of deep greens and one cup of either cruciferous vegetables, onions, mushies, garlic and/or leeks. Eat nine cups of this stuff per day plus some salmon and grass-fed meat thrown in and see what happens.

“You get a long list of nutrients from [unprocessed] food that you don’t get from any other source,” stated Dr. Wahls, who cured herself of advanced MS on this diet. And, surprisingly, it appears to be making me feel healthier too — plus I’m actually starting to cook. Me? A chef? Who would have thought.


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