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SUNDAY READING

The Mirror

October 27, 1985

Excusez-Moi?

Carolyn Bates, writing in Gourmet, July, 1985:

At six o'clock The Bistro was beginning to come alive. The waiters, a few still tie-less, moved about quickly, straightening silver and lighting candles, which multiplied into hundreds of flickering flames reflected in the sparkling mirrors. Someone brought in a spray of flowers and wondered aloud where it could possibly go. With wall baskets of cascading blue flowers and a profusion of tulips and lilies already massed in the middle of the dining room, The Bistro looked like a florist's shop in full bloom. The superfluous bouquet joined a cake newly arrived on the sideboard. . . . Caspar Morsellie, intently studying the reservations book, looked up to welcome an early arrival and led him to his customary corner table. He assured him that the kitchen would roast his chicken just as he wanted, and, yes, of course, he could have it with sweet potatoes. Then Caspar launched into a long, amusing anecdote in which Spago was mentioned, and the gentleman stopped him. "Spago?" he asked, genuinely puzzled. "I think I've heard the name before. Is that the pizza place?"

Maestro

Stephen Schiff, writing in Vanity Fair:

"California cuisine is a mixture of so many people and styles," says Wolfgang Puck philosophically, "and we use our native ingredients. The cooking should be fresh and simple--casual. People here lie around all day and they don't want to gain weight. But we're not health food, either--I myself would never eat sprouts." . . .

"Do you invent these dishes?" I ask.

"I wouldn't say I invent. I compose them. Like I wouldn't say that Stevie Wonder invented a kind of song. He took already some material, some notes and some lyrics, and he put them together in a different way. I see something at the market and I get a new idea about how to put it in my head--I know exactly how it will taste."

Courtesy Vanity Fair. 1985 by The Conde Nast Publications Inc.

California Romance

Dan Luckenbill, writing in the April, 1985, UCLA Librarian:

Helen Hunt Jackson visited Rancho Camulos for two hours in January, 1883, to absorb local color for her novel-in-progress, "Ramona." Her resulting paean to indoor-outdoor living was read by millions after publication the following year. Her description of the site visited began objectively: "The house was of adobe, low, with a wide veranda on the three sides of the inner court, and a still broader one across the entire front. . . . These verandas, especially those on the inner court, were supplementary rooms to the house. The greater part of the family life went on in them. . . . Babies slept, were washed, sat in the dirt, and played on the veranda. The women said their prayers, took their naps, and wove their lace there. . . . There the young made love, and the old dozed." (Mrs. Jackson didn't say these activities were simultaneous.) Flowers grew in pots about the courtyard, unnamed climbing vines entwined the pillars of the veranda, the orange grove beyond was always green, and the garden never without flowers.

The Ramona influence and industry was vast. She was one of the sparks for Mission Revival architecture and could be blamed, or credited, with the obsession in California with an easy indoor-outdoor life style. . . . Though early American settlers in California imported architectural and garden styles, once a call for a native Californian style began, access to the outdoors and Ramona's haunts--patio and courtyard and veranda--was always a part of the image.

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