Good food from the literary to the real thing

This past week I have been enthralled by classic French cooking, French wines, and gifted, yet afflicted artists who may become outcasts and whose gifts may never emerge because of their inner devils.

The reason for this enthrallment is that I have been reading Julia Child’s ebullient account of her life in France. Her book, aptly titled “My Life in France,” describes the many meals she had dining and wining in French restaurants in the 1940s and 50s when classic French cooking was queen. It is hard to believe that she started out as an upper middle-class American woman from Pasadena who didn’t know how to cook and finds her passion when she tastes, for the first time, a classically prepared French meal, done to perfection. She went on to become a world class French chef and teacher. Her book also includes some simple recipes prepared the French way. I am working on omelettes and scrambled eggs.

I also attended the performance “Van Gogh” at the Laurence Olivier theatre presented by the Little Theatre Group of Costa Rica.

Artist performer Joseph Kaknes told us the story of Van Gogh’s life as the painter would tell it, painting a canvas as he talked. The set consisted of his own paintings. This audience was as engrossed as a child listening to a gifted storyteller recount a fascinating tale of love and tragedy and the plight of the mentally ill. For Van Gogh, painting was an addiction and probably what kept him alive for 38 years, when he killed himself in despair.

Kaknes’ performance and obvious love of his subject whom he brings to life so well, made his plea that we show more kindness to those who are different and or some way incapacitated, resonate.

On Tuesday I was in the city, and after having some dental work done, decided I needed a bit of self-indulgence. I went to the Magnolia Restaurant in the Casino Colonial on Avenida Primera, between Ninth and Eleventh Streets. I like the restaurant because of the many windows overlooking the avenue. Almost a French sidewalk café. And they have a usually very good ejecutivo (fixed price lunch) for just under 3,000 colons.

I had the tortilla soup (tasty hot with a nice amount of cheese), then I chose the spaghetti Alfredo with mushrooms. Remember I had just come from the dentist. The spaghetti was cooked al dente and just right to my
taste, and the white sauce was Goldilocks perfect in thickness and amount. I couldn’t finish the whole plate, but I managed to find all of the mushrooms. Dessert was dainty chunks of canned pears on a caramelized leche dulce pudding on top of a crisp and slightly sweet crust. I managed to eat all of that.

I asked Tiffany the name of the chef – Don Adrian Vera – and told her to give him my compliments.

During my lunch I, of course, watched the passing parade of pedestrians and traffic. It was nice to see a couple, the father carrying a tiny baby on his chest in a baby saddle, holding an umbrella (the father, not the baby, or I would regret forever not having a camera) to protect the baby from the sun.

The only glitch in the day was the taxi trip home.

A 20-minute drive took 40 minutes and cost me three times as much as usual, thanks to one avenue closed for repairs and another because of a strike.

Wednesday evening I started writing my column, which was going nicely when the lights went out. It was dark outside and dark inside. I felt my way to my bedroom for the flashlight in my bed table, then to the sideboard in my living room, rummaged around looking for a candle, found a candle holder, a very dusty candle holder. Then a match or lighter. If you don’t smoke, these can be hard to find. Finally assembling everything, I realized how ill prepared I am for a simple blackout, let alone a serious earthquake. After a few minutes trying to type in the dim light, or even read, and wondering how Ben Franklin managed to be so prolific, I decided it was an ideal time to meditate.

I moved to the living room, put my candle on the coffee table, made myself comfortable in front of it, my thumbs and forefingers found each other, I took a deep breath. And the lights went on.

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