A New Year’s Visit From Spain

I should have put this on the stereo. Well, you always think of these things later.

A bit before Christmas, I got a call from someone who wanted to know if I was home to take a delivery that day. Fortunately, working from my house, I am generally home to take deliveries, although Federal Express has a stunning track record of arriving in my absence when there is a package that needs to be signed for. (I think FedEx and I are going to end up in the MMA ring eventually, after the month’s supply of cat food that someone stole off my front steps because the deliveryman couldn’t be arsed to put it inside the porch as directed; then there was the sixty pound crate of kitty litter that blocked me in when I tried to leave the house… but I digress.)

So I answered the door a bit after seven in the evening, and there was Vanessa, looking about twelve (I noticed more and more that everyone looks about twelve), holding out a beribboned gift bag containing two bottles and telling me that it was a gift from… well, from the miraculous Az.

(Click that link. You know you want to.)

See, Az is one-half the reason I am even on here still after nearly ten years. No one has heard from Stiletto, the blogger who tempted me onto WordPress, in a dog’s age, but it was Az who caught my attention on the also defunct blog of one Frontier Former Editor, a journalist and aviation fan who pun-wrestled me to a draw in a contest with a World War II Luftwaffe theme. There she was, represented by a blog icon of a black kitty — her familiar of blessed memory, Azar — kibitzing and well, a kitty, and the rest is history.

Since then I’ve gotten me a live-in Engineer who’s a culinary genius, and she’s built an astounding business leading travelers around the tapas bars of Seville, and become a dear-God certified sherry educator, meaning that when I asked what we should eat with the sleek twin bottles of Palo Cortado and Manzanilla, I got an e-mail screed that took me three days to read through at leisure. And will have to go back to.

So here is what we had for New Year’s Eve:


For the Manzanilla, Marcona almonds, spiralized vegetable bird’s nests, and marinated olives;

For the Palo Cortado, deviled eggs, mushrooms stuffed with herbed (out of my front yard) goat cheese laced with port, vermouth sec and garlic.

Everything else at random. The Brussels sprouts were best with the Palo Cortado. Yes, Brussels sprouts are edible.

We ate divinely and re-watched the hilarious and wonderful Man from U.N.C.L.E. remake and entered the New Year with, nearly, hope. Because I have had Post-Trump Stress Disorder for over a year and it has been hard to hope, this night’s experience was not small.

And not least, it convinces me that whatever anyone else says about the Internet for good or ill, the Web ranks as one of the Machineries of Joy so termed by Ray Bradbury in a short story published when I was ten; an invention of human cleverness that can connect the lonely, exalt the spirit, expand the human family and its reach into the cosmos.

I believe it is the golden Azahar’s birthday tomorrow, or where she is, today. I raise my glass. Full of Oloroso, which she taught me about last year.

Bis hundert zwanzig.

And because I can’t go for five minutes without thinking about opera, here’s Manzanilla in music:






I Don’t Want to Know About Your Diet

I note looking back that I have a lot of posts in Idiots. This means either that I am a curmudgeon or that idiots are pretty thick on the ground, probably both.

What I realized today in the gym was that we need to have a national moratorium on Talking About Your Diet — sort of like the sign that appears in a small bistro in a John Callahan cartoon: “Thank You For Not Talking About Your Relationship.”

I don’t mean “I’m doing Low Carb” or “I’m cutting up so no beer for me thanks.” I mean the meticulous citation of portion sizes and types of food at every meal of the day. It’s bad enough when the dieter is someone I know and care a little about, talking directly to me; try pedaling away on the warmup bike in front of a chowderhead on a treadmill who’s explaining at length to her friend or trainer: “And for breakfast I can have six ounces of yogurt or one boiled egg with a half cup of Special K but not granola, and I’m allowed orange juice for breakfast or lunch but not both…” Honey, you’re allowed anything. You’re just doing this diet, so DO it and shut the *(&$ up about it.

I quote the grandiose and cornball but inarguably effective Matt Furey: “There is only one diet, and it’s the Don’t Eat Crap diet.” Diets that work are all variations on not eating crap, and, I would add, eating not-crap less often, since only in the last sixty years has it become possible to shove fully prepared food, some of it not recognizable as food by any standard of nature, into your face every two hours. (You can only eat so much at once without puking, but if you pace yourself right, it’s amazing what a person can eat all day.)

I know what Diet Honey is up against — a world of pressure to sit still and incitements to eat garbage. I’ve done contest dieting. I’ve knocked off overweight from bad years when everything sucked and good grub was about the only thing that didn’t go wrong before I finished with it. I don’t need to hear the infinite variations in loving detail. But Diet Honey — who is probably on an unsustainable diet, resents having to be “deprived,” or both — feels starved and yearning, and her rapt descriptions of what she is allowed to eat are a form of alimentary masturbation. She probably hasn’t yet conceded that in no time and at no place is the Sara Lee Viennese Torte her friend. The six ounce container of yogurt she gets “instead” (probably loaded with aspartame, fake berry flavoring, and thickener goo) is the highlight of her morning.

Lest I be thought a chauvinist, may I note that the first Diet Recitatif I heard (in 1970-something) was from a Diet Dude who was paddling me up the Potomac in a canoe, chanting “And I can have a one inch cube of soft cheese…” By the time that canoe got to shore I swore I would never, ever put anyone else through a droning liturgy like that. (He gained it all back, too.)

I don’t care how humungous you are. I feel your pain and I want you to be healthier and thinner. Just don’t make me listen.