The Great Plotnik

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A New Nik-Name

Plotnik's old friend Dick is one of three brothers, and, believe it or not, their names were Tom and Harry. So it's only natural that the new NikName for a man who grew up in the middle of Tom Dick and Harry should be The Great TDH, TDH for short.

Look, it's a lot better than Dick-Nik, right? How about Tom-Nik and Harry? No.

When TDH showed up at the door last Friday and told Plotnik and Ducknik all that he'd been doing for the 40 or so years since he and Plot had been boyhood friends down in Stiletto City, he didn't mention that he has become such a fine photographer. These are only a few of TDH's photos of late October flowering plants at the Conservatory of Flowers.

So The Great TDH becomes the fourth camera person to appear on
The Great Plotnik's List of Names, following The Great Shutternik, Beburee-san and The National Treasure. Beburee-san's pink lotus hangs in the parlor, Shutternik's Eiffel Tower lives in the kitchen, and there are several National Treasures on view at World Headquarters, including Janis Joplin's agonized mid-chorus scream.

Plot may like this one the best, a big red anthurium that looks like a sombrero, the kind of bloom Lewis Carroll may have imagined sitting in the middle of a ballroom floor with strange mushrooms dancing around it.

The Great TDH. TDH-Nik. Maybe even Nik of the North. North-nik? TDH-Nik? Hmm. More name work may be needed. But the photos are terrific.

Monday, October 30, 2006

The Good Stuff

One great thing about having out-of-town friends is that you get to see the tourist spots in your own city. Yesterday Plotnik and Ducknik took Dick and Marilyn to the Conservatory in Golden Gate Park, surely one of the miracles of this town, and to the Beach Chalet to see the WPA murals, then back to the Mission to drive slowly down Balmy Alley and look at more murals, finishing at La Palma for quesadillas, huaraches and flautas.

The party Saturday night was a lot of fun, but in the end, it doesn't take more than a few hours to exhaust all the old stories and then you want to move into the present. The Great Plotnik learned things about himself that only the people who knew him as a teenager could have told him. He saw everyone's natural progression from happy-go-lucky teens to adults -- these smiling 60 year olds could only have come from those silly 15 year olds.

Of course, there are unanswerable questions too, estranged children, multiple marriages, the personal detritus of a generation who lived a sheltered childhood and then exploded into a new world where every opportunity was available, every door wide open, every road of discovery clearly marked and well lighted. Most of us walked down a lot of those roads.

When The Great Plotnik was a young man, he thought that, of his friends at home, only he had been smart enough to run away and join the circus. It turns out everyone did.

And what we get, on October 28, 2006, two days after Plottie's 61st, one day before Jerri's 60th, and some 40 years or more since the five friends had been together in one place with their arms around each other's shoulders, is a photo where the flashbulb failed but Plotnik brought everyone back into the light with Photoshop. It's an apt image. Jerri still has the heart Plottie loves to look into, Ken the same lightning wit, Joel the sweetness and soul inside his Dad's intensity, Dick the grounded compassion everyone remembers from his Mom, and Plottie -- what?

Well, I suppose The Great Plotnik, like everyone else, is still that combination of his family, his early life and later experiences that have molded him and continue to do so. He is still restless and hard to please, but at least his inner darkness remains submerged under his outer merriment somewhat more than in the old days. He loves at 61 the same things he loved as a young man -- his family, his friends, his guitar -- but getting older means things get richer. Now he knows about other pleasures -- like Buddy, Jerri's cat.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Dick and Marilyn

Dick and Marilyn are in shadow with the streets of Saint Plotniko alive and twinkling behind them. The Great Plotnik took this photo last night on Twin Peaks, where the city was as clear and shiny as ever before. It was even hot -- no one wore a jacket, unheard of. Due to the unaccustomed absence of wind, the smell of weed was practically overwhelming. Plot felt like he was back on Telegraph Avenue.

It's amazing that Plotnik can write this number, but 45 years ago here is Dick again, in the upper right corner, at The Great Plotnik's 16th Birthday Party. In the other corner is Carolyn Shapiro, on whom Plottie had a terrible crush (and Dick dated later on). In the front, with his arm around Mummy Plotnik is The Great Dweebnik.
Here are Dick and Marilyn (not Carolyn) today. They've been married 39 years. It's wonderful to have them in town. Last night Plot and Duck took them to Ti-Couz for mushroom-onion-almond crepes, and then to Mitchell's, with a stop on Twin Peaks to inhale the resinous breeze, look at the view, I mean. On Valencia Street several hundred people rode by on bicycles with lampshades on their heads.

"I love this city," Dick said.

Friday, October 27, 2006

No More Meters for Mushes

This is a photo of Dollar Bill's Last Parking Meter. Bill does not normally do parking meters, but when you come to Big Mama's Neighborhood, you either take a taxi or park at a meter. Plot, Duck, Mush and D-Bill exited the car, emptying their pockets of quarters to fill up the meter, which only gives 6 minutes per quarter, one hour max. But this tariff is to be expected in such an exclusive neighborhood, where the nearest residential hotel is called The Ritz.

Big Mama was waiting on the curb, wearing a powder blue Carolina Panthers football jersey and screaming obscenities at the top of her voice, well, really only one obscenity, the one that sounds like brother and trucker.

Lunch was pretty darned wonderful in Original Joe's, which lounges comfortably in the Lefty O'Doul's late '40s vintage mold, when women wore heels, hats and gloves and seldom a powder blue Carolina Panther's football jersey.

Plot ordered Old School Corned Beef and Cabbage, where the corned beef has a glob of yummy fat in the middle of each piece, the cabbage has been boiled for at least three weeks and the only green presence is the teensy piece of parsley adhering by sheer will to the side of the boiled potato. It came with horseradish and yellow mustard too. "Here ju go," said the waiter, resplendent in a black tuxedo.

Duck had eggplant parmagiana, also old school, where the eggplant has been fried, deep fried, pan fried and then fried again just to be sure, then slathered in tomato sauce and cheese, DANG IT'S GOOD.

Mush and Mr. Mush chose the excellent looking burgers with Steak Fries, but the burgers looked 'way too New School, so we're not including their picture.

If only the story had ended here. But the four friends were having such a good time, staring at the waiters and the neon reflections of the bar sconces and talking about other great restaurants of earlier generations, that they forgot to check their watches.

Which is why the photo above is of Dollar Bill's last parking meter. As Mush was peeling the parking ticket off the windshield, Plot quickly took the picture (coming very close to being squashed flat by a Rescue Wagon). The ticket probably cost as much as the lunch. Plotnik and Ducknik felt awful, but to make it up to Dollar Bill, Plot will have the photo bronzed, no, make that deep fried. No more meters for Mushes.
Later on, Plottie and Large Pants got birthday cakes from TIAPOS. TIAPOS is nasty with Scorpios. Long ago, The Great Plotnik decided he is the classic Scorpio with Clueless Rising and his moon in Milwaukee.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

No 0 and No 5

It's The Great Plotnik's birthday today, but it's not so bad. Birthdays with no 0 or 5 on the end don't cause much trouble. Last year: oi. This year, no problem.

The question is always what to do, when you pretty much do what you feel like doing the rest of the time anyway. A movie, a play, a restaurant, no thanks. Ever since TGP started getting paid to review movies and plays and restaurants, he has stopped being able to enjoy going someplace and having to fork over real money. He much prefers walking to the Press Table and saying "I'm The Great Plotnik from On Line for Idiots." He likes it when they fawn over him. He likes it when they comp him to a bottle of wine or a gooey dessert or two tickets down front or a cushy screening room with a rum drink or a lovely isolated cabin on the Russian River.

A concert? No. A bike ride? Closer, but no. Too solitary. Playing b-ball with the guys? That would be great, and playing with P-Dunky and Schmekl and Nefnik would be the best of all. But that's not going to happen.

It's always about friends, isn't it? Today Mr. and Mrs. Mush are taking Plotnik and Ducknik on a private jet to the Ritz for a birthday feast. Lunch packages are incredibly expensive (plus tax and gratuity and valet parking, and more if you want soup), and then there's the matter of the limo. It's so very kind of the Mushes, but fortunately she's in retail where they earn the Big Bucks.

Friday, Plot will record his 'Choices' piece for KQED that he wrote about the choice Ducknik made long ago between cigarettes and Plottie, and how she plans to immediately start smoking again the minute he dies and/or she turns 80.

Friday afternoon, D.B., a friend The Great Plotnik has not seen for at least 40 years, is coming to town with his wife, to spend the weekend at the Great Plotnik World Headquarters and Meatball Kitchen. Saturday night they are driving up to Marin County to get together with the two other guys and one gal who made up the neighborhood crew when they all were in High School. None have seen each other since. After Plot went off to Berkeley, he has to admit he decided he was 'way too hip for that room, if you catch his drift. Now, he knows better.

God Bless the Internet. It will be a blast to see everyone, to meet their husband and wives, to catch up on 40 years of ignorance. In case it's awkward, Duck is taking care of things by making a pecan pie.

And then there's The Baby. Could happen anytime. Could get the call. Could be jumping in the car with the prepacked suitcase and a lot of coffee. Never know when.

You don't need all that much reflection to know birthdays are fine as long as you don't spend them alone, which pretty much sums up the human condition. Add in people you love, a guitar, a piano, a ukelele, a baglama, an accordion, a basketball, and little Maynardstasia waiting in the wings. Priceless.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


So now the dreams start. Both Ducknik and Plot have been dreaming like crazy the last few nights. One dream after another, none of them bad ones, just lots of them. Last night Plotnik woke up and realized there are babies in these dreams, brand new little babies, and the dreams are all about 'home.'

For a few years now, Plot has had a recurring dream about going back to their old house on Avon St. in Stiletto City, the home where the Plots lived before moving north (and the last place the four all lived together, before P-Dunk and then B-Weez went off to college). In this dream, his whole family has walked back inside the old house, which has now been renovated into a kind of wonderful palace. All the others are having a wonderful time being there, but Plot always knows the people who really own the house are coming home soon and he has to get his family moving to get out of there before they are discovered. Sometimes in that dream he sees the new owner's car coming up the driveway. Hurry! We can't let them catch us! -- that is: we don't live here anymore, kids. Let's go.

But the other night Plot dreamed about the house again, only this time the four never got into the house. As they were walking up the stairs and as they were about to open the front door, Plotnik realized he had just repurchased the house, and it was theirs again. They were back in their old home, and everyone could be together again -- except nobody could open the door. Everyone stopped on the landing and stared at that door. Stared at that door. Stared at that door. Then, Plottie woke up.

Maybe it's the new baby. Maybe it's another birthday. Maybe it's all part of growing up. Maybe it's just a dream.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A Sandwich Might Help

The Great Plotnik is trying to finish a song this morning, and the more he writes the less he's got.

He's got a lyric, or 2/3 of a lyric, or 1/2 of one, or a title, or no title, or nothing but sheets and sheets of words and more words. He's typed them out, he's written all over the typed sheets and retyped them.

He's got a melody, or a verse anyway, or maybe not even that, and he's tried it on piano and guitar...

...and even gotten this desperate.

He's tried the usual suspects. He's played it before he goes to bed and woke up singing it, but he's still singing the same old melody which isn't quite right. He's put the lyric under the bed too, but when he looks at it again in the morning it hasn't changed a bit. He's tried forgetting it and starting on something else but the danged song keeps coming back, like a pimple.

The problem, of course, is that a song should be written in an hour, max, and then worked on and edited for only a short while later. If it still hasn't completed itself there's a reason (it sucks). At that point, only one thing can help. Well, two things. Collaboration is the best, but TGP doesn't really work with any collaborators these days, and he's not sure if the nonlyric or nonmelody is the problem, or maybe it's a noncombination of them both. The only other thing that might help is a sandwich. Yeah, a sandwich might help.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Eggplants, eggplants!

October must be eggplant month at the Farmers Market. There are five in the top picture alone -- little round white ones, larger round green ones, small purple ovals, curvy, dull ones and shiny, almost black Japanese.
Here you see the thicker, classic Asian variety...
...and here a closer-up of the green and purple small ovals. What you don't see as many of are the classic Middle Eastern fat purple variety, because most of the vendors and most of the people buying eggplants at the Civic Center Sunday Farmers Market are Asians -- Hmong, Filipino, Chinese, Thai, Japanese. Lots of Russians come too and they seem to bargain the hardest. "How much?" "Two dollah bag." "Too much, too much, one dolla, one dolla." "No no, two dollah bag." "Too much, too much, one dolla twenty five." "No no."

These are jujubes. Not sure exactly what you do with jujubes but they are pretty to look at.

Civic Center Sunday and Wednesday Farmers Market, as well as the Allemany Saturday Market, have the same merchants more or less, and the same laid-back attitude, as is contrasted sharply by the Ferry Building Saturday and Thursday Markets, which are full of people who think their $10 carrot was sent down from God Herself. The Civic Center and Allemany vendors are into food, not art. As far as The Great Plotnik is concerned, if you want art go to MOMA. If you want to buy beautiful, inexpensive organic vegetables, fruit, herbs, seeds or plants, with a desire to turn them into a delicious dinner, come to Allemany or Civic Center. Not that there is anything intrinsically wrong with a $10 carrot or a $8 raspberry as long as you're lost in the Gobi Desert in the middle of August.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Fun with Bulbs

This is why we live in Shmalifornia. It's the end of October and the bougainvillea and lavender are going crazy.
The arugula is sprouting everywhere.
Mystery trees show up in pots.
Best of all, The Great Plotnik can empty all the bulbs out of his flower pots, spread them out on the old picnic table, sort them, put fresh soil and steer manure into the pots and then repot the bulbs. If he labeled them in the first place he wouldn't have to do this, but, yo. We've got tiger lily bulbs, freesia bulbs, daffodil bulbs, gladiolus corms, some tiny potatoes, and mystery bulb number one and mystery bulb number two. Come April, they will be mysteries no longer, until next Fall when Plot will get to do this all again.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Alborz Persian and Endy Chavez

Chef Pickle-nik has a potential client on the horizon. Since the client is Persian, Pickle thought it necessary to sample some excellent Persian food in Saint Plotniko. So last night, instead of staying home watching Game 7 Cardinals versus Mets, a baseball game in whose outcome The Great Plotnik would not have had much emotional attachment, he, The Great Ducknik and Chef Pickle-nik had dinner at Alborz Persian Restaurant on Van Ness and Sutter.

It's a big, stately place, with picture windows on two sides, a split-level dining room and a man who brings tea after dinner who has perhaps the worst toupee this side of Harry the Hat in New York's South Side Billiard Parlor.
But the food! First of all, let's just say the tadiq and fesenjan is one of the most delicious appetizers imaginable. You're looking at the fesenjan sauce on top, which is made from pomegranate juice and has a sweet-sour and slightly thick taste, while what you see in the middle that looks like a slice of ham, is not ham, but a thick crust of rice, which they scrape from the bottom of the huge roasting pans of many different rice dishes in the Persian repertoire, and place under the fesenjan sauce. More crispy rice is under the crust. This dish is to die.

The chicken kebab, marinated in lime and spices, was lovely to look at as well as munch on, but the star of this plate is the shirin polo, a yellow rice made with butter, almonds, pistachios and orange peel. Shirin Polo is to fall over quivering.
The rack of lamb was a bit gamey for all the tasters, but you've got to admit it looks spiffy on the plate. The rack of lamb is to fall out of a sixth floor building on your head.

Leaving the restaurant at 8PM, TGP got home in time to see this extraordinary catch by Endy Chavez, who leaped over the left field fence to prevent a home run. But, ho hum, the Metrosexuals lost. The Mets losing is to scrape your little finger on a lukewarm sponge. Yawn.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Domin-Nik's 15th Birthday

If you carefully count the candles on the cake, you must deduce that one of these two people is having his/her 15th birthday. The photo was taken a few years ago, along with these:

The year appears to be 2002, and the venue Le Chateaux Vieux de JackyWacky. Attending that party, we can see here, were The Great Large Pants, La VALERIE Shout-it-LOUD, The Bomb Bombshell, Mistress Domin-nik, The Great Dance-nik, The Great Ducknik and The Great Plotnik, plus, presumably others.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Rainbow Grocery

Yesterday, Plotnik decided to take his Plotkicycle down to Rainbow Grocery. Have you wondered where all the grocery workers hang out who are also bull-dykes with shaved heads, tattooed shoulders, and enough tongue studs to be melted down into coinage? Now, you know.

Rainbow is the coolest market in town, because you can find absolutely anything you've ever heard of, except meat. Wasabi Powder? Bin 2475. Shmatawort Tea? Bin 3840. Hamburger? We scoff.

At the far end of the store you can sample the teensiest, weensiest squares of cheese, which you can barely stab with the proffered toothpick, but the cheesemongers will stare you down if you go back for seconds. How they cut those miniscule cheese pieces is a mystery, unless they employ mice with shaved-heads, tattoos, tongue-studs, slide rules and T-squares.

At Safeway, Plotnik is always the only person in the store without a gut hanging to his knees. At Rainbow he is simply one of many gray-haired gentlemen carrying bicycle helmets to the Glucosamine Aisle.

The Great Plotnik buys his grains, his groats, his dried herbs, his spices, his olives, his trofie (yum-mo) and his dried fruit at Rainbow Grocery. If BZWZ is home he buys her her favorite Vegan Pastry. He also purchases his Alpha Lipoic Acid and his Omega-3 Fatty Acid capsules, for which he is entitled to claim his 10% Senior Discount, and they never check.

The house music system usually plays reggae but sometimes you get Janis Ian.

Customer Service at Rainbow? Haa haa, ooh, that's, haaaar haaaar, really funny.

The plotkicycle trip to Rainbow is slightly downhill, but the trip back home is considerably uphill, especially with saddle bags filled with grains and groats. On the way back, Plottie spied these four row houses on Capp St. in the Mission, painted pink. What's that sound? Kneecaps groaning.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

God's Perfect Food

Last night, Plotnik's cousin Cindy was in town and wanted Italian food. So she got a pizza from Pazzia. How do you make a food any better than a Margherita or a Salciccia pizza from Pazzia? The crust is perfect, the topping perfect, everything understated but incredibly tasty. Sadly, Cindy also wanted spumoni and Pazzia does not serve it. Plotnik had forgotten that Cousin Cindy loves spumoni -- the same thing had happened two years ago when she had finished her Italian dinner (that time at Il Fornaio in Burlingame) and asked, in vain, for spumoni.

Who makes spumoni anymore? You probably can't even find it on Fisherman's Wharf. It's a relic from fifties spaghetti houses -- or is it? Anybody know where to find spumoni for your cousin when she comes to the Bay Area?

Monday, October 16, 2006

The Ralph Who Loved to Ride Fast

Suzy is laughing, as everybody seemed to be laughing yesterday, as they told stories about Ralph. The man on the right in the white hair is Ralph's twin brother Richard. He looks so much like Ralph it's spooky, except that none of us ever saw Ralph looking like that. By the time The Great Plotnik and The Great Ducknik and all the Tiaposians met Suzy and Ralph, Ralphie was already seated permanently in his chair, unable to move any part of his body but his chin and eyes.

Which made yesterday's testimonies to the early days, given by the friends gathered at Ralph and Suzy's house who had known Ralph as an outdoorsman, cyclist, tour leader, skier and all-around do absolutely anything kind-of-guy, so hard to take in all at once. Standing next to Duckie and Mush in the back of a crush of people, Plot couldn't hear much. So he jumped up onto Suzy's fence railing, the fence which adjoins the ramp Suzy and Ralph's friends built to get Ralph's chair up and down the ramp and into the house through the back door. From there Plot could hear the people telling their stories, watch Suzy laughing and remembering, and think himself of how many times he and Duck left an evening with Suzy and Ralph saying to themselves, as all of Suzy and Ralph's other friends must surely have done: "Good God. One split second and your life can be turned upside down. Let's take that trip to Poland right now."

Yes, some good things came out of it for Suzy, new personal growth, new awareness, new friends, new understanding of the power of community, maybe even a different spirituality, all of that, but it's all garbage in the end. If Ralphie could have gone down another road on his bike that day, or not hit whatever it was that blew out his bike tire, or landed in a slightly different position, or not stayed on the street unable to move for hours, or any of a million other possibilities, none of which had any less likelihood of happening than the one that actually did, he and Suzy would have been spared the next twelve years of a kind of torment unimaginable to the rest of us.

OK, garbage is the wrong word. Plotnik remembers listening to the radio the night Otis Redding was killed in a plane crash. The announcer read the news about Otis, then paused and said: "Take the bus next time, man. Take the bus."

So, personal growth be damned, Ralph. Take the bus next time, man.

Not that Ralph and Suzy didn't come through it with strength and humor that inspired us all. Maybe that's the whole point. If you're Ralph and Suzy, you plough forward, because you can't think of any other direction to go.

I see Ralph Hager sitting in his old chair, moving his computer mouse with the gizmo he fixed up to operate with his chin, and then I see him speeding into Taqueria Cancun on Mission Street in his new chair, smiling, enjoying how fast he can go, as everyone in the restaurant dodges out of the way. I think that's the guy everybody was speaking about yesterday: the Ralph who loved to ride fast.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

No Desires to Travel Here, Thanks.

The other night, at Borders Books, after listening to the hysterical Don Asmussen (the grown-up Calvin who did not mention one single word about Hobbes), The Great Plotnik, The Great Ducknik and The Blond Bombshell wandered through the Travel Section. They decided to look for the travel book written about the most obscure country. It really was no contest. North Korea wins the prize. Can you imagine anywhere you'd like to visit, to camp out in, to listen to music in, to walk through museums in, or to taste the delicious local delicacies in, less?

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Strawberry Pie

First The Great Ducknik makes a pie crust, with her new pie weights to keep the crust from bubbling up.
Then she takes a flat of strawberries.
The end result is a strawberry pie, if you're lucky.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Aunt Booty, Famous Record Producer

The Great Plotnik, on the left, and Giuseppe Grapeseed, famous wine expert, on right, had their picture taken at Vino Noceto winery the other day. As proof that the dog with the large nose is indeed the Great Plotnik, see the initials on his cap: D.D. This stands for Dodger Doug.

But writing 'Giuseppe Grapeseed, famous wine expert,' reminds TGP of a family story. Many years ago, when Plot was still living in The Big Shmapple, he came to Stiletto City to perform in a Songwriter's Expo at a local club. People in the audience were asked to fill out white 3X5 cards with their opinions of the songs and the singers on the program. Afterwards, each performer would get to view the comments they had received, and judge how they were doing.

Since the show was in Plot's home town, several members of the family showed up, including, at the last moment, his Aunt Bootie. Aunt Bootie, bless her heart, did not exactly fit the Hollywood Profile, bless her heart, and would always say whatever was on her mind, bless her heart. Before Ducknik learned Booty's real name, she called her 'Auntie Cough Syrup,' because the day they met Booty backed Duck into a corner and lectured her for twenty minutes about the different grades of Robitussin. Don't know why. Never did. Bless her heart.

But Booty showed up at the club! Damn right!

Anyway, after the show, most of Plot's 3X5 cards carried the usual remarks: 'nice,' 'nice song,' 'liked this one, didn't like this one.' There was one exception, however. The lady who ran the Expo handed the last card to Plotnik by itself, with this comment: "Well! You certainly impressed somebody out there."

Plot turned the card over. It read: "This boy will be a famous Hollywood star someday. If I were you, I'd give him lots of money. (signed): Aunt Booty, Famous Record Producer."

Aunt Booty died several years ago, but she lives on in Plot's memory as Aunt Booty, Famous Record Producer. The lady did have her own kind of class. Bless her heart.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Zaatar Chicken

This may look like Fried Chicken from Popeye's, but it's not. It's The Great Plotnik's Zaatar Chicken, which is in fact skinless and baked. It tastes really, really good.

Zaatar, the Lebanese-origin spice mixture, is suddenly hip. Yesterday's Kronikl had recipes for Zaatar Flatbread, but they didn't give instructions on making the zaatar. Oh, you can go to Samiramis and buy Lebanese, Palestinian or Syrian Zaatars, but it's easy to make your own. Here is the Great Plotnik's recipe:

Homemade Zaatar Spice Mix (Lebanese Style)
8T powdered sumac
1C roasted, ground sesame seeds
1/4C ground thyme
1T dried oregano
1T dried savory
1t salt

Grind everything, except the salt, in a spice grinder so it becomes a powder. Add the salt once you taste the zaatar -- some sumacs are salty, so you don't want to overdo it. Start with 1t salt and taste it. If it's tasty enough, stop there, but don't be afraid to add a little more if you think it needs it.

If you want to taste zaatar before you make it, and if you want to buy the spices you don't have, like good sumac, go to Samiramis on Mission and 26th St. You can sample the three zaatars, but they've been in the bin awhile. Yours will taste much finer.

This recipe makes enough zaatar for six months at least. Store it in a tightly covered spice jar.


Take half a dozen chicken thighs and skin them. Put them in a plastic bag with 1/4C olive oil, 2T zaatar and a pinch of kosher (coarse) salt. Shake 'em up and let them sit at least an hour, preferably more. Original recipe calls for twice as much oil, but you don't need it if you keep tossing the pieces inside the bag while they marinate.

Bake chicken in hot oven (425) for 45 minutes until crisp. Because of the hot oven, meat comes out moist and crusty, even though there is no chicken skin.

Since you've got 45 minutes you've got plenty of time to make Brown Saffron Rice.

1C brown basmati rice
2C water (or stock if you prefer)
1/4t saffron
1/4t turmeric
pinch salt

Crush saffron in mortar and pestle, add to water with turmeric and salt. Heat until boiling, then add rice, cover and turn heat as low as possible. In 40 minutes, remove from heat until chicken is done.

Serve chicken on top of bed of rice, and get out of the way.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Calvin is Back!

It took The Great Plotnik until this morning to figure out who Don Asmussen reminds him of -- of course! He's Calvin!
The mischievous grin, the blonde hair all out of whack, the air of excitement about his next caper, Calvin grew up and now works for Phil Bronstein. Finally, something in life actually makes sense.

Plottie wishes he'd remembered to ask Calvin, uh, Don, what ever happened to Hobbes? But nobody ever remembers the sidekick, unless he makes a movie about the environment.