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Archives for September 2013

Marcella Hazan, 1924-2013

Marcella Hazan is my hero.DSC_0006 She showed me how to cook Italian, do it sensibly and trust your tastebuds.

I got to know her just a little. We spoke a couple times many years ago. She was living in Florida with her husband Victor. I was writing a food/cooking column for the Star called “Kitchen Patrol.” In those days, the paper had a marvelous Wednesday food section edited by Kristen Cook. I wrote the piece that appears below and sent it to Marcella. She said it gave her a boost because she was working on a new project (Amacord), and it was difficult.

The New York Times put her obituary on Page One this morning, exactly where it belonged. Her influence was enormous. Unlike many cookbook writers who seem to have reinvented the assembly line, Hazan wrote just five books over more than 40 years.  It is a marvelous legacy.

Fan of Italian food savors Marcella ‘s cookbooks

The Arizona Daily Star – Wednesday, April 7, 2004


Author: Steve Auslander

The problem with cookbooks is that they are written mostly by cooks.DSCF2467

It may be a safe assumption that cooks can cook, but it isn’t necessarily true that cooks can write. Which is to say coherently. Or cogently. It is for this reason that not all cookbooks are – how to put this delicately? – palatable. This difficulty is compounded by the fact that not all cooks have a lot to say. Or that what they have to say is helpful.


I am grateful for a public library that allows me to peruse a cookbook before I decide to acquire it. I also have been known to spend a couple of hours in a Barnes & Noble, reading cookbooks and buying nothing but a roll and a cup of Joe.*

Finding a really good cookbook is by no means commonplace. I do not have many books and do not collect books as much as I collect cookbook writers. My favorite is Marcella Hazan . Her five books are lucid, informative, entertaining and, above all, helpful.

It helps that I adore Italian food. Hazan was born in Cesenatico, a small town on the Adriatic coast in the province of Emilia-Romagna.

I spoke with her from her home in Longboat Key, Fla., which is on the Gulf Coast near Sarasota. She said she’s working on a sixth book. It takes about five years for her to write a book, which I suspect is one key to her enormous success. This book will contain about 100 recipes (her other books have many more). It will be based on her teaching courses, she said. Her new book is tentatively titled ” Marcella Says,” and it is scheduled to appear in October.

Hazan writes in Italian. Her husband, Victor, is her translator and a very good one. He manages, Hazan said, to retain her voice even in English. He is an authority on Italian wine and has written a book, “Italian Wine.” Her son Giuliano Hazan has written cookbooks as well.

Hazan wrote these books while she lived in Italy – mostly in Venice. She tested recipes there and then once again in New York City, using American ingredients.

In her last book, ” Marcella Cucina” ( Marcella Cooks, 1997), she used a quote from Richard Strauss, who once told an orchestra: “Gentlemen, you are playing all the notes perfectly, but please, let me hear some music.” Hazan says that when she eats meals prepared by “highly trained chefs, food that is ingeniously contrived, elaborately described in the menu, and eye-catchingly presented, that virtually nothing registers on my palate.” All notes, no music.

In ” Marcella ‘s Italian Kitchen” (1986), she sets out some rules. One I particularly liked: “Do not esteem so-called fresh pasta more than the dry, factory-made variety.”

I like this statement because I have difficulty with snooty cooks who look down their noses at plebeians like me who can’t take the time to make fresh.

Hazan ‘s philosophy combines passion, clarity and sincerity. The passion, she says, embodies the sensual nature of the cook. Clarity is to allow the ingredients to speak for themselves. Sincerity is, Hazan says, “speaking with your own true voice.” She is right when she says cooking “is a far more self-centered act than has been generally admitted. It is we who must, first and last, be satisfied with how we cook. The applause that may greet us is helpful encouragement, but it will ring hollow if it does not resonate within us.”

*The origin of this expression has to do with Josephus Daniels, who was editor and publisher and the owner of the Raleigh (N.C.) News and Observer. Daniels served as secretary of the Navy in the Wilson administration from 1913 to 1921. One of the reforms he imposed was to ban alcohol consumption aboard Navy ships, which in the British naval system was a long-standing tradition. It was thus, legend has it, that stewards would ask naval personnel if they would like a cup of Joe in lieu of grog.


Most of the time a man’s home…

….Is his castle.

And once in a while, a man’s castle is his home (observatories optional).cropped-DSC_0017.jpg

A Great Grande Tragedy

DSCF0614When I first started as a reporter at the Arizona Daily Star, I had not quite acquired a taste for the red. I had been a green chile fan. I still am. But nothing rivals a good bowl of red chile, and the place I first encountered Nirvana in the form of chile colorado was in 1971at the Grande Tortilla Factory, 914 N. Grande. My city editor, Bill Waters, showed me the way.

The GTF was but a five minute drive from the paper, which was on Stone Avenue, downtown where it belonged then and belongs today. The red chile burro was absolute perfection, wrapped in  the perfectly formed flour tortilla. The beef was as tender as a Hoagy Carmichael ballad. The gravy of meat juices and chile was a combination beyond what I thought humanly possible.

Of course, the GTF was not just about red chile. It was about all things comida Mexicana. There was a long line at lunch time. In late summer, the factory was busy grinding masa for tamales.  On the weekends, customers cued up with big pots in hand, waiting to be filled with menudo.

I have heard the carne seca was a legend unto itself. It was, alas, my misfortune to never discover it. I could never order beyond red.

The GTF is closed now, the windows shuttered. Every time I pass by, I wish the same wish — that it be 1947 and Frank Pesqueira is about to open for the first time.

But he does not. It’s still closed, a tragedy far greater than even Shakespeare could imagine.


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When Howard Hughes ran Republic Pictures, he made a lot of two-bit B Westerns. After screening what my grandmother used to call a “shoot ‘em up,” he told the director who had spent a week or two shooting the movie in Arizona to go back. This time, he told the director, get some clouds in the movie. You cannot shoot a western in Arizona, he said, and come back without cloud shots.

I am tempted to say clouds in this part of the world decorate blue skies like no other. For all I know, they might look the same elsewhere. I’d like to know where. A week ago they were magnificent as they marched in with the last gasp of the monsoon. They were puffed up pretty, spectacular billowy ornaments against mountain backdrops, like a traveling roadshow. I often think that our clouds are not appreciated, but then on second thought I doubt that is true. I think they are taken for granted. They don’t provoke a lot of conversation. That might be because the language of clouds resides with poets.

Like these four lines from Gerard Manley Hopkins’ 1918 poem, “That Nature is a Heraclitean Fire and of the comfort of the Resurrection”:

CLOUD-PUFFBALL, torn tufts, tossed pillows ’ flaunt forth, then chevy on an air-

built thoroughfare: heaven-roysterers, in gay-gangs ‘ they throng; they glitter in marches.

Down roughcast, down dazzling whitewash, ‘ wherever an elm arches,

Shivelights and shadowtackle in long ‘ lashes lace, lance, and pair.

You can find the rest of the poem here.

Hopkins found a lot of God in nature. He was a priest, after all. He studied clouds more than most. Besides poetry, he also wrote a journal, and in 1871 he wrote this:

“— Clouds however solid they may look far off are I think wholly made of film in the sheet or in the tuft. The bright woolpacks that pelt before a gale in a clear sky are in the tuft and you can see the wind unraveling and rending them finer than any sponge till within one easy reach overhead they are morselled to nothing and consumed — it depends of course on their size. Possibly each tuft in forepitch or in origin is quained and a crystal. Rarer and wilder packs have sometimes film in the sheet, which may be caught as it turns on the edge of the cloud like an outlying eyebrow. The one in which I saw this was a north-east wind, solid but not crisp, white like the white of egg, and bloated-looking

“What you look hard at seem to look hard at you … . One day early in March when long streamers were rising from over Kemble End one large flake loop-shaped, not a streamer but belonging to the string, moving too slowly to be seen, seem to cap and fill the zenith with a white shire of cloud. I looked long up at it till the tall height and the beauty of the scaping — regularly curled knots springing if I remember from fine stems, like foliation in wood or stone— had strongly grown on me. It changed beautiful changes, growing more into ribs and one stretch of running into branching like coral.”

It is difficult to express what clouds evoke. It is frustrating, and so it is heartening that poet like Hopkins would write “It changed beautiful changes,” throwing the majesty and beauty of those clouds all back upon clouds because they defy description, define themselves.


The Harshaw Cemetery

I was over to Harshaw last week. It lies south of Patagonia on the east slope of the Patagonia Mountains, not surprisingly situated on the Harshaw Road. Will Barnes says in his essential book “Arizona Place Names” that the place was named for David Tecumseh Harshaw who settled there in 1875. Barnes says the Mexicans first named it “Durasno” because of peach trees “probably planted by some early padre.” I find it somehow agreeable that priests get credit for peach trees.

There’s a big sign that marks the town site so you can’t hardly miss it. A bit further there’s a very big tree — sycamore, I think — and beyond that the town’s cemetery. It sits on hill, and some of the graves are hidden and some overgrown. But the graves are adorned with colorful flowers and looked after with a good bit of affection and respect. It is a very peaceful resting place.

There are two graves side by side, Mariano and Josefa Soto. They seem to get the most attention. I would wager that come November there’s lot of activity here. November brings the Day of the Dead, Dia de Los Muertos, a great cultural tradition. The Day of the Dead reminds me of Thornton Wilder’s 1927 novel “The Bridge of San Luis Rey.” The last dozen lines in that book that are among the greatest of American literature:

” ‘Even now,’ ” she thought, ” ‘almost no one remembers Esteban and Pepita, but my self. Camila alone remembers her Uncle Pio and her son; this woman, her mother. But soon we shall die and all memory of those five willhave left the earth, and we ourselves shall be loved for a while and forgotten. But the love will have been enough; all those impulses of love return to the love that made them. Even memory is not necessary for love. There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.’ ”

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Bob Cauthorn, 1922-2013

If this town ever builds a monument to its conservationists, the memory of Bob Cauthorn should be thus enshrined.

Bob died this week after a long illness. He was 91.

As a member of the Tucson City Council, he led the monumental effort to impose conservation by sharply increasing water rates. This was done through the city water utility, today known as Tucson Water. The increases weren’t just sharp. They were shocking. Otherwise rational people became screaming, foam-at-the-mouth banshees when they saw their water bills. I have described what happened during this time in the city’s history elsewhere on this site.

While Bob was not recalled in an acrimonious recall election, it was because he found a very good job in Florida. He resigned from the council. His empty seat was filled in the recall election. The water war cost four incumbent council members their political careers. When faced with the necessity for conservation, the council successors retained the water-rate increases. Tucson became a national leader in water conservation.

Bob also was a key figure during another city crisis — the public safety strike. Tucson’s policemen left the city unprotected for a time.

After he retired, Bob returned to Tucson a widower. He struck up a friendship with the incomparable community activist and champion of worthy causes Joan Kaye, and they were married.

Politicians come and go without accomplishing much. They get caught up in minutiae. Few can claim a single major accomplishment during their service. Bob Cauthorn will always be among those few.



Our View: Good to Postpone, Wait and See, Let’s Think About This, Absolutely Maybe

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Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry suggests that the county postpone any decision regarding a change in the sunrise. It makes perfectly good sense that Pima County wait before presenting a sun that rises in the West, and it is probably better to wait and think about until 2015 or maybe absolutely 2016.

The Bond Advisory Committee proposes the county pay $500,000 in capital bond funding, part of a $200 billion package, to subsidize the sun rising in the West, which happens on county land, but is operated by a private not-precisely for profit concern and is different because it involves third, fourth and fifth parties in an atmospheric partnership of properties, some of which are not on the National Register of Semi-Historic Sites, Strange Places and Run-On Sentences.

To be sure, the public should be asked about how they (plural pronoun for singular subject) feel about things because bond elections are serious matters and Huckelberry is a serious administrator who, because he has been county administrator for a century and a half knows whereof he speaks and, for whom the bell tolls, and, besides, presents priorities so that all segments can weigh in on funding the unfunded when it gets right down to deciding where or even whether there’s a sunrise involved in the essential gifting clause that might be violated by the consideration of state law.

After all, no misimpressions should be made on what’s being approved or unapproved and it is serious business when there are alternatives and additionally when the sun could be rising from the south, which ultimately might mean the South shall rise again.

Zoe Off-road/ Nasty Signs/ Three happy birthdays

DSC_0049 - Version 2Zoe went off road today. She sniffed out a lot of stickers. Nonetheless, she was fairly happy about it. She has a very cut smile. We went to Harshaw to see exactly where a Canadian mining company that looks a lot like the Rosemont copper operation means to mine silver, which involves lots and lots of cyanide. It’s certainly one way to foul-up the San Rafael Valley.

We tried to pay a visit, but the nasty-ass signs were discouraging.

Zoe does not approve.

I don’t blame her.



Now for something completely different: Today is the birthday of Henry Koffler, John Schaefer and Gene Sander. All were presidents of the University of Arizona. Henry is 91. John is 79. Gene is 78.

We all should be so youthful.


Gene and Louise Sander and Henry Koffler

Helen and John SchaeferDSCF0383


And Now the Navy Yard

We are a remarkable nation if for nothing else in our boundless tolerance for murder and mayhem.

This insanity knows no bounds. There was New Town, And Columbine. And the Dark Night murders. We had Tucson. And do not forget Virginia Tech. Or Fort Hood. Now we have the Navy Yard. Twelve killed, just  like that.

We hear. We watch. We weep. The shrines go up. The bodies are buried.

And Washington does not give a shit.

The memorial services commence, the president leads the mourning. Voices echo throughout the hinterland. The calls, the pleas, the begging for gun control rise like ghosts on the haunt.

Washington does not give a shit.

The nation grieves without anger. We see no gore, no photos of the dead lying in pools of blood, bodies splayed and curled, the lifeless faces robbed of the future.

There are more guns and gun deaths in the United States than any other country in the world. We are a country meek and mild in the face of constant murder. We should be furious. But there is no rage, just a meek and mild populace insanely content to tolerate the insanity of mass murder and millions of guns.

No wonder Washington does not give a shit.

Padre OMO and Trixie

I worked for many years writing and editing editorials at the (Tucson) Arizona Daily Star with Tom Turner. His work brought the Star as close as we could get to the Pulitzer Prize: One year his editorials on water conservation made the judges’ short list.

We wrote this parody after realizing that some columnists kept scratching for a certain tone and feeling in their columns. We wrote this for our own amusement. It has never been published. Tom is retired and lives in San Diego. He is the author of “Soldier Boys,” a novel, available through Amazon.



An editorial column



THE DOCKS — The last time I saw him he was throwing chairs and smashing a bloodied fist into the faces of all comers with an explosiveness that split their lips, popped their teeth and pulverized their noses. He was depressed.

But Sunday mass was like that. It was the only way to get his message of love through to this parish of leather-faced dockworkers.

That was 30 years ago, when rotgut and I were friends and we all wore the look of the slums. We were poor. But we knew how to survive. With guts.

And Father Timothy O’Shaughnessy McGuire O’Rourk had more guts  than any of us. He was known on the docks as “Padre OMO,” and when Padre OMO said, “Kneel!”, you asked only, “For how long, Padre OMO?” He had a way with words. And an even more persuasive left hook.

But even Padre OMO, who wore the face of the docks, could miss the boat. And he did. He missed women’s lib — and he was not ready for Trixie Malloy. When it was finished, Trixie Malloy, with her look of scarlet, did him in.

Trixie was the first of the long-shore broads. She was a descendant of Tugboat Annie, born on a dark and stormy night in the bowels of a barge on Murky Bay. She had red hair that flowed down over smooth, muscular shoulders, green eyes that cut fog, a narrow waist and long, slim legs — and a chest that bulged the bib of her overalls. Lead anchors hung from her long, pierced earlobes. Any man who got too close rank the risk of getting his throat cut with a quick jerk of Trixie’s head.

Padre OMO grabbed the neck of the whiskey bottle and stood it on end. His Adam’s apple bobbed as the rotgut reddened his face stilled the volcano is in his belly.

“Salud a todo el mundo!”, he exclaimed as he hurled the bottle against the wall. “It was the overalls,” he reflected, “I had to see what was inside.

“At first it was good,” he said. “I left the church and she left the docks.” But it wasn’t good for long. Trixie had been to Boston. She was beat up and burned out from a hard-hearted and bloodied effort to unionize professional anchovy filleters there. She had failed, and Trixie was tired and ready to leave the East for the golden West.

When she left Padre OMO, he thought of her dressed in a pinafore jumpsuit, standing at the kitchen stove, basting eggs. She made her way slowly cross-country with a group of over-the-hill roustabouts, shoring up their tents and their spirits with her strength.

She had charm. She could sing. She could dance. But most of all, Trixie could play chess. She moved in with Bobby Fischer, then Viktor Korchnoi. Fischer was too erratic, always a sucker for the Vienna Gambit — first used by U.S. Grant in a drunken stupor while fighting the Battle of Lower Chicamaugua and Upper Chancellorsville.

Korchnoi was her complaint. It infuriated her that he always led with queen’s pawn-2. It was maddening, but Korchnoi, complaints notwithstanding, held her attention. Each time, she tried to leave, he would show her the Russian End-Around Gambit, named after one of Nijinky’s moves.

It lasted until Korchnoi’s complaint got out of hand, and he beat her with a queen’s rook. Checkmate. It was then she discovered rodeo and Chico Hernandez Alfonso Smith. She moved in with a rodeo bull rider.

That was when Padre OMO made his move. The rodeo was playing Madison Square Garden. Padre OMO made his way to the dressing room when the bull riding was over. But Chico, who wore the look of the bull, pounded Padre OMO’s face. Padre OMO wore the look of hamburger.

“I guess,” said Padre OMO, taking a slug from a fresh bottle, “that’s why I’m telling you all this. You’re the greatest bull-slinger in all New York.”

I roam the Big Apple for stories like Padre OMO’s and Trixie’s. But I do not wear the look of the docks. I prefer corduroy.