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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 The Jesuit Class Of 1968 Reunites.
I began this Diary entry yesterday, about the Fifty-Year Reunion of the 1968 Class of Jesuit High School, which I attended. Here’s the rest of it.

I was barely out of the demographic in question when I first said that that the most interesting time of a man’s life is when he is sixteen. When I turned seventeen, I continued holding that opinion for about another year. After that, I was sure of the assertion. Even though my most interesting slice of life was past. When I didn’t know what to do next in just about every situation, I referred to what people I know who are seventeen are or were doing. At the very least, it always brought me back to a happy outlook.

Sometime in my twenties, I was invited to a great source of information for people trying to make life stand still. I ran into a large table full of people at Commander’s Palace (I thought) who recognized me. I saw that this was because most were members of the 1968 graduating class of Jesuit High School. Somebody at the table recognized me for the same reason: I was a Jesuit near-graduate. I didn’t make the cut, mainly because I spent all my time working to make money, and very little on my studies. But I did recognize most of the people at this table because at Jesuit we wore name tags and knew knew each other well.

I was told by one of these people that they had this reunion annually. He said I should join them, and not worry that I didn’t have a Jesuit diploma, because I was hardly the only former student who had this deficiency.

I’ve gone to almost every 1968 Jesuit reunion since. This year, we celebrated fifty years since the graduation. I still recognize most of the people there, and am interested in how their lives are going. This practice–attended by around fifty alumni in recent years and many more for this fifty-year landmark–is as enriching an exercise as I can imagine.

It required several exercises. The first was this past May 11, when a stag event took place at the generously large home of one of the 1968-ers. The place was boisterous. Many in tonight’s crowd had not attended the annual reunions for years. But they were happy to be here tonight. About the only lack in attendance was that only one teacher–a coach who led the very first class I had at Jesuit–was in attendance. But teachers have a long time to travel to thsi point.

There were generous drinks and a buffet assembled by Chef Andrea Apuzzo, the caterer for the event. The best of the eats was the house-made fresh milk mozzarella in the insalata caprese. But not many people were eating. This was an evening of remembrance. And there would be more of it tomorrow.

Most of the stories we told one another were about major fiascos we experienced in the classroom. Everybody there had stores of rich craziness, or many of them. What a time to be alive, then and now. And to have it happen because I was seventeen back then confirms my long-time theory that the finest age of life for a man is in his sixteenth and seventeenth years.

The second day of the Reunion took place at the school itself, the center of which is a handsome, stained-glass chapel. There a Mass was offered by Father Edwin Gros, who goes far back in my history. He and I were in the same class at St. Rita’s grammar school. We have a cousin or two in common. The first time I ever danced with a girl was at a party at Eddie’s parents’ house for of the graduating eighth graders. Now Eddie is a longtime Jesuit priest, the only one among the 1968-ers, and as mellow a guy as I have ever known.

As I entered the chapel, one of our number carried a guitar and asked whether any of the people there would like to come up and add some strength to the singing. I raised my hand and mentioned that I am a Catholic cantor. I was immediately drafted, to my great pleasure. A little Beethoven here, a little modern hymn there. I have now contributed something to the Reunion.

After Mass, the whole crowd decamped to the Garden District home of one of the several doctors in our group. (The 1968-ers include a lot of both doctors and attorneys.) Here the food riches were orchestrated by Martin Wine Cellar’s excellent catering department. A great deal of crabmeat was circulating, as were slices of beef tenderloin, prepared from rare to mid-well. The bar was full of distinguished bottles.

And it was easier to have conversations than it had been last night. Particularly with Bill McCarthy, my best friend throughout my entire Jesuit career. Bill was the most sophisticated among us. He had a superb sense of style, humor, and general knowledge. He wound up being a rare National Merit Scholar. He had a way of getting around the unimportant and focusing on what really needed to be addressed. I used exactly the opposite strategy, which meant that I was working at the Time Saver instead of studying.

I don’t know why, but for a long time I have wanted Bill to meet my wife, Mary Ann. My weird idea was that if these two people–both very important to me–were to meet, the opposed forces would cause them to explode. They didn’t. Maybe I had that wrong. Perhaps it’s Jude and Bill that have have the forces in common. Both men step up to a situation, and then the situations are vaporized, as if nothing had ever happened.

I’ve heard it say that beyond the fiftieth anniversary of anything, nothing much ever happens again. I don’t know if that’s true, but this I do know: this was the maximum expression of the reunion. Everyone there was ecstatic to have been a part of it. Even me.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Cool Water Ranch Barbecue Sauce

I started making my own barbecue sauce when I volunteered to run a barbecue both at the festivals at my children’s schools. I used two bits of knowledge gleaned from my barbecue-eating activities. The first came from Harold Veasey, the founder of the now-extinct Harold’s Texas Barbecue in Metairie. He told me that the secret to his sauce is that he “kills it”–cooks the tomatoes so long that they take on an entirely different, sweet flavor. The second datum was my noticing the taste of cinnamon in the barbecue sauce at Corky’s, the best bottled sauce I’ve found. Neither source would give me a recipe, so I went my own way. This takes a long time, but it’s worth it if you make a great deal of it.

It may seem like cheating to add bottled barbecue sauce to the mix. What I’m after there is the stuff in commercial barbecue sauce that keeps it from separating.

This makes a lot of sauce, because I don’t like having to make it often. Put it up in canning jars and give it to friends.

Col Water Ranch Barbecue Sauce.

  • 2 liters Dr Pepper
  • 2 medium onions, pureed
  • 1 medium head garlic, pureed
  • 2 Tbs. grated ginger root
  • 2 gallons tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup yellow mustard
  • 1/2 bottle Tabasco Caribbean style steak sauce
  • 2 Tbs. chili powder
  • 2 Tbs. dried basil
  • 2 Tbs. marjoram
  • 1 Tbs. rubbed sage
  • 1 Tbs. allspice
  • 1/4 cup cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup freshly-ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbs. salt
  • 2 cups cider vinegar
  • 6 12-oz. jars molasses
  • 1 quart commercial barbecue sauce (I use Hunt’s)

1. Pour the Dr Pepper into a large saucepan and reduce it very slowly to about one cup of liquid. Or, if you can get Dr Pepper syrup, get a cup of it.

2. While that’s going on, use the biggest stockpot you have to sauté the onions, garlic, and ginger over medium heat for about fifteen minutes, and stirring every minute or two. (The ginger may turn the mixture green. Ignore this.)

3. Add the other ingredients except the vinegar, molasses, and prepared barbecue sauce. Bring to a light simmer, then lower the heat as low as it will go. Simmer, covered, for about eight hours, stirring thoroughly all the way down to the bottom every ten minutes or so to make sure it doesn’t burn down there.

4. Add the molasses, vinegar, and prepared sauce and cook another hour or two. Taste the sauce and add more molasses or vinegar to balance it. Add salt and hot sauce to taste.

Pack what you will not use right away into sterilized canning jars, while the sauce is still hot.

Makes three gallons of sauce.

AlmanacSquare May 15, 2017

Upcoming Deliciousness

New Orleans Wine And Food Experience May 25-27
Greek Festival May 25, 26, 27

Gourmet Gazetteer

Eaton Hill in Vermont is almost exactly between two state capitals: Montpelier Vermont and Albany, New York. It rises to 984 feet–almost 500 feet higher than the water level in Lake Bomoseen a mile west. Eaton Hill is almost entirely wooded, but farms lie at its eastern base. Pretty area, especially for fall colors. The place to eat after a walk across the summit is The Trak-In Steak House, down on the shore of Lake Bomoseen.

Edible Dictionary

egg drop soup, Chinese, n.–A universal soup offering in Chinese restaurant for over a century. Egg drop soup is made of chicken broth with just enough herbs and savory vegetables to add flavor, but not much solid matter. The major part of the mouthfeel comes from beaten eggs stirred into the near-boiling soup. The eggs immediately congeal into raggedy shreds. Everything about it is light,including the taste. The same technique is used in other soups from other cuisines, notably the Italian stracciatella.

Food At War

On this date in 1862, General Benjamin “Beast” Butler, heading the Union occupation of New Orleans, ordered all captured women to be turned over to him for his pleasure. These were bad times, but falling early in the Civil War proved to be a good thing for New Orleans, which was not burned and looted the way many other Southern cities were. Antoine’s and several other restaurants continued to operate.

Meanwhile, on the very same day in another branch of the Federal government, the Department of Agriculture was founded by an Act of Congress. Celebrate the day by driving by the USDA’s interesting Art Deco building in City Park at the corner of Wisner and Robert E. Lee, and recall that almost all our food starts with farmers.

The Saints

Speaking of farmers, it’s the feast day of one of their many patron saints. Isidore The Farmer lived in Madrid in the eleventh century. His story is that, because he was criticized by fellow farmers for letting his work go while he attended Mass, a cadre of angels came and plowed his field. He’s also the patron saint of cattle ranchers.If you have a steak today you can say it’s in homage to Isidore.

Food In The Air

Ellen Church, the first stewardess on an airliner, made her first working flight on this date in 1930, from San Francisco to Cheyenne. This sounds like a joke, but it’s true: she served a meal of fruit salad, chicken, and bread rolls to the passengers. What’s wrong with the name “stewardess” that we can’t use it anymore?

Food And The Environment

Today in 1908, American governors met with Theodore Roosevelt at the White House. They issued a declaration that conservation measures for the environment were needed. It was the first official recognition that the natural richness of America was not immune to profligate use. Here we are a hundred years later and we still haven’t learned this. Today’s despoilment: the creation of dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico right off our shores, as a result of the gross overuse of fertilizers in the Corn Belt.

Today’s Flavor

Today is allegedly National Chocolate Chip Day. My wife and daughter will go for that. For the past couple of years, my daughter’s breakfast has been a couple of large, gooey, freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies. If she’s in a hurry, sometimes she just eats the dough. I don’t know how she can stand it. Chocolate chips from the major manufacturers are actually of pretty good quality chocolate, but they’re coated with a thin layer of edible wax, which is what makes me use other forms of chocolate for things like chocolate mousse.

Food Namesakes

Amy Chow, who won gold and silver in the Olympics for the US in 1996, was born today in 1978. . . Katherine Anne Porter, author of Ship of Fools, was born today in 1890. She said, “It’s a man’s word, and you men can have it.” . . . Classical composer Arthur Berger was born today in 1912. . . Wavy Gravy, peace activist, clown, Woodstock performer, and counterculture icon in the 1960s and beyond, was born today in 1936 (as Hugh Romney). . . Australian athlete Lisa Curry-Kenny was born today in 1962. She’s an swimmer and an Ironwoman contender, married to an Ironman. (The mind boggles.)

Words To Eat By

“All my wife has ever taken from the Mediterranean—from that whole vast intuitive culture—are four bottles of Chianti to make into lamps, and two china condiment donkeys labeled Sally and Peppy.”–Peter Shaffer, British playwright, born today in 1926.

“Great reviews are the worst. They mislead you more than the bad ones, because they only fuel your ego. Then you only want another one, like potato chips or something, and the best thing you get is fat and bloated. I’d rather just refuse, thanks.”–Chazz Palminteri, actor, born today in 1951.

Words To Drink By

“I have the feeling that drinking is a form of suicide where you’re allowed to return to life and begin all over the next day. It’s like killing yourself, and then you’re reborn. I guess I’ve lived about ten or fifteen thousand lives now.”–Charles Bukowski.

FoodFunniesSquare

A Good Question To Ask When They Hand You A Menu.

The first one should be good for a laugh in almost any restaurant you might visit.

Click here for the cartoon.

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