Jan 31, 2009

I Am The Walrus...

... in the London Zoo in the 1930's.

Those were different times back then. The animals had to earn their keep, like this camel transporting the newly arrived occupants of the famous Little People Exhibit. They were traded from the Bristol Zoo for a polar bear.

Here we can see a giant turtle, baby alligator, komodo dragon and a young train conductor having a tea party. The baby alligator is telling a joke: A wildebeest walks into a bar...

It was a tough, hyena-eats-hyena world, and the residents were the rough and tumble type. This baby elephant was later arrested for public drunkenness and lewd behavior.

Feeding time in the hippo enclosure. Contrary popular misconception, hippos are not exclusively vegetarian.

Jan 29, 2009

So There It Goes...

It happened. The waiting is over. I've been Pink'd, slipped the slip, waylaid.

I knew as soon as I opened my eyes that it was going to be a bad day. I woke up with a sharp pain in my left knee. How did I injure my knee at night, in my sleep? It's a sinister mystery. Then as I was fixing my bowl of morning coffee the milk went PLOP! It's never a good thing when milk goes PLOP! Sure enough, it was in that transitory state between milk and yogurt when it's good for nothing. The figurative dark clouds were gathering over my dated tile countertop. In my old country things - good or bad - travel in threes, so the news at work was no surprise.

After months of mounting suspense the day came: Krystalmorgen, the day of pointy daggers, Axing Day. I and a large number of my colleagues, say, about 70-75% became a statistic. What will be the number of newly unemployed this month? Half a million? A million? I feel like part of History now.

I can't say it was a surprise. We all knew for months that this was coming. I'm actually relieved - the anxiety of the endless waiting was getting unbearable. If I'm quietly sobbing that's just nerves, ignore it.

Let's look at the bright side! The severance package is quite generous, so I have months before having to start panicking. I can spend whole days in my pajamas now. I can go out photographing any time (not necessarily in my pajamas). I'll be driving over the Pasadena more, since the agency that is supposed to be helping with job search and stuff has an office there. Not to mention, now I have an excuse to drink. Life is good.

Jan 24, 2009

Bathers of All Ages and Places

If I was Dr, Seuss I could make this rhyme. Alas.

Under our clothes we are all naked, and sometimes it's nice to get back to basics. Though if I was that kid I'd watch out for that rooster in the background. They can get nasty. I was once chased into the outhouse by a rooster. I want to point out that outhouses were not normal part of my childhood, but then my father decided to buy a farm in the country and it was a bit rustic. Divorced parents, summer vacations with father, thus the outhouse and the rooster.

Steffi looks good. She must be around 80, if she is still around. Time flies.

Crimea, Ukraine, 1967. I wonder what route this photo took to arrive to Pasadena.

"Good job dad, with that camera. Nobody told you about the dangers of back lighting?"

The caption might be a little bit exaggerated, but it's not easy to be beautiful in those caps and grandma shoes.

Stripes are in.

Looking dorky, date unknown.


That's my mother in her shocking bikini circa 1960. Good old days.

Jan 22, 2009

All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Swim

These are probably my oldest photos. I had to play around with the brightness/contrast to bring out some detail.

That is some serious bathing clothing.

Jan 19, 2009

Cold Cherry Soup

This is another old Hungarian dish. People on this side of the pond tend to have the same kind of skepticism about it as I had about peanut butter. Traditionally it would be made using sour cherries, but can be made with regular cherries. If made with sour cherries it is acidic enough to serve as a starter, otherwise it is more like a dessert or midday snack. Very refreshing on hot summer day.

1 3/4 lbs cherries
1 cinnamon stick
3/4 cup dry red vine
juice of 1 lemon
2/3 cup of sugar
pinch of salt
2 egg yolks
3/4 cup heavy cream
3 1/3 cup of water

  • Wash and pit the cherries. Place them in a pot with the vine, water, lemon juice, cinnamon, cloves.
  • Bring it to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer till cherries are tender, about 20 minutes.
  • Take out half the cherries and in food processor puree them, and return to the soup. Bring to a boil, then turn off heat.
  • Mix the egg yolks into the cream.
  • Slowly, spoonful by spoonful mix hot soup into the cream, whisking constantly. Finally pour the mixture into the soup.
  • Stir in reheat. Careful, don't bring to a boil or the egg yolks will curdle. Remove cinnamon stick.
  • Cool at room temperature, then refrigerate.
  • Serve it chilled.

Sunday Bliss

Yesterday was the day of the 32nd annual Dooh Dah Parade. It must be the silliest parade ever invented. I don't have any really good photos, was standing at a bad stop, too much sun, excuses, blah, blah.

After the parade I drove up North to Altadena to check out some houses. Altadena is my new favorite place to drive around aimlessly. Then I headed back towards Burbank taking the scenic route. Chevy Chase Road zigzags its way through super peaceful areas. With the window rolled down I could smell the trees and the dirt. It was a beautiful day. By the time I got home I was so blissed out that I felt like taking a nap behind the wheel.

Karin: That fruit picker needed a new home. Here are some recipes for Pickled Beets and Sausage and Leek Casserole.

Jan 17, 2009

Chef Frankenstein's Chocolate Bread Pudding

That's pronounced Frank-en-steen.

Paula Deen scares me. In my nightmares she and Emeril roll me in lard, wrap me in bacon, and toss me in the oven. Naturally, I looked for their guidance, when attempting to transform a vague idea about chocolate bread pudding made of chalah bread into reality. I also leaned on Shelia Lukins whose Mexican Christmas Bread Pudding has already proven itself multiple times. So I looked at 3 recipes, and from them I frankensteined out my own.


1 chalah bread
4 coups of half and half
3 tbs Godiva Chocolate Liquor
4 oz chocolate chopped, dark or milk according to taste
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
4 large eggs
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 package vanilla sugar (ok, you can just used 1 tsp vanilla extract)
1 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbs butter

Preheat boiler. Slice the chalah bread into 1" slices. Toast both sides in boiler. Careful, don't burn them.
Tear the toasted slides into pieces and put them in a big bowl. pour half and half on it, toss, set aside for 30 minutes. Toss occasionally.
Butter bottom and sides of 13x9.2" baking pan. Set aside.
In another bowl whisk eggs with sugar, vanilla sugar, almond extract, slowly whisk in cocoa powder, cinnamon, add chocolate liguor.
Pour the mix over the chalah, add choclocate, toss.
Transfer into baking dish.
At 325º bake till middle is firm, ca 1 hour.

It came out ok, though I think I should double the chocolate. It became far better when I topped it with Orange Sauce.

1 stick of butter
1 cup of sugar
2 large egg yolks
3 tbs orange liquor like Cointreau

In the top of a double boiler melt the butter, whisk in the sugar till smooth, ca 30 sec. Add orange liquor, then egg yolks one at a time. Whisking constantly cook still sauce thickens to the consistency of honey, ca 4 minutes.

Jan 10, 2009

Square America: The Automobile

This photo - the landscape, and the car - reminds me of Barry Newman. He starred in a tv show, Petrocelli, in the 70's. He played a lawyer in Arizona who is building a house in the desert. Barry Newman had a few starring roles in movies in the 70's, most of them forgettable. However there was one that became a cult classic, especially in Europe. Vanishing Point is about alienation in the shape of a man driving a 1970 Dodge Challenger across the country.

It is the breathtaking vastness of space of the American West is what cramped Europeans find so irresistibly romantic. The idea that you can rev up the engine and drive on an endless road, be alone in the middle of nowhere, get lost for better or worse, it makes you giddy with vertigo.

After the 70's Barry Newman sort of faded from view, though he is still around working. He appeared in various tv shows, like Law and Order, also character roles in various movies, like a less the scrupulous lawyer in The Limey.

Jan 9, 2009


There is a Paper Show in Glendale this weekend.

PS. There will be no heads rolling.

Jan 4, 2009

Flea Market Finds

I went to the Pasadena City College monthly flea market. Most of the vendors were inside the parking structure. A small Asian man was peddling enlightenment at the entrance, but I found mine in a plastic tub at one of the vendors.

I also found an actual signed photo of Pedro (Pepe) Infante, the famous Mexican actor/singer I never heard of. Apparently he was very big in the "Golden Age of Mexican cinema."

You find interesting treasures at a flea market. I saw a young woman carrying her loot: Two halves of a mannequin. Black torso in one arm, silver legs pointing to the sky in the other. She - the woman, not the mannequin - seemed embarrassed, cast her gaze on the ground.

I had my own finds.

Jan 2, 2009


It's a most unusual day in The Valley as it's being blanketed in thick, cold, wet fog.

If it wasn't for the palm trees it could be Minnesota in October. I have the sudden urge to listen to NPR.

The banks of the mighty LA River.

If you stand back and squint it could almost be Central Park in New York.

Jan 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

I came to realize that Hungarians are very superstitious. Just listen to this list of superstitions I learned as a child:

Breaking a mirror: 7 years bad luck.
Spilling salt: bad luck.
Accidentally stepping into poop: good luck.
Accidentally hitting your elbow (funny bone): you'll have unexpected visitors.
Killing a spider: bad luck.
Ear ringing: somebody is talking about you.
Finding your fallen eyelash: good luck.
Left palm itching: unexpected expenses.
Right palm itching: getting unexpected money.

Also how you spend the last night of the year is how you'll spend the next year. If that was true lots of people would be drunk all year. Come to think of it, if you are Hungarian there is a very good likelihood of that. You have to be careful what you eat on January 1st. Under no circumstances should you eat fish. Fish will swim away with your luck. Chicken is good, it will scratch your luck back. You should eat lentils: they will make you rich and lucky.

Hey, I'm not making this up, don't look at me funny.

So I made French Lentil Soup with Sausage.

I grabbed the recipe from foodtv.com, but made some adjustments. Here is my version:

3 tbs olive oil
1 slice of bacon
1 onion finely chopped
2 carrots chopped
1 1/4 cups of lentils - French green lentils preferably
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
salt to taste
2 cloves of sliced or crushed garlic
2 bay leaves
4 oz sausage (whatever is your favorite)
1 tbs balsamic vinegar
2 cups of water or broth (chicken, beef)

  • In a large pot render the fat from the bacon slice. Remove.
  • Add oil, heat up on medium heat, add onions, and frequently stirring cook till browned, ca. 5 minutes.
  • Add garlic, cook 30 seconds.
  • Add carrots, cook for 5 min, stir time to time.
  • Add lentils, water or broth, pepper, salt, bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then reduce and simmer till lentils are tender, ca 30 minutes.
  • Slice the sausages, and brown the slices on both sides.
  • Add the sausage and vinegar to the soup.