Memories of a long life: Travel, food, birds – Bonner County Daily Bee

Green salad picked fresh from a lavish choice that you can emulate in your own garden.
(Courtesy photo)

Valle Novak
A towhee, a black-and-orange beauty, hangs out on a branch.
Yesterday marked the 92nd year of my life on this earth. I find that absolutely unbelievable, and while I am grateful for the gift of longevity with wits still intact (mostly) I don’t know where the last couple of decades went!
Born in Coeur d’Alene in 1930, I spent the first 30 years there, through schooling, marriage(s), and raising my family. During the’60s, I moved to and worked in Spokane in communication — newspapers, TV, and other outlets needing a writer/journalist. But when those years (and partners) passed and my wonderful six children had “grown up and gone” — so to speak — I put the past fully behind me, moved alone to Sandpoint at age 50 — and that is when my life truly began. I started working at the Bee as a feature writer and ultimately as arts editor — soon to vie with the title “travel editor” — since I began my personal “odyssey” of the wonderful world I had started reading about when I was only 5 years old.*
I had already been to every state except Rhode Island, seeing America by car — and the rest of the world beckoned. I had decided from the beginning that I would never be a “it’s Tuesday so this must be Vienna” (sic) traveler, so allowed myself time. I spent a full month in Egypt — ditto Mexico (comparing pyramids!) – Spain/Morocco, and Greece — including a great cruise to the islands and Ephesus .Later, I was captivated by London and began offering (with the help of travel agent Sherry Metz) guided trips for that great city and its environs. Soon added were Scotland, France, Switzerland and Italy. Add visits to New Orleans with a couple of neat cruises to Jamaica and the Bahamas where I loved snorkeling (and shopping). Adding to all this bounty, daughter Shelley and husband Ray moved to Maui for several years, which demanded at least three visitations.
Thus did I spend some 20 years in traveling and learning. I spoke passable Spanish, poor French, read the Latin on ruins — and learned some hieroglyphs in Luxor! How could I have done all this, you may ask — and my answer is “God’s grace and Visa.”
Speaking of Latin – “Hail Caesar”!
We’re all familiar with the famous “Caesar Salad”, and in New Orleans many years ago, I ate at what I assumed to be Caesars original restaurant.
The great Caesar Cardini created his namesake piece de resistance in 1924 at his small hotel in Tijuana. The old article in which I discovered this “new” I (to me) information disclosed that “he never mixed the dressing ahead of time, and nothing was measured, so the salad took on the qualities of a spontaneous work of art.” The basics then were lemon juice, garlicky olive oil, eggs and Parmesan cheese. Caesar never added anchovies, either — only a dash of Worcestershire sauce. He also didn’t chop up the Romaine lettuce, using only the hearts, separated for eating with the fingers!
Here’s the original recipe.
Classic Caesar Salad
(For 6)
7 Tbsps. extra-virgin olive oil
4-6 garlic cloves, peeled, sliced
2 cups bread cubes, made from firm-textured bread
3 Romaine lettuce hearts
1/2 tsp. coarse salt
1/4 tsp. fresh-ground black pepper
Juice from 1 lemon
2 large egg yolks, beaten
2 tsps. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmegiano Reggiano cheese
Combine olive oil and garlic in small bowl, cover tightly and let stand 30 minutes to 1 hour. Preheat oven to 325F. Toss bread cubes with 3 Tbsps. garlic oil to coat; spread in a single layer in a shallow baking pan. Bake about 10 minutes or just until edges begin to color. Set aside to cool.
Carefully separate the leaves of the romaine hearts; place in a large coved salad bowl. Drizzle with 2 Tbsps. of the garlic oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss well. Add another 2 Tbsps. garlic oil, the lemon juice, yolks and Worcestershire; toss gently. Sprinkle with cheese and croutons. Have shallow coved bowls available for each guest. Allow them to serve with themselves with a one-piece salad server. The original recipe says to encourage guests to eat their leaves with their fingers — but you can have salad forks on hand. In any case have a great stack of napkins or paper towel available.
I think this sounds like a fun summer outdoor treat which could only be enhanced with icy Bubbly on hand! Too, a platter of prawns would not be remiss for a “full meal deal.”
Romaine mixes well with other greens for great summer salads, as witness our illustration of a fabulous montage of a variety of crunchy choices needing only a drizzle of olive oil for perfection.
This horrid winter has not been kind to the birds. For weeks, I saw only the various woodpeckers working my “chef’s choice” of suet blocks. Now, only a very few Chickadees, Nuthatches and a couple of Chipping sparrows — five or six birds max –join the ever-present turkey flock at the largesse of sunflower seeds tossed on the snow. Then I caught a glimpse of black-and-orange — and knew it could only be my long-time resident Varied Thrush — this reminded me of an article I wrote a few years back which I called my “Rhapsody in Black and Orange:” Included were the thrush, the Robins, glorious Bullock’s Oriole (the West’s version of the East’s Baltimore Oriole), the rarely seen Black headed Grosbeak, and the Towhees with their perky black tails*. Talk about glamour in the bird world! At the time, watching them co-existing in the most friendly way with the resident Chickadees, Nuthatches and Juncos, I thought it absolutely couldn’t get any better than this! The only negative was that my camera had just ðied” and I couldn’t get a picture!
Anyhow, it will be just wonderful when this hand-killing, breath-taking cold is gone and the birds return with their cheery interactions and pure, innocent beauty. Amen to that!
Valle Novak writes the Country Chef and Weekend Gardener columns for the Daily Bee. She can be reached at or by phone at 208-265-4688 between the hours of 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
(Courtesy photo)
A towhee, a black-and-orange beauty, hangs out on a branch.
Valle Novak
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