The last time I lived in California (post-bachelor’s degree), I was doing what you might call Livin’ the Dream: I had a great job at a newspaper, an awesome church (with accompanying awesome singles group), a house at the end of a cul-de-sac, a cute patio and a yard with beautiful landscaping. Our house was 45 minutes from the mountains, the desert or the beach, depending on your direction (and what time of day you went).
And my favorite: a swimming pool with an in-ground hot tub at one corner. (Doesn’t everyone in Southern California have an in-ground pool and hot tub?)
I rented from my roommate, Deby, who owned the house and paid other people to maintain the property. (Doesn’t everyone in Southern California have a yard guy and a pool guy?)
Yup. Livin’ the Dream. (Except that my closest family units were 4-5 hours away by car.)
Deby and I had lots of cookouts and swim parties – sometimes with her friends, sometimes with mine, but always lots of fun and lasting until the wee hours of the morning (I was young then; I could do that).
One of my favorite things about Deby, besides her generosity (she pretty much let me do whatever I wanted, as long as I didn’t burn the place down), was that she was a gourmet cook. Financial planner by day, food magician by night.
She made creating delicious recipes seem effortless. (She once took a pot of chili I had left simmering on the stove and, after asking permission, turned it from blah to rah! just by sprinkling in
some fairy dust a few spices.)
I experienced many culinary firsts at Deby’s table: I had never heard of cilantro (and now my love for it is limitless), I had never eaten orange roughy; I had never eaten sushi, had never heard of wasabi (no Japanese sushi restaurant has anything on Deby). Artichoke hearts with a creamy dill sauce, yum! And I didn’t have a clue what ceviche was (again, no restaurant can hold a candle). And our refrigerator always – always – housed a dish of fresh garlic butter, which we whipped up ourselves.
I “stole” several recipes from Deby, including the one below, which might embody her motto, and I heartily embrace it:
“Everything is better with garlic.”
(Go ahead. Write that down and tape it to your fridge.)
The first time I experienced her Teriyaki Marinade was when Deby invited me sailing with some friends who owned a sailboat. (Doesn’t everyone in Southern California own a sailboat?) The boat had a little grill, where we plopped down some boneless chicken that had been marinating in the cooler all morning.
You’ll have to experience for yourself how good this is, because I am out of words to describe it. I’ve since tried the marinade with salmon, one Fourth of July a few years ago – why just once? I don’t know! – and I’m sure it would be awesome with shrimp, too.
And, because this is Memorial Day weekend and you have more exciting things to do than listen to someone else wax nostalgic about her Livin’ la Vida SoCal days two decades past, here it is. (Note: I’m presenting it in its original form but have included a couple of healthier substitutions.)
What are you waiting for? Go get your grill on!
Deby, if you should stumble across this post someday, please get in touch. And thank you for everything you taught me about generosity, hospitality and good food.