Ciao'd with a glass of fino sherry.

My dogs, Kai, origin Newfoundland, Tiki, a German, and Koa, whose breed (Carolina Dog) traversed over the land bridge from Asia to become the first domesticated dogs in America. Photo credit: Alexandra Sasha de Jesus.

My dogs, Kai, origin Newfoundland, Tiki, a German, and Koa, whose breed (Carolina Dog) traversed over the land bridge from Asia to become the first domesticated dogs in America. Photo credit: Alexandra Sasha de Jesus.

The first time I saw a black person I was in kindergarten. Chucky Newell entered the classroom wearing a bright yellow Charlie Brown shirt, the one with the bold black zig- zag skirting the bottom seam. I was assigned to be his buddy.

We sat upon our sit-upons, cloth mats we “stitched” with seaming tape and fabric glue. I was tan from a summer at the Cape. “Where did you go this summer?” I asked Chucky. “I played at the park,” he replied. “But how did you get so tan if you weren’t at the beach?” “I’m not tan dumb head, I’m an Afro-American.”

I was aware of Martin Luther King, Jr. (he preferred Negro to Afro-American), Arthur Ashe and Diahann Carroll, who starred in one of my favorite TV shows, Julia. Julia was a nurse who had a little boy about kindergarten age. I knew Afro-Americans, just not in real-life.

Chucky and I shared a love for books. During the course of the year, we “read” picture books, knowing the stories so well we could recite them by heart. Policeman Small, Pretzel, The Snowy Day, The Little Farm, Blueberries for Sal and more Golden Books than I can list here. 

We pledged allegiance to the flag (“with liberty and justice for all”), drank milk from little wax-lined containers, played Red Rover on the playground, sang Bingo, This Old Man and Frere Jacques (in the round!) while Mrs. Banks accompanied us on the upright piano in the corner of the room.  

We were silly, curious and sometimes naughty (I talked to much; Chucky fidgeted). Our desires were simple. We wanted to play, have friends, be heard and be loved.  We were like every other kid in the classroom and for that matter, the world. Different colored shell on the outside perhaps but the same yolk on the inside.

It's a verity that begs the question: who would teach their kids to hate? What parent would build a soapbox of entitlement for his or her child? Why would anybody sit around a dinner table and spout heinous opinions about people who look different/speak another language/pray in a temple rather than beneath a steeple? I’m guessing the parents’ parents did the same. This is neither nurture nor nature. As my grandmother used to say, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree – whether it’s rotten or pure.

Can we be honest with each other? Is there a teeny, weeny part of you way down deep that dismisses another? I’ll admit to it. I malign the group who comprises the largest segment of the student body in the University of California system. I also know that this reproach stems from envy that my kid, while academically successful, did not put academics at the top of his priority list and the culture of our family did not either. So my son did not earn the GPA that would grant him entry to a UC school and my husband and I did not attain the pure, unadulterated wonderfulness of UC tuition.

While I am not pretending to make light of prejudice (it’s revolting), here’s one that is so comical it defines the stupidity and ignorance of bias. Prius owners cannot drive. They cut me off, drive slowly in the fast lane, and tail gate. There are approximately 4 million Prii (yes, that is the plural of Prius) on the road. See, I told you. Proof of a generalization that is so ridiculous it’s ludicrous. Mea culpa to the land of the Prii.

And let me say this, too. What goes around comes around. How many times in corporate reviews have I heard the words, "You're emotional but of course, you are a creative." "Executive leadership demands gravitas. You might want to modulate your passion." "She's Italian. What do you expect?" Don't even get me started on the pin pricks of discrmination based on my sex which trumped (Oh, God, did I really use that word?) my intelligence, talent, and experience. Bias stings. It makes us question our worth and our purpose. It makes me sad. 

Chucky moved away in third grade. Here and there as life has passed, I’ve wondered what became of him. A few years ago, a childhood friend told me that Chucky lives in Florida. He’s an elementary school principal. If the child is the father of the man, his charges are fortunate. I’m sure he is as fair and fun as he was when were friends too many years ago.

America is the melting pot, people. Everybody knows that a pot of something tastes better when the ingredients meld harmoniously. Choose your recipe. Celebrate the deliciousness of diversity.

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Corn and Shrimp Chowder Blog.jpg

Fresh sweet corn and briny wild shrimp play perfectly in this chowder. It makes a lovely simple supper dinner or lunch. Add an arugula salad and crusty bread and you're good to go!

Serves 4

2 ounces diced pancetta (about 1/4 cup)
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
1 medium red onion, diced
3 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
3 cups diced red potatoes
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveiend
Smoked paprika, for sprinkling

In a medium Dutch oven or pot over medium-high heat, cook the pancetta until it just crispy. Add the celery, onion, corn, potatoes, thyme, bay leaf, and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring to combine the ingredients, 3 minutes. Add the flour and stir to incorporate into the mixture. Add the milk, cover the pot and bring to a soft boil. Uncover, reduce the heat to low and simmer until the vegetables are tender, 8 to minutes. Discard the thyme sprigs and bay leaf. 

Stir in the shrimp and cook until opaque, 3 to 4 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Spoon into bowls and sprinkle with the paprika. 

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Ciao'd with a blueberry muffin and a glass of rosé

After a few weeks back East, I returned home to find a mint melee in the garden. The Greek oregano, while abundant, was no match for the madding crowd of mint. The chives popped above it, their purple flowers bobbing like surrender flags.

What to do? I can make mint pesto for grilled lamb, add the herb to salads and smoothies, create pretty ice cubes, or stir it into ricotta as a topping for crostini with peaches and prosciutto. 

No doubt I will get around to all of these options; however, a trip to the farmers market sparked another idea.  Wouldn’t sweet, crunchy yellow corn and fat, juicy cherry tomatoes make the perfect canvas for a pretty and toothsome salad whose flavor would be lifted by the refreshing mint and perhaps, a salty snap of ricotta salata?  

Proving that there are few new ideas in the cooking world, wouldn’t you know that the great Mark Bittman had already created a recipe for this salad? Prior to seeing MB’s recipe, my musings about the salad popped cherry tomatoes into the mix rather than the medium ones MB suggested and opted for ricotta salata rather than feta.

Mark Bittman’s Corn Salad with Tomatoes, Feta and Mint is super delicious not to mention beautiful in a bright summer kind of way. Your mission to success is finding sweet, ripe corn and juicy, red tomatoes. If you need mint, come on over to my garden and help yourself. I’m afraid I’ll wake up one morning and it will be creeping through my kitchen windows.

Here’s Mark Bittman’s recipe for Corn Salad with Tomatoes, Feta and Mint. Enjoy!


Galavanting around the Cape, we pass all manner of farm stands. Some are simple; a lone gray wood stand at the bottom of a gravel driveway with an "honor jar" in which to place our coins and dollars. Others burst with local fruits and vegetables, and flowers, too. Black-Eyed Susans, Queen Anne's Lace, and the neon blue hydrangeas that the sandy Cape Cod soil nourish. Still others up the "eat local" ante with beach plum jam and...

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