Dinner At Mom’s-In-L.A.w

22 02 2010
I may be one of the few people on Earth who genuinely adores their Mother In Law. I’m also lucky to call her my Mother In Law as I was one of the last gay couples to get legally married on November 2nd,  2008 before prop 8 was passed.  I don’t think it makes me like my Mother in law any more and certainly no less, but it does make me appreciate the title more.
I’m just fascinated by Freddie (short for Frederica).  She’s an intelligent, gorgeous  & graceful spitfire of a woman who is never short of an opinion and never shy to tell you exactly pin pointedly how she feels. Even at 83 years old, she has no shortness of thought process and her mind is constantly at work. It is how I imagine I would act around the Queen of England.  I just have the utmost respect for this woman.
Regardless of her intellect, it is her strength and  perseverance I admire the most.  Divorced at a young age with 3 young boys, she set out to support herself as a single Mom. She landed a coveted job at the L.A.  Times as Executive Secretary to Otis Chandler, the owner & publishing tycoon of the L.A. Times. The Chandlers were Los Angeles royalty. You’ve most likely been to the Dorothy Chandler Theatre downtown, named for Otis’ Mother. Back then the L.A. Times was the primary news source for all Angelenos. Like computers now, it was rare then if you didn’t get the L.A. Times everyday. She has a million amazing stories about those times and I adore hearing them all. And the pictures of her back then are stunning! She looked so much like Donna Reed.  They were the Mad Men days when ladies were treated badly, but this was NOT one of those ladies. Ah the days of the lunch cocktail, pot roast Sundays & milk men. I am definitely an old soul.
So it was my pleasure to cook dinner for her last night for her 83rd Birthday.  I wanted to cook something classic yet simple & special.  Freddies not too fussy, but she’s quite petite. She’s an elegant lady yet down to Earth in many ways. She brought out the best China, had the table already set & a glass of wine waiting for Dana and me. That’s my kind of dame.
Since Dana is so much like his Mom, it wasn’t too hard coming up with the evenings menu. Here’s what I decided;
To start an Heirloom Red & Yellow Caprese Salad with fresh fennel. For the main course Authentic Spaghetti Carbonara with Pancetta. Finally for dessert Banana’s Black, which is Banana’s flambe, rum butter sauce, fresh whipped cream, & fresh scratch made TO DIE FOR Monkey Bread.
I must confess that the only thing that went  wrong was I made focaccia garlic points for the starter and broiled them to death. Smoke ev-er-y-where. I quickly opened the back door to let the smoke out praying the alarm wouldn’t go off & hoping Freddie wouldn’t smell the burned bread. Thank God she didn’t or at least never hinted she did and the meal went off without a hitch. Oh, well I did nearly catch the house on fire by showing off the flambe. Not to worry though nothing caught on fire, but it was one hair away from being a Michael  Jackson Pepsi commercial.
Freddie seemed pleased and the dinner conversation was awesome. I even got ribbed once by Freddie for asking why she had a Republican best friend. She made it very clear that this world is far to partisan much more so than in her day. She was right and I retracted my statement trying to pass it off as a joke. After all I was half joking. I have lots of Republican friends…I just don’t know it.
Freddie sent a lovely note the next day and the exchange went as follows (in reverse order):

Thanks Freddie. It was my pleasure. I’m glad you enjoyed it.
I did as I always do enjoy spending time with you!

The salad was:
2 Heirloom Tomatoes
Buffalo Mozzarella
Garlic  Salt (i use  lawry’s)
Fresh Lemon  Juice
Fresh  Pepper
Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar
& a little fresh chopped Fennel leaves
The Carbonara is pretty easy once you get the hang of it.
The recipe calls for Guanciale which is pig cheek, but it’s very hard to find here. I used
Pancetta (from the butcher) and I’ve also used bacon which is yummy too. The pancetta gives
it more of a hammy flavor. I might even prefer the bacon better but that wouldn’t make it
authentic, but who cares right?
You slow cook the meat in a couple tbl spoons of olive oil to your liking
(I like it a little browned)
Keep a  small pot of boiling water on the stove to use to amalgamate the ingredients.
Once meat is cooked turn fire off and cook the pasta (or cook while meat is cooking).
Mean while prepare the egg (or prepare at the very start of cooking). One egg per
person/serving. In a  bowl lightly whisk egg, plenty of fresh pepper, 2 tbl. of peccorino
cheese  grates & 1/2 tbl of parmesan. mix set aside.
Drain pasta. Turn fire on meat and ladel one scoop of hot water to amalgamate the
ingredients bring to a simmer scraping browned bits from the pan. Add pasta to that
and ladel another scoop of hot water and mix. Now remix egg mixture and add to pasta
stirring gently around for  about 30 seconds.
Turn flame off and add more cheese about a tbl spn of each.
I put a little cheese on the plate first then plate the pasta and sprinkle a little more
cheese on top.
Here is ing. for 1 serving
2 oz. De Cecco pasta (cooked for 12 minutes aldente) or any spaghetti you like
1/4 – 1/8th lb. of thick cut Pancetta (or 3 pieces of bacon) chopped in 1/2 inch – 1 inch chunks.
1 egg
Peccorino cheese
Parmesan cheese
Fresh Pepper
xoxo Love  Ry

Ryan Black
Creative Director
Ryan&Co. Entertainment
—–Original Message—–
From: freddie
To: Ryan
Cc: Dana <
Sent: Sun, Feb 21, 2010 10:09 am Subject: (no subject)

Ryan, Everything was delicious, but the carbonara was to die for!! I've never even been able to find a recipe for it, much less ever made it...but yours was delicious. I'd also like to know what was in the salad besides tomato an pepper....Thank you so much. It was all heavenly...

Finally my Monkey Bread….




2 responses

4 12 2010
Laura DiGioia

Thank you for writing so kindly about my favorite 6th grade teacher, Ms. Berghino. Now nearing my 50’s I will always remember what a strong and independent spirit Ms. Berghino had at a time where women were still expected to be Moms when they grew up. I for one have always felt that I could accomplish anything and pretty much almost have, with the exception of having a family of my own. I travel, SCUBA dive, have a black belt in Taekwondo, ride a motorcycle, and like when I had Ms. Berghino, drive a convertible (although mine’s a Miata and not a VW Bug). I have thought about her throughout the years and when I sat down this morning to see if I could find her is when I discovered her passing. Your blog is wonderful and the picture of a young Vivian, as well as the more recent one, showed me that she still had that spunk and twinkle in her eyes! Thank you for the cry, as well as a wonderful stroll down memory lane.

5 12 2010

Thank you so much! I’m sure her brother Ed will love to see this response. She truly was a lovely woman.

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