Not long ago, following my new Tibetan doctor's prescription to slow down and be nice to myself (don't you just love a prescription like that!?), I let myself enjoy a leisurely lunch with my friend, the chef Jonathan Waxman, at the Venice restaurant phenom, Gjelina. As we looked through the menu deciding what to order, I pointed out the words typed on the cover side of each menu, "changes & modifications politely declined." Gjelina, as anyone who follows the shallow, eating disordered life of Victoria Beckham knows, does not allow substitutions. "What do you think of that?" I asked J-Wax, curious about his point of view on an issue that became pretty loud and controversial in the City of dressing-on-the-side Angels after the VB incident. "I"m fine with it," he said. "Fine with people asking for substitutions or fine with Gjelina's policy of declining them?" "You know the famous quote," he went on in the cool, calm, and all-knowing way he has that inspired younger chefs he compet ...

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Last week a blogger, Beth Howard, contacted me via Facebook to say that she'd posted a story I wrote a decade ago on her Facebook page. A New York-based editor, she said, had read my story back then, hung onto it, and sent it to this blogger, because her thing is pie, and that was the subject of my story: pie, and making pie. It was a nice thrill, to think that this editor (who I know by name and respect) had hung onto it, and to have my story resurrected in that way. But reading a story, particularly a personal essay, that you wrote long ago—in this case, long before I was required to take my shoes off at the airport!—is a bit like stumbling upon an old box of photos in terms of the mix of nostalgia and cringe that it induces. The most alarming thing about reading this particular story was seeing that I had made the pie crust with—yikes!—margarine. The reason I did this was very simple: this is how I was taught to make pies the summer before, when I worked as the pie baker at Loaves ...

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I remember when I moved to New York in the early nineties and corrected a friend who used the term "guacamole" to refer to an avocado. "That's an avocado," I told her, thinking she'd be happy to be, you know... not wrong. "The mashed stuff you eat with chips. That's guacamole." "Same thing!" my friend said, annoyed. It was the same tone, and the very two words that people used when I corrected them, telling them I was from San Diego, not Los Angeles. At the time, though I'd grown up two hours to the south, I am not sure I'd ever even been to Los Angeles. Not having been there, one obvious difference between San Diego and LA, as I saw it, was that in San Diego, we don't have movie stars. For another, we have the busiest international border in the world, which, being that our dad lived in Tijuana, we crossed an average of once a week. (LA-Tijuana, not same thing.) But most importantly, and back to the way this whole conversation started, in San Diego, we have avocados. San Diego is the ...

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Meet the Spitzenbergs. Dear Margaret-- (Can I call you Maggie?) I'd wanted the pie challenge to be between Howard and me. And, oh, okay... you. But me and my big mouth... I went and mentioned it to The Foodinista in a casual chat on Larchmont Blvd. earlier this week. She went and had lunch that day with the editor of LA Weekly. And the rest, well, the rest is just plain Out of My Hands. It is going to be an event. Not to be competitive here, but there are going to be winners and losers, and I hate to lose. (Ask H. I'm sure he knows how I feel.) I started on my apple research at the Santa Monica farmers market last weekend. I had to fight with Gjilena for four pounds of Spitzenbergs and I don't even know what they are or how to spell that stupid restaurant's name. (Who has money for extra consonants these days? That's what I want to know!). Next I have to turn my attention to crust. (Lard almighty! How I love crust!) In the meantime, let's eat. xoxo ...

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