Monthly Archives: April 2012

Senior Nutrition Services – Diamond Springs

A couple of weeks ago I joined some friends for lunch at the Senior Dining Center at the Mother Lode Lion’s Hall in Diamond Springs. Lunch is served on weekdays (excepting holidays) from noon until 12:30 p.m. but a number of seniors arrive early just to socialize, something as important as nutrition for their well being.

In addition to lunch, there are a wide variety of activities held at the Senior Dining Centers throughout the county which are located at Placerville, Pollock Pines, Greenwood, Somerset, El Dorado Hills, South Lake Tahoe and this one in Diamond Springs. For more information call 530-621-6160.

There are also scheduled day trips and more. Call the senior activities coordinator at 530-621-6158 for information on these.

Back to the meal, they are all prepared by the county nutritionist especially for the person over 60, the minimum age to participate. There is a suggested donation of $3 for the meal which was served on real plates with real metal ware (you have to bus your own dishes, like I did in the Army).

The meal that day was cashew chicken, brown rice, Oriental vegetables, a fortune cookie, juice and milk and it was very good. The monthly menu is posted in this paper or you can go to the Webpage at and click on Senior Services to download it.

The reason I am mentioning this program, which includes home delivered meals to shut-ins, is that it is always under fire when budget cuts come up.

We have a lot of senior citizens locally and many of them, including a number of veterans, are on a low fixed income in a crazy economy that doesn’t seem to be going well. They rely on this as their major meal for the day, or take home half of it for dinner, and, it isn’t that big a meal for someone of my size and activity level.

Thank you Board of Supervisors for again keeping this program.

Book Review: ‘All the Gin Joints’ – Michael Turback

Book review

Title: “All the Gin Joints — new spins on gin from America’s best bars

Author:Michael Turback

Publisher:Curiosity Company. 2011,

Price: $14.95; trade paperback; 6 x 9 inches, 140 pages, black and white.

Available from: Online, as both a print and e-book,, local bookstores

If you know me, you are probably not surprised that my editor gave me this book to review. I have been known to have a gin martini (as far as I am concerned, without gin it is not a martini), now and then (shaken, stirred, over ice, etc.) and have sampled a number of top shelf and basement gins in my life.

I must add that when I was in Korea and offered a drink from a bottle that had a label with only one word, “GIN,” looked and smelled like pink gasoline and when poured into my canteen cup removed all the tarnish, I had to draw the line and say “NO!” I was very young then and fortunately a lot smarter than I am now.

Someone once said, “Gin: invented by the Dutch, refined by the British, and glamorized by Americans.” That is basically true.

To give you a bit of history on gin, it was invented in the early 1600s in Holland, although the Italians claim they made it first. Originally it was sold as a medicine to treat stomach complaints, gout and gallstones. Because it was really just grain alcohol, juniper berries, which have medicinal properties of their own and are now the major flavor in most gins, were added to it to make it easier to drink.

During the 30 Years War (1618-1648), British soldiers were given gin or “Dutch Courage,” to keep them warm during the cold and wet months. From there they took it home to England, where it became the favorite drink of the poor, being cheaper than anything else.

By the mid-1700s London alone was producing about 14 gallons of gin per adult male per year, and most of it was of poor grade.

Finally the government and the producers got together and came up with laws that exist today, encouraging the production of quality gin.

In the early 1900s Americans got cocktail fever and adopted the cocktail party, which American hostesses in England had created to fill in the period between tea time and dinner. Gin became the American drink and by 1950 the Bartenders’ Guild had registered 7,000 gin cocktail recipes.

In “All the Gin Joints,” author Michael Turback does an excellent job of describing his book: “Engaging and complex, sophisticated and quirky, gin has become a vital component in the mixing cups of a new breed of artisan drink smiths.

“Its title an homage to Humphrey Bogart’s lament in the 1942 film ‘Casablanca,’ (“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.”) it is the guide to a journey around the upper echelon of the bartending profession in 101 recipes — exploratory gin-based concoctions developed in the progressive cocktail laboratories of American ‘gin joints,’ often bringing methods and flourishes of the kitchen to the glass with fresh juices, muddled fruit, infused syrups, earthy spices and leafy herbs.

“With this volume as trusted companion, you’ll be able to re-create their remarkable formulas with precision and authenticity. May each raised glass provide the beginning of a beautiful friendship and, borrowing once again from Bogart, ‘Here’s looking at you, kid.’”

The book opens with an explanation of the proper bartending tools that will be needed to produce the “101 Artisinal Cocktails” listed. After are listed the 101 cocktails (but no martini), one by one. Each recipe includes its source, and everything needed to make it. If something special is required, instructions are included on what it is or how to make it.

There is no doubt that most of these gin cocktails look very good, but you won’t be able to produce a majority of them without some prior work infusing honey, making syrups, finding fresh herbs and locating some very uncommon liquors.
I am sure that most of you don’t have a bottle of Blume Marillen Apricot Eau de Vie, Aperol or Amaro Ramazzotti in your liquor cabinet or have on hand, Roobios tea-infused gin, ginger-lemongrass syrup, Bar Keep Organic Baked Apple Bitters or cucumber-basil foam. But, that shouldn’t stop you.
It would be fun to make some of the required ingredients or do a search through the dusty shelves of a store for that special liquor needed.

Use the book to make a party of it. Give your friends a list of what to find, make and bring. It could be a lot of fun. But, don’t drink too much and, please, designate a driver.

In the meantime I’ll stick with a martini, “shaken not stirred,” made with Tanqueray 10 and just a whisper of the word “vermouth” over the shaker.

Turback became a gentlemanly drinker during his tender days at Cornell, and he remained curious and adventurous on the matter of imbibing throughout a prominent career as restaurateur and saloon keeper.

Turback is credited with reviving classic formulas, influencing a generation of “craft bartenders,” and elevating mixology to a culinary art.

As an arbiter of food, wine and cocktails, he continues to advise the hospitality industry. As an author, he has previously taken on, with distinction, such topics as the ice cream sundae, the banana split, hot chocolate, coffee drinks, Finger Lakes wine country, and his hometown farmers market.

All the Gin Joints is available on Amazon

Book Review: ‘Slavery in the West’ – Guy Nixon

Book: “Slavery in the West

Author: Guy Nixon

Publisher: Red Panther Publishing Co., Spanish Flat, 2010

Price: $20; spiral bound; 8.5 x 11 inches, 112 pages, black and white, heavily illustrated.

Available from: Placerville News Co., other local stores and businesses, or e-mail [email protected]

This is a book about a thousand things, most of it relating to Native American slavery in the early West, the major subject in the book. I say that because it also wanders in a delightful way from one subject to another, providing fascinating information that I had not read before. I enjoyed reading his books because of that.

It’s whole title is “Slavery in the West with a special emphasis on the events leading to The Battle of Rock Creek, El Dorado County, California, 1848, between the forces of the Miwok versus the Maidu and Washoe, also the First and Second Indian Wars of El Dorado County.”

It is common knowledge that the Native Americans were the source of labor at the California Missions and not treated well. But did you know that they were also traded and sold as slaves by other tribes and later Europeans?

Did you know that these people did not really get their freedom in the United States until 1911 and two decades later in Mexico?

The book starts out with a discussion regarding slavery in America, long before Europeans arrived. When tribes attacked each other they often took captives which did the work for them or were used to trade for needed items (after the arrival of Europeans this became horses and guns).

When the Spanish and Portugese arrived centers were set up in various locations and slavery of the local natives became a “big business.”

During the settling of the West, California tribes were fighting each other and the arriving miners and farmers treated the natives simply as sub-human animals that worshiped pagan gods.

The subject of this slavery is fully discussed by author Nixon, who relates the subject, chapter by chapter, to the arrival of different groups of immigrants and their interaction with the natives.

One absolutely fascinating story in the book concerns what he calls the California Flood of 1543. The author’s father, Bill Nixon, worked for the United States Bureau of Reclamation and while researching weather patterns and the size of a 1,000 thousand year flood, he happened upon documents relating to the exploration of the west coast in 1542 to 1543 by Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo. Cabrillo died during this journey, which was completed by his pilot or navigator, Bartolome Ferrelo (also spelled Ferrer).

In the documents Ferrelo reported heavy snow on the beach in the Monterey  and then a warm rain storm of several weeks in length. Ferrelo, searching for a connection to the Atlantic Ocean through the Northwest Passage, entered a bay that led to a large inland sea. He noted and recorded the longitude and latitude of an island in this sea that Bill Nixon determined from the data was the Sutter Buttes in the Sacramento Valley. He also mentioned a volcano at the north end of the sea that appears to be Mount Shasta.

What makes this story even more fascinating is that there is a Maidu story that collaborates the flood and mentions a large raft sailing in the valley.

The book goes on to discuss the Native American tribes in the area, their battles against each other and with the settlers.

There are also a number of very interesting stories and legends the author has found along with a discussion of the language and location names used by the Native peoples of El Dorado County.

As in his previous book, “Skipper the Stock Killer,” the author provides an extensive bibliography so the reader can easily find more information on many of the subjects discussed.

All in all this book is an interesting collection of facts and legends that have not been put together before in one place. It is easy reading and full of illustrations collected by the author.

Author Nixon is a multi-generation descendent of people who have lived in California and El Dorado County (“If you count my Yana ancestry, we have been here several ice ages,” he comments).

He drives a bus during the school year and often spends time at his family’s sawmill in Spanish Flat or helping others with their sawmills.

Nixon has other books, “Finding Your Native American Ancestors,” “Heirloom Tales Past and Present, Including Skipper the Stock Killer of Spanish Flat,” and a new one, “The Battle over Hell Hole and Rubicon in El Dorado, and Placer Counties California 1907.”

Album Review: “Hangtown Fry” – John Malcom Penn

Album:Hangtown Fry” (BNR-CD223)
Performed by:John Malcom Penn.

Written by:
John Malcom Penn.
Released by:Blue Night Records, Hanover, Ill.
Cost: $14.95
Available from: Elderly Instruments, toll free 1-888-473-5810 or

It isn’t often that someone comes up with songs about your community and has them released in a CD album. This recently happened when Blue Night Records released an album called “Hangtown Fry,” by a California singer and songwriter named John Malcom Penn.

The album has a dozen songs: “Moonlight Motor Inn,” “Mentryville,” “With These Wings,” “Tumco Mine,” “Hangtown Fry,” “Joaquin Rides Again,” “Diamond Springs,” “S.S. Catalina,” “Picacho Mine,” “Red Hill Mine,” “Liberty Hill” and “Old Plank Road.”

Penn not only wrote all the songs, but sings all the vocal parts and plays all the instruments, including steel and nylon-string guitar, banjo, mandolin, bass, ukulele, slide guitar, slide banjo and Nashville high-strung guitar.

Each song has a story with it.

For example, “Mentryville” is about Charles Alexander Mentry’s discovery of a commercially viable oil reserve in the hills above the Santa Clarita Valley; “With These Wings” pays tribute to world-famous aviatrix Jacqueline Cochrane; “Joaquin Rides Again” is a story about Joaquin Murietta, the man thought to be the original Zorro; “S.S. Catalina” was the ship that carried tourists to Avalon on Catalina Island for years and “Old Plank Road,” tells the tale of a long gone road between San Diego and Phoenix.

“Hangtown Fry” tells both the tales about the miner that got rich and the condemned man who ordered the dish: “You ease in some eggs, big slice of bacon; Slip in the oysters, get the pan to shakin’; Roll ‘em up and flip that omelet, to the sky; You’ve got the Hangtown Fry, the Hangtown Fry.”

“Diamond Springs” is more a ballad about a miner and his girl, Annette, who is the fairest in Diamond Springs (and much fairer than the girls in Mud Springs who “use pine cones to brush their hair”).

Penn is a journeyman folk singer and a gifted songwriter.

He has quietly been writing and performing his unrivaled style of music for years in the Southern California area. His music is aimed squarely at the listener who enjoys truly original songs that are unique, introspective, at times funny and always thought provoking.