L.A. is a great big feedbag

As often happens, my vacations consist largely of either looking for places to eat or eating, and the trip to L.A. was no exception—except that I got my brain scanned for fun, which I’ll write about tomorrow. It turns out that I have the moral scruples of a lizard!

But back to the food. Californians are a healthy lot, and many in L.A. are both healthy and wealthy. That enables them to patronize upscale healthy grocery stores like Erewhon, where, walking by the salad counter, I heard someone ask, “Could I have some of the antioxidant?” I was puzzled till I had a look at the wares; sure enough, there was an antioxidant salad—organic, too. The customers regard food as medicine!


Nearby was the “Tonic Bar,” where you could get juices, tonics, and cleanses to purge yourself of your peanut butter blast smoothie. Again, food conceived as medicine:


At the regular grocery store, though, the cashier had wonderful rainbow dreadlocks. Upon inquiring, we found out that these are real, and she colors each of her braids individually. Now that’s some hair!


A Sunday brunch prepared by my host Orli: bagels with lox, tomatoes, onions, and a schmear, wonderful breads and pastries from the La Brea Bakery (check out their breads), berry salad, and a special dish shown in the second photo:


Here’s the delicious shakshuka, a Middle Eastern dish that, I’m told, is the hamburger of Israel: available everywhere and a staple of the cuisine. Apparently its provenance is unknown, so accusations of cultural appropriation have been leveled at Israelis.  But anything that tastes this good deserves to be culturally appropriated (one recipe and some great photos are here).


My host, Dr. Orli Peter (a psychologist), who not only cooked the shakshuka  but helped scan my brain (spoiler alert: it’s normal). She has two d*gs, one of which I’m holding as a sign of tolerance.  You can see, though, that I’m not quite familiar with how to embrace a canid.


Needing my own “cleanse,” I decided to take the Pastrami Cleanse at Nate ‘n Al’s delicatessen, a staple of Beverly Hills (it’s been there since 1945). The menu is classic: pastrami, corned beef, smoked fish, chopped liver, pickles, matzo ball soup, the whole megillah. I actually went to this place in 2009 before the Atheist Alliance International meeting in Burbank, my first secular meeting and also the first one at which I spoke. Back then I had matzoh ball soup (the single matzoh ball is, literally, the size of a tennis ball) and pastrami.

A classic interior, unchanged for 70 years.


The smoked fish:


Me and Mr. Fish: a kind waitress offered to snap my photo:


And my Cleanse: the Reuben (a house speciality). For the goyim, that’s pastrami on toasted rye with sauerkraut, swiss cheese (definitely not kosher), served with Russian dressing, wonderful potato salad, and pickles. I suppose I should have had Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray Tonic instead of iced tea. 

The sandwich, piled high with luscious pastrami. Oy, was I full!

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  1. GBJames
    Posted June 22, 2016 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    A photo of PCC(e) with a pooch! Is this a first?

    • Posted June 22, 2016 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

      No, I can think of one more. When I visited Abbie Smith in Oklahoma City, I was photographed holding her pit bull Arnie. You can see that here. (Scroll about 2/3 of the way down.)

      • GBJames
        Posted June 22, 2016 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

        Looks like I missed that post.

      • mordacious1
        Posted June 22, 2016 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

        Indeed. And if you look at the comments you’ll find this:

        “Don’t worry, Kink, Baihu, and Merlyn–it won’t happen again. I swear to Ceiling Cat!”

    • Posted June 22, 2016 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

      Look at that poor dog. You would think a biologist, even a cat-a-phile,would know the difference between holding and strangling.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted June 22, 2016 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

      That picture just makes me giggle for some reason. I’m not even sure why. Maybe it’s the facial expression on the dog or something.

    • jay
      Posted June 23, 2016 at 5:39 am | Permalink

      My dog wants to meet you now. But she’s not quite a lap sized dog.

      [Side point, I have a picture of my previous dog hanging out with Leon Redbone]

  2. Randall Schenck
    Posted June 22, 2016 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    Food as medicine…I don’t think so.

    I’ll take the shakshuka and the pastrami.

    • Amy
      Posted June 22, 2016 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

      Me too!

  3. Barry Lyons
    Posted June 22, 2016 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    All the food looks scrumptious!

    “which I’m holding as a sign of tolerance” gave me a good laugh.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted June 22, 2016 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

      Virtual signalling. LOL!

  4. Kiwi Dave
    Posted June 22, 2016 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    Dionne Warwick salutes your post’s heading.

  5. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted June 22, 2016 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    Professor Ceiling Cat’s brain is the new “normal”?
    I think the only appropriate cultural (mis-?) appropriation is “Oy vey!”
    Somehow, I find it just slightly … apt … that I’m reading this while listening to a TV programme about the “Non-Human Rights Project” – efforts to get chimpanzees recognised as “persons” in New York. “Storyville” on BBC 4 – I think the first broadcast, so there may be YouTubes up once it’s finished.
    Is it true that Craig Venter got his DNA into the ensemble that became the “Human Genome Project”, and so also defined (in some sense) “normal” for human genetics.
    Personally, I think this is “normal.”

    • darrelle
      Posted June 23, 2016 at 7:11 am | Permalink

      It does seem to be pretty common.

  6. keith cook + / -
    Posted June 22, 2016 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    I hope you had a large antioxidant salad after the d*g wincing experience… he says grinning from ear to ear.

  7. Debbie Coolan
    Posted June 22, 2016 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    I loved the post but I have to say that I grew up in Beverly Hills and remember Nate & Al’s interior when it only had 3-5 tables.
    The interior has definitely been changed. I am 63, and I remember it when it was half the size-
    The food still looks great however…

  8. Debbie Coplan
    Posted June 22, 2016 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    I loved the post because it brings back old memories.
    I grew up in Beverly Hills and we used to go to Nate & Al’s
    or Canter’s all the time. The food still looks fantastic but I
    have to correct you on one thing. The interior of Nate & Al’s has been changed. I remember it when it had 5 tables or so and used to
    half the size. They remodeled the interior at some point.
    I am 63 –

    • Debbie
      Posted June 22, 2016 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

      Oops-sorry for double post, didn’t think the first went through

  9. Gregory Kusnick
    Posted June 22, 2016 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

    I don’t claim to be an expert but to me there’s more to a Reuben than pastrami and Swiss on rye toast. A proper Reuben is meant to be grilled and served hot.

    • Posted June 22, 2016 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

      It was served hot, and I am almost 100% sure it was grilled. Look at the bread, which was not only toasted but buttered. That = grilled!

      • darrelle
        Posted June 23, 2016 at 7:15 am | Permalink

        It is hard to beat a well built Reuben. One of my favorite sandwiches but you can’t get a good one in my town. Not even at the local Jewish Deli!

  10. karaktur
    Posted June 22, 2016 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    If you haven’t had one before, Some Angeleans and most Pasadenians consider In-N-Out the best hamburger made and are highly recommended at least once.

  11. Dave
    Posted June 22, 2016 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

    The name Nate followed by the photo of the sandwich reminded me of Nate’s in Ottawa, now sadly no more. The smoked meat sandwiches there would have put that one to shame.

  12. dabertini
    Posted June 22, 2016 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

    You are killing me with all this food porn.

  13. Vaal
    Posted June 22, 2016 at 6:54 pm | Permalink


    Last time I was in L.A. my boys and I loved our meal at the famous Roscoe’s Chicken And Waffles.

    Jerry, have you tried Roscoe’s? (Or chicken ‘n waffles anywhere else?)

    • Larry Smith
      Posted June 23, 2016 at 12:11 am | Permalink

      I don’t know Roscoe’s current status, but its parent company filed for bankruptcy earlier this year. Thought I heard something about Snoop Dogg wanting to buy it to keep it alive…

      • Vaal
        Posted June 23, 2016 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

        Interesting, Larry, thanks.

  14. Tim Bryant
    Posted June 22, 2016 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

    Welcome to our city. Enjoy!

  15. tubby
    Posted June 22, 2016 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    The antioxidant salad actually looks pretty tasty.. but $17 a pound?

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted June 22, 2016 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

      We just call that coleslaw in NZ, and since it’s not medicine, it’s cheaper!

      It does all look delicious though.🙂

      • Gregory Kusnick
        Posted June 22, 2016 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

        OK, I’ll play devil’s advocate on the “food as medicine” thing. Granted, $17/lb for “antioxidant” salad seems a bit over the top, but after all, which is weirder: treating “food” and “medicine” as overlapping zones on a continuum of health-influencing ingestibles? Or thinking that they’re completely separate categories, and that the bad consequences of a bad diet can be fixed by taking a pill?

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted June 22, 2016 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

          I think, advocatus diaboli (I really should have used the imperative case there but then it wouldn’t look Latin enough, which is ironic) that the problem is the doofuses who advocate food instead of medicine. I’ve had people cringe that I use (gasp) “pharmaceuticals” to treat terrible and frequent migraines. They think I should just eat some power foods so clearly the fact that I have migraines is all my fault. Stupid people!

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted June 22, 2016 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

          My diet is such that I’m in no position to to criticize anyone else’s! But I tell myself I’m superior because at least I don’t get sucked into the supplements, organic, GMO-free etc. crap🙂

          If I was advising myself, I’d just say, “Eat a well-balanced diet with everything in moderation, including moderation.”

          Even medieval doctors, who used astrology and the theory of humours to diagnose, included lettuce in their cures.

  16. Posted June 22, 2016 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    Customer: I’ll take an antioxidant hydration formula.

    Attendant: That’ll be $4.99, please. [heads to fridge and pours a small amount of orange juice from concentrate into a fancy tumbler]

  17. Diana MacPherson
    Posted June 22, 2016 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

    I love Reubens! I wish I could have my brain scanned as I’ve been working on a theory that I have a really large amygdala.

    A coworker of mine taught us some Krav Maga and part of it is being aware of your surroundings and people especially that could pose a threat. I couldn’t believe other people needed to be taught this! That is my regular setting – wondering if some guy is going to rob, kill or rape me (or all three). I told the story of how I was walking to my car (it’s a km away) and a guy in front kept stopping to read his phone. Every time he did, I slowed down so as not to get near him because he could have been doing that on purpose. I ended the story with “I felt bad for the poor guy who probably just wanted to read his cellphone” but our coworker and instructor said that was actually the smart thing for me to do. Thanks amygdala!

  18. Newish Gnu
    Posted June 22, 2016 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

    Shakshura looks pretty much like huevos rancheros. That is not a complaint.

    I like my huevos rancheros runny. (The recipe discussed this detail.) I’ve invested a lot of effort varying skillets, heat, lid cover timing, and starting temp of eggs. I finally got it down pat. Warming up the refrigerated eggs in tap water was the final refinement.

  19. Ken Kukec
    Posted June 22, 2016 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

    “L.A. is a great big feedbag”

    Still got that Hal David-Burt Bacharach earworm goin’ on, huh?

  20. Rhonda
    Posted June 22, 2016 at 11:53 pm | Permalink

    Jerry, WEIT is my favourite website, bar none. I read everything you post.

    I stick to a mainly vegetarian diet 99% of the time but I love your naughty food porn; it all makes my mouth water… FYI, (the only time I fall off the wagon is during Christmas in Wales, mmm..farm turkey).

    • Dominic
      Posted June 23, 2016 at 3:50 am | Permalink

      WEIT readers are very discreet! Your secret is safe with us🙂

  21. klf
    Posted June 23, 2016 at 1:58 am | Permalink

    Hello JC –

    Excited to learn you’re in our neck of the woods! If you also love beer, you must come to the South Bay (i.e. Torrance) before leaving LA and discover our blossoming craft beer scene. We are the next Portland!

    It would be an honor to meet you & treat you to a fresh pint of liquid bread and introduce you to some amazing local magic. Strand, Smog, Scholb… to name a few. Let us know if it might work for you!

    klf and hubby, the beer blogger, who actually writes for a ‘newspaper’ (remember those?) to pay the bills.

    Green, Daily Breeze, Beer Goggles

  22. Posted June 23, 2016 at 2:22 am | Permalink

    LA is my second home Jerry.
    Pastrami is a particular passion of mine.
    The greatest pastrami sandwich in the entire universe is at Greenblatt’s Deli on Sunset Blvd, just off Fairfax Ave. Nothing comes close to it….

    I do not exagerate

  23. Dominic
    Posted June 23, 2016 at 3:28 am | Permalink

    hmmmm … nice looking grub – but I am not a fan of ‘lap d*gs’!

    Give me a mongrel!

  24. Posted June 23, 2016 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    Great post, thanks!
    (That’s quite a headlock on poor poochie…🙂

  25. Posted June 23, 2016 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    I hadn’t seen shakshuka, so I looked it up in Wikipedia (a dangerous source for food information, but …). Looks like it might be Tunisian or Libyan (originally, now also Israeli).

  26. Mike
    Posted June 24, 2016 at 7:04 am | Permalink

    Why isn’t PCC 20 stone+? that food always looks amazing, I would have to wire my jaw shut.

  27. nay
    Posted June 25, 2016 at 1:21 am | Permalink

    Late to this string, but I have to say I always thought the Reuben was made with corned beef, not pastrami. Not being Jewish, maybe that’s just the way it was done at the deli where I had my first one.

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