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!