Good Luck Dolphins

I went out surfing last week in Venice with a new surfer girl. Jillian is the niece of a friend and was visiting from the East Coast. She’s a teen and had taken some surf lessons, popping up on her soft board in the white water for a few days. The water was pretty flat on the morning we met for our surf and she was sleepy-eyed and quiet, saying only that she wanted to chill on the beach for a while. I convinced her that we should paddle out past the breakers and see what we might catch. The waves were few and far between, but the water was warm and it was a pretty morning. Then, up popped the head of a sea lion within feet of us–and this woke Jillian up fast. Shortly after that, we spotted dolphins and and she was all smiles. Me, too; I never tire of seeing dolphins out in the water. I told her that I believe it’s good luck when you see dolphins swim by. Is that true? she asked. I told her I made it up but believed it. “Well, I’ll bet it’s good luck somewhere,” she said. Good answer. I agreed and told her that it was good luck in California if you saw a dolphin in the water. . . The photo above comes from Lisa Denning, whose gallery of dolphins can be found here.

Stick It: Hot Dogs and Chocolate Bananas

Two summer treats in the neighborhood are served on sticks: the frozen banana covered in chocolate and nuts from Charly Temmel’s ice cream shop in Venice and the corn dog from the Hot Dog on a Stick stand in Santa Monica. They’re best enjoyed while riding your bike one-handed at the beach.

Crazy Beach Discovery

Only in Venice? How to explain the fact that a deceased seal (or sea lion?) was dressed in clothes on the shore at Venice breakwater today? Hmmmm. We saw a lifeguard vehicle race across the sand with its siren on and we spotted several police cars parked near Windward. By the rocks, three yellow lifeguard vehicles were parked on the sand and surfers, joggers, and bikers were gathered by the graffiti wall to see what the fuss was about. This did not look good. Then the officers stopped on their way back to their cars to tell us what they found, explaining that it was a prank (and not the first time they’ve been victim to a prank like this). Obviously, we were all relieved to find out that no person was hurt, but the discovery that a seal was dressed in pants and a shirt left us perplexed. Who would take the time to find clothing for–and actually dress–a dead mammal?

Now, I cannot resist this: Here is Seal singing “Crazy.”

New Year Blooms

Just in time for the new year: the jasmine is starting to bloom! If I were a person to make New Year’s Resolutions, I would resolve to take more time to smell the jasmine (roses are fine, but jasmine is divine). But I do not need to make a resolution like that; our jasmine is strategically planted so it can be smelled while we’re sitting on the porch and it blooms around L.A. throughout the year. When I’m away from the blooms, I wear perfumes scented with jasmine and only truly natural jasmine. (Quick green living rant: synthetic fragrances are made of nasty and toxic chemicals. Also, synthetic means fake and why on earth would you want to wear something fake?) One of my favorite splurges of recent years was the jasmine solid perfume by Aftelier, which is packaged in a silver compact and fits in my makeup bag so I never have to leave home without it and I can dab a little behind my ears for a whiff of the most beautiful scent anytime I want a little lift.

Getty Visit Part 3: Perfume Bottles

The “Herculean Woman” exhibit at the Getty Villa featured a case of ancient and beautiful vessels for cosmetics and perfumed oils (and the painting above showing cherubs making perfume!). I have a collection of a few dozen old perfume bottles and a handful of cosmetic compacts, but mine come from flea markets, thrift stores and eBay. None are from B.C. but I’m fond of them all, especially the old bottle of Evening in Paris—the one that started my collection. The story behind it: My father was invited to my mother’s sixteenth birthday party and asked my grandmother for a ride; when he told her where he was going, she insisted on first bringing him into town to pick up a last-minute gift and she helped him select a bottle of Evening in Paris perfume. (Is it any wonder I am a romantic?) Most of the bottles in my collection are empty or contain perfumes that are no longer wearable (or ones I wouldn’t wear anyway), but I love them for their sizes and shapes and designs. I can only imagine the scents once placed in some of the bottles on display at the Getty and love to think they are timeless and made of scents revered through the ages, like the ones I like to wear today: naturally made (without nasty chemicals) and intoxicating. I’d expect nothing less for a goddess.

Amelia Saltsman: On Farmers’ Markets and Good Food

The complete version of this interview was originally published on

Below, my interview Amelia Saltsman, an educator and the author of The Santa Monica Farmers’ Market Cookbook.

How did you get involved in your line of work?
I thrive on a sense of community— that’s how my connection to the farmers’ market began. I began to write about my experiences and the farmers’ stories and the ingredients themselves and then the farmers’ market became a focal point.

Best part of your job?
When a reader or student comes to a demo or class and says, I can do that. We think everything is so hard and we’re reluctant to change habits and we often think we need to have to do everything all at once or it’s not good enough. But you can do a little at a time.

Is there a particular environmental nonprofit you support?
Sustainable Table and I do a lot with the Southland Farmers’ Market Association. Also Heal the Bay.

What’s an eco-friendly gift you like to give?
Small food items that are unique to Southern California. For instance, I love to bring freshly dried dates or special citrus—an offering from my area and something that evokes a sense of place.

Do you have a favorite environmental book?
Omnivore’s Dilemma. I love the way Michael Pollan writes and I think he has the most wonderful way of writing about the issues.

If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?
Blenheim apricot tree. We had one in my backyard when I was a kid and my grandmother would come to visit from Israel and make apricot jam. It’s a beautiful tree with sun-kissed fruit.

Describe your path to green: how and when you became eco-conscious.
Flavor. When you look for foods that taste great naturally, everything falls into place. Once I found farmers’ markets in my local community, I never looked back.

Behind the Green Scenes: Amelia Saltsman

Originally published on in December 2007

I meet Amelia Saltsman at the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market on Arizona on a Wednesday morning as she’s preparing for a cooking demo and book signing for her just-published book, The Santa Monica Farmers’ Market Cookbook. She’s pushing a cart that is already loaded with cardboard boxes full of heirloom tomatoes when I greet her and then she stops to speak with a vendor about cucumbers. “Whatever’s best,” she tells him.

Next she selects a bunch of purslane and invites me to taste it. “A lot of people consider this a weed,” she says. “But it’s great to throw into salads.” She unloads the vegetables at a table in an area that’s being set up for her cooking demo before she making a final stop for olives and olive oil. She moves quickly through the crowd and navigates the cart with ease, stopping occasionally to greet others in her path and to invite them to come to her tent for food.

Today she is serving a plum crisp with a corn meal topping and tomato and cucumber bread salad-both recipes from her book-and she’s demonstrating how to make the salad. Under the tent, students from a local culinary school have already begun to prep for the day’s offerings, slicing the cucumbers and chopping tomatoes, as market shoppers approach to find out when the food will be ready. Two friends of Saltsman have also come over to help with the book sales and passersby have begun to thumb through the pages of a display copy.

“Look—you’re in it!” Saltsman says to a vegetable vendor when she walks over, opening the book to the “History of the Market” chapter that features portraits of smiling faces and still life shots of fresh produce from the market. Through her work in print and on TV as the host, writer, and producer of Fresh from the Farmers’ Market on Los Angeles cable TV, Saltsman has become an ambassador of sorts for the farmers’ market. The food stylist, teacher, and author had published numerous magazine and newspaper stories on her farmers’ market experiences when suddenly she had found a niche—and a platform to celebrate and support local farmers who produce sustainably and without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or other additives. “I feel passionate that people need to understand what it takes to choose to be a small farmer, what it takes to get beautiful produce to market within 24 hours of harvest—and what a difference it makes to shop at a farmers’ market.”

The Los Angeles native’s own love of the farmers’ market is “about flavor and community,” she says. “I started as a shopper looking for delicious vine-ripened and tree-ripened and field-ripened ingredients. My passion for writing about farmers’ markets and farmers started with childhood food memories and childhood experiences shopping abroad in open air markets with relatives.” She fondly recalls foods from her youth and named her publishing company Blenheim Press for the Blenheim apricot tree from her childhood backyard. “We took it for granted but it has great importance to me.” Taking history for granted is not something that sits well with Saltsman, who is also passionate about the history of culinary arts and vintage cookery. For this, she also edits The Food Journal, a publication for the Culinary Historians of Southern California.

A sense of community is evident at the market today, just as Saltsman’s passion for food and cooking is revealed. At the table, she’s getting ready for her salad-making demonstration when a book-buying customer asks if she has a recommendation for a dinner for her son’s birthday. “Try Rustic Canyon,” Saltsman says, adding that the menu includes seasonal offerings from this same farmers’ market. “The chef is probably walking around right now getting food for the week.”
Quite a few books are sold—some purchase multiple copies and explain they’re starting their holiday shopping early—and quite a few more friends from the market stop by. A line forms and she needs to delay the cooking demo for a few minutes to sign books.

When she begins to make the salad, she tells her audience about the importance of using seasonal ingredients that are fresh and produced by local farmers. The time is right for heirloom tomatoes and she tosses them with pieces of bread (“it’s good to use day-old bread for this”), then the cucumbers. She’s using basil in the salad but encourages others to try different herbs they find or grow themselves. While working, she’s greeted by the chef from Wilshire restaurant and then the owner of Michael’s—both local restaurants that serve dishes made with farm-fresh ingredients they get here or directly from nearby farmers. “She knows what she’s talking about,” shouts Michael as he walks away with his full cart.

Also: Q&A with Amelia Saltsman