AROUND LA WITH AVA®: HILLS, VALLEYS, & CLEAVAGE
Heights, Achievements, and Awards—LA Has What the World Wants
There is something about California that brings the dreamers and the overachievers [sometimes even underachievers who get lucky] to pursue their schemes, to showcase their personae and products, and to defy the STAR odds in amazing and surprising ways.
In January/February the ‘Hollywood’ beautiful people are out en force. It is Awards Season. In other parts of the world, the season is called “winter” and snow falls. Here, ‘star dust’ is sprinkled with massive publicity campaigns that, when successful, yield ‘gold drifts’ that easily surpass the big Boston piles this winter.
The beautiful people and the ‘wanna-be’s are on their treadmills, at their plastic surgeons &/or stylists, and priming their publicists with juicy tidbits [or outrageous headlines, if necessary] as the fans are bombarded with look-at-me commercials on all media sources. Each year—at this time of year, there is a fantasy land favorite that keeps running that has the tag line: “…make your body into your personal work of art!”. The ad features a perfectly shaped sculptress putting the final touches to a perfectly shaped female clay sculpture. That is all well and good for an advertisement for plastic surgery, a gastric bypass process, or the like, but it sure takes the steam out of mere mortals’ vows to be healthier and thinner in the New Year.
Most of us real people need to have some tailoring tune-ups to good garments we buy—in Hollywood, the stars have their bodies sculpted to fit the designer gowns they borrow for the Red Carpet parades!
[Of course, LA is world headquarters for the newly fashionable transgender plastic surgery. Earlier this month, I had a scare when an out-of-town friend called to ask if I would pick up her adult son from a procedure he was scheduled to have here. The doctor had to change the date schedule so Mom could not be here in time. Having agreed to be a ‘responsible adult’ for patient pick-up, I did an Internet check to be sure I had the right address and enough time to be at the doctor’s clinic for the discharge. I admit to more than mild panic when I recognized the physician as a premier Beverly Hills plastic surgeon noted for, among other things, transgender innovations. I could not shake the image of the little boy whose diapers I had changed—now 6’ 4”, emerging from the recovery room on 6” heels and a dress! Whew!! He was still an adult male who was happy to see his mom’s old friend. Maybe next time?? It does take some adjustment to do favors for friends as the world’s parameters change.]
Red Carpet Time
Watching the Awards Shows, especially the Red Carpet entrances prior to the ceremonies where most all of the women look like stick figures with exaggerated cleavage, it is fascinating to ponder how do they do it –how they achieve that perfection. Hard work, determination, deprivation, plus lots of time and money are committed to feed this society’s ideal of feminine beauty.
The Changing Shape of Beauty
My recipe to share this month was going to be a low calorie spinach concoction I serve with salmon. I was ‘sipping the Kool-Aid’. Then, I remembered that currently The Getty Center Museum features an exhibit by the painter Reubens. If you have not reached your diet goals this Award Season, have a look at a Reubens painting. Then, go eat a reuben sandwich as you watch the next Fashion Police Red Carpet review and critique of the beautiful people –you will feel better.
Super Bowl/Birthday Bash = Oscar Party Practice
My steamed spinach recipe was temporarily put on hiatus because my party preparations for the Super Bowl ‘made’ me detour to bring you award winning wings. And, it is time to plan for your Oscar party. The City of Angels Award Winning Wings are perfect! You can even make them now and freeze them –a perfect party food [even if Birdman were not nominated] for a busy party host.
As usual, I have no idea how many will be at my home for Oscar Night viewing, but I am ready. You see, I practiced on Super Bowl Sunday with a willing crowd who assembled to watch the game, eat some good food, celebrate 2 birthdays, eat some good food, welcome East/West Coast family, eat some good food, celebrate 4 generations of family/friends together, and eat some good food.
A LA Perspective on Heights
I find it amazing to learn what people set as goals to achieve. As a frequent visitor to one of California’s natural wonders, Yosemite National Park, I was awestruck recently by the gumption of two young men determined to climb the face of El Capitan –a 3,000 foot tall vertical granite wall.
For perspective, just imagine standing at the foot of the Library Tower (some call it the US Bank Building) in Downtown LA. It is the tallest building west of the Mississippi River. Look up and imagine a smooth-faced rock 3 times that height! [I get dizzy just being inside that building. The last time I was there I was on the 19th floor doing depositions at a law office. I had to face ‘inward’ to be able to maintain focus.] Now, imagine climbing for 19 days to reach the top using only your hands and feet. At night, you sleep in a tent hanging suspended in midair from the largest piece of granite the world. You watch as a rope and pulley system moves supplies up and down, but the only ropes you use in your climb are safety harnesses to keep your falls from smashing you back to ‘ground zero’. Occasionally, you take time off from climbing to let your raw finger tips re-grow skin so you can grip yet another crevice in your climb. A 3 week life of freeze dried meals and baby-wipes.
Is that Sisu –or something else that starts with the letter “s”?
Finns in the Hollywood Awards Spotlight
Were you tuned in to the Golden Globes presented by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association when our Finnish superstar members were personally mentioned in a speech on global TV?
Recent weeks have been huge for Finns in Hollywood, starting with the Golden Globes. We Finns are proud of our Finnish members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association: Erkki Kanto and Kirpi Uimonen. The HFPA is known to be super exclusive. Erkki and Kirpi are active, influential voting members who, this year, were recognized by The Grand Budapest Hotel Golden Globe winner Wes Anderson in his speech of thanks. The whole world heard the names “Erkki” and “Kirpi” –and we cheered our friends!
Scandinavian Film Festival
Finnish films were showcased on January 2-12 at the International Film Festival in Palm Springs. This exciting venue is the first of the year where international films are presented for Oscar consideration. Fond memories of Finland’s Klaus Haro were conjured from a few years back. Klaus had spent Thanksgiving with us and he wowed the crowd in the desert with his film contribution that year (Letters to Father Jacob).
The annual SFLA Film Festival in LA was held on January 17 to 25. Finnish films presented were Concrete Night, Heart of a Lion, and Raspberry Boat Refugee.
The American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) has a Finnish nominee this year. Cinematographer Peter Finchenger is nominated in the Spotlight Award category for his work in Pirjo Honkasalo’s Concrete Night. That awards event takes place on February 15th in LA.
This January, Esa-Pekka Salonen was named the Marie-Josée Kravis New York Philharmonic Composer-in-Residence for the 2015-16, 2016-17, and 2017-18 seasons.
When Esa-Pekka Salonen was Music Director of the LA Philharmonic, he wrote LA Variations. It has become a modern classic and will be featured at the New York Premier in the fall of 2015.
Finland rocked the food world in this years’ ranking—its best ever! Finland won the prize for the Best Meat Platter and Antti Lukkari was awarded as the competition’s best Commis.
The most noted chefs’ competition in the world, Bocuse d’Or, welcomed Finland’s best placement at fourth when Matti Jämsen represented Finland along with his Commis Antti Lukkari and Coach Eero Vottonen.
Designer Pekka Palkkari was responsible for the platter’s breathtaking design. The Finnish team’s theme was a story of ‘the Finnish forest on a plate’ starring forest berries, mushrooms, caviar, and reindeer in the dishes. Ohhh!! Yes!!
Teemu Selänne was celebrated on January 11th on “Teemu Tribute Night” when he was the first Anaheim Ducks player to have his game jersey retired. Known as the “Finnish Flash”, the 44 year old retired after 21 remarkable seasons as one of the best players in the National Hockey League where he still holds the Rookie Record for Most Goals and Points. His career 684 goals are the 11th highest total in NHL history.
Teemu Selänne –just another humble Finn with awesome achievements.
American Sport’s Biggest Event—The Super Bowl
The annual Super Bowl has become so big, it is as if it has become part of Awards’ Season. All of America stops for this grandest of sports/friends/family/communal celebrations. They say it is the second biggest eating day of the year—after Thanksgiving.
Over 1/3 of all American households are tuned in to the Super Bowl on their televisions. The commercials are as watched (or more) than the game itself. Air time alone went for $4.5 million for a 30 second spot!
Tomi Hinkkanen and Nina Sallinen starred in H-E-B’s 2015 Super Bowl Commercial: “On the Road” (which did not play in California, unfortunately)
Now, Finland is not as into American jalkapallo football as it is into soccer. Nor is it into chicken so much. Food stores in Finland may have chicken (though not so much), but if you find chicken, it is usually in a tub of some strange orange colored marinade. When Finns come to visit, they often ask me to cook chicken since that is what they have heard America does best as far as cuisine.
Things to Ponder Category: Chicken Wings
Chicken wings (kanan siivet) –no, we are not talking about the chicken legs or the thighs [legitimate parts with meat on them], but wings (siivet). Think about it. Have you ever seen a chicken fly? As a lawyer, I rest my case. This is a useless, ‘non-purposeful’ part of the animal with no more meat than a runway model! Sorry, precious little hens and vegan friends—no harm intended.
Yet, the fact is chicken wings are a standard item on Super Bowl menus around the country. According to the National Chicken Council, 1.25 billion wings were to be eaten during Super Bowl XLIX. For my Grand Canyon fanatic Finnish friends [Pertti, are you listening], 1.25 billion wing segments laid end to end would circle the Grand Canyon 120 times!
[There is more than you will ever want to know at the National Chicken Council website.]
If Finns do not even favor the meaty pieces of chicken, why do Americans obsess over chicken wings?
It is like algebra. Chicken wings are to Americans like crayfish are to Finns. Being a lawyer (word person) rather than something else (numbers person), I hope that my effort at an algebraic formula makes sense:
A = y/rapujuhla (crayfish party) and
B = x/chicken wing feast (super bowl party)
A + B = Fun aka a virtually nonexistent-meat promoted thing to put into your mouth to suck on and to wash down with adult beverages for hours while pursuing communal camaraderie. [Caution: Do not drive or operate machinery for at least 12 hours. This has been rumored to cause a condition called “a hangover”.]
A most popular chicken wing in America for sporting events is the Buffalo Wing. It is cooked with butter and hot sauce; then, served with a blue cheese dressing and celery sticks. Yum!! [Note: BWs have nothing to do with the ’buffalo that roam’ who have no useable wings either, but are named for Buffalo, New York where it originated at the Anchor Bar.]
Super Bowl/Birthday Bash Extravaganza
My Super Bowl Sunday this year included human guests ages 2 to 92, 1 dog, two birthday heroes (one a football hero), their fans and loved ones. Finger food items including the City of Angels Award Winning Wings created a game time ‘groaning board’ on the Aalto table in the Library. Drinks: hard, medium, and soft were set up for self-service on the back patio. Greta’s “Chasin’ Chili”, with all the ‘fixins’, and Tamale Pie waited for the half time main course. Desserts included 2 birthday cakes and three varieties of homemade cookies.
Scaling the Heights to the Hollywood Sign to Visit a Finnish Award Winner and Hero
We Finns have heroes still in our midst.I saw both of our Lottas recently. Elma Maisack was at the February Veteran’s Meeting at Suomi Kerho.
A privilege for me this month was a long-anticipated/oft postponed visit with Sirkka Toth –one of the other remaining Finnish Lottas in Southern California. Sirkka is a remarkable oral poetry historian/performer, a Finlandia Foundation Honoree –a wonderful person of talent and positive Finnish energy. And, Sirkka lives as close to the Hollywood Sign as anyone I know. Getting up Beachwood Canyon to the city’s most enduring icon [the Sign, not Sirkka !] has become quite an ordeal. Residents in that area have had it with all the cars and tourists now that mobile Internet connections and navigation systems readily reveal ‘secret’ ways known only to locals in decades past. Of course, everyone wants that ‘selfie’ to memorialize their conquest of the urban maze. It is not El Capitan, but crowds are clamoring to make that climb!
Sirkka is lovingly cared for by her longtime friend, Irene Yaro, in a house filled with adoring pets eagerly vying for a turn on Sirkka’s lap. We shared coyote stories –apparently tourists aren’t the only pesky problem in the neighborhood. The little dog in the photo was actually snatched by a coyote that Irene had to chase up the street with some neighbors who joined the rout. Fortunately the coyote dropped the Chihuahua mix in order to jump the fence where it was cornered. The little dog needed stitches [no, no plastic surgery], but has recovered well from her injuries –not usually the fate for small animals in the hills.
Speaking of Meals…
Super Bowl/Birthday Bash Menu
Homemade Guacamole in Morcajete with Chips
Spinach Dip in Bread Bowl
Ceviche Style Shrimp
Buffalo Chicken Quesadilla Rolls
Blue Cheese Garlic Sauce
Greta’s ‘Chasin’ Chili
City of Angels Award Winning Wings
Parmesan Stuffed Mushrooms
7 Layer Sunset Beach Dip
Tamale Pie Bake
Macaroni and Cheese
Vegetarian Butternut Squash, Bean, and Kale Chili
Green Garden Salad
Acanto Roasted Tomatillo Salsa
Garlic Fingerling Potatoes
Hot Off the Grill LA Bacon Wrapped Street Dogs with Peppers and Onions
Kiwi, Blackberry, Blueberry Angel Food Dessert
Chocolate Cake with a Homemade Chocolate Dipped Lemon Truffle Crown
Ava’s Cookies: Candy Corn Ginger Blocks, Meyer Lemon Bars, Chocolate Coconut Squares
Icelandic & Belgian Beer, Chalk Hill & Geyser Peak Chardonnay, Niebaum-Coppola Claret
Award Winning City of Angels Wings
A foody friend once asked me for this recipe. He won a contest with it!
4-5 lbs of chicken wings*
1 cup brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup Marsala or sherry
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1 cup soy sauce
2-4 cloves of garlic, minced
Place wings on baking sheet [11” x 15” rimmed pan] in a single layer (jelly roll pan) and bake at 350º F for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the sugar, Marsala, mustard, soy sauce, and garlic in a saucepan and bring to a simmer.
Pour over wings and continue cooking for 1½ to 2 more hours, turning occasionally, until sauce has been absorbed and wings are deeply glazed. [Yield: about 50-60 pieces.]
* Butchers/markets sell whole chicken wings which have three sections to them: two with meat and the tiny wing tip. You can cut them up yourself with poultry shears and use the two portions with meat to please your friends’ appetites. Discard the wing tips or save them to make stock. I usually buy the wings already in pieces called “drummettes” or “party wings” –they look like baby drumsticks. Four packets fit perfectly in a pan.