One thing I have noticed about L.E. Modesitt’s books is that reading them will, over time, make you hungry.
The reason is simple: in every novel of his, particular attention is paid to food. He is very concerned about what people eat. In the fantasy novels, travel food is emphasized, with army food pointed out from time to time. His Recluce books lead to cravings for olives and cheese. It’s also evident that he has, at some point, had a bad experience with cactus or something like it; in two of his series, he has a food substance that is good for you and really, not very tasty. Both “quilla” and “prickle” tend to be strongly disliked by his protagonists.
But he’s also fond of the good meals and the unique meals, and of slipping in some regional specialty seemingly made of fire in the role of spice. And his science fiction novels also feature food, both the good and the bad.
In the Corean Chronicles, a recent series, one of the common breakfast choices is “egg toast.” That rang a bell, but I couldn’t quite figure out what it was. (I’ve been tired.) When it hit me, it was a supreme moment of “Well… duh.”
Egg toast is what a non-American might call French Toast. Because French Toast is an inaccurate term for one of the most delectable breakfast concoctions ever created.
You will need:
Day-old or older bread (stale is what it was originally used for!), preferably thick
Butter, maple syrup, powdered sugar, or other toppings of your choice including preserves or fresh fruit
Griddle, nonstick, or seasoned iron pan
Crack some eggs into a shallow bowl. Add a little milk and a droozle* of vanilla, as well as cinnamon and nutmeg to taste. Whisk them together until they are blended but don’t keep going after that! Soak the bread according to your own design, making sure that both sides are coated.
Cook the bread over medium-low heat until the first side is firm, then flip and do the other side. Serve with whipped butter and a dusting of powdered sugar, warmed maple syrup on the side.
Or serve with fresh fruit. Or use raisin bread (Costco has a WONDERFUL raisin bread that tastes as raisin bread should, not like Sunmaid’s lifeless variety.) Or use your egg toast to make a jam sandwich.
This is particularly good with a side of hash browns. The salty potato crunch is a perfect counter. And don’t forget the orange juice.
*Liquid measurements go up in size like this: a mist, a spritz, a squirt, a drizzle, a droozle, a glug, a shot (actual measurement).
You will need:
A large bowl
A mixer or a willingness to stir
A greased 9×13 pan
1 brownie mix plus whatever it calls for (or use your own brownie recipe)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips
Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Bake for the longest time on the mix box; add five minutes if necessary. You will end up with dense, chocolatey brownies. You may have to use a spoon to get them out.
You will need:
Greased cake pan
1 chocolate cake mix
1 can cherry pie filling
Ignore the directions on the box except for the oven temperature. Mix all the ingredients and pour into the pans; bake for the longest time on the box.
Just north of Bodega Bay is a series of cliffside cabins along a vertiginous stretch of Highway 1. These cabins are more cliffside as the years go along, and maintenance on this stretch of road includes occasional replacement or movement as the ocean claims its own.
About a quarter-mile from one of those cabins is a little spur of land called Duncan’s Head. My friend Neva, whose extended family owned that cabin, told me that it’s also called Death Rock, because just off the end of it is a very deep undercut, and anyone who gets swept off the point gets pulled under.
They have dynamited a trench across that point and put up barbed wire, and people still occasionally climb out there, get swept off, and drowned, because that’s humanity for you.
Duncan’s Head is angled south-southwest, and protects a little cove and beach that has a public access trail with steps and a handrail leading down to it. Beaches in Northern California aren’t the sand expanses you think of as “beaches”; they are, if they’re even sand instead of rocks, often very cold, windy, and with dangerous water. In my senior year of high school, I was out there one day with my friend Neva, taking a break from doing maintenance on the cabin. It was a sunny and fairly warm day, but we quickly got bored with playing at the water’s edge.
We started taunting the ocean.
I mean that quite literally; Neva and I were standing just out of reach of the waves, occasionally running backwards as one got higher, but pretty much staying dry and only letting the occasional rush of icy water wash over our feet. And all the time we were shouting at the ocean, saying variants of “Is that the best you can do?”
Apparently it wasn’t.
Duncan’s Head was off to our right, clearly in our field of view. I saw the water go down. In that small eternity as I saw the water rise up again, I could tell just how big the coming wave was. I managed to get one word out: “Run.”
We turned and ran, knowing that the backwards dodging that we had been doing was not nearly enough. Now, the cove was not quite semicircular. If you think of the point and cove as a capital J, there was another little jog of cove off the short end. In that little mini cove was a picnicking family, complete with blanket and all. We ran near them, shouting that they were about to be soaked, and they likewise got out of the way.
The wave didn’t completely inundate the beach but covered a good third to a half of what had been dry before. The picnickers didn’t lose anything other than a few empty food containers, because they had been finishing up, and their pet rabbit had been exploring up the cliff hill several feet above the wave line. (Pet… rabbit. Who brings their pet rabbit to the beach?) Neva and I were fine, though on a bit of an adrenaline high.
But that image has stayed with me for over twenty years. Water goes down; water comes up. Time enough to turn and run; time enough to go through dozens of scenarios in your mind.
Barely time enough to escape if the catastrophe is minor.
Not all memories are life lessons, and not all life lessons are learned at the time. I didn’t learn from that experience so much as have previous lessons proven true. I leave you with three comments:
1. Never turn your back on the ocean.
2. Know the correct action to take ahead of time if you can; it improves reaction time.
3. If you taunt the vast uncaring deep, don’t be surprised at the consequences.
I decided I would take a moment to walk through a simple kata as a preliminary test. I got one move in and discovered that the biggest limitation was one that had never even crossed my mind.