La Dolce Vita is in The Garden

A Post in Three Acts

Act I: Smooth Like Butter

Video courtesy of Brittany Roisom

I taught a million Micheltorena Elementary School kids how to make butter and naan bread last week. I think the idea was to host one class at a time, but some of the schedules got confused and there were a few moments in my day when fifty exuberant school kids stormed the work table at the same time. They were like herds of galloping horses and I was outnumbered and holding bowls of flour and dough.

Photo credit: Helen Dion

wanted to tell the students that milk is made up of several parts including cream (it’s less dense than the rest of the milk and settles to the top when you let whole milk sit). The cream has fats and also fluid. If you give a herd of Micheltorena rascals some jars full of cream and instruct them to shake the living daylights out of ’em, eventually the cream separates into butter and buttermilk. It’s kind of like a really crude centrifuge. It took these kiddos about forty-minutes to achieve proper butter, but there was a lot of opening and closing of the jars and distraction. It could have been more efficient.

Photo credit: Helen Dion

What became of the naan dough? For one thing, there was no way to keep that flour in the bowl. For another thing, I gave all of the kids their own piece of dough to flatten and they all immediately treated it like Silly Putty. It was on their faces, on the table, between the crevices of their little fingers…..needless to say I couldn’t exactly feed it to them. Between you and I, we enacted a dummy dough system. I kept handing the same dough back to the kids and cooked fresh samples.

The best part of the day came as I attempted to dole out hot, buttery samples to a crazed, shrieking and begging crowd of children.

“Only ONE sample!” I yelled.
“Have YOU eaten any samples?” I attempted to ask each piranha, looking them straight in their eyes.

Every single kid. Even a remarkable number with butter running down their chins had been woefully skipped and assured me a crumb hadn’t crossed their lips.

Butter “recipe”

Naan recipe (I skipped the sugar. Thank god!)

Act II: La Dolce Vita is in the Garden

Photo Credit: charles Herman-Wurmfeld

You could go to dinner in Beverly Hills at some place with a bajillion yelp reviews and you’ll save up for months to afford your evening and the top notch ingredients that will appear on your white tablecloth.

Or you could meet me in the Micheltorena Elementary School Community Garden and we could pluck some chard from the earth and crack an egg from the chicken coup and cook it in cast iron over wood fire in the cob oven. I promise you- Spago’s produce delivery sat around for at least a few hours and traveled many miles before someone in a toque seared that radicchio or what-have-you over an open flame. We do what Wolfgang aims to do only better and fresher 🙂

Charlie’s colorful handiwork and hearty vessel.

Last night in the garden we did it right. Neighbors ambled down the hill to the oven with pots full of soup and homemade breads. We set-up a screen and projected a rather meta choice of a flick- La Dolce Vita, The Sweet Life.  By evening there were five or six of us still hanging on and hugging the oven to stay warm.

Los Angeles has a bad rap for being a concrete jungle where people are siloed by commutes and urban sprawl. But the Garden is my LA. In my LA, neighbors share chairs so that everyone can have a toe by the fire. Strangers are friends you haven’t met yet and people walking by the garden are always welcome to pop-in and learn about this enchanted space (even at this time when strangers are apparently scary and the media is telling us to stay home and cower from the gun-toting radicals).

My LA is changing the world, darlings! Kisses. See you there soon.

Hot yogurt Soup Recipe (Yayla çorbası- my Turko contribution to Fellini night)


Act III: Hanukkah is a Festival of Lights


OK! Garden post number three!
It was hanukkah. I hosted our small Jewey circle in the garden. I was setting up for a grown-up hanukkah gathering, but somehow the wee ones caught on. I got the sense that someone saw the chocolate gelt and sent word to all of the others like ants or a beehive.

Next thing I knew, I was explaining Maccabees and menorahs!


In the oven I did this and this.


2 thoughts on “La Dolce Vita is in The Garden

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