Dr. N.A.N.'s Blog

News, views, and how the world skews from San Antonio, Texas

Archive for Food


The Year 2016

Even though 2016 is barely half over, I can say that it has been one of the crummiest years I have experienced. This isn’t because of life’s usual turmoil but because my Daddy died. I knew the day would eventually be here and I dreaded it. I probably dreaded it for more than 30 years. That’s a long time to dread something.

Gino R. Narboni was born on November 18th, 1923 and died on July 16th, 2016. My father was a unique individual who was kind to everyone. He touched many lives–as a medical oncologist and as a father, husband, friend and hero. I miss his intelligence, his wit, his insight and his gentle nature.

I have a picture of him on my desk that became the front page of his funeral program. I love this picture. He is looking directly at the camera and has a smile on his face. He is wearing his special “birthday suit” that my parents bought many years ago. My mother thinks they bought it at a PX in Germany. It was on the reduced rack for $15.00. Apparently, jewel-toned velvet suits were all the rage that year. To think that it still fit him when he was 90 years old is amazing.

Daddy’s Garden

When Heath and I bought this house in Bulverde last year, we were delighted to find an area that had obviously been a vegetable garden a long time ago. It was overgrown with weeds and volunteer trees but it had a fence around it and was perfectly situated on our property. (It is close to the house and there is a beautiful live oak that provides shade around the garden but not over it.) Heath and I cleaned it out and I planted tomatoes and herbs this past spring. Since the fence around it was only about 4 feet tall, the deer considered our tomato plants (and shallots and red onions) to have been planted expressly for their eating pleasure. I think we probably harvested 3 tomatoes all season.

So back to how this became “Daddy’s Garden”…Heath spent a long time thinking about how to build a fence around the garden that would be both functional and beautiful. His solution became what we call the non-pergola. The walls of this non-pergola are made of wood frames with hog fencing spanning each frame. It is VERY hard to describe but see the pictures below. Once it is finished, Heath he is going to build ‘troughs’ and hang the troughs on top of the fence. He really wants to grow strawberries so we will plant them in the troughs and hopefully, the plants will cascade down and make a beautiful border around the top of the fence. I don’t think he has figured out how to water the plants, yet.  Keep in mind that the fence is probably 10 feet tall!

I decided to dedicate this garden to my Daddy about halfway through its construction. I realized I was going to fill it with so many of the fruits and vegetables that he loved it was natural that it be created and maintained in his honor.

Some of the trees and shrubs I intend to plant include a fig tree (one of my Daddy’s favorite fruits), a pomegranate tree, a peach tree, multiple lemon trees and an olive tree. (There will also be a persimmon tree planted in my mother’s honor.)

Eventually I am going to hang a large gong-like wind chime because I know that my father would have enjoyed the sound of it.

I hope that his spirit will fill the garden so that I know he is always close by.


Ahhhhhh, back in the land of warmth and margaritas.  I love coming home.  For me, home is peaceful and warm–year round.  Home means really fresh tortillas, balmy temperatures, the world’s best salsa and the reassuring sound of my parents’ old clocks.

On this visit, I am really busy.  I am meeting with music students at the University of Texas at Austin to share with them my “Piano-in-Tow” experiences, giving an evening performance with Daniel Bernard Roumain for the 180 Group as well as a mid-day presentation at Sul Ross Middle School.  All of this activity will probably interfere with my visit to my favorite nursery–Hill Country African Violets.  HCAV has one of the biggest selections of African Violets that I have ever seen.  They have dedicated a very large greenhouse entirely to violets.  And, then of course, there are the rooms in another building where the proprietor propagates new plants…I will also miss the opportunity to visit the gravesite of a former colleague of my father’s.  Many years ago, we started a tradition of visiting this gentleman’s grave whenever I am in San Antonio.  Part of the tradition is to drive the old green Mercedes out to a cemetery just east of Boerne, TX.  Better than ketchupBetter than ketchup

I have promised several Nebraska friends that I will bring back jars of La Fogata’s Roasted Salsa.  As far as we are concerned, it is the best salsa available!  My mouth is watering just thinking about it…

Anatomy of a collaborative experience

Craig backstage of Kimball Recital Hall and one of his 3 (!) tubas.

Craig backstage of Kimball Recital Hall and one of his 3 (!) tubas.

Besides the leaves turning and the temperature dropping, fall always means a tuba recital.  Craig Fuller and I have been playing together since I arrived at UNL in 1995.  Craig is part of the low brass faculty at the School of Music where he teaches euphonium and tuba. I remember the first time we played together–the director at the time sent me an email telling me that Craig was looking for a collaborative pianist and would I please step up to the job.  I remember being annoyed because I didn’t want to play for a TUBA player.  I was hoping to collaborate with a visiting bassoon player who had a big reputation coming from an important music school on the east coast.  Alas, I was not given that assignment but instead was told to play with Craig.

Well, that was 14 years ago and Craig and I have played at least one recital every year with few exceptions. We have covered the tuba repertoire as well as many pieces that Craig “borrowed” from other genres.  He has lifted French horn repertoire, voice repertoire (Brahms, Beethoven–An die ferne Geliebte, Schumann, Wagner), oboe music, Bach viola da gamba sonatas–you name it, we have probably either played it or at least considered playing it!  What’s amazing about Craig is that when he plays the tuba, it doesn’t sound like a tuba.  Well, I guess it always sounds like a tuba but he can play with the speed and accuracy and lightness one would expect from a flute.  This man can even execute trills on the tuba!

Last night, Craig and I played yet another recital at Kimball Recital Hall.  Click here

Craig Fuller - Tuba Recital

Craig Fuller - Tuba Recital

for a blow-up of the program. After it was done, Craig made a very wise observation.  He said that as much fun as it is for us to perform together, our rehearsals are even more fun.  I have to agree with him.  Our rehearsals are often filled with laughter, gossip and silliness.  And, we have an understanding–Craig always brings the coffee and chocolate.  No rehearsal is complete without these two things.

For the next several weeks, I know I’ll keep checking my calendar looking for my rehearsal schedule with Craig only to be disappointed because the fun has come to an end.  Of course, until next year…

Amy, my student and expert page turner

Amy, my student and expert page turner

The Other Kind of Green

You know, it isn’t easy being a vegetarian.  I guess it’s kinda like Kermit being green.    I made the decision to go meat-less in 1992.   I still remember the conversation I had with a couple from Springfield, Missouri.  They didn’t set out to change my carnivore habits but simply explained to me why eating vegetables was a better choice.  In the 16 years that I haven’t eaten meat, I have eaten some fowl and I continue to eat fish (fish feed themselves).  I could never give up dairy products or eggs (my “world’s best chocolate chips” wouldn’t taste the same if I didn’t use eggs or butter).  For me, being a vegetarian is a personal choice.  I don’t expect anybody else to adopt my lifestyle choice.  The only problem is that my cats refuse to join me in my meat-free diet.  They insist on eating chicken and turkey and one of them even likes pork products!  What is a mother to do?

I love almost all vegetables with the exception of zucchini.  I have hated zucchini since I was a little girl.  My mother still doesn’t understand why.   I think it is the bitter taste that the nasty vegetable leaves in my mouth. I remember when she would serve her famous zucchini boats (even the mere thought of them makes me cringe), I would look for ways to “dispose” of my portion without her knowledge.  I spent many an evening waiting for her to leave the kitchen so I could quietly dump the boat in the trash.

I do like zucchini bread so go figure…

Did you know that eggplant in Arabic is zaalook?

That chickpeas in French are poi chiches?

That the word for chocolate is almost universally the same?

That fried tofu is actually very tasty?

A Florida tradition

Every summer, my family and I spend a week in the panhandle area of Florida. We have been coming to Fort Walton Beach for 30+ years to drink margaritas or mojitos or whatever the adult beverage du jour is, walk on the white sand beach and generally do nothing. Sometimes we get lucky and the weather is sunny throughout the week and sometimes we aren’t so lucky. Since we always come at the end of the summer, our visit coincides with the hurricane season. Perhaps not the best planning but it’s tradition.

Our holiday always includes a trip to Nick’s Fish Camp, an unassuming bar/restaurant on the edge of the Basin Bayou. Nick’s is home of the “fried-fried”. This term was coined by my long-time friend Randy A. when he was describing a particular dish at another favorite restaurant of mine in San Antonio. I think Nick’s motto should be: “If it ain’t fried, it ain’t worth eatin’”. Highlights of the menu include fried shrimp, fried oysters, fried fish, fried hush puppies and of course, the ubiquitous French fries. A side order of coleslaw is available. I think the coleslaw is Nick’s attempt to round out the food pyramid. Another food tradition that we observe in Florida is the seven-layer bar. My Aunt Joanna always favors me (and my sister) with a pan of these thunder-thigh confections during our visit. Imagine a multi-layer pan cookie with a graham cracker crust and chocolate, butterscotch, coconut, pecan and condensed milk heaped on top which is baked to a gooey treat.        

Another tradition that we enjoy is the company of guests that join us for the week. We have had friends visit from all over the country and world! Although the accomodations at this condo complex aren’t exactly Hotel de Crillon, we do offer the basics–cable tv, pool, laundry and pizza delivery. We rely on our guests to entertain us so if you come, be prepared to tell us stories, take us kite-flying, deep-sea fishing or anything else that will keep us occupied.

A Circumcision Parade

While still in Marrakech, my parents and I spent several hours going through the main Souk (Arabic market). We started off in the town square (or what I think was the town square) which comes alive around 6pm every night. The square itself was congested with people selling stuff. There were snake charmers, henna artists, junk dealers, pastry makers, penny whistle musicians—you name it. And although I loved being immersed in the frenetic energy created by so many people, I was happy to enter the more organized part of the market.

I still haven’t figured out if this part of the market was part of a building or just had a tarp for a roof but merchants offered their wares from booths. Each booth was probably no more than 10 feet wide and 15 feet long so accommodations were cramped. It seemed that each vendor specialized in one product or variations on a product. One gentleman was selling dates and raisins and dried figs –apparently, there are many varieties of dates and thus many different “price points”. I’m not a big fan of dates so I wasn’t overcome with emotion at the sight of them. However, when we came upon a booth selling Arabic pastries. I sensed a quiver of excitement emanate from my father. He had discovered a booth selling a rich selection of pastries (mostly fried, light dough, sweetened with honey) similar to the ones he used to eat as a little boy while living in Constantine, Algeria.

Between the two of us, I think we picked out one of each kind! What makes these pastries so unique is that they are made with no preservatives and sweetened only with honey. Some of them have nuts, others just fried dough sprinkled with powdered sugar. A lot of them have sesame seed paste or marzipan fillings. (My mouth is watering as I write this.) Typical of my father, he carefully doled these confections out over the next several days, not wanting them to disappear at the hands of others.
OK, so we finally made it through the Souk (not before we were given a half hour rug presentation by Mohammed, a master salesman) and found ourselves outside once again. Suddenly, we all hear this wonderful upbeat music coming from behind us accompanied by a lot of singing and clapping. We turned around to find a processional of musicians followed by a man and little boy on top of a horse that had been all decked out in equestrian finery. My mother asked our guide what was all the fuss about and Anas explained that this was a post-circumcision celebration for the little boy astride the horse. The man was his father and one of the woman on the ground was his mother. Apparently, the little boy (probably 3 years old) had been circumcised that morning and as was tradition, given his own little parade as the sun went down. Ouch.

Pièce Monter

Can’t very well do an entire post on the elusive dessert without showing a picture!

Piece Monter

Finger-Lickin’ Good!