Memories of a long life: travels, food, birds

Memories of a long life: travels, food, birds

Yesterday marked the 92nd year of my life on this earth. I find that absolutely amazing, and while I’m grateful for the gift of longevity with a spirit still intact (for the most part), I don’t know where the past two decades have gone!

Born in Coeur d’Alene in 1930, I spent the first 30 years there, through school, marriage(s) and raising my family. During the 60’s I moved and worked in Spokane in communications – newspapers, television and other media in need of a writer/reporter. But when those years (and partners) passed and my wonderful six children “grew up and gone” – so to speak – I put the past completely behind me, moved to Sandpoint alone at age 50 – and that’s when my life really began. I started working at l’Abeille as a feature film writer and eventually as an art editor – soon to rival the “travel editor” title – since I began my personal “odyssey” of the wonderful world about which I had started reading when I was only 5 years old.*

I had been to every state but Rhode Island before, seeing America by car – and the rest of the world beckoned me. I had decided early on that I would never be a “it’s Tuesday so it must be Vienna” (sic) traveler, so I made time for myself. I spent a full month in Egypt – ditto Mexico (comparing the pyramids!) – Spain/Morocco and Greece – including a big cruise to the islands and Ephesus. Later, I was captivated by London and started offering (with the help of a travel agent Sherry Metz) guided tours for this great city and its surroundings. Soon added were Scotland, France, Switzerland and Italy. Add visits to New Orleans with some neat cruises to Jamaica and the Bahamas, where I loved the snorkeling (and shopping). In addition to all this generosity, her daughter Shelley and her husband Ray moved to Maui for several years, which required at least three visits.

So I spent twenty years traveling and learning. I spoke passable Spanish, mediocre French, I read Latin on the ruins—and I learned some hieroglyphics in Luxor! How was I able to do all this, you may ask – and my answer is “God’s grace and visa”.

  • I read about Petra when I was 5 years old (I still have the original National Geographic) which kindled in me the desire to travel – and sadly it’s the only place I’m not. never been!


Speaking of Latin – “Hail Caesar”!

We all know the famous “Caesar salad”, and many years ago in New Orleans I ate at what I assumed was the original Caesar’s restaurant.


The great César Cardini created his homonymous piece of resistance in 1924 in his small hotel in Tijuana. The old article in which I discovered this “new” information I (to me) revealed that “he never mixed the dressing in advance, and nothing was measured, so the salad took the qualities of a spontaneous work of art”. The bases then were lemon juice, garlic olive oil, eggs and parmesan cheese. Caesar never added anchovies either – just a dash of Worcestershire sauce. He didn’t chop the romaine lettuce either, only using the hearts, separated to be eaten with his fingers!

Here is the original recipe.

Classic Caesar Salad

(For 6)

7 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

4-6 garlic cloves, peeled, sliced

2 cups bread cubes, made from firm-textured bread

3 hearts of romaine lettuce

1/2 tsp. coarse salt

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Juice of 1 lemon

2 large beaten egg yolks

2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

1/2 cup grated fresh Parmegiano Reggiano cheese

Combine olive oil and garlic in a small bowl, cover tightly, and let stand 30 minutes to 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 325F. Mix the bread cubes with 3 tbsp. garlic oil for coating; spread in single layer in shallow baking dish. Bake for about 10 minutes or until edges begin to brown. Let cool.

Carefully separate the leaves from the romaine hearts; place in a large bowl. Drizzle with 2 tbsp. garlic oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper; stir well. Add another 2 tbsp. garlic oil, lemon juice, yolks and Worcestershire; stir gently. Sprinkle with cheese and croutons. Have shallow throat bowls available for each guest. Allow them to serve themselves with a one-piece salad set. The original recipe says to encourage guests to eat their leaves with their fingers – but you can have salad forks handy. Either way, have a large stack of napkins or paper towels available.

I think this looks like a fun outdoor summer treat that could only be bettered with some ice cold Bubbly on hand! Also, a shrimp platter wouldn’t be negligent for a “full meal”.

Romaine mixes well with other greens for great summer salads, as evidenced by our illustration of a fabulous montage of a variety of crunchy choices that only need a drizzle of olive oil for perfection.


This horrible winter has not been kind to the birds. For weeks I only saw the various woodpeckers working my ‘chef’s choice’ of suet blocks. Now only a few chickadees, nuthatches and a few house sparrows – five or six birds at most – join the ubiquitous flock of turkeys at the bounty of sunflower seeds thrown on the snow. Then I saw some black and orange – and I knew it could only be my long-time resident variegated thrush – it reminded me of an article I wrote a few years ago that I called my “Rhapsody in Black and Orange”: “Included were the Thrush, the Robins, the Glorious Bullock’s Oriole (the Western version of the Eastern Baltimore Oriole), the rare Grosbeak at blackhead and the Towhees with their perky black tails.* Talk about glamor in the world of birds!At the time, watching them coexist in the friendliest way with the resident chickadees, nuthatches and juncos, I found myself Said it absolutely couldn’t get any better than this!The only negative was that my camera had just fallen off and I couldn’t take a picture!

Either way, it will be just wonderful when that breathtaking chill is gone and the birds return with their joyful interactions and pure, innocent beauty. Amen to that!

  • My bird book reminded me of the orange and black western tanager, but they sport a bright red head, so I chose not to include them.

Valle Novak writes the Country Chef and Weekend Gardener columns for the Daily Bee. She can be reached at [email protected] or by phone at 208-265-4688 between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m.