Howdy pardner, make yourself comfortable. This midwinter birthday party is beautiful but casual. We are surrounded by the grandeur of Ansel Adams’ large-scale, black-and-white photographs of the American West, but the suggested attire is blue jeans to salute textile merchant Levi Strauss. A large, stone fireplace beckons you to put your boots up, relax and take a load off.
The color scheme is black, white and indigo. Seating is hand-tooled leather chairs with blue denim cushions. The dinner menu is comfort food, including the entrée Chicken Korma, which Aziz Ansari’s family brought from India to South Carolina. Instrumental music is gentle guitar, fiddle and fife.
You sense the joy the minute you walk into the party barn. HOORAY FOR THE JOY-GIVERS! (Note: The comments attributed to these famous joy-givers come from words they have written or said.)
Please give A ROUND OF APPLAUSE for these American joy-givers celebrating a birthday this week:
Feb. 20—ANSEL ADAMS, America’s most-popular landscape photographer and a life-long advocate for environmental conservation. Especially treasured are his wide-angle, black-and-white photographs of the American West, many of which hang in museums in the U.S. and abroad. His image “Winter Morning, Yosemite Valley” was licensed to be on a Hills Brothers coffee can, which now brings up to $1,500 for a single can at auction. Adams was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1980. He and many of his portrait subjects wore blue jeans.
Feb. 21—ERMA BOMBECK, one of our most widely read and popular humorists mined mirth describing Midwestern suburban homelife. She wrote more than 4,000 columns which were published semi-weekly reaching 30 million readers in more than 900 newspapers in the U.S. and Canada.
Feb. 22—GEORGE WASHINGTON, “The Father of Our Country” had no children, which historians say could have been because tuberculosis made him infertile. I got that tidbit from “Mental Floss Magazine” as well as these things you might not know about our first president: He didn’t have a middle name and did OK without one. His hair was all real, not plugs, but it was white because he powdered it. He was made an official citizen of France in 1792. He had to borrow money to attend his first inauguration. He wasn’t very religious and refused to take Communion. He wrote between 18,000 and 20,000 letters which would take 50-plus years if one were to write a letter a day. Before he fought the British, he fought for the British against the French in Ohio. He had several pairs of false teeth including a set made from rhino tusk, but he did not have wooden ones. He owned the biggest whiskey distillery in the U.S. which produced 12,000 gallons a year. He loved dogs and bred many hunting companions, including those he named Drunkard, Tipler and Tipsy.
Feb. 23—AZIZ ANSARI, comedy writer, actor, producer, director, author of “Modern Love.” He’s best known for his role as Tom Haverford on the NBC television series, “Parks and Recreation.” He has two Emmy awards and was the first Asian-American television actor to win a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a TV Show. Ansari’s stand-up comedy is observational humor and occasionally “blue,” which he often performs wearing blue jeans.
Feb. 24—STEVE JOBS, pioneer leader of the personal computer revolution, industrial designer, marketeer. He was an incredibly successful entrepreneur, co-founder of Apple, Inc. and also the major investor for The Walt Disney Company’s digital graphics group, Pixar. Jobs was a Buddhist with a simple, signature sartorial style of black turtleneck (which he considered “lucky” for him) and blue jeans.
Feb. 25—JACK HANDEY, blue jeans swaggering, Texas humorist best known for “Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey,” a vast collection of surrealistic one-liners. The ex-newspaper columnist first wrote comedy with Steve Martin and later wrote and performed on “Saturday Night Live.” The best place to find Handey’s musings these days is in “The New Yorker” magazine.
Feb. 26—LEVI STRAUSS, a Bavarian-American cloth merchant who founded the San Francisco branch of his brother’s NYC-based dry goods store. At first, blue jeans made with the cloth from his store were utilitarian wear and mostly popular in the Western states. The “dude ranch” craze of the 1930s made Levi’s brand blue jeans an icon of American fashion and popular worldwide.
COMMENTS OVERHEARD at “The Blue Jeans and Bombeck Birthday Party” for American joy-givers:
“I’m not a glutton; I’m an explorer of food.” —Erma Bombeck
“Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence.”—George Washington
“A firm takeaway from all my ‘Modern Romance’ interviews with women is that most dudes out there are straight-up bozos.”—Aziz Ansari
“A sensible woman can never be happy with a fool.”—George Washington
“I believe the world is incomprehensibly beautiful—an endless prospect of magic and wonder.”—Ansel Adams
“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me. Going to be at night saying we’ve done something wonderful…that’s what matters to me.”—Steve Jobs
“This country was not built by men in suits.”—Levi’s Jeans advertisement
“Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you criticize them, you are a mile away from them and you have their shoes.”—Jack Handey
“When the going gets tough, the tough make cookies.”—Erma Bombeck
“Decision-making, like coffee, needs a cooling off process.”—George Washington
“Let us leave a splendid legacy for our children…let us turn to them and say, this you inherit; guard it well, for it is more precious than money…and once it is destroyed, nature’s beauty cannot be repurchased at any price.”—Ansel Adams
“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”—Steve Jobs
“Have you ever had a bad time in Levi’s?”—Levi’s jeans advertisement
“Is there anything more beautiful than a beautiful flamingo flying across the sunset? And, he is carrying a beautiful rose in his beak, and also, he is carrying a beautiful painting with his feet. And also, you are drunk.”—Jack Handey
“A member of my (ladies church group) slapped my nametag, ‘Erma,’ over my left bosom. ‘Thanks, what shall we name the other one?’ I smiled. She was not amused.”—Erma Bombeck
“If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”—George Washington
“Everyone is on this boat together, and it would probably be good if we were a little nicer on that boat.”—Aziz Ansari
“You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the art of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.”—Ansel Adams
“I want to put a ding in the universe.”—Steve Jobs
“Venture bravely. Love ravenously. Rebel ‘til you’re 90.”—Levi’s jeans advertisement
“The face of a child can say it all, especially the mouth part…If a child asks where rain comes from, I think a cute thing to tell them is, ‘God is crying.’ And, if they ask why God is crying, tell them, “Probably because of something you did.”—Jack Handey
“When humor goes, there goes civilization.”—Erma Bombeck
“It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one.”—George Washington
“Marriage is like, ‘I wanna keep hangin’ out with you until one of us dies.”—Aziz Ansari
“Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow know what you truly want to become.”—Steve Jobs
“All asses are not created equal.”—Levi’s jeans advertisement
“I bet the sparrow looks at the parrot and thinks, yes, you can talk, but listen to yourself.”—Jack Handey
PARTY MENU for “The Blue Jeans and Bombeck Birthday Party:”
APPETIZERS—Erma Bombeck’s Holiday Dip (recipegoldmine.com)
SALAD—Levi Strauss Bleu Cheese and Blueberry Salad (tasteofhome.com)
ENTRÉE—Aziz Ansari’s Mom’s Chicken Korma (see below)
BEVERAGE—Steve Jobs Apple/Banana Smoothie (livin3.com) and Jack Handey’s Flying Flamingo Cocktail (food.com)
BREAD—Biscuits with Ansel Adams Mountain Dew Jelly (yummly.com)
DESSERT—George Washington Blueberry-Cherry Compote (teatimemagazine.com)
At the end of the evening, Jobs, saluting all the American joy-givers in the room, takes his new Apple iPhone out of his jeans pocket and beams these words from a classic Levi’s advertisement across one of the giant photographs by Adams: “I am the new, American pioneer, looking forward, never back, no longer content to wait for better times…All I need is all I got. Bruises heal. Look across the plains and mountains and see America’s eternal promise. Go forth.”
AZIZ ANSARI’s MOM’S CHICKEN KORMA
This is an Indian chicken dish that Ansari’s family made in South Carolina, where he was raised. Serve with rice or naan bread.
- 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 4 (2-inch) cinnamon sticks
- 10 whole cloves
- 10 cardamon seeds
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 (6-oz.) skinless, boneless chicken breasts, halved
- ½ tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
- ½ tsp. ground coriander
- ½ tsp. ground cumin
- ½ cup tomato sauce
- ½ cup warm water
- ½ cup buttermilk
- 2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
- In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Cook cinnamon sticks, cloves and cardamon seeds in hot oil for 3 minutes. Stir in onion and garlic and cook until soft.
- Cut each chicken breast in half for four pieces and add to skillet; cook for 5-8 minutes.
- Season with salt, red pepper flakes, coriander and cumin. Stir in the tomato sauce and warm water. Continue cooking for 10 minutes.
- Stir in buttermilk and cook for 5-8 minutes. Just before serving, mix in the parsley.
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