One of the things I miss most about tending a bar is the clientele that I got to know over the years. In the U.S., the term “bar” carries a stigma with it, almost like to frequent a bar means that you drink too much or that you haven’t quite grown up yet. I disagree generally with this. Most of the people whom I served over the years came there on the way home from work to take the edge off, to meet a friend to catch up, to wait for a table to open up in the restaurant, or to grab a quick meal before the day’s next adventure: not to get hammered.
At T.G.I. Chotchkies where I worked, one of my favorite people was a guy named Chuck. When I knew him, he was in his eighties. Like most men of his age, he had served in World War II, and he only would talk about the places he traveled, not what he experienced or did for this country in the war itself. After he retired from the Firestone Tire Company in his 60’s, he became a security guard at the Balboa Yacht Club in Newport Beach, California. He stood about 5′ 6″ and was rail thin. He had short cut white hair combed neatly, blue eyes, and his original teeth, brownish and a few laced with silver from past dental work.
Chuck was old school. He came from an era where people rocked suits and hats to travel or to attend a baseball game. He was always put together respectfully. At my bar, he usually donned old guy slacks with the flat front and no belt, leather shoes, and a tucked in button down shirt; he had a pink one that I remember vividly. He would come in almost every Sunday and we all knew his order by heart: Smirnoff martini up to begin (shaken a certain way, too; he only wanted certain bartenders to make this), a glass of house white zin with dinner, and a green creme de menthe rocks after, maybe a cup of coffee. Old school.
My favorite part of serving Chuck was when he ordered dinner. We all knew exactly what he would order, but bartending requires dancing the steps perfectly and repeatedly even though you’ve mastered the dance. Bartenders sell an experience, much like teachers, so structure is key.
“Chuck, you ready to order?”
“Yes sir.” Then he would lean over the bar and address me in deep sincerity with concomitant hand gestures: “Now Jon, I want one of those New York Strips. Medium. And I want a baked potato with some butter.”
Even though I knew the answer to my next question, I would ask it anyway because I could never hear it enough:
“You got it. What vegetable would you like?”
“Jon, don’t even put a goddamn veggie near my plate. I’ve been around 80 years, and I hate vegetables. I don’t care if you steam ’em, fry ’em, bake ’em, or put all sorts of shit on ’em, I don’t like ’em. I don’t want ’em. I just want a steak and a potato. OK? No goddamn vegetables. And a glass of house white zinfandel. No vegetables.”
“You got it, kid.”
What could I say to him? If you’ve lived a great life into your 80’s and you hate vegetables, you are more than entitled. I just loved listening to him finally snap about eating something that he probably had to for the first 75 years of his life.
So why ramble on about Chuck? Well, veggies can be tough customers to cook for a variety of reasons. We all know we’re supposed to eat a ton of them, yet they’re boring unless you pile on tons o’ fatty stuff or you deep fry them. This recipe is an option that will make most people happy, except Chuck, I suppose.
I posted this green bean recipe attached to another recipe before, but I am posting it now on its own. This complements any Asian dish, and it is great the next day. Costco sells a giant bag o’ French green beans for around $5, too.
Sesame Green Beans
Serves 4 to 6
1 lb. green beans, trimmed
2 tsp. sesame oil
2 tsp. cooking oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (more if you’re hardcore)
3 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. black pepper
3 tbsp. water
1 tbsp. corn starch
salt to taste
toasted sesame seeds for garnish
You want to boil the green beans in a pot of salted water until they’re almost done, being careful not to overcook them. Drain them, rinse with cold water, pat them dry, and set them aside.
In a small bowl or ramekin, stir together the soy sauce, brown sugar, and pepper. Set aside. In another small bowl, whisk together the water and the corn starch. Set aside.
In a large skillet, heat the oils over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook this for about a minute stirring constantly. You don’t want the garlic to burn here.
Add the green beans to the skillet and stir fry these babies for about 3 minutes. Mix the soy sauce mixture again so the sugar doesn’t settle and add it to the green beans in the skillet. Stir it together well and cook for about 3 minutes. Re-stir the water and corn starch, and add it to the green beans. Cook and stir this until the sauce is thickened, about 3 minutes. Taste for salt. Transfer this to a serving bowl and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
So Chuck, wherever you are, I hate veggies too, dude. But these ones are good and you should try them. I’ll have the creme de menthe waiting for you.
Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.
©Jon Marino 2013