I guess most people have at least a vague recollection of their 21st birthday. It is a right of passage, after all… I spent my 21st birthday floating a few miles off the coast of California. I was still in Uncle Sam’s Yacht Club and my Leading Chief denied my 3 day leave request. We were back from Viet Nam and stationed back in Alameda, awaiting a trip to Long Beach in a few weeks. It was just to get the boat out for three days to run drills and the like. Your taxpayer dollars at work.

He knew it was my 21st birthday and his sole function in life at that point was to mess with me any way he could. He really hated that I was ridiculously organized and took to production baking like a duck to water. He hated my attitude – the perpetual smirk on my face. The fact that I could get things done without going through proper channels.

He had pulled me out of the bakeshop and made me Office Yeoman so he could keep an eye on me. Of course, he quickly found out he couldn’t say anything in front of me because others might hear about it. Pity.

I had been on the boat for almost a year and a half by this point and had been finally taken out of the office and assigned to the storeroom – mainly just keeping records of food supplies coming in and going out. Keeping track of requisitions and making sure the proper signatures were always in place. It was pre-computer – all manual – and the military loved its forms in triplicate. He always tried like hell to find errors – but I was really really good at my job. That was another reason he really disliked me. My very sincere disdain for military authority probably topped the list, though.

Yes, boys and girls, I was a smart-ass at the ripe old age of 21…

Six months later – when it came time for my active duty discharge, he made me get a regulation-style haircut before he would sign my separation papers. It grew back and I never had to see him, again.

One of 68 birthdays… there are others that stand out, as well… There were five of us at Tahoe whose birthdays were 26-30 July. We decided to hold a joint birthday party at our house. We had a live band and literally hundreds of people.

It was the first time I had ever taken acid.

I was not a stranger to recreational drugs, but I had just never taken LSD. I had talked far too many people down from it in high school. There just wasn’t a huge urge to do it.

And then I did…

Besides having an absolutely wonderful time, I do remember at one point being up in the loft and looking out over a sea of heads downstairs. I thought it would be fun to just walk across their heads. Evidently, someone noticed me starting to climb over the railing and convinced me it wasn’t such a great idea. That was a great house!

And I still talk regularly to my old roommates… we’ve all known one another well over 40 years. Not bad.

Speaking of forty…

My brother got a box at Candlestick for my 40th birthday. The Giants and The Dodgers almost always have a home game on my birthday – and almost always at night. Late July at Candlestick could be freezing! And look at that – nary a gray hair on either of us!

And Victor threw a big ol’ party for my 50th…

 

My first birthday in this house was my 49th. My 55th was the day after I had a wisdom tooth pulled and Victor had foot surgery. That one was a Percocet and Vicodin haze.

And we saw Mama Mia one year, did a few days in Atlantic City another – driving home the Black Horse Pike to hit the farm stands… The past few have been pretty lowkey… we’re saving up for next year when we celebrate on the west coast!

The Social Security Birthday saw us up in Rochester visiting dear old friends with a trek to Niagara Falls. I  hadn’t been to the falls since I opened the Hyatt Regency Buffalo back in 1984.

We had a so much fun we went back in the winter! Brrrrrr…..

As a kid growing up, my birthday dinner was veal scalopine and pineapple cream pie. It has morphed over the years to Stuffed Cabbage, and this year, Victor made his famous Apple Cake for dessert!

The stuffed cabbage was a labor of love because Victor is not overly fond of cooked cabbage. After making this, however, he’s become a convert!

Stuffed Cabbage

Ina Garten

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes and their juice
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large head Savoy or green cabbage, including outer leaves

For the filling:

  • 2 1/2 pounds ground chuck
  • 3 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onions
  • 1/2 cup plain dried breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup uncooked white rice
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

For the sauce, heat the olive oil in a large saucepan, add the onions, and cook over medium-low heat for 8 minutes, until the onions are translucent. Add the tomatoes, vinegar, brown sugar, raisins, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

Stuffed Cabbage Sauce

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Remove the entire core of the cabbage with a paring knife. Immerse the head of cabbage in the boiling water for a few minutes, peeling off each leaf with tongs as soon as it s flexible. Set the leaves aside. Depending on the size of each leaf, you will need at least 14 leaves.

For the filling, in a large bowl, combine the ground chuck, eggs, onion, breadcrumbs, rice, thyme, salt, and pepper. Add 1 cup of the sauce to the meat mixture and mix lightly with a fork.

Preheat the oven to 350°.

To assemble, place 1 cup of the sauce in the bottom of a large Dutch oven. Remove the hard triangular rib from the base of each cabbage leaf with a small paring knife. Place 1/3 to 1/2 cup of filling in an oval shape near the rib edge of each leaf and roll up toward the outer edge, tucking the sides in as you roll. Place half the cabbage rolls, seam sides down, over the sauce. Add more sauce and more cabbage rolls alternately until you’ve placed all the cabbage rolls in the pot. Pour the remaining sauce over the cabbage rolls.

Stuffed Cabbage

Cover the dish tightly with the lid and bake for 1 hour or until the meat is cooked and the rice is tender.

Serve hot.

And the Apple Cake… ::sigh::

He often makes it in a tube pan. This time he used a 10″ springform pan. Perfection.

 

Apple Cake

  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup oil
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 4 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 5 large apples

Preheat oven to 350°.  Peel and cut apples into small chunks.  Add 4 tsp sugar and 2 tsp cinnamon and stir together.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and set aside.

Beat together eggs, OJ & vanilla.  Add oil, mix in flour mixture.

In a well-greased tube pan, pour alternate layers of batter and apples.  Sprinkle cinnamon and sugar on top.

Bake at 350° for 1 1/2 hours or until cake tests done.

Cool before slicing.

I have said over and over that it just does not suck to be me. I have a great life, the love and support of great family and friends, and the special love and support from one truly outstanding guy. It is a great life, indeed.

So here’s to the last birthday in Pennsylvania, and here’s to all of the future ones in Vancouver.

Little Sister said that she’ll make me a Pineapple Cream Pie.