Herb Benham

The Bakersfield Californian


Wednesday, May 24

I know I may be the last person to have discovered Vallarta Supermarket on Niles, but in case I'm not, you may want to be. After reading a Curious George book to kindergarteners at at Owens School Wednesday, instead of making a left turn back to the paper, I decided to go right on California and search for the truth.

California to Mount Vernon to Niles, maybe not your normal flight path, but a flight worth taking. Vallarta, spotless, but not sterile. Six different kinds of ceviche, stacks of warm tortillas, pinatas hanging from the ceiling. Fresh, cold cherries, 99 cents a pound. Pan dulce — sweet fresh Mexican pastry.

Rosalvo, mother of a two year old, at the checkout counter.

Vallarta — its own kind of truth. 

Tuesday, May 23

My neighbor Rose Sarad became a citizen last week. Canadian to begin with, now she has the best of both worlds. I walked by her house and saw little American flags everywhere.

She joins Sally Baker who also became a citizen recently. Sally, is a personal trainer, mother of four, married to Rob and soon to have a married son in Thomas. 


Retired congressman Bill Thomas was sworn in Thursday as a provisional trustee at the Kern Community College District.

Harold Pierce / The Californian


`We should do half as much in our lifetimes: Saw Bill Thomas at a dinner at Bakersfield College last week honoring people who helped raise half a billion through the Measure J campaign.

Every time I see the man, he's thinner, Sharon, his wife was there and she is a sweetheart, and I am reminded how much good Bill has done he's done for Kern County. Almost a billion for the Thomas Road Improvement Program and then helping with the bond measure that will help modernize BC over the next 30 years.

The dinner also made me feel good about BC all over again. Talk a force for good.

Wednesday, May 17

Food for the soul. This is an excerpt from "California, The Land of the Sun," from Mary Austin. Claire Hackett (Leddy) my beloved girlfriend in the second grade at William Penn, sent this to me years ago.

"Bakersfield is a heaven of roses. Doubtless there are other things by which the inhabitants would be glad to have it remembered, but this is the item that the traveler in the season carries with away with him. Roses do not die there, they fall apart of their own sweetness, wafts of which envelop the town for miles out on the highway.

After nightfall, when each particular attar distills upon the quiescent air, the townspeople walk abroad in the streets and the moon comes up full-orbed across the Temblors at about the level of the clock tower. Overhead and beyond it the sky retains a deep velvety blueness until long past midnight. Traces of colour can be seen sometimes in the zenith when the glimmer along the knife-edge of the Sierras announces the dawn."

Not much has changed since this was written in 1914.

Food for the soul and the rest of the body too:Is there anything better than the solid pleasure of a visit to the butcher counter at Wood Dale Market? The burnished cleanliness of their floors, the stainless steel cases gleaming and four butchers deep behind the counter.

This time a T-bone steak because they'd had a run on ribeyes.  Home again, coat both sides with dry rub, cook quickly four minutes a side in cast iron on top of the stove, 20 minutes on a plate covered with foil to let the meat cook some more and juices seep.

Then, eat. If you are ailing, this is medicine. Food medicine.

Tuesday, May 16

This is random, but it's food and food is important. Smart & Final has fresh pineapples for $1.99 a piece and I'm back in. "Back in" because pineapple has been ruined having been served green, mean and hard in every fruit salad and breakfast accomplice.

Buy a fresh one, peel off the rough exterior and it's like a 15 minute mini vacation to the tropics. Pineapple has that sweet/tart matrix explosion going simultaneously.


More food. Walking to Sequoia during lunch and ran into the chef from the recently opened "Make It Yours," on 18th, passing out menus on the corner of 18th and Chester. Talk about a guy who wants it bad. Tapas, sliders, calamari. 

Monday, May 15

Tell me about last weekend. The most perfect weather. We may pay for it, we will pay for it, but perfect is worth the price.

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