Herb Benham column

Herb Benham

We ate at the new La Costa on Stockdale Highway. La Costa is a good story. An American speciality.

Maria Coward emigrated from Puerto Vallarta and after working in restaurants opens La Costa, kitty-corner from Mill Creek Park. After 21 years of raging success, Coward closed the restaurant there and reopened at the Ice House in what had been a restaurant graveyard. That becomes a 20-minute wait, even on Tuesdays, and now the family — which includes children Larissa, Adriana, Chelsie and Alex — opens another restaurant in the old Elephant Bar a few weeks ago. The Stockdale location has been packed from the get-go.

“We’re still busy at the Ice House,” said son Alex, who was checking on customers at the new location. “Ninety percent of our customers here are new.”

La Costa is the modern-day Mexicali.

•••

The French Open began its second week today. Tennis may be last on your list to either watch or read about but red clay, the surface on which this tournament is played, is a thoughtful surface. Points are slower and more intricately constructed because the ball sits up when some big brute is not trying to blast you off the court.

If life is on overdrive and feels as if it’s moving too fast, watch a clay court match. Your heart rate will slow down, and you will hear the birds singing again and since this is the French Open, they will be singing in French.

•••

What are the French known for in addition to wine and going on strike at the most inopportune times? Cheese, and cheese is the transition between the French Open and the conversation we had last week at work.

A friend asked how I ate my string cheese. Did I bite off the top and continue to consume it in chunks or eat it as strings of cheese?

Good question but the answer is easy. This snack tastes better if you allow yourself the playfulness built into the name: string cheese. Why work when you can play?

It’s not unlike deconstructing an Oreo cookie. We’ve all bitten through an Oreo cookie top to bottom but isn’t it more fun when you pull it apart, eat the chocolate wafer, scrape the white icing off with your teeth and then munch the bottom wafer?

•••

Several people have written in response to the column on Butterfingers, Snickers and Baby Ruth bars disappearing from the shelves of at least one convenience store.

“I can relate,” said Linda Funderburk.

“I wanted to make gumdrop cookies, do you know how hard it is to find gumdrops? Finally found them at the fourth store. I hope Butterfingers don’t go the way gumdrops are going.”

•••

June brings transitions — spring to summer, cool to not anything resembling cool — but also people parachuting out of work. This includes two friends who are about my age (or younger). My response is, “That’s not right. You’re too young to retire.”

Start with Jim and Molly Carnal. Molly has taught forever and Jim used to work as a reporter at the paper before he became a high school teacher in Taft. The Carnals swallowed the grandparent Kool-Aid recently with 6-month-old Joseph James Galuska and now they think they have to spend more time with him while they’re healthy and able to enjoy life.

Imagine their impudence.

Former Bakersfield tennis phenom and coach Curt Nielsen, along with wife Katie, are hanging it up. Curt has been a high school and college teacher in Porterville for more than 20 years.

Also leaving teaching is Kay Vetter (daughter of local insurance agent Ken) who has enjoyed an outstanding career as an American Sign Language teacher in Paso Robles as well as Carmel area.

Herb Benham is a columnist for the Bakersfield Californian and can be reached at hbenham@bakersfield.com or (661) 395-7279.

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