Today is my birthday so it is all about me today.
I grew up Catholic. I attended Catholic grammar school, Catholic junior high, and went to Catholic church on Sunday with all my Catholic friends from the neighborhood. Those friends, my brothers, and my older sister all attended the local, single-sex, Catholic high schools.
In 1975, I asked my parents if I could attend public high school. My rationale, mostly the truth, was that I was an athlete and the public school had much more to offer in the way of sports. The Catholic girls high school did not have a gymnasium and didn’t offer many sports at the time. It also had no boys but that was not part of my persuasive discussion since I was a fairly astute girl at thirteen. They couldn’t deny that I had a convincing argument and they had little reason to deny my request. I was a solid student academically, a successful multi-sport athlete and I had never been a troublemaker. Public school had more to offer me and I would be fine.
I wasn’t allowed to enroll in the school that was within walking distance of my house since it was overwhelmingly minority and my parents thought I wouldn't get a good education. So we used someone else’s address, which was very common in those days, and in September of 1975, I began attending Del Mar High School in Campbell, California.
My parents could never have predicted what was about to happen in California. I would have been safer in the minority school. The popular 2001 movie “Blow”, based on a true story and starring Johnny Depp as a California Drug Lord, portrays quite well what a California high school with a middle class population could look like in the 1970’s. Johnny Depp, playing the real life George Jung (who will be released from prison in November 2015 at age 73) had a brief stint in prison for his massive California marijuana business in the early 1970’s but when he got out, he took his entrepreneurial skill to a new level with cocaine. “Cocaine exploded onto the American drug scene like an atomic bomb,” states Depp in the movie. “It started in California...”
The movie isn’t set in high schools, but it could have been set in mine. It shows how quickly and completely drugs infiltrated American culture. Marijuana was rampant, cocaine had been introduced, sex was common, and parties were frequent and unsupervised. I went from bicycling in my uniform to a controlled environment where I was taught by nuns, to girls with tattoos smoking joints in the parking lot, probably with their teachers, but maybe those guys were just their 30-year-old drug-dealing boyfriends.
I don’t remember anything resembling security in those days since we barely had supervision. It was interesting, exciting, scary and out-of-control. I visited friends houses after school and witnessed their older siblings shooting heroin. I attended parties where people had “dropped” acid and one time a guy I knew drove off a road leaving a party, killing his girlfriend. I had friends who were sent to “juvi” (juvenile delinquent centers) and of course there was the cocaine.
One friend, at 16-years-old, told me she really needed to cut down on the cocaine because the inside of her nose had been eaten away (deviated septum). She sadly died just a few years later in a private plane crash with her drug-dealer-boyfriend. I did a lot of things in those days that I am not proud of, but fortunately there were many lines I didn’t want to cross, nor snort. Still, I saw a lot, was often in dangerous situations, and I am grateful that I am one of the ones that survived the madness.
It could have been that my parents expected me home for dinner every night at six o’clock. It could have been that my Brother Dave was always checking in on me and secretly watching over me. Or it could have been cooking class. In the 1970’s, in addition to “dangerous” sports like gymnastics and springboard diving, both of which I loved and in which I competed, public schools still had fun electives like driver’s education, home economics and cooking.
Excited to do something creative in school, I enrolled in cooking class, 5th period, right after lunch. Little did I know as a naive underclassman, 5th period cooking was the stoner class; the class where everyone came in with the marijuana munchies after lunch break on “the field”. The class curriculum couldn’t have been more perfect for our group of field adventurers. It was not about health or nutrition. I don’t recall any instruction about eating right, food groups or vitamins. We were there to cook. We made delectable sweets that I had never heard of like Baked Alaska and Mud Pie. I was in a group with two boys and we were called the Snickerdoodles, because each group was named after a cookie, like our teacher thought we were still in preschool, or was wishing we were.
I can still picture “cooking teach” which would have been the cool thing to call her in those days, with her reddish blond hair, cut shoulder length and curled up at the ends. She wore sweater sets, A-line skirts and sensible heels. She had lovely pale skin, gently blushed cheeks, and she could have been named Patricia Perfect (PP). PP tried so hard to teach this unruly group of stoned teenagers. Day after day she came prepared with lessons and recipes, patiently ignoring the constant badgering and food fights and all-around bad behavior.
About mid-way through the semester, our recipe for the day was banana bread. I was already in class when they arrived--my cooking partners. They were late, loud, and stoned out of their minds. Their eyes were a lovely shade of magenta and you couldn’t help but notice the aroma that followed them into the classroom. Patricia Perfect watched them walk in and tried to tell them to quietly join the class. Submerged in their stupor, not realizing the entire class was focused on them, the boys continued their loud banter to each other and I watched the teachers face turn more and more red. Then she lost it. “YOU. GUYS. COME. IN. HERE. SO. STONED. I CAN’T TAKE IT ANY MORE! Teach yourselves today.” The guys doubled over in hysterics and Ms. Perfect left the room.
The recipe for chocolate chip banana nut bread had been handed out prior to the boys entrance so I got busy with the preparations, knowing my teammates would not be of much help. PP had been telling us when the boys walked in that we needed to work quickly and get our mini bread in the oven if we were to finish before the bell. I don’t remember if PP came back to the classroom or not. I do know that I finished making the bread and it was delicious. It wasn’t just my stoner classmates who found it delicious; they devoured their pieces so quickly that I’m not sure they even tasted it.
I thought it was absolutely wonderful, the perfect combination of sweet and savory. It was an exciting mixture of flavors that I wasn’t used to since treats in my house were typically made from a box, or came in a box. My favorite dessert at home was jello with canned mandarin oranges floating in it, something I had helped Mom make many times. But this sweet treat I made had the wonderful smell of fresh bread with a hint of banana, followed by the sweetness of the chocolate and the crunch of the nuts; it gave me joy like jello never had. I discovered that day in cooking class, surrounded by my stoned classmates, that I loved to bake. And fortunately, I found baking more interesting than marijuana or cocaine or the plethora of other drugs available at my high school.
Every day we get a fresh chance to live the way we want." -John Kenney
Stoners Chocolate Chip Banana Nut Bread 1/2 cup shortening 1/2 cup sugar 2 eggs 1 3/4 cups flour 1 tsp baking powder 1/2 tsp baking soda 1/2 tsp salt 2 mashed bananas 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, optional 3/4 cup chocolate chips
Cream shortening and sugar. Add eggs and beat until smooth. Sift dry ingredients and add to cream mixture, alternating with banana, blending well. Stir in nuts and chips and pour into well greased 9”x5”x3” loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes. Cool in pan 5-10 minutes then remove from pan and cool on rack.
Note: I prefer to bake this bread in 2 smaller loaf pans (3”x3”x5-1/2”), greased with butter, so the middle of the bread cooks and the outside doesn’t dry out. Baking time is less for 2 smaller pans, about 35-40 minutes. I use 2-3 ripe bananas, and for shortening I use unsalted butter.