An Autry exhibition highlights the cultural and historical connections of that essential (and fun) building block of childhood development.

•A toddler uses a toy vacuum in a pint-size midcentury modern playhouse, complete with a Kit-Kat Clock, starburst mirror and an old-fashioned rotary phone. Not far away, older kids explore a cave as they heap squishy rocks and faux logs on top of each other; one child attempts to hug a ginormous teddy bear. “This is awesome!” shouts another kid as he dives into the pile.
• In a nearby darkened room, a summer-camp chaperone takes on opponents for a vigorous game of Pong; she’s unstoppable and a crowd forms. “I have a little more experience than these young kids,” she says with a laugh.
• On a wall display of favorite games from different eras and regions, two adults discuss the merits of Drop the Handkerchief and other games, comparing the activities as if they were cultural anthropologists. “See how the games change compared to the regional climate?” one suggests. “Look at how the girls’ play is different from the boys.” “Aha! Here is when basketball was invented!”
• Around a corner, a mom shows her young daughter a View-Master from the 1970s. “When I was a kid I had one just like this!” she explains to a wide-eyed girl who studies the toy as if it were an ancient artifact.
These interactions were spotted amid the many artifacts, discussions and discoveries at the Play! exhibition at the Autry Museum of the American West in Griffith Park, which runs through Jan. 7, 2018. The family-focused show is more than just a clever display of 200-plus toys and games throughout the centuries. Beyond the fun and nostalgia in each exhibit case and interactive display, Play! offers adult visitors a chance to deeply examine the role of toys and games across culture and time — and the human connections play can inspire.
“Play is a universal language,” says Yolanda Carlos, core faculty at Pacific Oaks College’s School of Education in Pasadena. “It’s innate in us.” Carlos explains that for all its fun, goofiness, physical challenges and mimicry, play is serious stuff. “It’s the way children learn about the environment, the world, social interactions and a way to build social communication skills. No matter the era, human development follows predictable patterns, and play is instrumental.”
Carlos shares a story from her time as executive director of a school for military families: Since many students came from different countries, they didn’t have a shared language. “Even though they couldn’t speak to each other at first, play united them,” she explains. “Before you knew it, they were connecting through play and, after a while, they began to understand each other.”
Play has evolved, Carlos says, and now too much emphasis is placed on structured play, especially activities like sports, with rules created by adults. “What you really want are toys and games that inspire a child’s imagination and allow them that open-ended play,” she says, adding that toys don’t need to be complex. Things as simple as a rock, a sibling, a pet or an invisible friend will do.
Besides its developmental importance, play also reflects cultural values and historical significance, says Autry Curator Carolyn Brucken. “This exhibition is not just a history of toy innovation in the West — although we have… the skateboard, Mattel’s Barbie and others — but rather how play has connected humans to each other and continues to do so.”
The whimsical exhibit for all ages is a welcome addition to the Autry’s schedule of exhibitions, which often examine heavier topics like the Standing Rock protests, the focus of a concurrent show of art and objects through Feb. 18, 2018. Play! sprang from the 2015 closing of the Autry’s Family Discovery Center, which necessitated a new strategy to facilitate families’ interactions with the museum’s diverse collections, says Brucken.
Visitors entering the exhibition step into a darkened room where a passage from Shel Silverstein’s poem “Invitation” sets the tone:
If you are a dreamer, come in
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer…
If you’re a pretender, come sit by my fire
For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.
Come in!
Come in!
The exhibition is thematically divided into four sections, and the charming cacophony of item mash-ups, interactive displays and play areas can be overwhelming. Adult visitors may miss some of the details, especially if they are chasing after youngsters eager to explore. Carlos suggests both young and old try to step inside the shoes of the child who interacted with whatever toy they’re observing. “Engage in a little pretend play,” she says. “Think about and ask, what do you suppose they were doing with this toy? How do you think they played with it? How did they talk about this toy? How would you play with it?”
When parents discover a favorite toy from their past, their delight can spill over onto their incredulous children (“Mom was once a kid?!” “Dad played with toys?”) and also connect them to contemporaries who shared the same toy joy. Forget bonding over sports teams — sharing Hot Wheels glory stories or what you baked in your Suzy Homemaker oven are the ultimate ice-breakers.
Of course, not all toys from the recent past are in the exhibition. “A lot of things simply didn’t make it,” Brucken says, noting that some adults were distraught that their favorite toys were not represented. “There was so much to consider and there were hard decisions to make.”
Before they exit, guests are encouraged to write down their thoughts on how play will evolve 10 and 100 years from now. Collecting these written ideas has been enlightening, says Brucken, rattling off a few typical entries: “We’ll be playing with aliens,” “There will be real-live super heroes” and “Everything will be electronic.” “I think my favorite one has been ‘There will still be balls and sticks,’” she says. “You can’t get any more universal than playing with a ball and stick.”
Play! runs through until Jan. 7, 2018, at the Autry Museum of the American West, 4700 Western Heritage Way, Griffith Park. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Admission costs $14, $10 for seniors (60+) and students and $6 for children 3 to 12; members and children under 3 are admitted free. Call (323) 667-2000 or visit theautry.org.

Experts’ strategies for picking the right Arroyoland school for your child

After half a dozen years of floating in calm parental waters, I’m once again paddling into the whitewater. My kid and his friends will soon emerge from the cozy chrysalis that is their elementary school and wing it at new schools — middle schools. Their families face a Pasadena Problem — actually, a souped-up First World Problem: Which of the area’s decent-to-excellent public (local, charter, magnet) or private (including independent, with no outside overseers) schools will be best for their child?
I concede that worrying over this decision is making mountains out of mud pies. At least that’s what Morgan Polikoff, associate professor of education policy at the USC Rossier School of Education, believes. “For the vast majority of upper-middle-/upper-income individuals, I honestly don’t know that it matters too much at the margin which school you chose, especially in an elementary school,” he says. He notes that affluent kids have advantages — educated parents, enrichment opportunities, tutors — that mean they’re likely to fare well in all but the worst schools.
Point taken. But parents still have decisions to make. And while no school could transform a young Billy Bush into an Elon Musk, Arroyoland schools do vary in their values, approaches and offerings. So here’s some of the expert advice I’ve gleaned:
Children spend so much time at school that finding a place they’ll enjoy is paramount, according to Terra Toscano, Head of Walden School in Pasadena. “You want them to love learning,” she says. She recommends observing the students at a prospective campus. “Are they happy? You can tell.” (Disclosure: My child attends this independent school.)
“When you walk onto a campus, make sure you feel comfortable and take the name [prestige/reputation] out of the equation,” says Elizabeth Jones, president of the Institute for Educational Advancement, a Pasadena-based support group for gifted children. “It’s about fit,” finding what’s right for your child, she says.
Hold on, I’ve got you touring schools already. Let’s back up a bit. First you need to figure out which schools to visit.
GreatSchools.org allows you to map schools in your area. It also offers data on public schools. But you’ll need context, so be sure to read the “parent tips” on each school’s webpage. (Don’t make too much of the star ratings and reviews; like many online reviews, they’re probably not a representative sampling, but rather the thoughts of people who are excited or irritated enough to log in and comment.)
You can also find public school achievement scores on the California Department of Education’s School Dashboard (CASchoolDashboard.org). The numbers can be misleading, however. “If you’re looking at the percentage of kids who are reading at grade level, that is really not a measure of how good the school is,” says Polikoff. “Those are really measures of who is enrolled in the school and how affluent the school is.” He says more important are growth numbers — the improvement in student achievement from year to year. “That’s a measure of how schools are actually contributing to your kid’s knowledge,” he says. California’s data on that isn’t robust, but it’s available under the “status and change report” tab.
The Great Schools website also maps private schools, but the information provided isn’t as useful as the schools’ own websites, which you can find through the
California Association of Independent Schools. It lists and maps member schools on its website, including many of the area’s private schools.
Of course, the prestigious ones are expensive — around $20,000 a year for elementary school — but paying less might not buy you an advantage. “I don’t think there’s a huge difference between a good comprehensive public school and a second- or third-tier private school,” says Polikoff.
It’s hard to compare public and independent schools because the privates are so good at marketing. “It’s worth going that extra step to find out about your public schools,” says Tracy Hoffman, lower-school science teacher at Westridge School for Girls, a Pasadena independent school. Hoffman sent all three of her sons to San Gabriel city public schools. “With my own children it worked out to where the private schools didn’t offer enough return on investment,” she says. While her kids thrived in public school, some of their friends didn’t. “They needed a different sort of environment [and] a smaller environment.”
Many public schools don’t offer tours, so Hoffman recommends turning up on campus at the end of the school day. Or see if you can attend an open house. “Do talk to the kids,” she advises. “Ask them really open-ended questions and see what they have to say — see if it’s something you would like to hear your child say.”
Once you are ready to tour schools, here are some more pointers. Toscano says all private schools will tell you about their mission. “But what you should be looking for when you walk around is evidence — evidence that it’s not just being sold to you.” If the administration says it values diversity, do you see it? If the school touts its arts programs, do the projects look creative or are they all the same? Pay attention to interactions that aren’t scripted.
Jones advises drilling down on how flexible the school is. Ask if a child is able to move on to new concepts when he/she has demonstrated mastery, and how they would facilitate that. “It’s really asking about the pace of learning, the depth of learning,” she says. And don’t be afraid to ask how they accommodate children who are struggling with a subject.
Also, says Jones, notice how the children relate to each other and the teachers: “Is there respect there — not fear but real respect?”
Progressive schools give children more say in their education and orient them toward making a difference in the world. If that appeals to you, consider Walden (pre-kindergarten through grade six), Sequoyah (K through eight) and Waverly (K through 12). All three are in Pasadena.
When my compadre Colleen Scott Pomerantz was evaluating elementary schools, her primary criteria were a “very nurturing, caring, safe environment.” Now that she’s touring middle schools, she’s paying more attention to the academics. “I want to make sure it’s the right fit for who he currently is,” she says, “but [also] who he’s going to be when he’s a teenager.”
Evaluating curricula is tricky if you’re not an educator. (If you’re gung-ho anyway, look at EdReports.org.) More important than which curriculum is used, says Polikoff, is how well it’s implemented. “Does the district support the teachers with professional development?” he asks. “Is there a coach in the subject to help teachers?”
Pomerantz’s son has requested a school where he won’t be among the youngest. Apparently, his ideas about middle school come from middle-grade books. “He’s convinced it’s going to be bullies and lockers and all this unfamiliar territory,” she says. The kid is onto something: Research suggests middle-graders fare better when there are younger kids around. Otherwise, says Polikoff, “in that transition year, the sixth graders now become the weakest link.”
By high school, you’ve probably got a better handle on the kind of student you’re raising. Private schools put more resources into college counseling, but the elite ones can be pressure cookers. And, as Hoffman points out, there are many excellent colleges that admit students from a range of schools.
She advises parents to ease up. “Let your child choose their path a little bit with what their passions are,” she says. “They don’t have to do everything. If they do a few things that they truly enjoy, their education will be phenomenal.”
Alexa, do any schools offer AP Pokémon?

Soup and Tea and Revolution

As predicted, President Donald Trump’s travel ban is back on thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court, albeit this time in a modified version. So now the White House is hating on only some Muslims. Those with a bona fide” tie to the United States are cool — translation: we like you if you can help us or pay us.
So it’s time once again to explore the culinary wonders of these countries. This time, we travel to Libya, which was once the wealthiest, most stable country in Africa. Its Mediterranean coastline and strategic location next to Egypt have made Libya irresistible to outsiders, who controlled it from the Bronze Age to independence in 1951. In between, it was ruled by the Phoenicians, Egyptians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Vandals, Arabs, Spanish, Ottoman Turks and, in the early 20th century, Italy.
As is the case with many African nations, Libyan cuisine is influenced by all of these occupying cultures. There is an especially strong Italian influence, including the use of pasta, because at one point nearly 20 percent of the population was Italian settlers.
There are several distinct regional cuisines — Shargawi (eastern Libyan), Gharbawi (western Libyan), Amazigi (food of Berber mountain tribes), southern Libyan cuisine and cuisine imported from the Arab world. Couscous, which is popular throughout North Africa, is the national dish here, and tagines (stews, slowly cooked in a cone-shaped earthenware pot) are popular too. And although the long coastline provides an abundance of fish, lamb and chicken remain the most popular proteins.
Ancient foods are still enjoyed, with olive oil, dates, grains and milk — all ancient foods that have sustained Berber tribes since prehistory — still the most important ingredients. Bazin (or bazeen) is an ancient bread similar to Sudanese jelly bread. Water, barley flour and salt are boiled, then beaten with a special stick (magraf) to activate the gluten. The dough is set aside to harden, then steamed or baked into a hard paste and served like an island in the middle of a tomatoey stew.
Asida is a similar dumpling, served with ghee, honey and a thick date syrup called rub. Another Berber dish, bsisa, is made from a mixture of toasted grains ground with fenugreek, anise, cumin and sugar, which is then reconstituted with milk or water, then eaten with dates and figs. All of these easily transportable foods make perfect sense in a nomadic, pastoral culture. The Tuareg, a Saharan Berber tribe known as “the blue people” because of the indigo-dyed clothing that stains their skin, use the hot sand to cook their foods. Simple breads, whole eggs and potatoes are buried after first heating the sand with fire.
Since Libya is a Muslim nation, Ramadan is the season for many of the country’s favorite dishes. Soup is the preferred dish throughout the monthlong holiday, with each region having special variations made with lamb, chicken or fish. Harissa — which simply means paste — is different throughout North Africa, but in Libya it is a spicy red chile condiment served with everything from tagines to tuna sandwiches. Herby salads with grilled or pickled vegetables and fruits are common accompaniments, and you find myriad variations made with cucumber, tomato, yogurt, carrots and local sour apples.
Teatime is an important daily ritual throughout Libya. Family and friends gather to eat small pastries and sip unusually thick black tea served in three specific courses. The tea is boiled for 10 to 15 minutes, then sweetened and boiled again before being poured back and forth between two mugs at a great height to create a foaming head, and then served in tiny glasses. A second round is served, sometimes with added mint, and in the third round, glasses are filled with peanuts or almonds before being topped with tea.
There are restaurants throughout Libya, but they are frequented mainly by tourists. In general, most Libyans eat at home, seated on cushions at low tables. Much of the cuisine is eaten by hand or with bread. Spoons and forks are relatively recent additions to the table, the former having been introduced by the Ottomans, the latter by Italians.
Though foreign influence is strong in Libya’s cuisine, there has always been an indigenous resistance movement against occupiers. The Libyans remained colonized until after Italy dragged the region into World War II in support of its German allies. Their defeat left the region in Allied control, and in 1947 Italy gave up all claims.
The United Kingdom of Libya declared independence in 1951, ruled by the country’s only monarch, King Idris I. (Gotta like the optimism of naming yourself “the First.”) In 1959 substantial oil reserves were discovered, and one of the poorest countries in the world suddenly became incredibly wealthy. But instead of using the money to build Libya’s economy, King Idris’ government was riddled with corruption scandals, and that led to the 1969 coup staged by the Libyan Revolutionary Command Council under the leadership of — ta-da! — Muammar Gaddafi.
Gaddafi established the Libyan Arab Republic, directing government funds to public programs like free education and free health care. The country’s per capita income rose to one of the highest in Africa, which sounds pretty good — except the wealth was again concentrated among the ruling elite. Gaddafi’s support of rebel movements and terrorist groups, invasions of neighboring countries and strained relations with Western nations (including the furor over the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland) fueled opposition, leading to United Nations sanctions, which were eventually lifted. Meanwhile, the regime imposed medieval Islamic purification laws and campaigns of violence against dissidents, dubbed “the Green Terror,” resulting in mass incarcerations, assassinations (even overseas) and the world’s most censored press. These erratic policies and the neighboring uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt (part of the Arab Spring) fueled a civil war, and in 2011 the anti-Gaddafi National Transitional Council — backed by NATO forces — overthrew Gaddafi’s government and liberated Libya.
Unfortunately, four decades of autocratic rule had left no governmental infrastructure, providing a perfect nest for Islamic extremism. Now, multiple factions are fighting for control. Making matters worse, Libya is on the central migration route for African refugees heading to Europe, and therefore a prime target for human trafficking. In all respects, Libya is now a completely failed state.
But Libyans in the diaspora continue to celebrate their heritage and hold out hope of returning to what was once a beautiful nation. There are relatively few Libyan communities in the U.S., but a substantial community exists in the U.K. Unfortunately, its largest community, in Manchester, has long been a worrisome hotbed of extremist recruitment specifically targeting those of Libyan descent. Those fears were realized at the recent Ariana Grande concert. It’s a tragic culmination of centuries of tragic events. And it leaves me, as do most of the tales of these travel ban countries, feeling hopeless and helpless. My best defense is to learn as much as I can about these cultures and celebrate them in my kitchen. It does the victims of these atrocities little good, I know. But recognizing the humanity in these regions is all I’ve got. Follow me, won’t you, into the kitchen, and cook up some compassion.


Lamb Stew with Pumpkin and Chickpeas

Soups and stews are beloved elements of Libyan cuisine, and this one is particularly mouthwatering. It calls for shaiba, which is a dried lichen, also known as dagad phool in Indian cuisine. You can leave it out, but it’s readily available on the Internet, and if you’re up for a field trip, you can find it in Indian markets.


Ingredients

¼ cup olive oil

1 large yellow onion, diced

10 whole cloves

5 bay leaves

3 cinnamon sticks

1-inch ginger root, grated

3 to 4 shaiba leaves

1 pound cubed lamb meat

28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

1 pound fresh pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled and cubed to 2 inches

15-ounce can chickpeas, drained

1 cup golden raisins

Sea salt to taste


Method

1. In a large Dutch oven or stewpot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, spices and lamb, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft. Add tomato and water as needed to cover, and bring to a boil. At the boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook on low heat for 1 hour.

2. Remove lid, add pumpkin, chickpeas and raisins, and simmer another 30 minutes, until pumpkin is tender. Season with salt to taste, and serve. (You may prefer to fish out the bay leaves, cinnamon sticks and shaiba — I prefer to eat around them.)


Magroodh (Date-Filled Semolina Cookie)

Libyans love their sweets, and this cookie is a particular favorite.  Serve it at teatime to good, thoughtful, compassionate friends.


Ingredients  (For the dough)

3 cups semolina

1 cup all-purpose flour

1½ teaspoons baking powder

1 cup vegetable oil

1 tablespoon orange-flower or rose water

1 to 2 cups warm water


Ingredients  (For the filling)

1½ pounds date paste (store-bought or homemade by pulverizing pitted dates in a food processor)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 teaspoons nutmeg

½ cup sesame seeds, toasted

Olive oil as needed


Ingredients  (For the syrup)

2 cups sugar

2 cups water

Zest and juice of 1 large lemon

3 tablespoons orange-flower or rose water

2 tablespoons honey


Method

1. Mix together semolina, flour, baking powder and oil, then cover and set aside for 1 hour. 

2. Meanwhile, make the filling. Mix together date paste, spices and sesame seeds, adding oil a little at a time as needed to create a smooth mixture that holds its shape. Divide the paste into four equal portions and roll each into a log about 1-inch in diameter.

3. Add to the semolina dough the flower water and enough water to create a firm dough that holds its shape. Divide this dough into four equal portions and roll each into a log the same length as the date logs. 

4. Preheat oven to 400°. Press in a lengthwise trench down the center of each dough log, and nestle a date log into it. Press and mold the dough around the date log until it is completely concealed. Slice inch-thick cookies off the logs at an angle, and place them on a cookie sheet. Bake until lightly golden, about 10 to 15 minutes. 

5. Meanwhile, make the syrup. Combine all syrup ingredients in a large saucepan, bring to a boil, then remove from the heat and cool.

6. Drizzle syrup over the baked cookies, a little at a time, letting it soak in slowly. Sprinkle with more toasted sesame seeds before serving with foaming tea or Arabic coffee.


Leslie Bilderback is a certified master baker, chef and cookbook author. She lives in South Pasadena and teaches her techniques online at culinarymasterclass.com.

Kids’ yoga is fast gaining favor with parents and teachers as a tool to build inner strength and peace.

Is yoga right for your child? Or would it just be another item in an already overbooked schedule?
If you’re like many Arroyoland parents, you’re already giving your children the best of everything. Whether toddlers or teens, they enjoy every tech tool and toy that might be beneficial or fun. Their schedules are crammed with sports, art, music, dance and any activity they show interest in. Their caring parents take time to impart seeds of wisdom to help them conquer life’s inevitable stresses.
And yet, there are areas of a child’s perception that no parent, coach, tutor or teacher can penetrate. That’s because all the above-mentioned advantages occur outside the child, and many experts in education and mental health say that in this age of boundless stimulation and overbooked activity, kids need to cultivate their inner selves.
That’s where yoga comes in.
Advocates say yoga teaches children the connection between body and mind, so they can learn techniques to quiet their minds, make their bodies more flexible and alleviate stress from social or school pressures. Yoga teaches them to focus, be mindful and present in the moment, so they can stop worrying, relax, use better judgement, get along better with others and get better grades.
“Just because children have access to many special activities, and to constant digital and intellectual stimulation, does not mean they know how to pause, how to make better choices in the moment, how to connect with others in positive ways,” says Kelly Wood, a Pasadena-based children’s yoga expert. “They can say the right thing, but can they do the right thing? Not when they’re speeding ahead, always thinking what’s next, what’s next?” adds Wood, who is certified to teach in both the Pasadena and L.A. school districts and has taught more than 200,000 children over the past 20 years. Not long ago, she was teaching 1,000 students per week, she says. She’s had to cut back to about 700 students because she’s so busy teaching public school teachers to lead yoga sessions in their own classrooms.
Using a secular and science-based approach, Wood says her method instills “constructive self-reliance, and that’s one of the most important skills we can give a child. Yoga helps them to pay attention, self-regulate their emotions, build confidence in body and mind and to help others,” she says. It’s all about having a calm brain, calm body and calm heart, she explains. “You can tell a child about the benefits of those things, and he or she may pick it up intellectually. But the practice of yoga actually gives them the tools to achieve those goals.”
Yoga for children is different from yoga for adults. Although the core basics of breathing, movement and meditation are the same, children’s classes are specifically geared to young minds and bodies. Break times are more frequent and they’re child-centric, often enhanced with art, music or storytelling activities. Of course, kids have much shorter attention spans and freer imaginations than adults, so children’s yoga teachers may change the original names of postures to animal and nature names students are familiar with. They can easily imagine themselves as roaring lions, slithering snakes, fluttering butterflies or strong tree trunks rooted deep in earth. They can surf their mats in the dolphin pose, be flowers, puppies or kittens. Doing this together in groups is fun and builds an awareness that all bodies and abilities are different, and all are okay.
“Yoga for children inspires their imaginations to learn about nature and their environment,” Sherry LeBlanc, director of Yoga 4 Kids in Ontario, Canada, writes in Toronto-based Vitality magazine. “Balloon breaths, buzzing bees, panting dogs and hooting owls all prepare a child for breathing techniques used in yoga. [They] help children develop concentration, memory and the ability to integrate abstract ideas.” Experts say yoga classes designed and taught for children only are more effective than adult classes. In mixed classes, children do get special attention, but regular instruction isn’t tailored to young bodies and minds.
Local expert Wood runs a nonprofit called SCHOOL (Smiling Calm Hearts Open Our Learning). Her special area of interest is children in grades K to 6, she says, adding that achieving a calm heart will carry them through to a more fulfilled life. “In yoga practice, there is a strong connection between breathing and heart rate,” Wood says. “Learning how to breathe in a steady way impacts the heart rate so it’s more steady, and the heart influences the brain and all internal organs,” she says. “So when we talk about heart, they are learning the importance of having a calm heart, which opens up better perceptions so they can listen better, focus better, relate better to others and themselves in a more gentle way.” (Wood produced a Hi Yoga! DVD for children and parents that’s available for $9.99 at kellywoodyoga.com.)
Many experts around the country agree. Secular yoga is now integrated into thousands of private and public school curricula around the U.S. Numerous studies have found that children’s yoga promotes improved confidence, mindfulness, concentration, academic achievement and the ability to control emotions and impulses. The practice reduces children’s stress and improves classroom behavior. And yoga postures for children connect them with their physical selves and lend a kind of flexibility that fielding a soccer ball or wielding a baseball bat cannot achieve. (That’s why many of today’s top sports teams employ yoga experts to help players perform better.)
A 2016 survey by the National Institutes of Health on school-based yoga programs taught by 5,400 instructors in 940 schools nationwide found that the mind-body elements of yoga — physical postures, breathing exercises, relaxation techniques and mindfulness and meditation exercises — “promote students’ mental and physical health and performance” and that some recent research shows “these practices induce changes in brain structure and function which can enhance skills, such as self-regulation and prosocial behavior.”
Sela Sevada, a certified yoga teacher at Yoga on Brand (yogaonbrand.com) in Glendale, says her school attracts “kids 4 to 14, teaching flexibility and techniques to calm the mind and body through breathing control. Kids aren’t aware that they can’t focus and live in a world of distractions. They never have time to stop — but yoga teaches them how. It’s noncompetitive. It’s not about being perfect or doing anything perfectly. It’s just about learning what our bodies can do for us in so many ways.”
Santa Anita Hot Yoga teacher Nicole Schulman says her own 2½-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son are budding yogis. “They both come to class, because the owner, Kayla Stra, asked me to bring them. What’s surprising is that my 2½-year-old enjoys doing some of the poses. Kayla tells the class to do the mountain pose — stand as tall as you can, bend one leg and put the foot of that bent leg on the thigh of your straight leg. My little daughter does that.”
Curative Yoga (yogakingdom.com) in Pasadena has an instructor specifically certified in children’s yoga. “Children have great imaginations, and we can tell them to do a mouse pose or a tree pose [standing on one leg] and they can do that,” says Alicia Webb, who teaches a class for kids 4 to 10 at 10 a.m. Sundays. “We can provide them with a sense of control over their bodies and minds that they might never experience otherwise. They might decide to sit down, take a deep breath, visualize themselves inside of a little bubble, and let go of any emotions they have that they don’t like, such as anger, sadness or feeling overwhelmed.”
Yoga can also be helpful to children with physical and developmental disabilities, says Kimi Cantrell, cofounder of Rose City Yoga (rosecityyogapasadena.com). She and her business partner, Melanie Colbrunn, volunteer once a month at Pasadena’s Club 21 Learning and Resource Center, teaching yoga to children with Down syndrome.
“Teaching kids is so different than teaching grown-ups,” says Cantrell. “They aren’t judgmental, don’t have unreal expectations. They’re just present in the moment, they give it a shot, have fun and pretty soon they’re very focused. As kids we’re never taught how to breathe. We do it naturally, take it for granted, but there are so many breathing techniques that can help us deal with anxiety, stress or emotions like sadness. If we could reach all kids earlier, they’d have so much more ability to cope with the world as they grow up.”

A summer Art Center College of Design show celebrates this month’s Great American Eclipse.

On Aug. 21, millions will trek from near and far to view the awe-inspiring phenomenon in which the daytime sky darkens, the temperature drops, birds and animals go silent and the sun disappears. Then, for mere moments, the sun’s corona becomes viewable, spewing magnificently brilliant plumes, loops and streamers into the surrounding darkness.
During the so-called Great American Eclipse, the path of totality — where the moon blocks the entire sun from earth’s view — will sweep across America in a 70-mile-wide stretch from South Carolina to Oregon, the first coast-to-coast total eclipse in 99 years. It’s the inspiration for Eclipse, a summer Art Center College of Design exhibition of artworks inspired by what many have called the most dramatic event visible on earth — the total solar eclipse.
While California families won’t be able to see the total eclipse from home — on the West Coast, it won’t be visible south or north of Oregon — the partial eclipse visible here still qualifies as one of the top family draws of summer. (Hardcore total eclipse lovers can watch it live at nasa.gov/eclipselive.) Families can enhance the experience by pairing it with a visit to Eclipse, which runs through Sept. 10 at the Alyce de Roulet Williamson Gallery. The show, two years in the making, places eclipses in historical and cultural contexts and demonstrates their kaleidoscope of connections with the human mind.
Eclipse was co-curated by renowned astronomer Jay M. Pasachoff and Stephen Nowlin, Art Center vice president and founding director of the Williamson Gallery, who has focused his career on the intersection of art and science. Nowlin says the show spotlights ways eclipses have inspired great creative forces that spur both artists and scientists to investigate the mysteries of the universe in their work. “It’s nothing technical, like people would see if they were going to a science museum exhibit with a solar eclipse theme,” says Nowlin.
Indeed, Pasachoff has found the study of solar eclipses so essential he has traversed the globe to view 65 events, 33 of them total. That may sound like a lot, and it is, but eclipses are more common than you might think: A total eclipse is visible somewhere on earth about every 18 months, and totality generally lasts only two to five minutes. (This month, it will last two minutes and 40 seconds.)
The time is precious to scientists, because it affords them only moments to study and collect data on the sun’s atmosphere (a.k.a. corona). Such studies are crucial “because they help us to understand the universe, the laws of motion, the laws of how gases work” and the very nature of space and time. That hunger for knowledge stretches back to the beginning of human history, when earth’s inhabitants thought an eclipse signaled doom, with evil spirits trying to “eat” the sun and leave them in darkness. In later times, preachers assigned religious significance to the event. As science evolved, eclipses became tools to help understand the cosmos and earth’s place in it.
Pasachoff, a visitor in Planetary Science at Caltech and chair of the Williams College Astronomy Department, is a top science educator. He has written many books on astronomy and physics, including student textbooks and teacher guides, and has received the Education Prize of the American Astronomical Society, among many other honors. But Eclipse isn’t designed as science education, per se, Pasachoff says. “It’s art, and it’s for people to enjoy.”
He conceived the idea for the show “because I knew of three oil paintings that were made starting 99 years ago, the last time a solar eclipse path came across the whole United States from coast to coast.” He recruited co-curator Nowlin, who “had the brilliant idea of inviting Tony Misch of the Lick Observatory [Historical Collections] in Northern California to provide artifacts from their eclipse expeditions of over 100 years ago,” as well as other “very bright ideas about installations for the show. The whole thing has come together as a very beautiful and interesting exhibition.”
The exhibition includes an eclectic mix of vintage and contemporary paintings, sculpture, immersive installations, videos loaned by NASA, historic artifacts and documents, all created or inspired by eclipses, says Nowlin. He says one darkened space has projected images of “the three great actors — sun, earth and moon, each on its own separate wall, each moving slowly. It’s a video captured by spacecraft and provided to me by NASA sources. It gives a sense of the scale of forces that work together to create an eclipse, and it’s pretty spectacular.”
Another room offers a floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall artwork, titled Eclipse, by Art Center core faculty member Lita Albuquerque, whose work deals with the realities of time and space. The installation is an 11-minute video with narration, Nowlin says, and it “approaches the solar eclipse symbolically through some of her experiences as a child and as an adult who observes natural phenomena.”
A different area is devoted to pages from rare 17th-century books and other documents Nowlin discovered in the Huntington Library. “I had them scanned and and blew them up large and put them on display. They all relate to a solar eclipse that crossed London in 1652 and caused a sensation and debate about whether the eclipse was a predictor of horrible plagues and other dire events or whether it symbolized religious significance.”
The three historic oil paintings that gave Pasachoff the idea for the show are also on view. They’re all by Howard Russell Butler, a Princeton graduate, lawyer and artist who was asked by the U.S. Naval Observatory to join its 1918 total solar eclipse expedition. “Cameras at that time couldn’t capture the extraordinary brightness and colors of an eclipse, and Butler was known as someone who could briefly sketch what he was seeing in those very few moments of totality and then transfer it onto an oil painting at his leisure,” Pasachoff says. Butler went on to view two more eclipses, and his accuracy depicting the events has been praised by astronomers.
Pasachoff will view this month’s eclipse from Oregon, along with his sophisticated equipment, his colleagues and eight students he’s selected to join him. He has support for the junket from NASA, the National Geographic Society and the National Science Foundation. His last eclipse trip was to Indonesia in March, and previous journeys took him to India, South Africa, Australia, New Guinea, Hawaii, Finland and dozens of other far-flung and often isolated destinations. Asked about the burden of traveling so far and so often to conduct scientific studies of an event so brief, he says, “It’s the only chance we ever have to see a whole major region of the sun in high detail. But you only get a minute or two minutes or five minutes every year and a half. So it’s like telling a heart surgeon that if you want to study the human heart you have to go halfway around the world for about two minutes, and you can’t do it again for another year and a half. Would that person do it? Of course he or she would. And they’d take as many instruments and as many colleagues as possible with them.”

Eclipse runs through Sept. 10 at the Alyce de Roulet Williamson Gallery at Art Center College of Design, 1700 Lida St., Pasadena. Hours are noon to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday and Saturday, and noon to 9 p.m. Friday. Admission is free.

Arroyo Cocktail of the Month – The Orange Grove

The Raymond 1886 has long been one of Pasadena’s most beloved restaurants (but not for 130 years — 1886 actually marked the opening of the former Raymond Hotel). The restaurant’s Bar 1886 is dark and moody, illuminated mainly by the bar’s soft amber backlight. Inside, there are two small communal tables, four two-tops, original hardwood floors and brown pressed-tin ceilings, and there’s also outdoor seating: two outdoor patios with fireplaces and Edison lights twinkling against the night sky. Bar 1886 was established only in 2010 — 38 years after the restaurant — to focus on high-end spirits and craft cocktails. It offers monthly spirits-paired dinners as well. New cocktails appear twice annually: for spring-summer and fall-winter. Not listed on the menu but a longtime staple is The Orange Grove — a simple but effective drink with a nod to Arroyoland’s agricultural heritage. “This is a sit-out-on-the-patio-and-eat-brunch kind of cocktail,” says bartender Casey Levantal. It’s cool and clean, with the acidity of the citrus mitigated by the gin. The addition of tonic water provides a subtle effervescence. Indeed, this drinks so easily you might forget it’s a cocktail. Levantal suggests pairing it with something hearty like The Raymond’s Veracruz steak salad or pork belly tacos.


The Orange Grove


Ingredients

2 ounces London dry gin

½ ounce lime juice

½ ounce simple syrup

2 to 4 orange wedges

Splash of tonic water


Method

Using a muddler, smash orange slices with lime juice and simple syrup. Shake and pour mixture into glass with crushed ice. Add gin, top with tonic floater (without mixing) and serve.

Here are five of Arroyoland’s best and oldest restaurants, which you may have overlooked — but shouldn’t.

For as long as humans have roamed the earth, they have experienced hunger. So where in Arroyoland have humans been dining the longest? We canvased the region to find some of the best of the oldest.

We all love to eat, especially at familiar places. But a restaurant with deep roots here may still not be familiar to you. So take another look at these five stalwarts, which have withstood the test of time with favorite familiar foods in a high-turnover business. After all, it’s no accident they’re still standing strong despite many passing seasons.

Mijares
D.O.B. 1920

In 1920, Pasadena’s population was just over 45,000 people, and there were few places to eat. That year, a small tortilla shop with Mexican food — including handmade tortillas — opened its doors. Mijares was born across from present-day Huntington Hospital at Pico Street and Fair Oaks Boulevard, operated from the home of Jesucita Mijares. It was so popular by 1940 that she was able to borrow $8,000 from a local doctor and a car dealer to purchase a one-acre parcel on Palmetto Drive, its present location. And now, 97 years after it opened, Mijares is a sprawling complex with multiple outdoor patios and interior dining rooms as well as a second location on Washington Boulevard. Reminiscent of a hacienda with tiled floors, thatched overhangs and adobe-looking walls, the Pasadena locale could well be mistaken for a pueblo. Historic photos and images dot the interior walls inside, and you can’t miss the images of Jesucita, who passed in 1988.

R-Lene Mijares De Lang is the third-generation proprietor of this family-owned eatery started by Jesucita, whom she calls the “tortilla matriarch.” “We still cook the way my grandmother loved to cook,” she says. Mijares draws crowds for the family’s famous margaritas and light tamales (no lard), fajitas, ceviche and volcanic-stoneground red sauce using chiles from New Mexico. Families keep coming back for seconds, generation after generation, especially for Mijares’ wildly popular Champagne Sunday brunch.

145 Palmetto Dr., Pasadena

(626) 792-2763 / mijaresrestaurant.com

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday; 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. (brunch 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.) Sunday

1806 E. Washington Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 794-6674

Hours: 10 a.m. to 8:45 p.m., Sunday through Thursday; 10 a.m. to 9:45 p.m., Friday and Saturday

Russell’s Café
D.O.B. 1930

Los Angeles Airport (LAX’s precursor, known as Mines Field) began operating in 1930, the same year Russell’s opened in Old Pasadena. Russell’s turned into a chain with eight locations in the Southland, but ultimately almost all failed, with the notable exception of the original Pasadena venue — currently ranked Pasadena’s third-best restaurant on tripadvisor.com. While it serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, owner Frank Gale says Russell’s is renowned for its breakfasts, which are served until 4 p.m. Gale, who started at Russell’s in 1992 as a server and ended up buying it in 2014, is proud of the diner’s upscale ambience. “There are a lot of little touches and attention to detail,” he says. Chandeliers hang above each table and reproductions of famous works of art adorn the walls. The black-clad waitstaff — some there for 20 years — scurries about efficiently, yet almost unnoticed. Gale notes that a lot of his current regulars “weren’t even born yet” when their parents started the tradition of coming here. Grab a seat at the sparkly red fabric barstools facing the open kitchen or sequester yourself in a wood-toned booth. “We serve basic comfort food,” Gale says, “and it’s all about quality.” Russell’s Belgian waffles, American omelets, croque-monsieurs and croque-mesdames and blood-orange mimosas are the standouts that keep the crowds coming back for more.

One Colorado, 30 N. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena

(626) 578-1404

Hours: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday through Saturday

Damon’s Glendale Steakhouse
D.O.B. 1937

The Great Ziegfield, a biopic about the theater producer renowned for his lavish theatrical revues, won the Best Picture Oscar in 1937 (the Academy Awards were just nine years old at the time). That year Damon’s opened as a straight-and-narrow steakhouse, but at the end of World War II, it morphed into its own kind of lavish production — a Tiki-themed restaurant catering to GIs returning home from the Pacific. These days the under-the-radar steakhouse is best known for filet mignon, tenderloin and Mai Tai Mondays. No need to get dressed up; just show up and get lost in the tropical vibe. There’s a mix of booths, some beneath makeshift lean-tos, and freestanding tables with plenty of rattan chairs, a canoe hanging from the ceiling, plastic palm fronds dangling off support pillars and wall murals depicting ocean scenes and long-forgotten island people. Yes, you do feel like you’re in some jungle paradise (the fish tank helps).

How have they survived so long? “It’s a three-legged stool,” says current owner Kevin Berresford. “Value, quality and consistency, that’s how we’ve maintained our appeal.” Of course, the Tiki décor is also part of that appeal, but beyond that, “our servers are old school,” with decades at Damon’s under their belts. That’s reassuring to regulars, as is Damon’s continuing reputation as a top-notch steakhouse.

317 N. Brand Ave., Glendale

(818) 507-1510 / damonsglendale.com

Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 a.m., Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday

Twohey’s Restaurant
D.O.B. 1943

In March, 1943, the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Oklahoma opened in New York to great fanfare and went on to run for 14 months. On the other side of the country, Twohey’s Restaurant opened its doors in Alhambra the same month. Naturally it debuted to less fanfare, but the place is still running strong.

How did Twohey’s stand out, surfing a sea of changes, for three quarters of a century? “You’ve got to be a great operator,” says co-owner Jim Christos. “That means great service, great food.” Tweaking menus to keep up with evolving tastes helps too, leading Twohey’s to expand into seafood dishes like sand dabs and lobster rolls, since it’s “near and dear” to Christos’ New England heritage. “The neighborhood has changed, Alhambra has changed, but a great institution like us, well, we change too.” But some things never change — Twohey’s menu still touts its Original Stinko Burger, so named because the eatery pioneered topping it with aromatic raw onions and pickles, something commonplace today.

With its iconic ridged roof, the place looks more like a bowling alley than a restaurant. But the interior is all retro diner with simple clean lines. “Our cornerstones are the curry clam chowder, onion rings, burgers and hot fudge sundaes,” says Christos. Twohey’s also keeps it interesting with seasonal items. But regulars typically return for the familiar faces of the loyal waitstaff, some still there after 30 years. With no major advertising, the business is driven by word of mouth — that and its strategy of keeping tempo with the times.

1224 N. Atlantic Blvd., Alhambra

(626) 284-7387 / twoheys.com

Hours: 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sunday through Thursday; 7 a.m. to midnight, Friday and Saturday

Cindy’s
D.O.B. 1948

The 1948 Rose Bowl saw a humiliating loss by USC to Michigan, 0-49. Loss could also have undone Cindy’s diner had it not been for chef-owners Paul Rosenbluh and wife Monique King, who raised money to preserve Cindy’s cool Googie sign in 2014. “Cindy’s heyday was long past and it needed a lot of love,” Rosenbluh says. In 2015, shortly after the couple took over, a car crashed into the restaurant at 1:30 a.m., when no one was there. Rebuilding offered the opportunity to redefine the eatery, but the chefs had no desire to rebrand Cindy’s as something hip and trendy; they wanted to upgrade the food while honoring the spirit of the place.

Still a diner in the best sense of the word, the new iteration is a scratch kitchen with everything made inhouse. Rosenbluh and King come with loads of restaurant experience, having run the kitchen of Firefly Bistro in South Pasadena. A completely new interior with a definite retro look and feel, not to mention a music video shot here by Justin Timberlake, helped relaunch Cindy’s. Bright orange booths and counter stools pop against the green wall facing the kitchen. The best eats? Shrimp and grits, brisket hash with black-eye peas from the smoker out back and housemade veggie burgers. The place is comfortable and casual, not pretending to be anything other than it is. “You won’t find another one,” Rosenbluh says.

1500 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock

(323) 257-7375 / cindyseaglerock.com

Hours: 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday; 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday and Sunday;

7 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday.

Is the Arroyo Seco’s Devil’s Gate the seventh portal to hell?

Devil’s Gate is an Arroyo Seco rock formation with a profile some might describe as satanic, and it holds dark secrets: the brutal murders there of the barely pubescent Donald Baker and Brenda Howell in 1952 and the unsolved disappearances of two other boys a few years later led some to believe the Arroyo was cursed. Factor in the unconventional sexual rituals of Jack Parsons, a cofounder of Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), and Parsons’ affiliation with controversial Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, and Devil’s Gate is crawling with conjecture.

It was the Spanish explorer Gaspar de Portola who named the area the Arroyo Seco, meaning “dry streambed,” in 1770. But it was Judge B. S. Eaton (Eaton Canyon was named for him) who named the rock Devil’s Gate in 1858, because it reminded him of the Devil’s Gate on Sweetwater Creek in Wyoming, Hiram Reid wrote in his History of Pasadena (1895). (That Devil’s Gate was a rock formation Eaton passed during his migration to California from the East Coast, but neither Devil’s Gate really resembles  the “prince of darkness.”)

The Arroyo, however, was not always dry; it often flooded, particularly in 1914 and 1916, which prompted the Los Angeles County Flood Control District to construct Devil’s Gate Dam. Completed in 1920, it was designed to “reduce downstream flooding” during a major deluge, according to the L.A. Department of Water and Power. The devil’s stone profile is adjacent to a locked tunnel, part of the dam. But to some it is an entryway to another world.

In 1936 the Arroyo Seco was just a 25-mile-long swath of land with a seasonal river running through it. But in October of that year, three scientists gathered in the Arroyo to perform their own secret experiments. “The ‘rocket boys’ were an unusual bunch,” according to Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s website (jpl.nasa.gov). “Frank Malina was studying aerodynamics, Jack Parsons was a self-taught chemist and Ed Forman was an excellent mechanic. They scraped together cheap engine parts, and on Oct. 31, 1936, drove to the Arroyo Seco. Four times that day they tried to test-fire their small rocket motor. These were the first rocket experiments in the history of JPL.” Caltech had purchased land in the Arroyo to build JPL, but it was Jack Parsons who turned Devil’s Gate into an urban legend.

By all accounts Parsons was a brilliant, self-taught rocket scientist, though he’s been written out of most of JPL’s history due to his obsession with the occult, his affiliation with Scientology’s Hubbard and rituals involving sex, blood and classical music. Parsons was also a devotee of controversial British occultist Aleister Crowley, joining Crowley’s Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO) society in 1941. Parsons lived at 1003 South Orange Grove Ave., which became notorious for its “sex magick” ceremonies. In his 1946 essay, The Book of Babalon, Parsons writes: “I had been engaged in the study and practice of Magick for seven years, and in the supervision and operation of an occult lodge for four years.” Part of Crowley’s Thelemic beliefs involved goddess worship, specifically of Babalon, a.k.a. the Mother of Abominations. Parsons, like Crowley, believed it was possible to summon Babalon into human form via the use of sexual rituals, leading to the overthrow of Judeo-Christian civilization and the rise of Thelema, exhorting followers to “do what thou wilt.”

In August 1945, Parsons met former Navy man and writer of lurid fiction, Lafayette Ronald Hubbard. Parsons wanted to include L. Ron Hubbard in the rituals and wrote to Crowley: “I deduced that [Hubbard] is in direct touch with some higher intelligence. He is the most Thelemic person I have ever met and is in complete accord with our own principles.” Using background music from Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev, Parsons sought to invoke Babalon through incantations and blood sacrifice. At the end of one ritual, Parsons wrote, “And thus was I Antichrist loosed in the world; and to this I am pledged, that the work of the Beast 666 shall be fulfilled, and the way for the coming of Babalon be made open and I shall not cease or rest until these things are accomplished.” We contacted the Church of Scientology to clarify Hubbard’s involvement. They did not respond, though the official line since the 1960s was that Hubbard, on leave from the Navy, was sent to infiltrate Parsons’ rituals, record the activities and report back to the government. Whatever Parsons and Hubbard were up to, a belief germinated that they had opened a portal to hell, and the negative energies loosed from Devil’s Gate would not be denied.

On August 5, 1956, 13-year-old Donald Baker and 11-year-old Brenda Howell went for a bike ride at Devil’s Gate Dam. When they didn’t come home, their parents contacted police and hundreds of volunteers searched for them in vain. All that was found were their bicycles and Brenda’s jacket. Just seven months later, on March 23, 1957, 8-year-old Tommy Bowman disappeared. Tommy was hiking with his family around Devil’s Gate and ran several yards ahead of them, rounded a corner and vanished. It was about 5 p.m. The ensuing searches were in vain. News outlets reported that Tommy disappeared after rounding a bend in the trail. But according to the Pasadena Star-News, two sisters reported they saw Tommy around 5:30 that evening. He was crying and standing at the entrance to the ranger station. But Tommy was never seen again.

Then three years later, in July 1960, 6-year-old Bruce Kremen was on a hike with his YMCA group not far from where Tommy disappeared. Bruce was lagging behind so the group leader told him to return to camp — a mere 300 yards away. Bruce never made it. Nine years later, Mack Ray Edwards confessed to kidnapping and killing Donald and Brenda along with three other children and burying their bodies in highway construction land about to be paved over. Convicted and sentenced to death, he hanged himself in his cell in 1971.

There have been subsequent reports of suicides (typically, hearsay) at Devil’s Gate, and many people who have hiked there have reported that, amid the trash and mud, burned Bibles have been observed as well as the occasional ritual. A cyclist’s body was found there in 1998 under mysterious circumstances, and para-
normal practitioners have lugged equipment to the rock, delighted when they were able to record “evidence” of otherworldly energies.

On Friday June 20, 1952, four years before the murders of Donald and Brenda, Parsons was experimenting in his laboratory. At 5:08 p.m., an explosion rocked Pasadena, killing Parsons, who was 37 at the time. Conspiracy theories formed immediately; Parsons was assassinated; some claimed suicide; Howard Hughes supposedly had Parsons killed for stealing secrets. One thing for sure: it was Parsons who seeded Devil’s Gate’s mythology. Are the stories surrounding this rock foolish, or prophetic? In his 1950 essay collection, Freedom is a Two-Edged Sword, Parsons wrote: “No man is worthy to fight in the cause of freedom unless he has conquered his internal drives. He must learn to control and discipline the disastrous passions that would lead him to folly and ruin.” Jack Parsons did not discipline his “disastrous passions”; he died broke, a mere footnote to aerospace history. But he did lay the foundation for myth and speculation of black arts in the Arroyo.

Trendy health aficionados are busy swigging bone broth, but Bone Kettle’s Indonesian chef says the stock is ancient and enduring.

When Bone Kettle restaurant opened on North Raymond Avenue in late February, Arroyoland got its first taste of two standouts in the foodie firmament:

One is Chef Erwin Tjahyadi, who’s been hailed for his extraordinary Asian fusion flavors. The other is bone broth, the chef’s latest iteration of his Indonesian heritage and a current food trend that’s gone mainstream because of its touted health benefits and psyche-soothing rewards.

But Chef Erwin’s passion for bone broth has nothing to do with trends, he told Arroyo Monthly. “I grew up with it, have always watched my mother making it,” he says. “It’s an Asian thing with a lot of health benefits. I think it’s better than coffee to start the day. Or any time. It has a lot of collagen, vitamins, nutrients.” Erwin left his Indonesian homeland at age 8 and hadn’t been back in more than 20 years until a recent trip through Southeast Asia. When he returned, he says, he “couldn’t shake the smells and tastes of the bone broths I encountered there.” Far from a fad, he said, bone broth is ancient and enduring, and he opened Bone Kettle as a means to “bridge the ocean’s divide between my heritage and the Southern California community,” which has nourished his own life in so many ways. More about his accomplishments later.

First, the broth, which you may know as soup stock, pure and simple. It’s made by boiling bones for umpteen hours to release the nutrients: protein, vitamins, minerals, collagen and keratin. Call it brodo (Italian), bouillion (French), broth or stock. They’re all the same, according to experts. But (and this is essential), not all bone broths are created equal. The quality of the bones and other ingredients, the boiling method, the added spices and herbs and the cooking time all make a difference between the packaged bone broths on supermarket shelves and those produced lovingly at home or by a meticulous chef.   

Chef Erwin says he follows an ancient Korean method, starting with “the highest quality femur bones from cows”; he boils them with onions, garlic, ginger and a secret blend of spices and herbs in 120-gallon vats for 42 hours. “We start boiling during the day, continue all night and we add more filtered water when we come in in the morning,” he says.

But Bone Kettle isn’t just about broth, he adds. Take a look at the menu on bonekettle.com for a tempting selection of “traditional East Java style shareable small plates executed with French techniques and premium locally sourced ingredients.” Try the Indonesian corn hush puppies with a sweet chili reduction for $9, or stick with a simple beef bone broth and noodle dish, an $11 staple. Tjahyadi’s cuisine prompted Zagat to name him one of 30 top chefs under 30 in 2014, when he was 28.

The chef has strong ties to the San Gabriel Valley, he says. He grew up in Montebello, graduated “with honors” from Pasadena’s now-closed Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts and launched his career apprenticing with Wolfgang Puck. He then worked under Chef Trey Foshee at La Jolla’s prestigious George’s at the Cove restaurant and went on to become lead cook at the Hotel Bel-Air.

In 2009, during the great recession, he and a friend decided to go out on their own, launching a Westside gourmet food-truck business they called Komodo, after Komodo dragons, the world’s largest lizard species, native to Indonesia. That was before the food-truck explosion, but even after the burgeoning scene arrived, a Thrillist food critic said Komodo “stands apart” from other trucks for its unusual quality and flavor creativity. Tjahyadi’s reputation went national in 2012, when Smithsonian magazine named Komodo one of the 20 best food trucks in America, citing its “mastermind” chef ‘s exquisite Indonesian specialties. Tjahyadi opened a brick-and-mortar Komodo restaurant in Pico-Robertson a year after he started food-trucking and later expanded to a second location, in Venice.

With two successful restaurants on the Westside, why open this one in Pasadena? “It’s near where I live, in Monterey Park,” he says, “and I have so many good ties to Pasadena.” Another incentive, he adds, was the San Gabriel Valley’s large Asian population, a natural audience for his menu.

While Tjahyadi knew about the charms of bone broth as a child, the stock only recently soared in popularity nationwide, with no particular ethnicity accounting for it. The trend began in 2014, when New York Chef Marco Canora started selling his version of brodo by the cup from a small window in Hearth, his East Village restaurant. It was a sellout, especially since the James Beard Award–winning chef claimed to have revitalized his own health by including the broth in his diet. Broth mania went viral, and health claims for its powers soared; it was said to reduce inflammation, regenerate internal organs, rejuvenate skin, nails and hair, and enhance immunity to colds and other illnesses.

By the time that trend peaked, bone broth had gone mainstream, and commercially packaged versions can now be found everywhere from Whole Foods to WalMart.  Food experts say the mass-produced packaged broth bears little relation to the product created lovingly at home with only fine, fresh ingredients or in the relatively few restaurants that spend the time and money to make the purest broth from the best ingredients in the time-honored (and time-consuming) way. Many canned or boxed bone broths contain added sodium, sugar, artificial colorings or colorings, and the quality of basic ingredients can be less than top-notch.

Of course, Chef Erwin is right about bone broth’s ancient lineage. It’s been around as long as humans have cooked with fire. Chinese medics prescribed it more than 2,500 years ago to support digestive health, as a blood builder and to strengthen kidneys. In 12th-century Egypt, physician/philosopher Moses Maimonides was said to prescribe chicken soup as a remedy for colds and asthma — and to this day, chicken soup is sometimes known as “Jewish penicillin” for its powers to calm colds and flus. A 2000 study published in Chest, the official journal of the American College of Chest Physicians, bolstered that contention. Researchers found that patients who consumed chicken soup “seem to experience a mild reduction in inflammation that helped reduce symptoms of an upper respiratory tract infection.” Even experts who say the benefits have been overblown acknowledge that it might have some healthful advantages.

A small but growing number of advocates have even started sipping bone broth instead of coffee as their morning and work-break drink of choice — but Starbuck’s needn’t worry yet. “You feel better when you drink it rather than coffee,” Chef Erwin says. And, always thinking ahead, he plans to bottle and distribute his Bone Kettle version in mason jars within a year or so. “It’s perishable and it will be fresh, and have instructions along with it,” he says. “Nothing boxed, canned or frozen would be as good.”

The South Pasadena

As July temps heat up, you need a tippler to help you cool down. The Langham Huntington, Pasadena’s Tap Room offers seasonal cocktails as well as standard offerings, live jazz on Thursdays nights and a Top 40 band on Friday and Saturday evenings. Relax on a triangular sofa or couches grouped around a fireplace, or perch at freestanding tables with views of the patio. It’s all designed to lull you into the waiting embrace of one of their signature cocktails, such as The South Pasadena. This gin-based concoction offers up noticeable lemon with soft honey and resin notes, thanks to a wisp of citrus from fresh lemon. Add mint, which offers a cool contrast to the herbal, savory gin. The South Pasadena is crisp and clean, slightly viscous and will ensure a satisfying before-dinner drink, well suited to appetizers. “The South Pasadena cocktail fits with our mission of melding old and new generations,” says Susan Williger, the hotel’s director of communications, and this cocktail hits a middle stride, not pretentious and overbearing, nor a wallflower — it is a classic cocktail that will suit most everyone.

 

The South Pasadena

Ingredients 

2 ounces gin

¾ ounce lemon juice

¾ ounce simple syrup

2 loose mint leaves

Method

Place the loose mint leaves in the bottom of the glass. Add gin, lemon juice and simple syrup, and crush leaves with a muddler. Shake and strain. Garnish with a lemon wheel and mint sprig, and serve.