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Sunday, June 16, 2002

Give 'Em Hell, Mel

In honor of Father's Day, I bring you excerpts of my dad Mel McKinney's writing. In the first piece, an editorial, Mel questions prosecutorial actions in Mendocino county where he lives and works, and sticks up for a nonprofit that promotes local traditions and artists. (For example, it's gratifying to see the MCA supporting the World's Largest Salmon Barbeque, coming up July 6, with proceeds helping restore wild salmon runs to the rivers of Northern California; the summer music festival; and you just don't see things like the upcoming "Hide And Hair" exhibit every day, now do you?) The second piece is from his book, Where There's Smoke. Mel has subseqent projects in the works, and his current novel-in-progress kicks ass (you heard it hear first). Leave a comment to encourage him to keep writing, and hey! - maybe start a blog.
More Jobs, Less Prosecutors
. . .
Modeled upon the successful structure used in the majority of California communities that encourage tourism, the Mendocino County Alliance is a full time, professionally staffed non-profit organization dedicated to the economic health of Mendocino County. Recognizing that the two principal economic engines now driving Mendocino County are tourism and the wine industry, the MCA’s promotional efforts emphasize those strengths in order to bring more visitors to Mendocino County . . . [A]s tourism flourishes, the revenue to the County from the Transit Occupancy Tax, or “bed tax,” increases. Wisely, the Board of Supervisors has re-invested a small portion (about 12%) of that tax revenue back into the goose that lays the golden egg, by contracting with the MCA for promotional services. Now, here’s the problem. The Mendocino County District Attorney covets those funds. To get them, he set the Grand Jury on the MCA, having them issue a subpoena for all of its financial records, and more. Despite the fact the MCA offered total access to its books and records, and despite the fact the Board of Supervisors has access to those records at any time, the District Attorney has pursued this illegal and unnecessary tactic. As a private, non-profit corporation the MCA rightfully stood its ground. It contracts with the County to provide promotional services. It is not a County agency. [A court] agreed and invalidated the Grand Jury subpoena. The District Attorney proposes to waste more of his precious resources in an ill-conceived appeal.
. . .
Finally, and for once, Mendocino County has taken a tremendous step forward by contracting with the MCA and realizing the benefit of its promotional efforts. The District Attorney needs to remember that jobs create opportunity. Without them, he’s busier. Maybe that’s what he’s afraid of. The more employment and opportunity that exist in Mendocino County, the less need we have for prosecutors.
A Cigar Factory In Little Havana (from Where There's Smoke)
The pocked stucco front of the dreary, low building revealed nothing. It was simply one of the many hundreds of wretched, though functional, structures in Little Havana. You had to know where to look for the faded wooden plaque, nearly hidden by a drooping eave. EL ROSARIO - FABRICA DE TABACO, it proclaimed with tarnished pride . . . The mottled outward appearance of the building yielded within to soft, effective overhead lighting. Twenty wooden worktables spanned the large room, facing the door. Each table was divided into four work stations occupied by men and women, their skin the color of Moroccan leather. The men wore stained sleeveless undershirts or loose-fitting, short-sleeved shirts that had once been white. The women were topped in faded prints that had once burst with color. Many of them smoked the results of their labor. In a relaxed, steady rhythm, they rolled the piles of brown leaves splayed in front of them into new cigars.
Dads don't come any more loving, multifaceted and talented than the one I lucked into. Did I mention every item of food he touches turns into mouth-watering cuisine? He says my stepmom's crazy for his chicken picatta and could eat it every night, so to top off this post here's his recipe. Happy Father's Day, Mel!
Mel's Chicken Picatta
Boned and skinned chicken breasts, pounded and flattened, but not paper thin. Just enough to flatten them, leaving them about 1/4 inch thick. Seasoned flour (salt and pepper). I use Wondra. Make a shallow bowl full, reserving some to thicken the picatta sauce after flouring the chicken. Juice of 6 lemons White wine chicken stock or broth capers chopped parsley Lemon slices Rice or pasta as accompaniment. Dredge the pounded chicken breasts in seasoned flour. Brown them in oil/butter, about 4 minutes to a side. Remove and set aside. Deglaze pan with white wine and add lemon juice, stock, capers and parsley. Simmer and reduce about 4 minutes. Slowly add some seasoned flour to thicken the picatta sauce. Add lemon slices. Reintroduce the browned chicken pieces into the sauce and simmer another couple of minutes. Remove the chicken pieces and arrange on plates or platter with picatta sauce and warmed lemon slices over them. Add some picatta sauce to the rice or pasta.

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