Thursday, May 3, 2007

Bob Pastorio: Restaurateur, raconteur, friend

A couple weeks back, Carol linked to a profile written by Charles Culbertson, a friend of Bob's.

I just got around to reading it. Culbertson really caught Bob's essence. Very nice.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Late but not because Pastorio hasn't been on my mind

We were in Japan when Bob died. I'd taken notice of bonsai and food and local color, snippets of travel that I was going to share with him when we got back. Not to be.

In the folder I keep that's labeled food_recipes, the folder where I stash Usenet posts having to do with food, there are plenty of Pastorio posts. Bob's aren't the only posts there, mind, but his name does show up by far the most frequently.

I just did a search of =all= the stuff I have stashed in my folders for pieces that list Pastorio as "from" -- articles and e-mails by Bob that I've stashed away in my mail folders since late 2000.

242 matches found.


Some of those matches are just the fun links and photos he'd send off to undisclosed-recipients, some are posts from misc.writing, some to WIW-L, some to Magwrite. ... elsewhere. I stashed away stuff ranging from posts on Sacher Torte, to time wasters to Penguin movies and "how to write for kids," lemon curd and wise, philosophical stuff.

To call Pastorio a jack-of-all-trades is not really showing the breadth of his interests. To say the guy strung words together like an angel, doesn't capture the cadence. If he was miffed at you, you knew it. Those he wasn't miffed at would read his dancing, punching, bam-bam posts as he took you apart bit-by-bit and applaud the elegance and eloquence.

I miss him. I'll continue to miss him. I'll think of him when I see a bonsai or make (if I do say so myself) tasty empanadas filled with four different kinds of filling for a neighborhood gathering. I thought of him the other night when we were at a Zin tasting and the dessert buffet included mini molten chocolate cakes.

There'll be tasty things cooking wherever Pastorio wound up and wide-ranging discussions and a bit of music.

Heaven, I think. What other decision could St. Pete make? Mini molten chocolate cakes. Heaven.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

From Down Under

Dr Zen writes:

I was very sorry to hear about his passing. I didn't really know
Pastorio well enough to write a piece, but I'd like to pay my respects
to him and offer my condolences to Mrs Pastorio.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Hoc est enim corpus meum

Bob Sloan (see last post) sent me a gag photo I recall Pastorio had also sent on to me, as was his way. It combines eating, drinking and irreverence, as any good joke should.

A couple of the others are not very suitable for a family blog. You can see them at the links below. NOT SAFE FOR WORK, depending on what work you do.

One, two and three.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Pastorio and me

Bob Sloan (Ejucaided Redneck) writes:

When I initially discovered Usenet -- about ten years ago -- misc.writing was one of the first newsgroups I got involved with. Pastorio showed up there a couple years later, and a regular sorta correspondence developed between us. Had nothing to do with writing, or the group: Pastorio'd find some funny or other and would send it to me. Lots of people do that, or intend to do that, but Bob's stuff really was funny.

Or seemed so to me. A few examples are attached. . .

He sent funnies even after I got tired of figuratively beating up sundry fascist-minded assholes, and dropped out of m.w.

Somehow I had the idea Bob lived in Pennsylvania, and it wasn't until after our most recent trip to Williamsburg VA that my wife and I discovered every time we made that frequent jaunt that we were passing within fifty or so miles of Bob's door. In the course of a phone call we decided the next time Julie and I headed east, we'd do a fifty mile
detour so Bob and I could do some serious drinking.

I've never worked too hard at setting face-to-face meetings up, they just sorta develop, and I figured that's how I'd finally get to encounter Pastorio: sooner or later we'd be in the same place at the same time, or nearly the same place, and we'd kill some brain cells and make our livers live hard for a while.

Maybe in the next life. . .

Like most, I heard about Bob's impending demise through a letter from Carol. My wife had some correspondence with him in December --after I had open heart surgery there was a real need to learn to cook differently-- and he hadn't mentioned any health problems of his own.

And this, at the end of Carol's note, astonished me: "Bob sends his best and says he's really glad he knew you. He also wants you to know that he's leaving you his 'pussy rifle', so that will be arriving in the mail sometime in the next couple of months. Use it and raise a glass to him."

The "pussy rifle" -- see photo -- was the subject of some email last fall. Bob sent me the photo that'd be on a brochure for a "big game dinner" where he was to be in charge of the food. He was really pleased with the image, and I thought it was nifty as well. A gun and a big-ass whisk were two tools I'd never seen juxtaposed. . .

But I did ask him what sort of pussy he was, installing a butt pad on a Winchester .30-.30 carbine.

He responded with a claim the bullets on his belt were a special "hot load." Or something like that. . . In any case the exchange went on for a while and I enjoyed it.

I dunno where Bob was born and raised, but he and I shared some "Appalachian values," and one of them is that the passing on of certain things is special. I own a shotgun that's been in my family for a hundred and fourteen years, and when I figured out -- after much thought -- who was gonna own it next -- not my son, but my brother's kid -- Bob and I talked about that a little bit.

That Winchester bequest is real special.

Bob (another one)
Rowan County KY

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Bob made me laugh

Jeff Kosloski writes:

Bob made me laugh, which is the quality I admire most in a person.

Look up my dad, Bob. He made me laugh too.

Jeff Kos
aka "Kiddo" on misc.writing

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Sage Advice

Bob Pastorio was one of the coolest, most interesting people I've ever met. Well, if one can use the word met about a virtual meeting, which I can--because to me, Bob was every bit as fascinating and funny and real as though I had gotten to know him in person.

He could be cantankerous, oh he sure could. I was never on the receiving end of that trait, but I knew many people who were. Some of them could dish it out and take it, plenty of others could only dish it out. Bob was definitely one who did both, and he did it with more style than most.

I loved reading his newsgroup posts about recipes and cooking and anything else because he was not only intelligent and funny, he was one of the rare posters who knew how to write. But the communication that stands out most vividly in my mind was not a newsgroup post. Rather, it was an email I received from him in mid-September 2001.

It was a terrible, traumatic time in my life--so much so that I had no business participating in Internet exchanges of any kind, much less newsgroups. My son-in-law had died unexpectedly a few months before and I felt devastated and lost. Why I looked for support in an online forum I have no idea because now I look back and realize how utterly asinine that was. Just after 9/11, I wrote an article about bigotry that was published on a Web site, and I posted about it on the newsgroup, asking people to read it and tell me what they thought. Many responded positively but a select few for whom sinking their teeth into someone and enjoying the taste of fresh blood came after me with a vengeance. Needless to say, I felt sick at heart, my confidence was shattered, and my depression deepened.

I told you I was asinine. Actually, dumb as a doorknob is more fitting.

Anyway, Bob saw what was happening and along he came, sending me an email that kindly yet firmly admonished me for throwing myself to the trolls as I had. He made it clear that I should pay no mind to such meanness because (A) it was nothing more than junk on a screen and therefore not real, and (B) the people who wrote such things were assholes unworthy of note.

But the advice he gave me at the end of the email is what really sticks in my mind. After lecturing me about staying away from the newsgroup because it was no place for me, he provided suggestions for things I might do instead--hobbies and such--because real life offered pleasures that far outweighed any enjoyment one could ever find on the Internet. He advised me to do the things he knew I loved: reading, writing, cooking, gardening, and spending quality time with my family and friends.

And his final pearls of wisdom for me? "For God's sake PJ, go get naked and fuck."

At one of the saddest, bleakest, lowest points of my life, it was Bob Pastorio who made me smile. And when I think about that today, I smile all over again.

Goodbye Bob. I'll miss you. You may not have known what a difference you made in my life back then ... but hopefully you know it now.

Cooking via pixels, with Pastorio

ing writes:

Even now, days later, it's hard to believe Pastorio's gone. He went way WAY too soon -- but he left me lots of good memories.

Over at misc.writing, there were a handful of folks whose posts I never missed. ­ Pastorio was one of them, and lord knows, he was prolific. What a wicked, incisive, rapier wit he had, what a way with words ­ and even more, a bawdy sense of humour. Not many folks can make me laugh out loud with written words ­ but Bob could. He did it loads of times.

Mostly though, I remember him for all the dozens of recipes he e-mailed to me over the years -- ­ he was generous that way ­ -- and also the pixel discussions we occasionally had, on topics that ranged from hemlock to Romano cheese and from warlocks to mourning doves and redwing blackbirds. But mostly, since I'm a inept cook, I remember the recipes. Along with the comments he included in e-mails and on-line posts, they sparked my interest and in time, he turned me (from a distance) into more adventurous and not-bad cook. How do you thank somebody for that?

It's odd to say about someone you've only ever known through words on a screen ­ but he had a presence in my kitchen, and probably always will ­, solely through the delicious stuff he told me how to make. Chicken wings especially, (20 different fabulous varieties!) and something called "tomato stuff" that he said he invented. This latter recipe is my favourite and beats anything I've ever tasted along that line. I've passed the recipe along to dozens of friends, always with the revised title: "Pastorio's Tomato Stuff - 1998 ".

Back in 2002 at misc.writing, a discussion came up about Sacher Tortes ­. I didn't know what one was ­ and in no time, Bob shot back a response. I saved the entire post and printed it out. Reading what he wrote then, it felt to me like he was in my kitchen, creating that Sacher Torte, all the time yattering on about history, telling jokes, probably sipping on some vino. From the words he wrote I got a vision of easy fluidness in how he worked with ingredients. It's an image that sticks with me still.

Since Bob already posted his Sacher Torte column to m.w., I suppose it's safe to reprint it here. The recipes are difficult ­ but the story's fascinating. He began this way:

"Ing... here's the One True Sacher Torte story. A column of mine from a few years back. Complete with recipes."

A duel with spatulas
[by Bob Pastorio]

In Vienna, the old Vienna in the spirit of the Blue Danube and Merry Widows, there has been a civilized fight delicately roaring for a century. Well, not roaring, exactly, more like sighing along over a 'kaffee und strudel'.

There are four main ingredients to the recipe for the drama. There is an old "konditorei", a combination tea and coffee house and genteel pastry shop, called "Demel" that is, today, something of a shrine. The shop is long and narrow with tiered tables down the center covered with pastries; hundreds of pastries, each more intricately spectacular than the last. People go there from all over the world.

There is the equally world-famous "Hotel Sacher" where, if you are male, you must be wearing a necktie to be in the outdoor cafe (imagine what it must take to go indoors!) and if you are female, presumably you must either be Empress Eugenie or a very close relative. There is a wonderful cake called a "Sacher Torte" which is magically light, spread with apricot preserves and covered with a buttery, chocolate glaze. The fourth element is - only in Vienna could the fight continue for a century - the credit for inventing this cake.

The Sacher family says that the cake was created for Prince Metternich by his cook, Franz Sacher. "Nein", say the owners of Demel. It was conceived at the pastry shop, they say, and was claimed by Herr Sacher who, they further say, very probably (raise the left eyebrow ever so slightly) knew its true origin.

So, here it continues with generations of adults actually suing each other for legal credit for the cake(!), challenging each other to duels (never accepted but, then again, never seriously offered. You mean, actually shoot someone over a piece of cake?) and ultimately acting out that schoolyard debate that begins and ends with "Oh yeah, sez who?"

In the meantime, the cake is wonderful in all its newer incarnations and you won't find one in the supermarket. For a flavor and texture combination that marries an airy cake and the sweetness of the preserves with, gasp, chocolate with butter added - there is only Sacher Torte. Some people add honey, others cover the cake with marzipan, the famous sweetened, crushed almonds and then enrobe it in chocolate. Some add peach preserves or liqueurs, others use blends of chocolates and there is even a white chocolate Sacher Torte. Undoubtedly, the early Sachers and Demels are rolling over in their graves. Franz Sacher, probably called "Pinwheel" by his friends in the cemetery, is pleased that the cake still carries his name, but this recent business of adding crushed hazelnuts to the batter, well, what's this world coming to, anyway. It was good enough for Metternich and his crowd the way it was...

This is the sort of dispute that brings out the purists (it must be made in Vienna with Viennese water and air for it to be correct) and the revisionists (as long as there's no drain cleaner in it, I'll eat it and so should you) to vie against each other's viewpoints and, since you can't dispute taste, finally call each other names. In a dignified fashion, over a pleasant cup of Viennese coffee."


Bob goes on in that column to list the recipes ­ you can find them in the m.w. thread at
His contribution is post #27 -- or close to it.

There was something smart and funny and almost sensual in the way Bob wrote about food ­ an easy, carefree enthusiasm that told me he loved working with food in the same way he must have loved living and loving ­ it was an
impression that spurred me on to try every recipe he ever offered -- to share the tastes and to kind of absorb the spirit of adventure he put into things.

So I guess that's why I'll always remember Bob ­ he loved good plain simple food and he was generous in sharing his knowledge of it with anyone who showed an interest. I wish I'd met him, wish I'd known him in person, but still, from now on I'm pretty sure he'll be with me in spirit, every time I'm in the kitchen pulling together another Pastorio recipe. A person couldn't ask for better company.

Thanks Bob!

hugs to you -- and wistful memories.


Farewell, Bob.

Sincerest condolences to Carol and family.
(I now have a feeling of assurance that the cuisine up there, excellent though it might have been before, will be even more delightful by the time I arrive!)
Regards, Bernie.

From RJM

Good Vibrations
We started off at each other's virtual throats, your man there
and me. Didn't take him long to get it, though, and pretty soon
we were at each others posts. We liked the sound of voice. I
liked him like I like my friend Seamus, a Limerick man, as well.
You know there's something they know that you can't know
like they know and it isn't annoying, nearly. I know Bob knew
about cooking. Me, I can't cook toast, so I never talked to
him about his passion for food and drink, for providing food and
drink. Mostly we'd meet up in a thread in MW to deflate the
balloon of one or other pomping stupid with his or her own prick
. . . if you follow. Lots a laughs. Well, we laughed.

Sometimes he'd join me in one of my bike threads, nostalgically
recalling the good old days. He told me about a Flying Brick
he once owned, a bike so completely German that I was almost
offended that someone of the Italian persuasion should give it
houseroom, never mind enjoy riding it. I happened later to ride
one, an immaculate 50K miler, and I'm here to tell you folks,
it bloody nearly shook my fillings out, and by the end of my ride
my arse was vibrating at 7000 revs per minute and I couldn't
see straight. Consulting himself on the matter, he remarked he was
surprised he hadn't mentioned it, it was one of the reasons he
liked it. I'll miss that about my virtual friend, the way he expected
us all to love what he loved. There are limits, Bob! I'll also miss
the regular funnies he circulated. I dined out on more than a few.
Bon Voyage, old mate, and if there's any justice, Bon Appetit.