Cooking for Malibu

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"Malibu's Cooking Again," edited by Cathy Rogers

During the aftermath of the Old Topanga Fire of 1993—an event on Malibu’s mind in the days and weeks following the Woolsey Fire—the community rallied together to recover from the loss of nearly 400 homes. 

One of those efforts? A cookbook.

And while it may sound mundane, “Malibu’s Cooking Again” by local chef Cathy Rogers is a snapshot of Malibu history.

The collection was first inspired to collect recipes for those who had lost their family recipes and cookbooks in the fire, according to a description of the book.

TMT’s own copy editor, Margo Neal, even shared recipes—she lost her home on Las Flores Mesa in the fire. An avid cook, she wrote about the kindness she experienced after losing her many cookbooks.

“I publish many journals for nurses. One of my editors is the head of nursing education and research department at NPI/UCLA, and she too loves to cook,” Neal wrote in an inscription in the book. “Knowing I had lost all my cookbooks, she worked with the office of the Dean of UCLA School of Nursing and organized a ‘help our colleague rebuild her life’ cookbook collection.”

Restaurants and people of Malibu’s past and present shared recipes and anecdotes to the project—part cookbook, part anthology. Contributors included the now shuttered Granita Malibu, Bambu, Beau Rivage and Monroe’s restaurants. Readers will even find a recipe from the late Godmother of Malibu, Dolores Rivellino Walsh.

Several of the recipes were shared because they were made to help feed those involved in firefighting efforts.

Local resident Mona Loo shared an anecdote titled “The Firestorm Bomberos”—the predecessors, perhaps, to the Point Dume bomberos who helped save homes in the neighborhood during the recent fire. 

Loo shared her “Firestorm Chinese Fried Rice” recipe, which she taught at the first-ever cooking lesson held at the Malibu Community Labor Exchange—just before evacuations were called for Malibu on Nov. 2, 1993. 

The 1993 bomberos (the Spanish word for firefighters) were a volunteer group from the Labor Exchange; they fought to protect a number of homes, including those located at Villa Costera off of Rambla Pacifico. Though fire trucks left the area, the men continued to keep watch over the area and put fires out as needed.

In return, the homeowners put on a potluck for the bomberos, and later, donated funds to purchase the Labor Exchange trailer office, which remains onsite to this day.

Many of the anecdotes have a common thread: family.

Rex Carey Arrasmith described a small coffee cup—”a Limoges cup from Havilland, France”—special to his grandmother. Though he lost his home, he recalled, “As I walked around the base of the foundation, kicking up ash and broken pieces of charred glass and tile, I found one thing inexplicably unbroken. It was a tiny soot-stained cup.”

The book jacket, in part, reads: “Malibu’s Cooking Again also illustrates a certain indomitable spirit which has been born out of this inferno, celebrates the heroism and the kindness shown by individuals during the tragic event and heralds the resurgence of a sense of ‘community’ in a small town shaken by a natural disaster.”

“Malibu’s Cooking Again” is still available for purchase online on Amazon. 


FIRESTORM CHINESE FRIED RICE 

Ingredients: 

1/2 pound bacon or 2 slices of ham, chopped 

4 cups cooked long grain white rice 

1/2 to I bunch green onions

 6 beaten eggs 

1 box frozen green peas, thawed to room temperature and drained 

Salt and pepper and soy sauce to taste 

Optional: any other vegetables, mushrooms or tasty leftovers you might have in your refrigerator

Directions:

Saute meat. Drain fat if using bacon. Use a small amount of vegetable or peanut oil if using ham or making this without meat. 

Add cooked rice and stir fry until rice is dry and separated. 

Add green onions and continue to stir fry. 

When rice is very dry and well-fried, carefully add the beaten egg on the sides on the pan, or scoop a hole in the middle of the rice, so the egg can be on the actual metal to fry. If needed, you can add a small spoonful of vegetable oil directly to the side of the metal where you will begin frying the eggs. 

Keep stirring the egg and rice mixture so the egg gets completely cooked. Add the vegetables. Stir fry 2 minutes more. 

Season to taste. Serve immediately, or cover loosely until you are ready to serve. 

—Mona Loo