Food for Thought

Too many celebs, too much mold

“It’s not safe down there.”


It’s not safe to be down there.”


In the basement.


“I went down to watch TV and, immediately, my sinuses clogged up and I started sneezing and coughing.”

“I heard. As a matter of fact, I think the neighbors heard.”

“Listen, wise guy, this is no laughing matter. It’s not safe down there.”

“But, you had a radon test done, and it came back a click or two on the bright side of lethal. That can’t be it.”

“It’s mold.”

“But, we had the drainage problem on the side of the house fixed, and there’s no water getting into the basement. It’s not wet.”

“There are ten-foot high berms of snow up against the walls of the house. Things have to be damp, everywhere. There’s mold behind the interior walls, in the carpet. I know it. It’s not safe down there.”

Ah, my wife, the canary in the coal mine. The EPA should hire her as an investigator. She is like a finely-tuned biohazard detector. That’s why she steers clear of me.

“But, I don’t smell anything in the basement. Except me, of course.”

“Black mold. The most insidious, deadly kind of mold. No smell, buster. One day, you’re sitting on the couch watching Cheaters, the next day you’re coughing up blood and your liver fails. It’s that awful, that quick. I am never going into the basement again.”

“Well, OK. But I write down there, and I paint down there. I have to go to the basement.”

“You spend almost all your time at home down there. You’re a troglodyte. But, you have to give it up … if you want to live. You do want to live, don’t you?”

“Give me a minute to think about it.”

It is to no avail. The basement, at least for the rest of the evening, is off limits. Probably off limits until something great appears on the TV schedule.

So, what to do, upstairs?

The answer: get peeved.


Because I read a wine magazine.

I admit it: Whenever I stray from Siberia With a View and journey to a burg that features a hefty newsstand, I buy magazines that make me angry. Art magazines, wine magazines. I can’t explain it. After all, heroin addicts know they’re killing themselves, but they keep on truckin’. I know these publications will drive me to the brink, but I buy them anyway, and I read them. It’s a jones I can’t shake.

And so, I get mad.

With the art mags, it is unavoidable, cluttered as they are with commentary produced by hangers-on and feeble pseudo-academics out to justify “artworks” and ideas that, on their own, cannot transcend trivia.

The wine magazines?

They, like the art mags, reveal something simultaneously terribly wrong and right about our culture. And both things drive me nuts.

An example: As I sit in the living room, a relatively safe distance from the fuzzy assassin growing in the basement, I glance at my newest wine magazine. On the cover is a photo of a long-haired geek with a smirk on his face. He is holding a fancy mushroom and a paring knife, pretending he is working in his restaurant kitchen. He is identified as a “chef/ owner” of one of the West Coast’s currently fashionable establishments. He looks smug, and very much like the guys who used to get beat up in high school on a regular basis. (That was back in the days before every little soul was unbearably precious, a vessel to be filled to overflowing with self esteem.)

My first response: Who cares?

My second response: What does the photo tell us about our world?

We have made celebrities of chefs.

Think about it for a moment: We have made celebrities of chefs. It is not bad enough that we propel damaged simps like Britney Spears and similar celebs with IQs in single digits to the forefront of our mass-culture consciousness, instead of Nobel Laureates and philosophers — not bad enough that we dwell on the latest celebrity to OD on “medicine” instead of focusing on war, famine, ethnic cleansing, hurricane victims, poverty, etc. — but we have made celebrities of chefs.

These folks are cooks! For crying out loud!

I get angry because most of us, to some degree, are like spoiled children. We have lost touch with a lot of what matters in this world, outside the perimeter set with our personal demands. We have lost touch with the disparities and cruelties that blacken the eye of the species. We have, to a great degree, lost our connection to reason and to the meaningful principles that can come of its exercise.

I get angry, as well, about what is right when we make celebrities of chefs. Yes, I get mad about the fact there is something wonderful lurking behind the nonsense.

I am irked because we fail, everyday, to understand and appreciate the luxury and unprecedented ease that allow us to dote on celebrities, that give us the latitude to entertain the idea of idolizing a cook.

Do we take the time to understand what this means? No, not usually. We are so accustomed to privileges we have done little if anything to deserve, that we consistently fail to scrutinize what those privileges mean. We are so busy fretting about personal needs that go unmet, that we fail to appreciate the incredible fullness of our existences and then to deal with the unforgivable differences between those of us who have and those of us who have not.

We make celebrities of chefs while children die of malnutrition, while genocide occurs, while wars are fought for lies, while many (any!) of our fellows are left homeless, without food, without health care.

We make celebrities of chefs, ignorant of all that it entails: the gross abundance and waste of food, the leisure time and income needed to visit the establishments run by these celebrities and partake of their delightful, yet frivolous creations.

Not to say that skill in the commercial kitchen is not worthy of note. It is. Food is critically important and our freedom to range wide and far in the culinary realm should be cherished, up to and including recognition of skill in those who deal with it best. A great cook — at home or in a restaurant — is a marvel.

But not a celebrity.

I read on.

There are actually people out there who pose as wine experts, who have the gall to apply ratings to wines (95 to 100 is, after all, a classic) in order to induce you to purchase them.

It’s wine!

Just as the celebrity chef is but a cook, so the vintner simply makes wine. And the wine expert … is a bozo.

Drop the charade. How does the juice taste? Is it worth the price? Does it ring your bell?

As we do with food, most of us in this culture have access to a mind-boggling variety of wines. It is stunning; creep into any decent liquor store or wine shop; the choices are many.

So, absent the self-indulgent gibberish produced by the “wine experts” with their ratings in the wine mags, how does one go about finding a way through this inventory?

I think the best way to do it is to sample varietals, and to do so with a pattern in mind.

Wine is a relatively simple thing: it is fermented grape juice — a food. And we should choose wines as we choose other foods. From the elements available at the market, we craft our diet. Take flesh, for example. We make our way through the offerings in the meat cases and we select our ingredients. The first big choice: red meat, fish or fowl?

A similar choice comes with wine: red, white, rosé, sparkler, (I know … there are more … but you wine snobs need to give me some room here).

Let’s say you opt for red meat. You then have a series of other choices to make, depending on your intent, relative to the taste you seek and the method you will use to prepare the dish. Beef, pork, veal, lamb, etc?

Same with wine. Say you pick red: you have a number of varietals (individual types of grape) and their blends to pick from: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Grenache, Syrah, Zinfandel, Tannat , et al. This is where your sampling begins. Try each grape (or a blend with a predominant varietal). Ask the purveyor for suggestions as to a decent example, at a bargain price. Take it home, pop the cork, taste it. With other food.

You don’t need some pinhead wearing an ascot and smoking a pipe to tell you what you like, or to help you note the differences between the varietals. You don’t need a pompous description of a wine, peppered with all sorts of goofy references (leather, ashes, berries, barnyard odors, lavender and the like). You get to know the diff as you continue your experiments.

Then, when you have lit on a fave, you can probe the inventory at the shop for something a bit heftier, in quality, in price. And you can continue with your journey and comparisons, finding family members, new blends.

Here is where I believe you should end: With a list of great everyday drinkers, at reasonable prices, each wine compatible with certain of your menu choices. And with several, select bottles of higher-end stuff you can haul out for a momentous occasion, for special guests or, as in my case, when you run out of the everyday drinkers and the liquor store is closed.

No need for experts. No celebrity required.

In the process, the appreciation of plenty should increase. As should the embarrassment felt when enjoying the rewards of plenty while so many others do not have the option.

We are awfully lucky, and our good fortune should be dead center on the target of our attention as we satisfy ourselves. We should feel blessed.

And never beholding to some smirking goof holding a mushroom and a knife.

Mary “Susie” Candelaria

Mary “Susie” Candelaria, 66, died Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2008, at Mercy Regional Medical Center in Durango, Colo. Recitation of the Rosary was Sunday, Feb. 10, 2008, at 6 p.m. at Sacred Heart Catholic Church. A Memorial Mass was held Monday, Feb. 11, 2008, at 10 a.m. at Sacred Heart Catholic Church. Father Antonio Flores C.R. of Sacred Heart officiated. Cremation took place at Hood Mortuary Crematory in Durango. 

Mrs. Candelaria was born Oct. 8, 1941, in Pagosa Springs, the daughter of Frank and Opal O’Cana. She graduated from Pagosa Springs High School. She married Rudy Candelaria in Pagosa Springs on June 15, 1961, and moved to Durango in 1969. 

Mrs. Candelaria worked at Mercy Regional Medical Center for 10 years and for South City Market for 21 years. She retired in 1995. She was very active at Sacred Heart Catholic Church where she was the organist and sang in the choir. She enjoyed doing all sorts of crafts with her grandchildren. She always put family and friends first and her home was always open to share a good meal and conversation.

She is survived by Rudy Candelaria (spouse) of Durango, Marcelino Candelaria (son) of Durango, Mike Candelaria (son) of Redlands, Calif., Matt Candelaria (son) of Durango, Monica Candelaria (daughter) of Durango, Opal O’Cana (mother) of Pagosa Springs, Ramona Manzanarez-Ferguson (sister) of Lake Elizabeth, Calif., 16 grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren, and numerous nieces and nephews.

She was preceded in death by her father, Frank O’Cana, and her son, Mark Candelaria.
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Spencer Allan Snell

Spencer Allan Snell, born Oct. 26, 1939, in Detroit, Mich., went to be with the Lord Feb. 10, 2008, at the age of 69, from his home in Pagosa Springs.

Survivors include his loving wife of 45 years, Marilyn Snell, and daughter, Julie Snell, both of Pagosa Springs. Other survivors are his brother and sister-in-law, Jay and Mindy Snell, of Oregon; his cousins, Mary Jane Snell and Joanne Harvey, of Michigan; nephew, Trevor Snell, of New Mexico; also, nephew Kevin, and nieces Sarah McMahan and Gilaine Wright, of Oregon.

His parents, Francis and Melva Snell, and his son, David, preceded him into heaven.

Spencer was graduated from McKenzie High School in Detroit, Mich., and went on to study at Wayne State in Detroit for two years. He received his degrees in mechanical engineering and mathematical engineering from the University of Michigan, Dearborn Center, in 1963. Spencer was employed by Ford Motor Co., Plymouth, Mich., first as an intern, and then full-time. In 1967, Spencer moved his family to Longmont to enter employment with IBM in Boulder, from which he retired after 25 years. Fifteen of those years were spent as a project manager, and three patents were issued to Spencer as a co-inventor during his time with IBM. In 1997, the Snells built a home and moved to Pagosa Springs, where Spencer ran his own business, “Spencer for Hire Drafting Service.”

Spencer was very active in Boy Scouts of America as a scout leader and Cubmaster. In addition, he served as a deputy sheriff for Larimer County for 18 years. The Christian Motorcyclists Association benefitted from Spencer’s active membership and participation for 20 years in both Longmont and Durango, Colo. It was his sincere desire to reach the unsaved in the biking community.

He was also an avid horseman with the Morgan breed, the patient driver of the motorboat on Navajo Lake, and a valued member of Rocky Mountain Christian Church in Niwot and Pagosa Bible Church in Pagosa Springs. Spencer Snell will be remembered as a quiet, gentle man, and, in the words of a dear friend, as “a man totally devoted to God first, and then family, with friends being an important part of his own personal ministry — a man after God’s own heart.”

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to Christian Motorcyclists Association, P.O. Box 9, Hatfield, AZ 71945.
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Cynthia J. Curvey

July 23, 1951 — Jan. 17, 2008.

Cynthia J. Curvey, 56, of Taylorville, Ill., passed away Thursday, Jan. 17, 2008, at Memorial Medical Center, Springfield. Cynthia was a resident of Pagosa Springs for 11 years.

She was born July 23, 1951, in Burbank, Calif., the daughter of Donald and Joyce Tardif Elliott. She attended Van Nuys High School and was employed in the nursing field. She married James D. Curvey and they were married for 35 years. Cindy enjoyed bowling, sewing and several other arts and crafts. Her main devotion was her family. Cindy was employed as a bank teller for seven years at First National Bank of Pana on Spresser in Taylorville.

Surviving are her husband; father; sister, Candy (husband George) Reed; brother, Donald (wife Janet) Elliott; nieces: Nicole (husband Mike) Bush and Jaymie Messick; and several great-nieces and great-nephews. She was preceded in death by her mother and infant sister.

Memorial services were held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2008, in Shafter Funeral Home, Taylorville.
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David Keith Wright

June 28, 1938 — Jan. 2, 2008.

David was born in Loveland, Colo., and spent most of his life in Salinas and Sonora, Calif., areas until 1994 when he moved to Pagosa.

Dave is survived by two daughters, Kathy and Michelle; grandson, Chase; two sisters, Marge and Bonnie; brother, Danny; fiance, Sandra; and daughter, Sheila.

We would like to express our thanks to all of Dave’s friends who called; the outpouring of love and caring was greatly appreciated.

Dave will be missed by all whose lives he touched, because we were all greatly blessed with Dave’s love, kindness, compassion and love for life.

As per Dave’s request, no services were held.
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Ralph M. Valadez

The directors of the Heritage Registry of Who’s Who have announced the inclusion of Ralph M. Valadez of Pagosa Springs, of Ralph & Son Enterprises, in the forthcoming 2008-2009 edition.

The Heritage Registry of Who’s Who, a New York-based biographical publication, selects and distinguishes individuals throughout North America who have attained a recognizable degree of success in their field of endeavor and thereby contributing to the growth of their industry.