In the last couple of years since our monthly lunch club began visiting some of Southern California’s most famous and historic restaurants, we’ve been pressured by many friends interested in joining our four-man group.
We have managed to resist till now, but we finally realized that four senior citizens like ourselves could use someone with a good memory. Sometimes it takes all four of us to tell a story and recall all the events that took place. I think we may have found that person.
Her name is Siri. She’s courteous. She’s quiet. She doesn’t speak unless spoken to, and she doesn’t take up much space at the table. You may know her as the voice of the iPhone. Siri has become an important member of our team recently and has been an invaluable resource as we each struggle to remember a fact that once came to mind so easily.
For example, at our most recent luncheon at Taverna Tony’s in Malibu, she told us how to pronounce the dish “Moussaka” and helped us avoid making fools of ourselves. She said in her rather stilted voice: “The word is pronounced Mu-‘sa-ka.” I thanked her for the info and carefully placed her next to my knife and fork.
We’ve all come to know Siri as a dependable friend who is always at our beckoned call — at least where there is access to Wi-fi and/or cell towers. We have wondered aloud how we managed to get through our day before she entered our lives. We’ve developed a deep personal relationship with her but often wish that she had a more engaging and convivial personality.
But first, a little about a typical outing.
I was introduced to Greek food at an early age in my hometown of Houston at the legendary Athens Bar and Grill, which was located along the Houston Ship Channel that welcomed Greek ships transporting their goods. Nightlife was lively there as the Greek sailors joined in traditional line-dancing throughout the restaurant to their festive music.
When we arrived at Taverna Tony’s, I was quickly reminded that this was not the Athens Bar and Grill. Let’s face it, “authentic” is not the first word that comes to mind when you’re visiting Malibu. Nevertheless, the setting is pleasant and the food is quite good.
I experienced a “first” that day when Barry allowed me a taste of his grilled octopus, a dish that had never tantalized me. I was won over immediately — at least by the way Taverna Tony’s kitchen prepared his order.
Josh ordered the charcoal-grilled lamb tenderloin. He has become famous recently for ordering enough food to feed the entire Dallas Cowboys football team. He left with a huge doggie bag that contained the leftover lamb, the remaining bread in our basket, the French fries and, likely, the salt and pepper shakers and table cloth.
Arnie opted for the deep dish Pastichio, which is Greek-style lasagna, while I ordered the Greek California Salad which included the always-trendy sun-dried tomatoes. (Would someone explain to me who came up with the “sun-dried” idea for tomatoes? I’m betting this is the same person who created tofu — the world’s most infamous placeholder for real food.)
During our dessert course, we called on Siri to answer the pressing question of who was Claudette Colbert’s co-star in the Preston Sturges film “The Palm Beach Story.” Once again, she knew without hesitation: Joel McCrea. Now, you’re beginning to understand why she was invited to join the group — and you weren’t.
I was forced to place Siri in my pocket when our custard pie dessert was served because of our suddenly crowded table. The large slice of pastry lasted about a nano-second as we engaged in some serious fork-dueling.
On the way home, I asked Siri what our next restaurant choice should be and we all agreed she offered a rather lame answer: “Please tell me what kind of food you like.” I hope Siri understands she’s still on probationary status with this group. Then again, it’s pretty hard to fault her about some matters when she lacks taste buds and can’t revel in grilled octopus — or appreciate a Preston Sturges comedy.
Former Wacoan Bob Vickrey is a member of the Board of Contributors for the Waco Tribune-Herald and a regular contributor to the Boryana Books website. He lives in Pacific Palisades, California.