Gluten-Free, Mad Men, Meatless, Soup, Vegan / Thursday, June 25th, 2009


I was going to write about trying gazpacho for the first time.

Yesterday, I bellied-up to a big, bracing bowl. Simple. Fresh. Fast.

And it didn’t taste like salsa.

But I’m not thinking about that tonight. I’m thinking about Michael and Farrah.

Let’s discuss.

In summer 1984, there wasn’t a more coveted, longed-for object than a ticket to the Jacksons’ Victory Tour. That was when the “M” in MTV seemed to stand for Michael. Kids were trying to teach themselves how to moonwalk. Everyone could sing along to every song on “Thriller.” The height of Michael Jackson Mania.

I was 10.

My parents did not share my obsession.

The closest tour stop was Knoxville, but he might as well have been performing on the Great Wall of China. I wasn’t going. There was absolutely no hope. And then a Nashville radio station announced a ticket contest: you could send them a postcard, and if they drew your name, you had 10 minutes to phone the station to claim your tickets. I mailed one postcard. In secret. And every night I turned down my radio (so my parents wouldn’t know how late I was staying up) and listened for my name to be called.


I heard my name –my name! my name! – and it was like winning the lottery and finding one of Willy Wonka’s Golden Tickets and breaking a world’s record all in one glorious moment. I jumped out of bed and ran to the nearest phone – the one in my parents’ bedroom – and yammered an explanation to them as I dialed the radio station’s number, desperate to get through to the DJ before my 10 minutes were up, but my voice just came out as a squeal. I sounded like a manic preteen dolphin.

Going to that concert was the thrill of a 10-year-old’s lifetime. That’s what I want to remember about Michael Jackson.

What about you? Are Michael and Farrah on your mind tonight? Did you have (or aspire to have) “Farrah hair”? Did you stay up late trying to catch “Thriller” on “Friday Night Videos”?


From Ina Garten’s “The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook”

Servings: 4 to 6

  • 1 hothouse cucumber, halved and seeded, but not peeled
  • 2 red bell peppers, cored and seeded
  • 4 plum tomatoes
  • 1 red onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 23 ounces tomato juice (3 cups)
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  1. Roughly chop the cucumbers, bell peppers, tomatoes and red onions into 1-inch cubes.
  2. Put each vegetable separately into a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until it is coarsely chopped. Do not overprocess!
  3. After each vegetable is processed, combine them in a large bowl and add the garlic, tomato juice, vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix well and chill before serving. The longer gazpacho sits, the more the flavors develop.

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36 thoughts on “Gazpacho!

  1. Loved Ina's version of this…it's the one I use all the time. Yours looks beautiful. What a great story about winning the ticket! I hope you went to the Remember Michael website and posted that!

    1. It was so exciting. But I'm sure my parents' version of the same story would be MUCH different.

      I'd never had gazpacho, so I was sore afraid, but it was good! Have you ever added anything to it, like avocado? Or shrimp?

  2. That is totally a dream come true. We must be the same age! I dreamed sweet little girl dreams of that kind of thing! Thriller was the first cassette I bought myself (well, right after I bought Purple Rain). And it's still great.

    We have a family Gazpacho recipe that I'll be making and will have to post soon! BFC is the bomb, though.

    1. Ohhhh, Prince and Michael Jackson! Yesssss. Thriller was my first cassette, too. I think I bought the album first and then had to go high-tech.

      Send word when you post your gazpacho. This is the only one I've ever tried, so I'm curious.

  3. girls, so so sad. ur tix winning story is amazing. how fun. i was just saying how disappointed that i never got to see him live.

    1. So high energy. You would have loved it! I feel sorry for all the fans I'm seeing on TV. I didn't realize there were still so many.

  4. I really wasn't a fan of either but I can respect the loss. Farrah's was a sad passing because I watched her special and she really fought hard to try and beat it. As far as Michael, he was a great artist back in the day but I felt was really strange in the last 10 years or so. He always seemed so fail so it wasn't so surprising.

    1. Farrah – I don't remember "Charlie's Angels," but I can't imagine having to deal with disease and suffering in such a public way. She had real strength.

      Michael – It'll be interesting to see in 10 or 20 years which Michael people remember.

  5. Michael is very much on my mind this evening, it's always so strange when a big celeb dies and it makes me feel so…weird inside. It's really sad :( I can't even believe he was 50! When did that happen?!
    Thriller scared the bejeezus out of me as a child! And I will always love the "Rock with you" video with his sparkly ensemble!

    I was never a big Farrah fan, I was never into Charlies Angels or anything (too young) but I watched that special last month on her cancer treatment and wow, heart breaking! May they both rest in peace.

    1. Fifty! And his kids are so young.

      "Rock with You"! It's all about the sparkly, slouchy boots.

      I didn't see the Farrah special on Dateline, but it got to a lot of people. Unusual for someone whose career was rooted in being a sex symbol to allow themselves to be seen like that, very vulnerable and suffering. But also optimistic and strong.

  6. Fifty! And his kids are so young.

    "Rock with You"! It's all about the sparkly, slouchy boots.

    I didn't see the Farrah special on Dateline, but it got to a lot of people. Unusual for someone whose career was rooted in being a sex symbol to allow themselves to be seen like that, very vulnerable and suffering. But also optimistic and strong.

  7. So weird for me, because I remember thinking Michael Jackson was cool, but I was just a little too young to really be into him. (I remember "Thriller" being really scary.) Still, it's weird that he's died–just one of those people you thought would live forever somehow…..

    Glad you liked the Gazpacho, too.

    1. "Thriller" WAS pretty scary. I used to turn down the volume when Vincent Price came on to do his rap.

      I definitely liked the gazpacho, but I'm envious of Deb from Kahakai Kitchen's shrimp.

  8. Your gazpacho looks wonderful and I have always thought it might taste like a bowl of salsa, so I have never tried it. I might have to now. I was in high school when MJ made Thriller. I worked at a local Five and Dime store who rented VCR's and movies. They played Thriller non-stop to advertise, after while it got real old. They also sold pleather versions of his Beat It jacket, too funny. Now, with FF, I just remember watching a few episodes of Charlie's Angels. I watched more of her hubby's show, The Six Million Dollar Man!

    1. Thanks! This recipe is a little salsa-esque – it's that tomato and red onion combo – but all of the tomato juice helps. Some people added grilled shrimp and/or avocado, so I might play with mix-ins next time. Or a nice swirl of pesto (mixed with a little extra olive oil) on top.

      I remember those pleather jackets! The ones at our mall were chained to the hangers. First time I'd ever seen that.

  9. I never really got into MJ too much, but I remember others being crazy about him. I think I was still too young! I used to burst out laughing whenever I heard I'm Bad :P :P :P
    But still, his death shocked me. It was so sudden!! I thought he'd live forever!!

    1. Well, "Bad" IS bad. I don't blame you one bit. My fandom was over after "Thriller" – I was on to Madonna and Duran Duran – but I'll always try to think of him in his prime. Kinda like the way most of us "choose" between Young Elvis and Fat Elvis.

  10. Your gazpacho looks SO good, especially with the grilled bread on the side. I'm all about the carbs.

    I remember the Thriller album with great fondness, and what a special thing that you got to go to a MJ concert.

    This morning, "Beat It" came on the radio and I blared it, it just seemed like the right thing to do.

    I always remember Farrah from the shampoo commercials, where the squares multiplied over and over…you know the one…"and they will tell their friends and their friends will tell their friends"…or something like that. Charlie's angels were always so cool.

    1. Thanks! I'm with you, it's not a meal without carbs.

      I knew something was wrong when I turned on the car radio yesterday afternoon, and they were playing "Thriller," but it's been cool to hear songs I haven't heard in YEARS, like "PYT" and "Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough."

      I totally remember that shampoo ad! And what girl hasn't done the "Charlie's Angels" pose, even if you've never seen the show? Iconic.

  11. My mom texted me last night to tell me the news that Michael passed and i swear i thought she was joking. Sadly, she wasn't. I mean he was 50!! ….. what does one say to that?

    I remember recording the Thriller video on my VHS and playing it over and over again so i could get the choreography down JUUUUUST right. And taking my mom's cd's and lying on the floor with my headphones jamming out, watching the videos on MTV and thinking that this man could do anything… he was THAT amazing. Even when things turned south for him, when he got up on a stage… that element was still there.

    Farrah's passing was sad. I was pulling for her. I really was. I thought she was going to make it, she was fighting so hard and she was just so determined. I remember watching Charlie's Angels re-runs with my mom and pretending to be Farrah (with me being blonde and all) walking around the house with my finger/hand gun yelling stop dirtbag at imaginary people!! ahhh the memories.

    1. Oh, man, who DIDN'T try to teach themselves the "Thriller" dance? I did the same thing. And, I agree, regardless of how you felt about him later, you couldn't deny his abilities as a live performer.

      Fifty! I keep thinking about his kids.

      People always criticize "Charlie's Angels" as bimbo TV, but I think was little girls picked up was that we could be badass, too. And STILL look good. I was pulling for Farrah, too.

  12. Great story about Michael. The moonwalk was so awesome. Farrah was beautiful and I always wished I had her hair. I'm blond ( or was ), but my hair was always thin and droopy. Your gazpacho looks wonderful. I added shrimp to mine like Deb and made a rosemary flatbread to round out the meal.

  13. We clearly remember the same Michael Jackson – the one from the early/mid 80s. I can't even imagine how excited the whole ticket winning/concert experience had to be for you as a 10 year old! I used to pretend to go to sleep on Friday nights, and then wake up and sneak into the den to watch Michael on Friday Night Videos. And I was totally pissed off when the frikin Footloose Soundtrack knocked Thriller out of #1 on the Billboard Top 100 albums. He was such a huge talent, and such a tragic figure. Did you read Andrew Sullivan's piece on him? He nailed it, I think. Anyway, when I think of Michael I will always think of Michael in 1984, when he was on top of the world, before his behavior turned bizarre. I don't think anyone who came of age in the 80s can help but feel a sense of sadness over his loss.

    Sad about Farrah too.

    But on a happier note, your gazpacho looks great! I loved this soup.

  14. I've been reading your blog for quiet some time and don't think I've ever commented. I had to today because we both have done a gazpacho in the same week.
    I love your unique recipes – everything looks devine!
    and all your and funny stories/memories!
    Thanks for having such a great blog!

  15. Great post! It's nice to read something so different from the current media frenzy. I'm a bit younger than you, so my Michael Jackson memories are very different. I do, however, remember watching MTV on my grandparents' bed when I was sleeping over at their house. I must have been about 8. My grandfather didn't understand "why we had to watch this program." My grandmother, on the other hand, kept shushing him, because, "I don't know how much I like that man, but he sure can dance!" (Grandma, now 81, still holds that no one could dance quite like Michael Jackson.)

  16. I'm surprised by how much his passing has gotten to me. I didn't realize I had such a warm place in my heart for Michael Jackson! I think it's that I associate his music with a happy time – staying up late to watch for the video for "Beat It" or "Thriller" on Night Tracks, that moon walk – I remember that performance on the Grammys.

    Great post.

  17. Wow, what a great story. Just like you I hope he is remembered for the talented man that he is and not the controversy that he is surrounded with. The gazpacho looks scrumptious.

  18. It's definitely a sad, sad day for the entertainment industry.

    On a lighter note, that gazpacho looks delicious! I was thinking to trying Ina's recipe but was afraid the soup would taste too raw… if that makes sense? I was thinking of roasting tomatoes before chilling them with the rest of the ingredient. If you say it was delicious though, I should really give it a try!

  19. I live 2.5 miles from UCLA med center, but had no idea what was going on as I was at the beach with my three boys and three of their friends. On the way home, my car was so loud that turning on the radio seemed like a moot point. I loved Michael Jackson. When I was 13, our family was in Vegas with another family. My friends dad was a big gambler and basically, got what ever he wanted. The Jackson 5 were playing at we got front row seats. I sang along to every song and Jackie, Mikes older brother knew it. At the end of the show, he picked me up on stage and asked me to dance with he and Michael. Then the curtain closed and I was back stage with them. I am surprised I didn't pee in my pants.

    Your blog is beautiful. So is your writing. Enjoy the day!

  20. I had the same experience (radio station tickets, a lottery to win tickets) for the Rolling Stones, when I was 14. My brother is the one who told me about the contest and found my name on the winning list. Did I take him to the concert with me (I had won two tickets). Mmmm, NO. Is he still bitter, lo these many years later? YES. Maybe if I make him this gazpacho he will finally forgive me!

  21. Wow, great story!! I went to a Michael Jackson concert in 1988 and ended up meeting him after the concert!! It was unreal!!!!

  22. I can't believe someone else remembers Friday Night Videos! My cousin and I used to rewind Beat It endlessly . . . it's really sad how things ended up for MJ. It's really unbelievable. Thanks for sharing that terrific memory.

  23. That summer of 1984, I was forced to learn the entire Thriller dance. At USA Cheer Camp. Thanks right, Cheer Camp. I never once dropped the Spirit Stick and I still remember key moves from that dance to this very day.

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