Today we met our neighbor Don Eliezer, otherwise known as Al. People call him Al because they don't understand his name--it's from the Bible--and they ask him to spell it, but even when he spells it they can't manage it and call him Al.
He has the most amazing garden--very mature fruit trees that he has grown mainly from seeds and cuttings. An enormous quince tree--in fact two quince trees--whose fruit looks like enormous green apples. (L*'s dad correctly identified them as quince and also, like Don Eliezer, said that they're used to make membrillo.)
Don Eliezer is Italian of Spanish extraction. He and his wife have lived here so long he doesn't count the years.
There used to be a lot of drugs in the neighborhood and a lot of people moved away. Don Eliezer didn't want to be forced out and he and several of the neighbors got together.
The area changed a lot. Not only the families but also a lot of the businesses moved away, buildings were left empty. Meanwhile in San Francisco, there's not enough room. The Asians in San Francisco saw the empty buildings in Oakland and said, let's move to Oakland. Now there's a lot of thriving businesses.
His niece is living with them now, because his wife can't manage anymore.
With all the fruits from his garden, his wife would make wonderful pies.
He used to work in the typewriter business, but that business doesn't exist anymore.
Now it's all computers. He's too old to use computers. His niece has a computer and sometimes she sends email for him. He was able to get in touch with a friend from way back, who didn't know if he was alive or dead.
One time for work he was driving around, El Cerrito, and he saw some beautiful mora (mulberry) trees. He had never seen red mora before. He filled his hat with the berries and got his shirt all stained with the juice. you can't wash that out. He brought the berries home to his wife and she made the most delicious pie!
He has a little vegetable patch with squash. Zucchini. Usually he gets way too many to use. They make a lot of ratatouilie. Also, a stew, a beef stew, but his wife says next time they should make a lamb stew. They dredge the meat in flour and mostly it's to give flavor. It's almost all vegetables. He hunts through the leaves and stalks and flowers to find one ripening squash. He gives it to me to make a ratatouille.
This year he's also growing beans. You're supposed to pick them when they're flat: then you put them in the vegetable stew and they're delicious. But not these ones: they're--he calls them pregnant--because the bean pods are so swollen with the beans inside. Now they'll have too many strings. Also he's growing white beans.