A Student of History


UnknownThe Book Cougars recommended this one, so it went to the top of my library holds list. I suggest that editors refrain from making comparisons to books like The Great Gatsby in the jacket information because it sets an unreasonable expectation in the mind of the reader before even reading a single page. I understand the similarities, but it’s too high a bar. That said, this was another book where I got to use my map of Los Angeles a lot in plotting Rick’s travels about the city. Rick was a starving PhD candidate at USC, which he referred to as the “University of Spoiled Children.” He had reached an impasse in his dissertation and avoided meeting with his advisor because she intimated that if she didn’t get some more promising writing from Rick, she was going to have to pull the plug on his grant, rendering him even more poor than he already was. When his friend had to give up her job because she was moving, she offered to put in a word for him with her employer, a wealthy widow from one of the colossally rich founding families of Los Angeles. Rick recognized that this was a job he simply couldn’t pass up, even though it sounded terribly boring.


Image from http://www.whitewaterinn.com

Rick used to escape from the city with his then girlfriend, Chloe, to Cambria, California. They took leisurely walks on Moonstone Beach and watched the seals. Moonstone Beach figures into the plot later in the book, and is where Rick’s life begins to unravel.


One of the many ways that reminded Rick how far out of his league he was with Mrs. W– and her social group is the restaurants that he went to with them. One of them was the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel where Mrs.– W had a lunch was meeting with the head fundraiser for a children’s hospital. The fact that he was late and unaccompanied by the director did nothing to endear him to Mrs. W– and she let him know exactly how she felt about that. At this uncomfortable gathering, all present had the Polo Lounge McCarthy Salad. This chopped salad was created for polo player Neil McCarthy and has been served there continuously since the 1940’s.

Polo Lounge McCarthy Salad
Serves 4

½ C extra-virgin olive oil
3 T balsamic vinegar
1 T Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, grated
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

12 oz iceberg lettuce, finely chopped
12 oz hearts of romaine, finely chopped
2 oz watercress, finely chopped
½ lb red beets, roasted and finely diced
½ lb aged Cheddar cheese, finely diced
½ lb applewood-smoked bacon, cooked and finely chopped
3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and finely chopped
½ lb grilled chicken breast, finely diced
1 large vine-ripened tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
1 avocados, peeled and sliced

Combine first 5 ingredients in a measuring cup; whisk to combine.

Combine iceberg, romaine and watercress. Divide among 4 large salad bowls. Arrange beets, cheese, bacon, eggs, chicken and tomatoes artfully on each serving. Drizzle with dressing. Top with avocado and serve with extra dressing on the side.



My version does not have hard boiled egg in it, and I seriously cut down on the bacon, using it as a garnish instead of one of the building blocks of the salad. It didn’t suffer with those changes at all. You can’t see the lettuce mixture under the other goodies, but the mix was very tasty. The balsamic vinaigrette complemented all the flavors, making for a delicious midday meal. 



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