I think I'm due for a few things here. First, an apology for those Roadfood friends who I haven't talked to for a while. Sometimes things come up, but I apologize for not posts, messaging or anything else. You see, it's been a few years and with things that happened, I just lost my joy in food and writing. Mr. and Mrs. Chips could tell, several years ago they took me on a great tour of Portland and I barely ate and wrote about it. I apologize for that. The person who finally inspired me was my daughter, Lindsay. Not a week would go by that she would convince me the two of us had to try a new place, or revisit an old one. Portillo's Hot dogs, Paul's Pantry of a Chinese place I had never tried, she got me there, taking photos and starting to write. I thank her for this. All the time she was growing into a beautiful, fun woman, she always made time for food adventures for us. I's like you to read about that now.
For a few years now, I’ve tried to write a regular blog for OC Foodies about good places and events I have gone to. More often than not, I attended them with my daughter, Lindsay Simon, a foodie from the time she could first walk. Many times, she was the one who suggested a new place to try. Many of them I enjoyed with her. Unfortunately, many more I cannot enjoy with her. She passed away from breast cancer at the age of 26 on September 2nd
. I haven’t written a food blog here in a while. Between the months leading up to her final days and my emotions after, dealing with the events kept me from doing much. But now I’d like to give you a tribute to the best Foodie of all, my daughter Lindsay.
Many restaurants are having promotions where they donate a portion of your bill to breast cancer awareness groups. In print, on television and online, articles have been written to heighten awareness of breast cancer, interviews with survivors have been shown and reports on ways to maintain awareness of your chances for breast cancer are continually presented. For me, it is a very personal thing. It has been a difficult few months and extremely hard with all the publicity about National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I am writing this for two reasons. First, to add my voice to those who try to raise awareness of breast cancer. If my words help a few people (yes, people, because going through this, I was educated that men can also develop breast cancer) to get early detection of breast cancer and can go on to live their lives as survivors, I will feel that I have made a difference. Secondly, I want to make people aware of what a remarkable person my daughter was, not only as a daughter but as a friend and a foodie. Rarely a week went by that we didn't get together for a meal out. Several of my dining out reviews were written with her as my dining partner. Many times we went places that she found, with her knowing that I would like them.
Lindsay Simon was born January 14, 1986. As a child, she enjoyed going out to eat with the family. With me being an adventurous eater, both Lindsay and her brother Michael were exposed to a much wider variety of foods than a lot of children. Like most children, we would go out for birthdays to wherever the kids wanted. At the time, living in Valencia, for her fifth birthday we asked Lindsay where she wanted to go. I expected a normal child's response---Chuck E. Cheese or Carl's Jr. with some friends for a small party. Not Lindsay, however. In her best five year old voice, she requested Inagiku, at that time an upscale Japanese teppan and sushi restaurant at the Valencia Country Club. She enjoyed that birthday very much, watching the teppan chef at our table do knife tosses, flip the shrimp in the air and all the other delights that a good teppanyaki chef does for show. That is when I realized I had a young foodie in the making.
At home, it was much the same. I did most of the cooking, so I got the dinner requests. One of her favorites that she requested was my breaded calamari steaks. She loved them, as did her brother. By the time they asked me, “Dad, what kind of animal is a calamari?”, they enjoyed them so much that finding out that calamari was a fancy name for squid did not even faze them.
At the age of eight, Lindsay was signed by the Screen Children's Agency as an extra. She worked regularly, practically becoming a regular on such shows as Baywatch, Picket Fences, Power Rangers and Unsolved Mysteries. One day she came back with a great big smile on her face. The assistant director on Baywatch had invited her to join him for lunch that day. She was more excited about that lunch than meeting anyone else during the 3 year period that she worked. She did do one food-based commercial, Burger King's promotion with Disney's Pocohantas movie. Far from being a child only eating hot dogs, hamburgers and pizza however, she loved Chinese food, Japanese, Mexican, Italian and more. She would sit at a sushi bar and enjoy her California Roll, while I got used to the person sitting next to me commenting in amazement that they had never seen a child that age enjoying sushi. Between Baywatch, where her scenes were primarily filmed at the beach, and sailing on my boat, where she enjoyed being the “first mate”, Lindsay developed her lifelong love of the sea. Her face lit up whenever we were out and she saw a dolphin, whale or seal.
At the age of eleven, our family was separated due to divorce. The children moved to Canada with their mother. The following years were difficult. The fact that Lindsay went through them and came out a charming, well-adjusted young lady was a testament to her personality. Her tastes in food changed somewhat due to the differences between Winnipeg and California. She did not get sushi there, but developed a taste for Canada's poutine, their national dish consisting of variations of french fries covered with gravy and then topped with cheese curds. At the age of sixteen, I was finally able to get Lindsay to move in with me at my apartment in Long Beach. She started at Wilson Classical High School and began to again enjoy the California lifestyle, especially the beaches and ocean that she loved. We regularly went for sushi at Sushi Studio, Chinese at Chen's Chinese Cuisine on Broadway, Brazilian barbecue at Green Field and Hawaiian at L &L Barbecue. Every once in a while she would announce that she was cooking dinner that night. It was usually just spaghetti with Ragu sauce, but it was delicious when cooked for me by her. Graduation came from Wilson and her request for her graduation party was at Frenchy's Bistro in Long Beach. Andre, the owner and chef, came up with a special menu just for her. The food was amazing and just what she wanted.
Lindsay Simon started the quest for her Bachelor's degree at California State University, Long Beach. She had worked very hard to get into that school. She did very well and kept a good GPA. In the meantime, she took a part-time job at Disneyland. For a few months she worked the c
arts, but her desire was to become part of the entertainment there. After a few months she auditioned and became a cast character there, doing several of the most-recognized characters in the world. That is when many of my roadfood friends came, met her and had their pictures taken with her (in costume. of course).
For the next three years she worked while maintaining good grades in school. She did not start driving until after the first year, so I was tasked with picking her up after the park was closed, often stopping at Zankou Chicken or Casa Sanchez for an after-work meal with her. After she turned 22, Lindsay took a break from school and moved up to Bakersfield with her boyfriend. I looked forward to taking them out to new places when they came down to visit. A year later, she moved back down to the LA/OC area and resumed her classes. She took a part-time job that she loved with people that she really liked, as a cast member at Knott's Berry Farm, again playing their most famous character. We met weekly for dinner or lunch, enjoying dining out together, often times trying new places that she had suggested. She was one of the first to tell me about Slater's 50/50, Shin Sen Gumi and Fortune Cookies Chinese Healthy Cuisine. I met her several times at Mrs. Knott's after work for delicious fried chicken. When I wrote dining reviews of the Kickin' Crab in Westminster, Capital Seafood's dim sum in Irvine and Fu Wing Low in Fountain Valley, she was my dining partner. She would often drive down to Mission Viejo where I live for the home-cooked meals that she loved. When 99 Ranch Market had live lobsters and crabs on sale, she always made it a point to come down for them. Even when she went to places like San Diego, San Francisco or even to visit friends and family in Winnipeg, she made sure to bring me a gourmet oil, sauce or cookbook from the area.
In June, Lindsay did not feel well. She had a shortness of breath for quite a while which she had been told was just bronchitis. A lump which she had felt almost a year earlier she was told was “nothing to worry about”. At the beginning of July she had been finally diagnosed with cancer but due to the insurance woes here, she could not get in for tests until near the end of July. On July 25th, my birthday, she took me out for dinner. She wanted to take me to try a new Japanese barbecue restaurant she had found, Tsuruhashi in Fountain Valley, but as we talked I could see she had no appetite at all. It was not something that was normal for Lindsay. I suggested that we instead go to Santouka Ramen, a favorite of mine where I knew she could at least get some soup. I got the miso ramen with extra pork, while I finally convinced her to get a plain bowl of miso soup. I had no idea that would be the last birthday I would spend with her. The next day, she went to Orange Coast Memorial Hospital to do paperwork to begin tests. She was in so much pain that they admitted her immediately. By the end of the day, I was told that she had less than six months. I was devastated. Her cancer was already at Stage 4, past the point where there was much that could be done. By the middle of August, that had been revised to 2 months. Even that, in retrospect, was more time then she had. When she was released from the hospital the first time, after 17 days, on a Saturday, I took her to a party at a family friend's house. They had a taco cart vendor making fresh tacos, and she enjoyed a few. She was in severe pain and on massive pain drugs, but she still enjoyed the meal. A few days later she was back in the hospital. When she was released a week later, she insisted on putting her wig to hide her bald head from the chemotherapy and going to Katella Deli. She was craving their matzo ball soup. We stopped there and she enjoyed her soup.
I brought her home and filled up the fridge with food she liked. Two days later, I had to rush her back to the hospital, spending the night because she was scared. When she put her head on my shoulder, cried and said “Dad, I don't want to die”, it tore me up inside. A few days later, we took an ambulance ride together back home, where a hospice was set for her to spend her last days. That Sunday, September 2nd, as I was rubbing her head, now practically hairless from the two chemotherapy treatments, she took her last breath. Her face relaxed into a small smile and she was gone. Breast cancer had claimed her at the age of twenty six.
At her memorial service, which was more of a celebration of her life, were many of the people whose lives she had touched. Many of the guests spoke about how she would do things for other people, even if they made things more difficult for herself, They talked about how loving and giving she was and of the joy she had at work, knowing that she had made the vacation of thousands of children better with a hug from one of her characters. We had her favorite foods for everyone, including dim sum, honey walnut shrimp and filet mignon cubes from Capital Seafood, matzo ball soup and pastrami sandwiches on rye, homemade tamales from El Chile Relleno and more. People came from Canada, Oregon and Idaho to attend. Only four classes away from her Bachelor's degree with plans for a Master's in Child Psychology, CSULB sent a certificate of accomplishment. Her supervisor from Knott’s brought over a stuffed Snoopy in honor of her work there. Breast cancer had claimed her body, but her spirit lives on in the lives of people that she touched. So, as we look at National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I ask all of you to get tests, even if you think you don't need them. If Lindsay had, she might still be here. And with the empty hole in my heart from her passing, I hope that my words can help someone else to get tested before it is too late. If this article can save just one person, I know Lindsay is smiling about that, happy that she helped someone to live. In a way, she has inspired me to keep up the work, searching out the Roadfood places we liked so much. I want to add a thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Chips, who got me to see the real Portland this week, finally eat to enjoy the food, and remind me that there is still some writing left in me. And this week, someone mentioned the famous movie line, "when you hear a bell ring, an angel gets their wings". Well, I've heard a lor of bells ring for order pickups lately. I'm sure that one of those food orders got Lindsay her wings.
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