Ratatouille, Not Really

Kimberly Beck Clark and Fredde Duke

I bonded with Kimberly, my BFF over a dog named Sidney (often called Bitters , still don’t know why) but the real story goes like this. My best male friend up the street was David Feder who just sort of got stuck with me because of geography, i.e., our parents’ choice of homes on South Roxbury Drive. The day he and his family moved in (7th grade) I walked up the street, knocked on their door and announced that I’m available to be friends with anyone, any age. I was just glad to have fresh neighbors on a block that was getting a little stale.

The boys were CUTE, oh my God. David was exactly my age, my grade, Michael was my brother’s age, and Kayla was the adorable little sister that I would befriend and babysit and possibly be a bad influence on. I always wanted my own real sister and now I had one. I loved the Feders and chose to hang out there rather than at my own much quieter home. Over the years, the Feder boys would go out with plenty of my closest friends and presently (if you read my blog) you know that Michael ended up with my very close friend Kimme after she lost her husband to cancer.

When David and I were around 19 years old, he told me about this beautiful girl he met that was now his girlfriend. He wouldn’t stop talking about her. Fred, he would say, she’s SO great, she’s SO beautiful, I can’t wait for you to meet her. Clearly, he was a goner, madly in love. His former girlfriend, Sherry, had given him an Australian Shepherd dog that we were all wild about. Sidney. Cutest dog I’d ever seen in my life. I used to steal him for the night to sleep with me in my beach bungalow near the pier. Sidney became everybody’s dog and should one day have his own hardcover biography.

One day, when I still had not met Kim, David’s new girlfriend, I was on a commercial audition in Hollywood. I overheard that it was to be shot in Hawaii, a place I’d never been; I wasn’t a privileged kid like the others from Beverly Hills. So that’s when full-blown, serious “I really need this job” ambition came into play. I danced and sang and performed my heart out. I was very focused. It was quite a cattle call, the whole world of actors at that time were there including my old friend from high school, Scott Colomby. So, while waiting to be called, I sat near him and was very calm, saving my energy for “the room”.

While seated there with Scott, a bouncy young thing bopped up to him and was just filled with energy and enthusiasm. She said, “Oh my God,” a bit like a valley girl, “I just cut my hair!!!” After she walked away, I remember thinking maybe she was a bit of a bimbo. In truth, I have that same friendly energy, so there might be a lot of people out there thinking the same of me. Bimbo.

David was on me about meeting his new girl but I told him I landed the job, a Lipton tea commercial, and that when I got home from it I planned to meet her. While on location on the then desolate island of Kauai I managed to find myself a stray kitten to sleep with me in my hotel room. I always need a cat fix and I couldn’t bring along my own beloved cat Cosmo, a spawn of one of the Feders’ cats. (read attached story of the family history)

Cosmo, taken in the early 70\’s by Mark Conte, I also called him \”Smush\”

When I returned from the shoot, I drove by the Feder house hoping to meet this Kim. As I pull up to park, out comes, no bops, this beautiful blonde chick in a cozy white robe with Sidney in tow. She approaches my car to introduce herself and I immediately recognize her as the girl from the audition. I’m a bit anxious, but then she starts singing to Sidney in French. Well, she had me at bon jour. Instant best friends, instant, amazing chemistry. I called her Kimberly from day one, others still call her Kim. She will tell you that we are more like sisters and maybe that’s true. She is the God-mother to my kids, as I am to hers.

One day when Kimberly’s kids were small they were looking for a kitten. I am sometimes the go-to person for procuring cats. I directed them to Peter’s house. Peter has an eternal feral colony of cats living in his yard. He spends a great deal of time trapping and neutering, but some slip by, and at that moment a litter waited to find homes. Jason, Kimberly’s husband, picked Dan (actually named Big Dan) and also took another one, his slightly autistic sister Little Annie. Big Dan, who became my sometime boyfriend, lived outdoors, was very sexy and talkative, and charmed all the neighbors. Last week, at 13 years old, he lost his life to coyotes. We are all very saddened by this loss.

Big Dan, RIP

Enough about cats and coyotes, I’m here to talk about a dish Kimberly made for me many years ago. It was when I still didn’t cook myself, and the dish sort of looked like Ratatouille, only it wasn’t, but was something quite unforgettable. I asked her for the recipe and was thrilled to discover it couldn’t be more simple. Whenever I need to bring a dish to a party, this is the one I usually choose. People mostly request desserts from me, but this one, if you choose to make it, will be a hit whenever you serve it.
Ratatouille or really just an interesting eggplant dish: Recipe
eggplant cut up into small pieces
two garlic cloves chopped
balsamic vinegar, up to you at least 2 tablespoons
olive oil
tomato paste
in a pan, saute the garlic in olive oil and no, I cannot tell you exact amounts but start with about at least 4 tablespoons of olive oil and before the garlic burns add the eggplant and start to saute, it will shrink and the olive oil will start to diminish so add more as needed, in about 10 or more minutes, add a few tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and then in another 10 minutes but honestly it could be less, add a small can of tomato paste and saute for a bit longer
eat with warm fresh french bread, put a heaping tablespoon of the eggplant on a piece of bread or you might want to use crackers

Origin of some of my cats, only read if you are the biggest cat freak, otherwise you will be very bored, my husband just read it and said “ravings of a lunatic” if that gives you any idea
After a long illness (mono) in high school I threw myself a birthday party. A huge one. I was not in school for a few months so I just sort of sent the word out that there would be this open party at my house on October 12’th. And, everyone came. A girl I barely knew named Sharon Schlesinger brought me a kitten as a gift. That’s a great gift, I thought and then I got the okay from my mother to keep it. My mom was ahead of her time as an animal activist and very keen on neutering and spaying. So, when my new kitten went into heat one day, she said “do NOT let CC, (name of cat )out”. What my mother didn’t realize is that because of her militancy about fixing our animals I was never given that chance to witness one of our animals giving birth and then seeing them open their eyes and all that goes along with it. I longed all my life to have tons of litters of kittens to have to find homes for. And anyway, all my friends were doing it, so I just had to do it. So, when my mom wasn’t looking, and I heard one of the male strays crying for her, I let my little teen out of the house and said, no- I whispered, didn’t want my mom to hear “ go get laid”. I was still a virgin myself at the time….don’t worry, I won’t go there, in another blog someday, I might. So even before my mom had the chance to “fix” CC, she gave birth to a litter of the cutest fluffiest little black and white creatures. Of that litter, my mom kept one that she named General Rodriguez who became the one big last love of her life. Another one we gave to the Feders who were not militant at all about fixing their animals. The Feders named their little black and white kitten
Mama Kitty and true to her name, she did nothing but give birth every year. One year I got a call from Kayla that there was a Siamese in the new litter that had my name on it. I grabbed him up the minute I laid eyes on him and called him Cosmo after the ghost on that old t.v. show, Cosmo Topper or was the show just called Topper? Love of my life that Cosmo, all 11 years of it. Was he killed by the stalkers of my ex-husband? Not sure, never will be but they did threaten it. Another blog, my cat blog, I’ll think about getting that one going.

Kimberly with Axel, she bought him for me after Cosmo “went missing”

Cosmo, the little cutest boy turned into an 18 pounder, we were very much in love

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7 Responses to “Ratatouille, Not Really”

  1. Joyce Hyser Robinson says:

    Loved this, but I did heed your warning about the cat part. I’m allergic, but really just A.D.D.

  2. kim says:

    Oh Fredde thank you for the beautiful history of our divine and long friendship! It was written so well and I really appreciate my sweet Big Dan being honored. I still can’t believe he is gone, I loved him so much and a piece of my heart is gone. How long will I miss him, be sad?
    Thank you and I love you… how long now?35 years… We are lucky to share so much time and so much life together.
    Kim, ummm I mean, Kimberly

  3. lawrence says:

    Lovely story Fred and I will go along with raving lunatic but certainly not a bimbo and thanks for the receipe.

  4. robin says:

    another sweet, charming love story. actually several:
    you and kim
    you and cosmo
    kim and big dan(great photo)
    and of, general rodriguez
    please keep writing and writing.
    you are a very clever bimbo AND a raving lunatic…
    oh, and of course, the gorgeous feder boys! yummmy…

  5. Doreen says:

    I’m stuck at the part where you marched up to the Feder’s house and announced that you were available to be friends with anyone, any age. You are still exactly like that!! So glad you are my friend!! I love your writing. So happy you’re documenting all these infamous stories. And….how sad about Big Dan. Such a beauty. Give Kim/Kimberly a hug for me. Destin is a little shocked to realize that you’ve had other “sometimes boyfriends” but hopefully he’ll get over it soon.
    Now I’m craving eggplant. Thanks!! xoxo

  6. Another lovely tale – Kimberly is adorable and easy to fall in love with! And those Feders!!! Fond memories of Cosmo – cutest cat except for Igor the Entertainer!! Thinking of your Roxbury house and you telling that cat to “Get Laid!” Love it! Still a Raving and Fabulous LUNATIC!!!! xxoo

  7. pauli moss says:

    What a lovely ode to cats and bff’s. Keep up the wonderful nostalgia peppered with homey recipes. It must be truly special to be a friend in your wonderfully winsome world Fredde.

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