The Girls from Corona del Mar – A Fictitious Meal

As the last post in my series exploring the world of The Girls from Corona del Mar, I thought it would be nice to look into a topic me and Jessica both like very much: food.

“You should see how she cooks the chicken,” Franklin said. “She rubs it with cinnamon and all these crazy spices – unbelievable.”

Mia prepares a full chicken, a salad, and couscous. To recreate the meal I would do the following. (Full disclaimer I am not good at cooking things or taking pictures, so the pictures are from various sites, which are linked at the end.)


Roast Chicken 

For the spice blend, combine (roughly) the following ratios of the ground spices and then finish with a little salt and crushed black pepper.

  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp saffron
  • 1/4 tsp cloves

For the roasting part, we would follow the Thomas Keller method! It is simple and results in a deliciously crispy skin with tender meat.

Let the chicken come to room temp and make sure it is dry (ie do not wash). Pat down the chicken with paper towels on the outside and inside to make sure there is no moisture. The lack of liquid is an integral part of the method! Moisture leads to steam leads to a less crispy skin and a drier meat. So no other veggies, no lemon slices, no juices, nothing!

Sprinkle the cavity of the chicken with some of the spice blend. Preheat the oven to 450 F, and truss that sucker! Finally, rub the chicken down with as much of the spice blend as wanted. Place it breast up on a roasting rack (over a pan) in the oven and roast for an hour or once the internal temperature reaches 165 F.


Ok, so not the recipe I describe below, but a nice picture of couscous with roasted cauliflower


Bring water or chicken broth to a boil. Add a pinch of salt, a tablespoon of olive oil, and a quarter cup of diced dried dates and the couscous. Cover the pot, remove from heat, and let it stand. Add sliced and pitted green olives and fresh mint.



Thorpe describes the salad as simple with radishes, onions, and parsley. I think to balance the meal and make sure the flavors of the chicken are the star of the meal, a simple salad is a good choice. Combine the following and then dress lightly with olive oil and something with a little acidity. A lot of recipes recommend a white wine vinegar, but I like the combination of olive oil and lemon juice the best. Finish with freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste.

  • As many cucumbers as you like, sliced
  • 2 cups sliced radishes
  • 1 cup sliced red onion
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup whole leaf or chopped parsley
  • optional: add feta (which I personally add to really almost anything)

Chicken picture link
Couscous picture link
Radish picture (but not recipe) link

The Girls from Corona del Mar – Vocabulary

It’s always a good idea to keep a list of words you don’t recognize while you read through a book. For me, some words become very closely associated with where I first read them (cul-de-sac I first saw in The Hardy Boys in third grade). Here is my newly learned vocab list after reading The Girls of Corona del Mar.

  • Rubicund: adj. red or ruddy
  • Autodidact: n. a self-taught person
  • Logorrhea: n. pathologically incoherent, repetitive speech or an incessant or compulsive talkativeness
  • Aplomb: n. imperturbable self-possession, poise, or assurance
  • Weft: n. woven fabric or garment
  • Mimeograph: n. a printing machine with an ink-fed drum, around which a cut waxed stencil is placed and which rotates as successive sheets of paper are fed into it.
  • Dargah: n. the tomb of a Muslim saint; a Muslim shrine
  • Vertiginous: adj. whirling, spinning, rotary

The Girls from Corona del Mar — the scent of a hometown

But when Lorrie Ann and I were girls, Corona del Mar was half empty, somewhat decayed, beautifully perfumed. Always there was jasmine on the wind, or the subtler, greener scent of potato vine, or the almost hostile peppery scent of bougainvillea. — Rufi Thorpe

I love passages about scents, which are after all closely linked to memory, and, having recently moved just one hour north of Corona del Mar myself, was interested in this description. From my experience, I have seen a lot of jasmine, lavender, and rosemary planted around neighborhoods and corporate buildings alike. I also think that southern California has a lot of “greener” scents that don’t trespass into the floral scents. Where I disagree with Thorpe is the bougainvillea, which I have never thought of as having a strong scent let alone a hostile one. Most species, including the one I’ve seen most abundantly in LA, are almost odorless. I have also recently been getting interested in perfumes and how they are made.

Naturally, I tried to imagine how this scent might smell as a perfume and to find a similar, already existing product. Perfumes have three chords that relate to the volatility of the molecules. The top notes (“head”) of a perfume are what you smell first and thus gives the first impression of the perfume. The middle notes (“heart”) appear after the top notes have dissipated. These notes last for a few minutes and give a fullness to the perfume. The base notes (“body”) are the scents to emerge last and which stay the longest. They are typically richer and add complexity to the perfume. With that in mind, I think a perfume to capture Corona del Mar based on Thorpe’s description would open with very sweet top notes, such as jasmine and lavender, and maybe just a touch of citrus, which is pretty abundant in southern California. For the middle notes, I would introduce a light touch of spices such as cardamom and cloves as a substitute for bougainvillea along with some wood aromas like teak. I think the base note of California would be the smell of dirt, but I guess that’s not really common in perfumes. Maybe something like sandalwood or rosewood or vetiver?

Since I don’t have a lot of experience with perfumes (in fact I just bought my third bottle ever recently), I relied heavily on the community at Fragrantica to find a perfume that matched my idea of Corona del Mar.


Trend Lei by Les Copains for Women
This perfume from 2001 opens with bergamot, peach, cardamom, and violet leaf. The middle notes are jasmine, iris, lily, and cinnamon. The base notes are sandalwood, patchouli, vanilla, and musk. It is a little spicy, a tiny bit floral, and woody fragrance. One reviewer calls it “good for youths, very optimistic.”


Boum Pour Homme by Jeanne Arthes for Men
Described as a woody spicy fragrance, it has top notes of rosemary and lemon. Middle notes are nutmeg, lily, tea, jasmine, cloves, and cardamom. Base notes are sandalwood, patchouli, musk, vanilla, and cedar. Reviewers say it is “perfect for the summer daytime” and “refreshing, comfortable… simple.”


Nio by Xerjoff for Men
Part of the Shooting Stars Collection, this perfume is meant to be elegant and romantic. It opens with neroli, bergamot and green notes, has delicate middle notes of nutmeg, cardamom, jasmine, and pink pepper, and has base notes of vetiver, amber, Virginia cedar, patchouli, and Guaiac wood. Reviewers describe it as “simple,” “natural,” and evokes memories of “the sun on a bright spring day.”

I want to end this post with these questions: if you designed a perfume to capture the happy scents of your hometown, what would be in it? How would you want it to smell? What images would you want it to evoke? Comment or message me your thoughts!