Saturday, October 07, 2017

And Then Came Meatloaf

I don't know if I've posted this before, but someone brought it up on FB and I liked it, so here goes. Hope I'm not boring you to death with something you already saw.
And then came Meatloaf
Not the singer, the food. I was dying for the second piece of swordfish I've got in the fridge. Bought it a few days ago, it's still cold and fresh. Got capers, organic scallions, organic red peppers and plain old onions and garlic in olive oil to go with it. Was thinking of having it on a bed of spinach, no starch.
Then I got to the store and happened to see some ground pork. Yes, pretty horrible, but I got to thinking about meatloaf. Not the singer, the food. Though I did start singing Two out of Three Ain't Bad in the supermarket. It's okay, they already stare at me for my half-gone right calf, so I don't care.
Okay, so with Madeleina getting off at 8 tonight, I thought she won't be in the mood for fish. She will not have eaten anything but an apple and an orange all day and she'll be starving. So I went with the meatloaf instinct: "I want you, I need you, but there ain't no way I'm ever gonna love you, but don't be sad, cause two out of three ain't bad..."
So I guess I was crying while picking up the chopped chuck to go with the minced pork. No veal. I have my limits. And no bacon today because Chepa had me make breakfast for the family Sunday and it included bacon, sausage, biscuits, sausage gravy, pancakes with blueberries and bananas, eggs, home fries, potato latkas--all of it made from scratch except the bacon and sausage.
Forget that. Let's get me back to crying about the meatloaf song. So I came home, put 2 pounds of pork and two pounds of chuck into a saute pan on high heat to brown it and get rid of as much grease as possible. Then I drained that. While that was draining I put three tablespoons of freshly minced garlic in olive oil into the saute pan with a diced red onion. Followed that with six stalks of celery, each cut into six lengths and then diced. Followed by several minced, fresh, roma tomatoes. Followed by those magic organic scallions--six of them minced. Why six of everything? I don't know. Maybe six is two times three and two out of three ain't bad? Damn that Meat Loaf!!!! He's gotten into the kitchen in my brain!!!!!
Okay, calm down. Have a sip of wine--vintage 2014 Cabernet....raw junk.
Anyway, put some breadcrumbs into the drained meat. Added vinegar to the veggies to make a sort of ketchup and added them to the meat. Added actual ketchup, sea salt, butcher ground black pepper. Chopped some good curly parsley finely and put that in. Let it cool. Added four eggs, raw. Mushed it with my hands--washed better than in a hospital--and then put the damned stuff into two baking dishes lined with a bit of olive oil to keep things from sticking, and put the baking dishes on silver foil in the oven at 330. That will give me an hour. I'll raise the temp to 400 for the last 15 minutes to crisp the top--and yes, on Madeleina's orders I'll spread a bit of ketchup on the top...but NO BACON, OKAY Madeleina? I'm fat enough!!!!
That will be done by 6:15. It will settle by 6:45 and be ready to serve by 7. Madeleina will get here at 8 and it will be perfect. We'll have it with a salad and broccoli. Dessert is gonna be ice cold fresh watermelon.
Bon Appetit! I hope you all are loving your food, your bodies, yourselves in some way that's similarly wonderful. (I'm sorry pig, cow, celery, garlic, scallions, olives for the olive oil, onion, tomatoes, grapes to make the vinegar, salt, peppercorns. Even the wheat to make the breadcrumbs, and the parsley. I'm not sure if I'm sorry about the eggs since they were never gonna be chickens. Doesn't mean they weren't having a great life. I'm just not sure about that... .)
And if you can't love yourself the whole way, remember that two out of three ain't bad... .

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Guns don’t kill people, but they sure help people kill people

On Sunday night in Las Vegas, during a concert by country and western star Jason Aldean, a middle-aged, well-to-do white guy with a receding hairline sat at a window on the 32 floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel, and started shooting with automatic weapons into the thousands of people at the concert below. In a matter of 15-20 minutes he’d killed more than 50 — that number is now 59 and climbing — and wounded 527. Some of the wounded might have gotten hurt in the human stampede that started after people began getting shot.
   I got the news in the middle of the night when I woke up from a fitful sleep and decided to sit at my computer for a few minutes. My heart sank. My first thoughts were of the people in that crowd and how that 15-20 minutes ended the lives of so many and changed the lives of thousands and thousands of others who knew the dead and injured.
   My second thought was of a friend of mine from Fort Worth who had written just hours earlier to say she couldn’t believe she was in Las Vegas. Then I thought of two friends of mine who helped build that club and of another friend, from north Fort Worth, who owns three cupcake stores on the strip. Were they safe? Had they been at the concert? Were they walking on the street and caught in the stampede?
   I’ve only heard from two of them. The one who had just gotten to Vegas was next door when the shooting happened and saw the people running and was shaken up but okay. The woman who owns the cupcake places is okay too. The friends who built the club I have not heard from as yet.
  All of us are asking “why did this happen?” We’re not likely to get an answer. The police and FBI say the killer, Stephen Paddock, had an absolutely clean record. His brother in Florida is dumbfounded. One of the gun dealers who sold Paddock some of the dozen or more weapons he had in his hotel room said Paddock seemed perfectly normal to him. Paddock himself can’t answer because the SWAT team that burst into his room said he was already dead from a self-inflicted gunshot. And he apparently left no notes to explain why he did what he did.
   He certainly didn’t just snap: This was well thought out, a planned action. Why?
   Here in Texas, as in Nevada, we’ve got open carry. Supporters say that you need a good guy with a gun to stop a bad guy with a gun. That would not have helped in this case. It might help sometimes: The guy at the gas station on the corner is always strapped because he is determined not to get robbed again. Understandable.
    A little less understandable are the people at the Walmart and HEB in Burleson, walking around with semi-automatics hanging from their shoulders. It’s the law and I’ll live with it, but I wouldn’t hold my breath imagining that those guys are really going to save us if a problem crops up. In fact, I actually get the heck out of any aisle they are in because I don’t want to get caught in the line of fire of anyone who thinks they’re going to be a hero.
   While we don’t know they “why” of Paddock’s hellish rampage, we do know the “how”. The how involves guns. Paddock’s guns didn’t kill those people but they sure helped him do it. So what do we do now? Nobody wants to take people guns away, but there must be some room for making changes in our system to see that the future Paddock’s of the world do not get their hands on weapons that can do so much destruction and killing so quickly. Do we bother to close the “gun show” loophole? Do we make it illegal to manufacture or sell semi-automatics that can be easily converted to full automatics? Do we just put our heads in the sand until the next mass shooting, or the one after that? That’s what we have been doing. This was, after all, the 272 mass shooting in the last 274 days and we have not done anything yet. We, as a nation, have not even started a conversation about it.
    Our president’s spokesperson, Sarah Huckabee, said it’s “premature” to discuss guns. President Trump said “we’ll get around” to discussing guns. Meanwhile, Congress is set to vote on a bill this week that would legalize gun silencers.
   Not good enough. I don’t know what’s good enough, but anything would be better than keeping our heads in the sand.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Letter to a Friend

A friend reposted a hateful meme from Alex Jones on facebook yesterday. I wrote a very nasty comment in response. She called me on it and I killed my comment. I waited nearly 16 hours, until I could think my position through, to respond. She's a great person, but I disagree with her politically. This time I disagreed viscerally. This was my private letter to her explaining my response and my position.
Dear XXXXX: I want to respond to you personally on this. You know I love you. You are one hell of an artist and brilliant home designer, and good person and hell, I don't know but probably 20 other great things.

   But I have to object when you repost something from Alex Jones or Limbaugh, or Hannity or any of those guys. I don't know if you've ever reposted from Limbaugh or Hannity or Breitbart, but yesterday you reposted from Alex Jones. I went nuts, and rather than lashing out horribly, I decided to be a bit vulgar and describe Jones as a kind of festering, puss filled sore....Okay, you called me on it and I instantly took it down. No question. Your thread, you didn't like it, I killed it. Respect.
   But why was I going crazy? I'll tell you: Because Alex Jones, like Hannity, Limbaugh, Breitbart and several other right wing sources sell fear. Fear, to me, is the basis of every horrible thing man does to other men/women. What starts as fear demonstrates as anger, hatred, greed, guilt, bullying, war, genocide and any other negative thing that humans indulge in. Fear is the birthplace of it all. And when you repost a false piece of nonsense selling fear, you are part of a cycle that is actuating real time injury/hatred/murder in this world. If you sold hate, it would not matter. Nobody is afraid of hate. But sell fear? Fear preys on weak people, and they then buy guns, they then go into road rage, they then foreclose on houses to make a profit off suffering people. Fear is the devil if there is a devil. And I get upset when I see anyone reselling someone like Alex Jones' made up fear junk, intended only to inspire a retarded kid to set his grandma on fire or cut his ex-wife's head off, or shoot up a church. That's what Alex Jones and Limbaugh and Breitbart inspire. They are responsible for so much actual pain in this world because they sell fear to the masses and the masses lap it up because it justifies their position.
   So I go crazy when I see it.
   You might not agree. But I want you to know why I would write such a rude comment. I wrote it because I had to get the stink of it off of me. I do not want their little scardey-boy fear anywhere near me. I try to be fearless. I fail sometimes. But I try, then get up and try again.
   Alex Jones lives in the swamp where fear resides and he makes his entire living off of preying on weak people's fear. That's just wrong. And people die because of him. That's just wrong too.
    I hope you understand. I love you, but I don't love when you just post stuff that will wind up having someone killed. That's not cool at all. Please consider what you do on facebook and any other social medium. The children learn from what we post.
Peter G

Thursday, September 28, 2017

What We're Eating Around Here

An old friend wrote to say she missed my recipes and tales of cooking for the family. Well, over the years the family grew up. Italo moved away and married Sarah and has two babies. Marco moved away. Chepa, wife/ex-wife, moved away 16 years ago. Madeleina is 20 now and has a house she rents at her college as a junior. So there isn't the same urgency at cooking. But still, addicted to the hope that they, or some of them, will come by on a given night, I always have stuff I can hustle together in a half-an-hour. Plus, the occasional friend stops by and can be convinced to stay for dinner. So there is still pretty good food going around. (In private I add that when I go shopping and then cook it is the space between work and non-work and vital to my brain so that when it's time to sleep my brain is not full of work!!!!!)
So let's see: This week, I was dying for shrimp, so I bought large ones, roasted their skins then added water/onion and tomato ends and reduced that to make really good sauce base, then sauteed the shrimp with scallions, tomato, onion, nice peppers a friend brought, and the sauce and served it over rice. Just four or five shrimp, and not much rice. Had that with sauteed spinach--sauteed in the shrimp pan juices.
But the girls came over--Chepa with Sierra and Alexa--11 and 9, with my granddaughter Taylor Rain, 7--and they wanted jasmine rice with lime, steak, well done, and cucumber with lime and salt. I had the ingredients and tossed it together quick as a whip! Was good, too.
Tuesday I was dying for stuffed poblano peppers. Bought the peppers, cleaned them, parboiled them. At the same time I made rice with garlic. When the peppers were parboiled and put under cold water, I sauteed about 1 pound of ground chuck in garlic--along with the left over, minced steak from last night--diced onion, tomato, then added white vinegar, fresh cilantro, achiote (red colorant from Central and South America that makes white rice yellow or reddish), good salt and butcher ground pepper. I added rice to that and finally stirred in good shredded cheddar cheese. Then I took that and stuffed the poblanos to overfill, then baked them at 325 for about 40 minutes.
While that was going on, Chepa announced she was coming with the kids, so I had to come up with something for them--stuffed poblanos was not going to do it for kids--so I roasted chicken drumsticks and made gravy, which was fine with them.
Wednesday, I was dying for stuffed zucchini, so I made it: Cut good organic zuccinini in half, use a spoon to scoop out the seeds (sorry, but we need room for the stuffing), and then sauteed garlic and scallions in olive oil, added diced red pepper and a nice hot pepper the name of which I don't remember. When that was all good, I added a minced tomato, then seasoned breadcrumbs. When that was done I added a bit of unsalted butter, some organic vegetable stock, and really good asiago cheese, minced. Himalayan sea salt and cracked black pepper and then I stuffed the zucchini, topped with more parmesan and lots of lime juice.
I'd just put it in at 350 when Chepa called to say the kids were coming. Dang! She said she wanted fried chicken. Huh? I have not made real deep fried food since I left the restaurant business in 1988--except for once or twice--but I was stuck. So I cut up chicken breasts, put vegetable oil in a good pan at 8 on the stove--with 10 as the highest--then floured/egged/breaded the chicken pieces. I added garlic, oregano, majoram, and fresh basil to the breading, added salt and pepper to the flour and fried that shit. Realized I had a bit of steak left over so I cut that thin and fried that too, then made Chepa a blackened filet of salmon and everybody had a feast--with salad, cucumber with lime, and asparagus par boiled then sauteed with garlic and balsamic vinegar on the side.
But the kids wanted rice too, and they don't eat day old rice. So I took the old rice and made Arroz Chaufa--Peruvian style Chinese rice. You put garlic, oil, onions in a saute pan. You add diced frankfurters. When the franks and done and the veggies no longer identifiable, you add left over rice. When that's good and hot you add three eggs and stir them in. When they are near done as scrambled egg bits in the rice mix, you add soy and a bit of ginger and voila! You have Arroz Chaufa.
Today I knew I was off the hook. Chepa didn't call and it was 4 PM, too late to cook. Then she called: "We're at the corner. What's for dinner?"
Damn. I'd bought thin cut butt roast to try the chicken fried steak again, since it was good yesterday and I wanted to cement the recipe to my mind if was as good the second day as the first. So I put on rice, got the cucumber ready, put on the old oil--saved in a coffee tin after filtering--and got busy. Of course, Chepa came in, said she didn't want to eat the same meal as yesterday, so she made a Peruvian dish, Lomo Saltado--steak with garlic, vinegar, onions, tomatoes, and fresh french fries. We worked side by side, me at mine, she at hers. Hers smelled great and I stole bites. She thought my steak was fantastic, so she stole a couple of pieces.
The girls all ate well. Chepa ate well and took a bag of food home. I will eat tonight while watching a football game. Love those big boys in tight pants, as my Madeleina tells me.
Bon Appetite!!!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Once More, The World, with Feeling

Yes, I completely recognize the problems of the world. We've got people suffering from major natural disasters in Puerto Rico, Mexico, Texas, Florida, all across the Caribbean, in the Pacific Northwest, in Bangladesh, in India, and elsewhere. We've got people suffering from major man-made problems in Myanmar, the Sudan, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine. Somalia, Nicaragua, and the USA, among other places. It just stinks. Why the freak can't we humans get our stinking act together? There is so much to go around. There is a boundless amount of food, and the water you piss today will become rain that waters someone's crops that you will eat tomorrow. You don't need to hoard money because you're going to die without it. If you didn't hate, perhaps the other guy wouldn't respond with hatred. Damn, I feel so helpless. I try to help a little with my singing to the universe; I try to help by recycling what I can. I try to help by being a good dad and a good friend. I'm sure I fail all the time, but I'm trying. I bite my tongue most of the time when I feel like screaming at someone. I resist the urge to honk my horn at some jerk who cuts me off--heck, maybe he or she is having a bad day, or simply had a brain freeze for a second, and my honking is not going to fix anything.
To help me through, I have occasional meetings at my house for former guests of mine in the Amazon. They're more than former guests, they're friends. And I love having them in for a weekend or so. Of course, I have to get ready. Today was a get ready day: Bought six new large, good quality towels that I think were made in the USA. I bought 8 drinking glasses because mine are at my kids' and ex-wife Chepa's house. I bought four new dinner plates for the same reason. I also cleared, washed and gave away two large bags of good clothes and stuffed animals that have been sitting in the washing machine room for months. While there I consolidated all of the stash of fireworks into two boxes, to help clear a table. Last week I painted the bathroom and scrubbed the ice box. On Monday, my oldest, Italo, finished laying a new floor in my kitchen. My daughter Madeleina and her boyfriend Adrian cleaned the back porch and my friend Dave and I made two or three runs to the dump to get rid of all that had accumulated there. I've since bought four all-weather chairs to put out there for the guests who like medicine outside. I had two guys come in and cut, then spray, all the poison ivy I had, thousands of stalks of it. So I'm getting there, little by little. Still need 4-5 more air mattresses, but that's not hard.
By the time the guests arrive in a couple of weeks, the place should be okay. I'll still have the two spots in the house and one on the front porch where it drips when the rain comes, but I can't worry about that. Just call them water-art-installations and I'm done with it.
Now, if you could tell me how to apply the same "let's get this one done" approach to the problems we create for each other, I am on board with you.

Monday, September 25, 2017

I'm Curious Here

About once a week, I get a big bounce on this blog from readers in Germany. It might be twice a week. But I go from my normal 100-200 blog looks daily to 700-800 once or twice a week--and once it was 6,000 in a day a couple of years ago. So is someone just pressing buttons? I mean, I don't have ads, so I can't make money from someone just pressing buttons. Or does some teacher in a high school or college english class use my blog and so he/she has a lot of students looking at it?
   Just curious if anyone out there wants to take the veil off the mystery here.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Remembering Friends

I was singing this morning, as I often do, to say hello to the universe and so forth, and when i got to the part where I was singing to the South, which is where all the dead go for their walk to travel to the other side, I started singing for friends who have crossed over in the last few years. There is Dan B and his wife Yelena, my brother-in-law, Big Tom, Mike, Steve, the brilliant journalist Betty and her Husband, my uncle Neale and aunt Nel and a cousin I did not know well. There was Pat's son Drew and the indigenous Matses Mauro, who was brilliant in the jungle and my friend Pepe's son, and Papaya Head, who was a very cool guy and a great chef and a wonderful friend to Chepa and my kids. There was Fernando, an old guide of mine, Rubertillo, the jungle drummer, the man who hunted majas in the jungle who I knew for years but never knew his name, and Moises, my great friend and teacher. There is Bill Grimes, owner of Dawn of the Amazon in Iquitos, and Dave Peterson, from Tamishiyacu, and the irrepressible Richard Fowler, the ex-pat who knew so much about the natural world. And sometimes when I get to them, I get impatient, because there are so many souls to say hello to and acknowledge.
Today, when I realized I was impatient and sort of rushing through the names and faces, i caught myself. I realized that no, I do not need to enumerate them all. Yes, they're gone and are already long past that crossing over. But I realized it's important to enumerate them because my world is poorer without them. Whether I was in touch with them often or not doesn't matter. They were part of the skein of my life and losing 20 of them in two or three years has pulled a lot of threads loose from the fabric. Four or five or them just passed in the last month. I am going to try to remember their importance when I sing again, and not rush through their names. They all mattered and it's important that I remember that.