Thursday, August 30, 2018

One last meal for my Italian students

indigenous Matses' frog medicine) course yesterday, and they did it with flying colors. Final written exams were on the money. Congrats to both father and daughter. For the celebration I bought them some champagne--which we had out at the bridge over the dry creek, right next to the garden. Then for dinner I felt like breaking new ground, so I decided to make them shrimp and sea scallops with apples and pears--a combo I have never heard of with sea food. It was either gonna be great or suck. I bought half a pound of smallish sized (21-25) shrimp and half a pound of medium sized sea scallops. Home, I cleaned the shrimp and tossed the shells, along with onion ends, into a dry heavy sauce pan and scalded them till they were bright red. Then I added water and cooked it down until I had just about one-quarter of a cup. I made jasmine rice while the juice was cooking, then trimmed and parboiled thin--and beautiful--asparagus. I trimmed a yellow pepper and then julienned it--to go with the asparagus--and added scallions, cut the same length as the yellow pepper, and halved sweet cherry tomatoes. I sauteed those together in a little olive oil with garlic and sea salt and cracked black pepper. While those sauteed I peeled a large Delicious apple, one Bosc pear and one Red pear. I sliced them fairly thin, then put them in a very hot saute pan with a bit of unsalted butter. As their sugar carmelized, I added minced shallots, the shrimp and sea scallops. A touch of salt, and finished them off (they took all of one minute) with a good balsamic vinegar to tie the flavors together. I pulled them from the pan, added the shell juice and reduced it with the balsamic until I had a nice glaze, and poured that over the seafood and fruit. Served the veggies next to that, with a nice portion of the Jasmine rice and voila! And you know what? The apple and pears were great with the seafood. I sort of thought they would be but was glad when they were. It was a slightly different flavor/texture mix than our mouths and taste buds are used to, so there was a bit of suspension of previous beliefs necessary, but damn, it was a good mix. And now they're off and back to Italy--or will be very soon--and I hope they use the medicine well.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Snacks for Guests from Italy

I have a father and his 23-year-old daughter taking my sapo course (Matses frog sweat medicine) at the moment. They are in from Italy, and as my house was full, they took a room at a motel down the road a couple of miles. My friend Devon picks them up and drops them off daily. Today is their seventh day of the 10 day course.
Because they were staying at a motel where they had no kitchen, I decided to make them a snack after their daily sessions. They had fruit immediately after, of course, but I wanted to give them at least one warm meal a day to make up for what they would miss while at the hotel.
I cannot remember all I've cooked for them, but it was a pretty good selection: They are vegetarians, but not vegans, so the first day I took some left over rice--made the night before--heated it up in garlic with a bit of oil, then added three or four eggs and parboiled broccoli, cauliflower, and chopped onions. Nice seasoned rice.
Next day I made some angel hair pasta and tossed it with garlic, scallions, shallots, and, from our garden, zucchini, yellow squash, and tomatoes. Topped that with a bit of really good parmesan.
One morning I made spaghetti squash with garlic and diced red peppers with a side of sauteed spinach.
One morning I made cheese toast with good melted swiss on rosemary sourdough. That was served with sliced organic Bosc pear, a good olive mix, very sweet black cherries, and two boiled eggs from our own organic chickens.
Yesterday I made omelets stuffed with spinach, garden tomatoes and good cheddar and served them with homefries and onions.
This morning, after they told me they sometimes ate fish, I served them salmon filets--sauteed hot and fast. When the filets were half done I added some sesame oil, a bit vegetable stock, some teriyaiki marinade, and garlic with olive oil. I candied the skin, then removed the fish, and sauteed julienne redpeppers and scallions to top the fish on the plate. The fish was served on sauteed spinach with a side of our garden's zucchini, yellow squash, and tomatoes.
I think these guys are eating pretty good, and I feel good for making them food. Keeps them strong, and I need them strong because my course is hard. Bon Appetit!

Saturday, August 18, 2018

We're messed up and pickles won't save us

Okay, so with all the trouble in the world, with all the horror of war and imprisonment, slavery, hunger, lack of shelter, natural disasters and provoked wildfires, fish killing algae, corruption, pain, suffering, emotional torment, and all the rest of what is rotten in this world, we still have to get up and work. We still have to make our lives the best they can be. we have to treat our loved ones as truly loved ones. We contribute where we can, most of us try to help where we can, we alleviate suffering as we can, but in the end we cannot do it all. The saints among us regular humans did not have the power to stop the suffering of everyone. As a collective, of course, we could stop most physical suffering within hours if we put our hearts into it. Simply stop the wars and go take care of people. Send in builders to rebuild ruined cities. Send in food and water and doctors. Reduce the cost of medicines and provide free food and shelter to those who need it. We already have enough for all seven billion of us; it's simply not distributed evenly. And then there is the hatred that keeps us from coming together as a collective and rectifying all the physical problems the world faces. Yes, we all are still going to die and it ain't gonna be pleasant, but there is no reason kids in Yemen and elsewhere are getting their freaking legs blown off, losing their moms and dads. No reason we have kids sitting in what are essentially prisons here in the USA because their parents had the audacity to try to move away from war zones in Central America and seek asylum here.
I almost cannot go on some days when it all hits me hard and I realize how powerless I am. No superpowers, no special abilities to eliminate hate and prejudice in everyone. I am stunningly ill equipped to save this world.
I was going to write about making some pickles today. That was my meditation because I was being overwhelmed by the whole shebang that causes pain, that revels in pain, that is careless with other people's pain.
So yes, I made pickles and they're gonna be great. As a job it was a wonderful thing to do, and my friend Devon helped me. But as a meditation to forget the helpless feeling of rotten mess in this world, well, it failed miserably. I sincerely hope I did not put that vibe into the pickles! Yikes! I'd only be adding to the suffering when my friends and family eat them and start to puke. Ah, nuts. Momma said there would be days like this. I should have believed her.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Note on Illegal Aliens

A friend posted a meme on fb about people here in the US illegally. Makes my skin crawl, these racist mothafukkas. Who gives a shit if someone doesn't have papers? Are they taking your job? No. Are they paying taxes and not getting the benefit? Yes. Are they paying into medicaid and medicare and social security and will never get the benefits? Yes. So leave them alone.
   In an effort to be polite, this is what I responded:
Illegal aliens have no status. They do not vote. They earn money and pay taxes and social security but will never see that social security money and cannot benefit from many of the things those taxes pay for. They do the grunt work that citizens refuse to do/cannot physically do/are too weak-willed to do. Without them we have no fruit and vegetable crop to speak of. Without them we have no one to wash dishes or cook your horrible fast food. Without them we have no nail salons, no roofing industry, no house building industry, no one to lay tar to build roads. Without illegals this country comes to a full stop in three months. I'm all for giving lots and lots of people temporary work permits, as is done in Alabama for the farming industry and in other states as well. If anyone remembers, when the Alabama governor cut off temporary work permits in the state a few years ago, he thought poor people on welfare could pick crops. They couldn't. He thought poor people who were not on welfare would pick crops. They couldn't. He had people in prisons given the option of working the fields rather than sitting behind bars: In less than one week every prisoner opted for jail over working the fields. $4 billion in crops rotted on the ground in Alabama that year. And yes, temporary work permits were given out the following year, and all the crops got picked and sold. You do not have to like them, but you have to admit we depend on illegals from central America and Mexico for many many things that will otherwise not get done.

This Year's Garden

So I was out at our garden yesterday, like I am every afternoon when here at home, and I was standing on the dry creek bridge looking out at the 16 rows of veggies and bemoaning the fact that it did not produce well, and is not going to produce well. The corn was a complete bust, as were the red peppers, the scallions, the onions, the green
beans, the radishes, and carrots. How do you botch radishes and carrots for goodness sake? The carrots simply never really came up, while the radish tops flourished but the radishes never materialized into anything more than gangly thin red roots. The hot peppers from Peru, the charapitas, looked great early on, but produced few peppers--simply too hot and dry for them. They may produce in September when the rains come.
This garden was put in with lots of energy by Devon, Valerie Van dePanne, and myself. The soil is good and enhanced with a dozen or more sacks of organic manure. It gets watered daily and was weeded wonderfully, first by Devon and I and then by my daughter Madeleina and her beau Adrian while Devon and I were in Peru. It should have produced wildly.
It didn't. We've had a dozen good cucumbers and there are another half dozen near ready on the four or five cuke plants plus a lot of babies on the way. We've had some wonderful zucchini and yellow squash, huge ones, and there are more to pick, but not many. We have had sweet cherry tomatoes and good beefsteaks, but again, we're talking in the dozens, not the hundreds. And the watermelon and cantaloupe are just starting to show up, while our friends melons are already being eaten. There is some spinach but it's growing in trailers, not bushes, and it's not really wonderful to the taste.
So I was drinking a glass of wine and snorting a bit of the Matses' snuff nü-nü and thinking what a bust the garden was when I unexpectedly found myself chuckling. Of course, I would have loved more produce, but when I've had gardens produce like they should, I have wound up with so much stuff--and at the same time that everyones' gardens are producing--that you can't even give it away to the local churches. I remember pickling more than 60 quarts of cucumbers and hating it. I remember having to carry 30-40 watermelons in the back of my pickup with a sign that said: Help Yourself, They're Free, just to get rid of them. I remember having tomato fights with my sons Marco and Italo because we simply had hundreds of tomatoes we couldn't use or give away.
And when I finished that rhapsody, I lapsed into thinking that the idea of the garden wasn't really all about making food. It was about being around the plants, getting quiet for an hour in the afternoon, enjoying watering them and watching the insects that came into the garden for a taste or three. I mean, I've still got more zucchini and yellow squash than I know what to do with--and yes, I've stuffed it, made a casserole, used it in veggie medleys and still am looking at 15 pounds on the kitchen table with 10 more pounds ready to pick. And we've had cucumbers with lime for dinner several times, had cucumber sandwiches, made cucumber soup and still have nearly a dozen on the kitchen table. And there are tomatoes too, with more on the plants to pick. And enough hot charapita peppers to burn several mouths.
So I decided I should not complain. The garden did its job. It produced enough of a few things to keep me going out there every afternoon to quiet myself. And next year it will probably produce so much that I will be back to cursing the okra and cukes and carrots and radishes as I stand in front of a hot stove in August in Texas, pickling them all.

Monday, August 06, 2018

Back from Peru again

Well, I'm; back from the Jungle. It's been nearly two weeks, but as my daughter, Madeleina, says, "Dad, you're no good for the first two weeks you're back." She's right. I'm too full of the jungle, the rivers, the medicine, the guests I had out there to integrate in just a few days. Which doesn't mean I do not do anything. Since I'm back I've got three cover stories for the Fort Worth Weekly lined up, the new incarnation of SKUNK magazine needs me to come up with a new column for them (I did exactly 100 columns of Drug War Follies in the first Skunk incarnation and now it's time to come up with a new idea, right?), and I have cleaned the house, cooked, trimmed my beard, etc.
Probably the main place I've been able to put energy is in cooking. Since I've been back we--that means my friend Devon, who has been staying here for a while, plus Madeleina, off from College, her boyfriend Adrian, and me, plus occasionally my wife/ex-wife Chepa, her two new babies Sierra and Alexa, my son Italo and his wife Sarah and their babies Taylor Rain and Teigan Gray, and my son Marco, plus a dozen friends who have stopped in--have had good hamburgers, stuffed manicotti, linguini with clams and shrimp in a clam sauce. We've had prime rib with sauteed potatoes and seared tomatoes with parmesan. We've had chicken cacciatore over angel hair. We've had hot roast beef sandwiches on organic sour dough bread with mayo, horseradish sauce, skinned red peppers (fresh, of course) with fresh coleslaw. We have had Spanish chopped beef with yellow rice, veggies and jalepenos. We have had Greek Moussaka with organic figs and olives on the side. We have had roast chicken thighs with yellow rice and stuffed zuccini from our garden. We have had four or five cucumber and lime salads with the cukes coming from our garden. We have had good ice cream, great coffee, and we have thanked the lord--insert any lord you believe in right here--for letting us eat so wonderfully and have sung, and prayed to make the same food available to everyone. There is enough to go around. I can invite 10 people and still have enough for 10 more.
And now our chickens are starting to lay eggs. Yikes! Do you guys see what we are eating? This is beyond fantastic. I hope you are all eating as well. And if you tell me who to cook for, I will cook for them too, okay. I do not mean to be selfish here.