Friday, December 18, 2009
Monday, November 9, 2009
Monday, November 2, 2009
That green screen door. One of those timeless things that never changed about Gran's kitchen. There were many such features. The old, heavy door with countless layers of lead and latex paint, with the aftermarket deadbolt lock that I could never quite master. Arriving on any given steamy Summer morning, you could hear the early sounds of the work day beginning just down the hill at Jones Welding through the screen door. Two farmers would be talking grain prices while filling up their pick-up's at the gas pumps at Dinklage's. Uncle Burt and Gran would be sitting at kitchen table, the wormwood lamp that Doctor John Kline had made, illuminating the eating area, sitting under a display shelf holding some of Gran's more distinct and unique pieces of Fiesta Ware. I always loved the two figurines hanging from the ends of the shelf-two mexican men wearing sombreros, both in a sitting position. I wonder what happened to those at the sale. Walking across the kitchen, you could physically feel the sagging in the floor under your feet. This was an old home, and to find a perfect right angle was an impossibility.
Burt would be sloppily eating a bowl of cereal. He had his own special cereal bowl that was quite a bit larger than the regular set of bowls in the copboard. Gran's everyday dishes matched the set we had when I was growing up. Her silverware was wood-handled, almost like teak wood. Vintage 1960's, I'm sure. Lee Hughes was reading his KMA sports report from the Realistic radio sitting on top of the refridgerator, skillfully sending it back to Don Hansen for more farm market news. Gran wouldn't make a full pot of coffee for herself, so she would typically make a cup of instant coffee to go with whatever baked good she was eating for breakfast. Usually this meant a piece of sheet cake, or some date & walnut cookies to go with her rather large assortment of prescription medicine she would take; the first of many such rounds of pills throughout her day, for various chronic ailments.
I would have a bowl of cereal with them, usually marveling at the machine-like eating prowess of Burt. He had a full morning of errands on any given weekday, and was typically up and out of the house and across the street to Nishna Cottage to see Johnnie & make the rounds by 9. Every once in a while I would scrounge through the kitchen, just seeing what was there, for no particular reason. Cork & Trudy's bottle of Black Velvet sat in a lower cupboard under the coffee maker, pulled out for Sunday night vcard games. Burt's "shaving kit" was one designated drawer, with his toothbrush, Lectric Shave aftershave, and his Norelco electric razor, always shrouded with his heavy beard trimmings. There was a junk drawer with various key chains, rubber balls, finger monster thingies I used to play with, loose marbles, everything you'd expect from a junk drawer.
The pantry was just off the kitchen, just large enough to wegde a washer & dryer in there, with build-in shelves where canned goods would be kept. Gran's pantry was the only kitchen I ever saw that would have a can of hominy in it. Mom, Gran, Aunt Bernice and Aunt Sam would tell a story about when Burt was a kid where he got a kernel of hominy stuck so far up his nose they had to have Dr. John remove it with a piece of wire. I've never looked at a can of hominy, which I do use on occasion, without thinking of what had to be an excruciating day for Burt. A damp, musty smell always emanated from the "back room" of Gran's kitchen. Essentially it was an add-on room used for storing various household and kitchen wares, some canned good, etc. It would smell like a damp basement, and there was always an open packet of rat poison on the floor in the corner. When something couldn't be found, you would invariably find it in the back room. Bug spray? Top shelf, just inside the door. Cookie sheets? Inside and to the right.
In her culinary prime, Granny Ocle was a damn fine cook, and she looked for excuses to cook for a crowd. Probably my favorite memories of Gran's house were evening dinners of pan fried chicken, mashed potatoes with homemade country gravy, and fresh corn. The adults would clean up and play some cards, and Burt & I would watch a game in the living room. I talk about how I got my love of cooking, and cooking for a crowd from my mom, but I know where we both really got it from. In time, Gran's eyesight worsened, and her cooking suffered because of it. We would eventually take over the brunt of holiday cooking duties, but Gran's kitchen always remained the same.
All it took was one chance encounter with a skillet full of imitation breakfast sausage, and there I was again, 10 years old, back in a place that I guess I've never really left, now that I remember it.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Friday, September 25, 2009
Example #1: Ideal Grocery and Market on S. 27th St. in Lincoln. The place has been in business since the dawn of time, seemingly. It's the kind of place that smells familiar, like good food simmering away somewhere, that old lady's perfume that she got in 1975 & is still wearing. There's a produce section with primarily US grown veggies, not always cheaper, but still important enough to someone. THe meat on display in the meat counter is amazing....well-aged and trimmed to perfection. There's also a large selection of locally raised meats. All good stuff that makes a foodie feel good about a place like this.
But I'm here for lunch. There's at least 4 locally-owned individual food markets like this in Lincoln, and I'll be hitting up all 4 to sample the goods. Ideal was a place I had only been to once before, but I know a good thing when I come across it. Today the selection was Beef & Potato Bake and a slice of their heavenly-looking Meat Loaf. You can learn a lot, dare I say all you need to know, about a dining establishment from their meat loaf alone.
The Beef & Potato Bake looks simple enough, and that's just fine. Simple ingredients prepared the right way will always be a good choice. Perhaps a hint of wine in here? Maybe the beef marinade. Definitely some thyme. THe beef was fork tender and superb. A great little treat for next to nothing.
Finally, the meat loaf. The blurry picture shows what appears to be your standard-issue ketchup schmear on top. However, roll your finger over it, and it's actually almost like a candy glaze. Perfect texture, not too dry, not too mushy.....heaven in a styrofoam container.
My recommendation: When you're curious about what's good behind that hot lunch deli counter, bank on whatever looks homemade to be above average every time. Don't be scurred....if it looks good, eat it. If it doesn't....try it anyway, Sally.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Monday, September 21, 2009
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
- Give yourself permission to suck. This is a tough one. For anything to be a success, you obviously have to tangibly begin somewhere. So if I choose the wrong path for a graduate degree, or if I have a first draft section of a book or presentation that is complete horseshit...at least I'm that much closer to the desired results.
- You've got to set aside some time on a regular basis to consciously work on whatever it is you're working on. Distraction-free is a huge bonus here. It doesn't have to be much time. 10-15 minutes, maybe. Whatever it's going to take for it to be you in the moment working towards being further along than when you started. Then put it down. Walk away. Pick something else up and start. Just know that you've made the decision that you will be back to it and start again.
- Ignore, at all costs, that stupid voice in your head who reminds you that what you're intending to work on likely doesn't mean shit to the vast majority of the world, or that you won't finish anyway. And be cool with that.
Kudos, Merlin. Again.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Go ahead and put Iron Maiden in that category, as well. Blame it all on my older brother, but my disdain for terrible, cliched, bubble gum pop, glam rock, and anything written by Def Leppard was formed early on with my access to his 80's rock album collection. Still one of my all-time favorites was the 1985 Maiden classic Live After Death, a compilation of the best recordings of their now legendary 4-night set at the Long Beach Arena. It was a non-stop world tour that lasted over two solid years, all of which were sold out. In the States, this was done without hardly any mainstream rock radio airplay....a feat almost unheard of before that time.
So what could have possibly been (or still be) the appeal of this band? They were absolutely nothing to look at, other than a dizzying assortment of spandex, stringy, unconditioned, wispy long hair, and bad British teeth. It was the music, maaaan. The engrossing frontman stylings of THE Bruce Dickinson, the crushing, relentless bass work of Steve Harris, and the precision dual guitars of Adrian Smith and Dave Murray. They had a sound more musical than Metallica, more ballsy than their British metal counterparts, Judas Priest, and in 1985, they were THE metal gods of the entire world.
One of the classic traits of Geeky Guy Metal Fan is the costume....the insanely obnoxious black t-shirt with hideous, ridiculous artwork and graphics covering it. Fortunately, I've never owned one of these. However, I was always on the lookout for something more refined, but yet still able to proudly show where my roots lie. Finally, I came across it. The iconic Maiden font, just their name emblazoned across a plain black t-shirt. Your hand instantly forms the devil horns when it slides through the sleeve. ROCK.
For my fellow metal geek bretheren, here's the classic song of their same name from one of those classic Long Beach shows. Their ever-present mascot, Eddie, makes his grand appearance at the 2:35 mark. Keep in mind, this is 1985....but the stage show is still just as timely today. A true classic. Enjoy. Or don't. I don't really care.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
It was a typical weeknight, with no real plan in place for a quick dinner. A scan of the cupboards can usually yield some sort of "Iron Chef"-like secret ingredient to build a meal around. If you come across a can of SPAM and a box of Macaroni & Cheese, you've got yourself a good start. "Start" is the keyword here, folks. Use your imagination, and the tools & resources you have at hand to take these things, and play around with ideas to make it even better. That's how the Smoked SPAM idea came to be.
While a regular ol' box of Kraft Mac & Cheese would certainly suffice, I'm sometimes a softie (shown by my lack of any sign of an abdominal muscle) for the good stuff. This time, it was Velveeta Shells & Cheese, precisely. With a dicing of the SPAM, and a stir of the shells & cheese, we were close to done. I added some more of the dry rub directly into the mixture, and a sdusting on top when I plated it. If you can't find some culinary goodness in that plate of smoky, cheesy heaven, I can't do anything more for you, my friends.
*Quote from M.H., circa 1994
Monday, June 29, 2009
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Since I've been accused in the past of hosting YouTube2, here's something random to keep you occupied for now. Eddie Vedder playing with The Boss and the E Street Band. If you don't like this, you have no soul, and I weep for you.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
The only thing that I had heard about the place was that their version of chili is quite a bit different from what most everyone is used to. The only other place that I've heard of chili that is this unique is Cincinatti Chili, wich has a bit of a sweetness to go with the normally savory, tomatoey dish, and tends to be poured over plates of spaghetti. Whils bearing no resemblance to Cincy, Dixon's Chili is no less original. Here's the run-down on how it all comes together.
First, every component of Dixon's chili is prepared separately. Only when you order do the ingredients begin to come together. The two main components are ground beef, which is drained to the point of a bit of a dry consistency. No worries, that good meat grease does not go to complete waste (more on that in a sec). Pinto beans are cooked fresh every day in another separate pot. When a standard order of chili is made, a scoop of strained beans gets put on a plate. The bean liquid is set aside and served separately, to be added individually to your particular taste. Next, a couple of scoops of the ground beef is spread over the beans.
Fellow culinary experts Martin & Scott also seemed to enjoy the tasty vittles, although Martin could not tame the entire chili dog order. I happily slid his plate over and finished it off in short order. Apparently sitting out in the hot right-field sun at Kaufmann Stadium caused for some serious hunger to brew. After a few photo opportunities with the freindly wait staff (who were a bit taken with our heartfelt curiosity and charm of the place), the visit was deemed a roaring success. If you get the chance, set your apprehensions aside and give it a shot. If for nothing else, do it for Dixon, won't you?
Monday, May 18, 2009
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
By B. Govern "Bee-Dot-Govern" (New Jersey, USA) - See all my reviews
This item has wolves on it which makes it intrinsically sweet and worth 5 stars by itself, but once I tried it on, that's when the magic happened. After checking to ensure that the shirt would properly cover my girth, I walked from my trailer to Wal-mart with the shirt on and was immediately approached by women. The women knew from the wolves on my shirt that I, like a wolf, am a mysterious loner who knows how to 'howl at the moon' from time to time (if you catch my drift!). The women that approached me wanted to know if I would be their boyfriend and/or give them money for something they called mehth. I told them no, because they didn't have enough teeth, and frankly a man with a wolf-shirt shouldn't settle for the first thing that comes to him.
I arrived at Wal-mart, mounted my courtesy-scooter (walking is such a drag!) sitting side saddle so that my wolves would show. While I was browsing tube socks, I could hear aroused asthmatic breathing behind me. I turned around to see a slightly sweaty dream in sweatpants and flip-flops standing there. She told me she liked the wolves on my shirt, I told her I wanted to howl at her moon. She offered me a swig from her mountain dew, and I drove my scooter, with her shuffling along side out the door and into the rest of our lives. Thank you wolf shirt.
Pros: Fits my girthy frame, has wolves on it, attracts women
Cons: Only 3 wolves (could probably use a few more on the 'guns'), cannot see wolves when sitting with arms crossed, wolves would have been better if they glowed in the dark.
Saturday, May 9, 2009
Cut fron the sirloin, or rib end of a pork loin, country-style ribs are big and meaty. They could almost be confused to look like a sliced pork shoulder/butt roast. Since this was my first try at smoking this cut, I was a little nervous about just how long these would take, and if I'd dry them out. I was banking on at least 4 hours of cooking time at 225 degrees. After that, I was guessing.
Wrong. Since Genius here didn't do any tasting of any of the three before combining them, OR before heaping it on the meat, he pretty much set himself for failure in the flavor category. The rub was entirely too salty, which just made the spicy Cajun part of the mix even that much more potent. By the time I knew I needed to balance it out with some sugar, it was too late. I was committed to it now. S0 my only hope in balancing out the savory rub was to hit the ribs during the smoking process with a spritz of 4 parts Apple Juice, one part Jim Beam Bourbon, and one part REAL maple syrup. Then, just pray for the best. This picture above shows the ribs after about an hour of cooking.So with the temperature locked in where I wanted it, and the light, sweet cherrywood smoke rolling, it was simply a game of wait and see. i gave them a spray of the apple jucie-whiskey glaze every hour. After 4 hours of smoke time, I could tell they weren't at the doneness I was looking for (seen here to the right). I decided that I was going to stick with keeping them on the smoker as is, without doing any foil wrapping or steaming, and keeping the temperature where it was, as well. The ribs looked as if they had enough fat and marbling that they wouldn't be dry. After letting them go for another hour and a half, it looked and felt like the meat was tender. The ribs themselves looked incredible, with an amazing, rich burgundy red color to them. Still, I knew that the rub was going to make or break these things. I figured with some sweet BBQ sauce to accompany them, they would still be good.
So, lessons learned: 1) Make your own dry rub. I shuld've known better, but I was in a hurry, so I tried to improvise with what I had on hand. I should know by now to never tkae shortcuts when it comes to making a dry rub. 2) Don't guess on your dry rub, or go by looks. Taste the damn thing. How stupid could you be to NOT taste it before you coat your pig parts?? This particular savory rib rub concoction would have possibly been edible with a light shake coating, not the full-on liberal rub I gave them. 3) Probably should foil wrap these for the last hour or so, or think about beginning to experiment with some sort of steam set-up in the pellet smoker. I think because of the cut of these country-style ribs, and so much cooking area on them, they naturally would have a tendency to dry out, regardless of the fat content.