Thursday, July 16, 2009

Scream for me, Long Beach!!

While my love of music now spans many different genres (many more than when I was growing up), I've come to realize that my traditional musical tastes do fall into a predictible pattern: Hard rock/metal, with a nod towards razor-sharp instrumentalism, and a tight forceful rythum & bass line. It's predictible because its fandom is made up overwhelmingly of geeky white guys. Not a lot of females (with any self-respect or dignity, for the most part) have their iPods loaded up with the likes of Megadeth, Anthrax, Rush, DLR-Era Van Halen, or Dream Theater (Anyone? Anyone???? Yeah.....didn't think so).

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

The Smoked SPAM Experiment

"SPAM? Are you freaking kidding me, Dixon? I'd rather suck quarters out of an old man's ass!" *

Yeah, I hear ya. Well, you're wrong, my friends. Consider this your permission slip to not only purchase a can (or four) of the tasty, beautifully pressed loaf of hog parts unknown, but delight in the consumption of it, MSG and God-know's-what else, be damned. I re-discovered this American delicacy on a pilgrimage to the SPAM Museum in Austin, MN back in 2003. My college roommate Mickey & I were returning to Des Moines from attending a wedding in Wisconsin, and saw the signs as we made our way west down Interstate 90 in southeast Minnesota. We determined instantly that this was a must-see. From then on, I vowed that I would never again frown upon the regular (yet in moderation, of course) consumption of this feigned food.

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.

Let me just say that if the main star of this show is a can of SPAM, the the supporting actor is the Traeger smoker/grill. The ability to have that thing fired up in less than a half-hour without a lot of hassle is about the only way I can pull this off on a weeknight. This is simply one of many more ringing endosements you'll read about these grills on this fine online publication. With that idea in mind, I set out to smoke my loaf (Mmmm, goddamn, that just sounds lovely, doesn't it?). A quick sprinkle of some leftover dry rub from a recent BBQ rib smoke, and it was off to the hickory smoke for about an hour or so. The finished smoked product is shown here on the cutting board waiting for its next destination: Processed Cheeseville.

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