Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Greasy Five: My Favorite Blogger Stories

Thank God for Talkers

I grew up at the knee of front-porch talkers, of people who could tell a story and make you believe you had been there, right there, in the path of the bullet or the train, in the warm arms of a new mother, in the teeth of a mean dog. The men, sometimes dog drunk, sometimes flush with religion but always alight with the power of words, could make you feel the breath of the arching blade as it hissssssssed past their face on the beer joint floor, could make you taste the blood in your mouth from the fist that had smashed into their own, could make you hear the loose change in the deputy's pocket as he ran, reaching for them, just steps behind.

The women in my world, aunts and cousins and grandmas and a girlfriend or two, could telegraph straight to your brain the beauty of babies you never touched, songs you never heard, loves you never felt. They could make you cry about a funeral you never saw, make you mourn for a man you had never met. They could make you give a damn about the world around you. They had a gift, one the rest of us who aspire to be storytellers can only borrow.

***From Somebody Told Me by Rick Bragg

I agree with Rick Bragg. Good storytelling is a gift. The best stories provide sustenance, a sort of biscuits and gravy for the soul. It's my hunger for stories - not food - that drives my addiction to reading blogs. During the course of the year, I've encountered many great stories in the blogosphere. The following are five of my favorite stories and a short excerpt from each:
  • "Seeing Stars" by Marilyn over at Simmer Till Done. Marilyn churns out a quality product post after post. She gracefully uses words to present a passionate, warm, honest portrait of her world, and in the process she makes her readers feel truly at home. In this story, Marilyn tells an unromantic tale about her culinary internship at a five-star restaurant, and in the process, she reveals a truth about life: Sometimes it takes courage to quit.
I sat five minutes in the car, breathing frost in my wet, filthy whites. The restaurant window showed in my rearview mirror, catching a diner raising her glass and a man clinking it, smiling. I yanked down my hair and sped off to the highway, thinking quitter. You burned your fancy bridges. Schooling was what I’d come for and schooling was what I got. I would quit my way into a different kind of kitchen, reasoning that if this was it, what I had was something else.
  • "A Sonic Awakening" by Aaron K at Xocoatal Express: A Journey in Chocolate, Culture & Food. In this story, Aaron tells the story of his first trip to a Sonic, and in the process he makes the commonplace extraordinary. If this story doesn't trip your trigger, read his post titled "The Mother, the Child, the Guru, and the Hershey Kiss"
Life drifting by the window on a summer evening. The hypnotizing gastronomical apparatus of eating a greasy chicken sandwich with a wet sticky lap was actually quite the experience I was hoping for. Was the food it wasn't. Was the waitstaff courteous and they weren't. Will I ever go bet your ass I will. The heart of Tallahassee sails unfurled into the night for those willing to seek adventure.
  • "Fabio and the Ivory Billed Woodpecker" by Rechelle over at The Country Doctor's Wife. This story exemplifies the quirky sense of humor you'll find at The Country Doctor's Wife on a daily basis . You can't go wrong with a story that takes place at a songwriters' camp in Arkansas and includes naked hippies.
The rest of the weekend was more of the same... which was a sameness that was so far from sameness that I have not been the same since.
  • "Pork BBQ for the Soul" by Doug DuCap over at Huggining the Coast. I'm not a fan of restaurant reviews, but this one is soulful account of discovering a BBQ restaurant named Duke's.
My banker, Trent, glanced furtively through the glass wall of his office. Satisfied that no one was watching, he leaned across his desk slightly, indicating I should do the same. I drew in closer; when your banker wants to give you insider advice, you pay attention.

“Duke’s,” he said quietly. “It isn’t fancy, but if you want the real thing, that’s it.”
  • "Thanks" by Sarah over at Fritter. I admire two things about Sarah's writing: First, she notices details that most individuals overlook. Second, her concise writing seems to always pack a punch. She does more with fewer words than most bloggers out there in the blogosphere. When she shares her food memories associated with her family, it's always a treat. This story is a perfect example.
Most of my early Thanksgivings were held out on Grammy's farm and to this day, even here in warm, humid South Florida, my mind associates Thanksgiving with cold fronts, straw bales, and Grammy's green Depression glass pitchers of iced tea. One of my earliest memories is the Thanksgiving my dad harnessed Grammy's quarterhorse, Lacy, to an ancient wooden wagon that Grammy housed in her garage. Lacy towed us around the house a few times, ears cocked back toward our boisterous group in the wagon as if to say, "I'm only putting up with this foolishness for the carrots."
Wishin' you the best in '09.

P.S. I promise to post a recipe Friday.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Mr. Cranky Pants

On the pages of The Greasy Skillet, readers get an airbrushed version of myself. Sure, muddywaters is real, but it doesn't tell the whole story of who I am. The unsavory facets of my personality aren't usually put on display for the public. Unfortunately, my wife and daughter endure my long list of faults, mutations of my personality that will probably never change.

I have a persona my wife and daughter refer to as Mr. Cranky Pants. The name says it all: Mr. Cranky Pants, an introverted, cynical, misanthropic, doomsayer who is annoyed by little things. The following are just a few things that might make him appear:
  1. Eating supper/dinner after 6:30.
  2. Eating lunch after 12:30.
  3. Breaking routine.
  4. Changing plans.
  5. Loud talking or shouting.
  6. Dining at restaurants because he starts calculating the money he could have saved by preparing the same dish at home.
  7. Going through a drive-thru lane
  8. Mix radio stations.
  9. The television show Reba.
  10. Fluff, pop cultural
  11. Computer-generated special effects in movies
  12. Politics
  13. Talking
As you can see, he can be a pain in the rear to live with, but my wife and daughter do a good job keeping him in check. They politely let me know when he's in the room, and they humorously suggest that it would be best if he could quickly exit. I'm learning to keep Mr. Cranky pants in his cage.

Not every post I write makes it to the pages of The Greasy Skillet. Crude material. Negativity. Political rants. Poor material. Any of these variables can result in a post never seeing the light of the day -- although, my blog is littered with poor material that slips through quality control. I also try to keep Mr. Cranky pants away from the keyboard. For example, he found his way to the keyboard last week in a post titled "Daddy Needs a Drink" that I never published. Here's a taste:

I feel like I've been sitting in the front row of the circus a bit too long, and I just realized they don't serve liquor. I'm not a front-row guy; I prefer to be on the fringes, observing things from afar. Daddy needs a drink or at least time alone with his skillet or time to work his sourdough into some bread. I'm going to make my way to the exit, so I'll have time for all of these things in the next week or so. As always, I'll keep you posted.

Later in the post, muddywaters takes the keyboard and tries to lighten the mood with a review of a recent book from The Greasy Bookshelf:

Until then, let me share some excerpts from My Jesus Year: A Rabbi's Son Wanders the Bible Belt in Search of His Own Faith by Benyamin Cohen. In addition to cookbooks, books about Presidents, Southern literature, and atlases, I enjoy books about man's search for meaning, especially when it comes to religion. I loved Cohen's book because of its humor. We need more books about religion that make us chuckle. The following is a sampling:

I have a red-and-green Starbucks coffee mug with Christmas decorations drawn on it along with the phrase "It only happens once a year." I'm not really sure what that slogan means. Elizabeth thinks it refers to the special Starbucks holiday flavors - the pumpkin spice latte, the gingerbread latte, the Tazo chai eggnog latte, and the popular peppermint mocha - which are only sold during the Christmas season. My guess is it has to do with Starbucks' attempt to pull on people's heartstrings, reminding them ever so cleverly that the holidays they love and the traditions they cherish only happen once a year, so embrace them. Enjoy them. And have some smooth Arabica coffee while you're at it.

Here's another humorous passage:

The difference between the customs of Jewish festivals and those of Christian ones can be summed up like this. Come December, you guys put a Christmas tree in your house. If this were a Jewish tradition, it would turn rather quickly and depressingly into a Talmudic dissertation on forestry. What kind of tree? How tall is it required to be? How many branches does it need to have? Can we outsource the purchasing of the tree or is the commandment itself the actual action of buying said foliage? But I digress.

Nonetheless, I still feel some of our holiday customs take the cake. Most modern-day Americans do not spend a week every year living in an eight-by-twelve-foot hut built on their driveway. Normal American holidays mean turkey. Present. Garlands. Why couldn't I just be normal? That's really all I ever wanted. Can't a Jew get a little tinsel?

Anyway, you can see that the post was a bit disjointed, but it really illustrates that keeping Mr. Cranky Pants in check is a full-time job and often takes the effort of an entire family. I'm grateful to be surrounded by people who love me despite my shortcomings.

May your flaws never become tragic flaws,

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Holidays

May peace be with you and your family this holiday season.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Eggnog Cake

In the kitchen, my wife is much more practical than me. While I'm waiting ten days for a sourdough starter to cultivate, she's reaching for cans of cream of chicken soup to prepare a casserole. She's the queen of convenience, casseroles, and desserts. This might sound like I'm disrespecting my wife's culinary skills, but I'm not. She's a great cook. In an Iron Chef showdown for convenience, she'd make me look like a chump. Today I offer you a delicious recipe my wife threw together for a recent holiday party.

  1. Prepare a two-layer white cake mix, substituing eggnog for the water.
  2. Bake in bundt pan according to directions on the mix.
  3. Cool as directed.
  4. For icing, mix 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon spice rum, 2 to 3 teaspoons of eggnog to reach drizzling consistency.
  5. Drizzle icing over the cake.

Why does eating a slice of bundt cake always make me feel much older than I actually am?

take care,

Monday, December 15, 2008


Long before I developed an addiction to brötchen, ciabatta was my bread of choice. With its elongated, dimpled, grotesque appearance, ciabatta is the Ernest Borgnine of the bread world. However, what it lacks in appearance, it makes up for in taste. Ciabatta possesses a light, airy interior with Swiss cheese like holes that I love.

I worked hard to learn this bread. With a keen sense of anticipation, week after week I'd slice into my loaves, and week after week, I encountered a dense crumb. I failed with this bread because I applied the bread baking paradigm of my youth to this bread. I kept insisting on creating a firm dough that could be kneaded and shaped by hand. However, ciabatta requires a wet dough that demands a mixer to adequately knead it.

I learned this when I read the following excerpt from Daniel Leader's Local Breads:

Water, and lots of it, is the key ingredient in ciabatta. Water hydrates the starches that gelatinize and swell into glossy air pockets that distinguish this bread from other Italian loaves. Water also makes the dough extremely sticky and more challenging to handle than traditional bread dough, so use a mixer instead of kneading by hand. The dough takes longer to rise, which is why the fermentation time for this bread is longer than for any other bread . . . It's during the slow rise that ciabatta develops its porous structure. Light steam gives the bread its characteristic soft crust, which makes ciabatta so perfect for sandwiches.
(This is a picture of the dough after it's been kneaded)

Once I embraced this, baking ciabatta was a breeze. Just remember the following when making ciabatta:
  • It's a wet dough that demands a mixer to effectively knead it.
  • Give it adequate time to proof.
  • Before you place the bread in the oven, you need to create some steam, so that the loaves will spring. This step is crucial.
  • Don't worry about getting the bread perfectly shaped. Embrace its rustic appearance.
Adapted from
Daniel Leader's Local Breads
(The crumb of the bread in this picture has a pale appearance because I just pulled the bread from my freezer,; therefore it's a bit a bit frozen)

Biga Ingredients (A biga is similar to a sourdough starter; however, it doesn't contain as much water)
  • 1/3 cup of water
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 2/3 cup unbleached bread flour
  1. Nine to 17 hours before you want to bake, prepare the biga. Simply pour the water into a small mixing bowl, and with a rubber spatula stir in the yeast and flour until a stiff dough forms.
  2. Dust the counter with flour and scrape out the dough. Knead the dough for a couple of minutes just to work in all the flour and get it fairly smooth. At this point you should have about a plum-size ball of dough.
  3. Lightly oil the mixing bowl, and place the biga in the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and leave at room temperature for 1 hour or so. Then refrigerate it for at least 8 and up to 16 hours. The biga will double and become somewhat bubbly.

Bread Dough Ingredients
  • Biga from the above recipe
  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 3 1/4 cups unbleached bread flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  1. Remove the biga from the refrigerator, and scrape it into the mixing bowl. Pour the water over the big and stir it with a spatula to soften it and break it into clumps. Stir in the yeast, flour, and salt until a dough forms.
  2. With the dough hook, mix the dough on medium-high speed (8 on a KitchenAid mixer) for 13 to 15 minutes. Keep an eye on the mixer because it might shimmy off the counter. At first the dough will be very soupy and it will not clear the side of the bowl, but gradually the dough will develop beautiful strands of gluten and begin to climb up the dough hook. Periodically stop the machine and scrape down the hook and the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. After 13-15 minutes, turn the machine to high speed and knead until the dough becomes more coherent, clears the sides of the bowl, and collects around the hook. This should take about 2 to 3 minutes, and when you're done, the dough will glisten. Think: Ashley Judd in the movie A Time to Kill, or if you prefer, the forehead of a 1970's Vegas Elvis wearing a jewel-encrusted jumpsuit. The dough will look creamy and will be very elastic.
  3. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled, clear 2-quart container and cover it with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise at room temperature until it triples in size. This will take 3 to 4 hours. The dough will be lively, bubbly, and you'll be able to pull away long, stretchy strands.
  4. Cover a baker's peel or rimless baking sheet with parchment paper, and dust the paper with flour. Uncover the dough and turn it out onto a heavily floured countertop. With a bench scraper or pizza cutter, cut the dough into 2 equal piece (19.6 ounces each). Generously dust your hands with flour because this will prevent the dough from sticking to your hands. Pick up one piece of dough, holding one end in each hand. In one fluid motion, lift and stretch the dough and place it on one half the parchment paper. You'll have a rectangle measuring about 11 inches by 4 inches. Repeat with the other piece.
  5. Take your fingertips and gently dimple the surface of the bread. Drape the loaves with a tea towel or plastic wrap.Let the loaves rise at room temperature until you see bubbles under the surface of the bread. This will take 45 - 60 minutes.
  6. About 1 hour before baking, place a baking stone on the middle oven rack and place a cast-iron skillet or cake pan on the lower rack. Heat the oven to 475 degrees.
  7. Uncover the loaves. Slide the loaves, still on the parchment paper, onto the baking stone. Place 1/2 cup of ice cubes in the skillet to produce steam. Bake until the loaves are light golden crusted, 25 to 35 minutes.
  8. Remove the bread from the oven, and allow the loaves to cool on a wire rack.

A Twist: Ciabatta Rolls

To make this recipe into rolls, pour the dough onto a flour-dusted counter, and gently shape it into a 10-by-12-inch rectangle. Dust the top of the dough with flour. Using a pizza wheel, cut the rectangle lengthwise into 2-inch-wide strips. Cut each strip into 3-inch pieces. You should have 20 pieces of dough. Move the dough to a parchment-covered baking sheet or peel. Let the dough pieces rest until they rise and resemble little pillows. This should take 45 - 60 minutes. Bake at 475 degrees until light golden brown, about 20 minutes. I tried this once, but I lack the grace to skillfully and patiently work with 20 pieces of dough. I ended up with a mess that could never be considered rustic.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Confession of a Culinary Snuggle Bear

I'm considering sleeping with my rye sourdough culture. No, I'm not someone who has a fetish for Saccharomyces cerevisiae. You see, I'm struggling to bring my culture to life. I'm into day #5, and my starter remains a lifeless glob resembling brick mortar. There are no beautiful strands of gluten. No rising. No air bubbles. Just a sour scent.

I think, my sourdough culture's lack of life can be attributed to the fact that my furnace themostat is usually set at 65 degrees. According to the recipe I'm using, the culture should rest in an environment where the temperature is between 70 and 75 degrees. After day #6, the recipe recommends a balmy 80-85 degree temperature.

The inside of our home rarely reaches these temeperatures, so I'm contemplating sleeping with my sourdough culture. I'm a bear of a man who generates a lot of body heat when I'm nestled underneath our down comforter and flannel sheets.

I've read that grizzled mining camp cooks often snuggled with their pirzed crocks of sourdough starters when evening temperatures dipped. I'm willing to do the same for my art, but I need to consider one thing: Is sleeping with a sourdough culture grounds for divorce?

Maybe I should just buy a little papoose for my sourdough starter, and I could cradle it next to my body all day. No one would stare; would they?

I'm not a well man.

Dressing sharp, but feelin' dull,

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I'm a Brötchen Addict

Hi! My name is muddywaters and I'm addicted to Brötchen, a German roll traditionally served at breakfast. I'm in love with a version baked by Wheatfield's Bakery, which fortunately resides in my hometown. If I was short on cash, this roll would have me contemplating pawning my KitchenAid mixer, so I could get satiate my Brötchen fix.

I find its slightly blistered, caramelized crust appealing. Its earthy fragrance conjures visions of farmers harvesting wheat.

When I tear open a roll and view its whole-grained flecked interior, I always contemplate the ingredients in this Brötchen. Is this something I could bake? I see flax seeds. Is it a whole wheat flour they use or a rye flour or a combination? I detect the scent and flavor of sourdough. How do I make a sourdough?

Are those wheat berries or pearls of barley? I need to learn to bake Brötchen.

Unfortunately, after scouring the internet, I've found no recipes that resemble the Brötchen at Wheatfields. Finally, in Daniel Leader's book Local Breads: Sourdough and Whole-Grain Recipes from Europe's Best Artisan Bakers I encountered a recipe that might work.

As I write this entry, I'm attempting to cultivate a rye sourdough culture, which will be the base for my Brötchen. I'm into day number four of a ten-day process, and so far I detect no signs of life. I'll keep you posted on my progress.

take care,

I found a 1968 Time magazine article titled "Brotchen from Heaven." The article explained that West Germans were forced to eat day-old Brötchen because of a law prohibiting commercial baking between 9:00 pm and 4:00 am. The article went on to report a recent agreement made with East Germany to import over 60,000 Brotchen a day to West Germans in Berlin. Needless to say, the West Germans were thrilled. When food can bypass the Iron Curtain, you know that food is more than food.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Nose Knows

My daughter possesses quite the sniffer. Last week we walked into her daycare center, she took a big sniff, and exclaimed, "Yippee! We're having my favorite breakfast!"

"What would that be," I asked.

"French toast sticks," she responded.

Knowing that she couldn't read the menu board, I asked, "How do you know you're having French toast sticks?"

"I could smell them."

This isn't an isolated story. When the Lawrence Farmers' Market was open on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons I'd swing by, pick up some produce, place it in the trunk, and pickup my daughter. One time I had cantaloupe in the trunk when I arrived.

Sure enough when I got her buckled into her car seat, the sniffing started, and she exclaimed, "I smell something."

"What do you smell?" I asked thinking that she'd never guess the scent.


My daughter's discriminating sniffer has been able to identify the following trunk treasures: strawberries, onions, peaches, Wheatfield's Bakery Ciabatta, fried chicken, and bbq.

When her keen sniffer successfully detects a scent, I think, "That's my girl! You are your father's daughter."

Her keen sniffer doesn't solely focus on food either. This morning as we walked into her daycare, she said, "Daddy, it smells really fresh outside." She nailed it. With morning temperatures in the 40's, the air in Lawrence, Kansas, had an uncharacteristic springtime quality to it. I hope her senses continue to be in tune with the world.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Fried Apples in a Bourbon Caramel Sauce

(A hot stove with a big bottle of bourbon next to it is no place for a four-year-old, but we're down with this action at The Greasy Skillet)

I'm not the most social person when I cook. I'd like to say that this is because I immerse myself and lose myself in the art of cooking, but it just isn't true. I'm by nature a quiet person who is a bit of an introvert. Sure I can step into the spotlight or work a room like a skilled politician, but I prefer solitude.

I'm also not social while I cook because I'm deficient when it comes to multitasking. My focus is singular and sometimes this complicates my life. If you want to see me frazzled, put me behind the wheel of a car, direct me to the nearest fast food drive-thru lane, and while I'm ordering shout out changes or additions to the order. I short circuit. I know this is quite odd, it's how I roll. I never claimed to be normal.

When I cook with my daughter, I have to keep the above facts in mind. I almost have to mentally prep myself to cook with her; however, I am getting better. Being a parent has loosened me up a bit. Tuesday night I carefully premeasured all of my ingredients, set out all of my utensils, pulled myself out of my shell, and invited my daughter into the kitchen to prepare some Fried Apples in a Bourbon Caramel Sauce, a little recipe I found over at Fritter.If dining with a four-year-old is torture, cooking with one is like catching snow flakes with the tip of your tongue or making snow angels or a friendly snowball fight. Children possess a boundless exuberance and joy when it comes to tackling tasks that I find to be mundane or a nuisance. She even injected a little spunk into the simple act of peeling and slicing apples. While I internalize the joy of cooking, my daughter's joy manifests itself in a series of giggles, gyrations, smiles, laughter, whoops, and hollers. She throws herself into the experience by tasting, smelling, asking questions, and making observations. It's full throttle in the kitchen with her, and at times I find myself moving my foot towards the break pedal. I check myself, and just let the experience meander.

She notices that the winesap apples (Which really didn't work well for this recipe because they were reduced to an apple sauce consistency by the time we were done. It was still tasty though) resembled plums because they're small and the red skin bled into the flesh of the apple, giving it a plum-like appearance. She laughs when I say whiskey because she just finds some words amusing. Nothing was commonplace.
Through the whole experience cooking with her, I'm reminded that there's much this 38-year-old can learn from a four-year-old.

Cook with someone you love this weekend,

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Miss Little Picky Eater

(My four-year-old daughter enjoys deconstructed beef & vegetable soup because she does NOT like soup)

Dining with a four-year-old is a form of torture. In fact, if you peruse the Geneva Accords, it's listed right after waterboarding as a form of torture prohibited by civilized countries. At the family dinner table, my four-year-old daughter tests my patience and pushes me to the brink of insanity. Her turned up nose and a constant string of comments/questions burrow under my skin:

  • Why can't we have chicken nuggets?
  • Do I have to eat everything?
  • This is too spicy.
  • I don't like grill marks.
  • What's this speck on my food? Is it a spice or herb? What is thyme? (I actually don't mind these questions, but they're often used as a diversion tactic)
  • It's too hot!
  • I'm waiting for my food to cool?
  • I'm not hungry.
  • Do I have to it?
  • How much?
  • What's for dessert?
  • If I don't eat my dinner, can I still have dessert?
  • But I want dessert?
  • Can I have some more milk?
  • Do I have to eat it?
  • How much do I have to eat?
  • Then can I have dessert?
After being barraged with my daughter finickiness, I have to push myself away from the table, so that I'm not tempted to grab a fork or knife and poke my eye out in effort to end my misery. I exercise restraint because I know that this would traumatize my daughter and an eye patch would look unbecoming on me.

Of course, I'm exaggerating my daughter's dinner table antics a bit. She's actually not a terrible eater. When it comes to eating vegetables, I never have to fight her. In many ways, she's an ideal diner to cook for because she sincerely appreciates a good meal, and like me, an anticipated meal can be the focal point of her entire day. Sometimes she breaks into an impromptu song and dance that praises an impending meal. Shouldn't all good food be greeted with song and dance? When she experiences a good meal, she lavishly praises my efforts. She's a kinder, gentler, esteem-lifting version of an Iron Chef judge. As you know, it's enjoyable to cook for someone who appreciates a good meal.

A few weeks ago, my daughter lifted my spirits after I prepared the Fried Apples in Bourbon Caramel Sauce recipe that Sarah over at Fritter posted. After tasting the apples, she set down her spoon. Her eyes widened, a mega-watt smiled beamed across her face, and she said "Mmmmm! This is quite delicious. How did you make this?"

As we enjoyed the last of our apples, we talked about the recipe and made plans to gather at the stove soon to cook as father and daughter. Tomorrow I'll share my experience cooking with her.
Try a little tenderness,

Monday, December 1, 2008

In Praise of the Common Folk

"The essence of America lies not in the headlined heroes, but in the everyday folks who live and die unknown, yet leave their dreams as legacies."

***Alan Lomax

Let's take a break from food. I think, we can afford to do this after a weekend of feasting. Can't we?

Last week I confessed my love for chuck wagon cooking, and in that entry I snapped some photos from a book of photographs featuring the work of Erwin E. Smith. Here's a photo of Mr. Smith with his trusty horse.

Erwin E. Smith (1886-1947) was a native Texan who studied painting and sculpture at the Art Institute of Chicago and the School of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. He turned to photography in his early twenties when he realized that the cowboy culture of his native state was slowly vanishing. During this period in his life when he wasn't in school, he worked as a cowhand throughout Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, and he used photography to document the work and lifestyle of his fellow cowboys.

You can find many of his photographs displayed right alongside the works of Russell and Remington at the outstanding Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Texas.

Each time I view Mr. Smith's photographs, I give thanks. I'm grateful for all who document and sing the praises of the common folk. Woody Guthrie. Dorothea Lange. Studs Terkel. My fellow bloggers.

I guess this is one reason I blog. I want to document what most people refer to as flyover country. Erwin Smith wrote, "From the first time I laid eyes on the sun burnt plains of the West, with its grand scenery, have been in love with its still, enchanted solitude. Its change of colors no artist can portray." Like Smith, I possess the same love for the landscape and people of the Great Plains, and I strive to share my passion with others. In the future, I plan on displaying a little more local color here at the Greasy Skillet.