Thursday, April 29, 2010

Cabbage Bombs

Prior to Man Camp, there was a lot of e-mail chatter among past participants. Two words kept popping up in many of those messages. Cabbage Bombs!

Of course, I was intrigued.

Cabbage Bombs! I envisioned a campfire cabbage roll, similar to the potluck dinner staple of my youth. They consisted of seasoned ground beef, rice, green peppers, and onions wrapped in cabbage leaves that were bathed in tomato sauce.

My vision of the Cabbage Bomb wasn't close to being accurate.

Cabbage Bombs aren't cabbage rolls.

They're much bigger and grander and worthy of their name. Cabbage Bombs consist of an entire head of cabbage that's been cored and stuffed with whatever ingredients tickle your fancy. Then you wrap it in foil, set it next to the fire, and roast until it's nice and soft.

I dub this Cabbage Bomb "The Josey Wales" because it's stuffed with whiskey, beef jerky, and jalapeno peppers. This trio of ingredients might not sound appetizing, but it creates a rich, beefy broth that's reminiscent of soy sauce, perfect for dipping leaves of cabbage.
I can't wait to create my own Cabbage Bomb on my next cookout.

drop cabbage, not bombs,


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Man Camp 2010

Saturday, rain clamped its teeth on our day and refused to let go. This picture speaks for itself.

There were breaks in the clouds throughout the day, and this picture tells a different story.

Despite the rain, I had a great time at Man Camp, and if I'm invited back, I'll attend next year. Tune in tomorrow and I'll tell you what's wrapped in the foil.

can you guess what's in the foil?

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Greasy Five: Essentials for Camping with Ruffians

This weekend I'll be camping near Noel, Missouri, with a crew of whiskey swilling ruffians whose idea of a meal is six courses of meat followed by whatever they chuck into the deep fat fryers. This yearly event is called Man Camp. It's my inaugural participation in this fabled event, and I don't know what to expect.

I've never camped with a group before. Camping has always been a solitary event, where I decompress and commune with nature. I anticipate that Man Camp will be overwhelming for me, so today's Greasy Five consists of things I'll take to help me cope on this outing.

  • Whiskey: This is used for medicinal purposes.

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables: Since a diet of only grease and meat releases Mr. Crankypants from his cage, I'll bring my own little stash of greens

  • Reading Material:

  • Coffee: For this trip, I purchased a new percolator for my camp stove. For me coffee is more important than clean underwear.

  • Notebook: When my camping companions begin to sound their barbaric yawps over the Ozark Mountains and things become a bit unbearable for this introverted soul, I'll take a walk with my notebook and do some writing.

wish me luck,

PS. . . For years, I was led to believe that Man Camp locale was a primitive environment (I guess, actually only the behavior of the participants is primitive), but I now know the truth. This year's outing will be held at the River Ranch Resort. For the record, any place that has miniature golf and delivers pizza to your campsite isn't primitive.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Farmers' Market Treasures: Jalapeno Nut Brittle

Visiting the Lawrence Farmers' Market is one of my favorite ways to start the weekend. I love the way my senses are entertained at the market. If you view the photographs from a 2008 post over at Simmer Till Done, you'll see some of the sights I love. When I'm at the farmers' market, I feel like among my people, kindred spirits who value good produce, bluegrass, and handmade tamales.

This past Saturday, the presence of pepitas and candied jalapenos enticed me to purchase some jalapeno nut brittle.

The $4.00 pricetag made this item a luxury for this frugal soul, but I'm pleased to say that this treat was worth every penny. The slight heat of the jalapenos complemented the sweet, nutty flavor of brittle. It was the Johnny and June of sweet treats.

If you find yourself in the vicinity of the farmers' market, I recommend swinging by and picking up some jalapeno nut brittle. Also, grab a tamale while you're there.
What do you recommend from your community's farmers' market?

bringing the heat,

Monday, April 19, 2010

Edible Poems: If the World Was Crazy by Shel Silverstein

To celebrate National Poetry Month, I'll being sharing some of my favorite poems about food in a series of posts.

In this blog, I'm guilty of projecting the image of muddywaters being a relaxed fella who rolls with the punches and who is perpetually happy. This is far from the truth. I'm uptight. I demand structure. I'm often cranky. I take myself too seriously. I get worked up about politics. I don't always enjoy being around people. I'm a pessimist. I get upset about things I can't control.

My daughter and wife like to remind me that attitude is everything.

They're right, but applying this wisdom isn't so easy. It's a constant tug-a-war between the man I am and the man I want to be.

Blogging is one tool I use to maintain a positive attitude, but it doesn't always help. Lately I've been turning to poetry as a way to give my attitude a tuneup.

If you're having a bad day, I recommend picking up one of Shel Silverstein's book and flipping to about any page. There you will find words that will transform the way you see the world.

I'm sure this sounds corny to some, but when I read one of his poems aloud, I can feel the tension leaving my shoulders. When I read one of his poems, I'm a tow-headed boy with barefeet stained from playing underneath the mulberry tree, and life is about the possibilities, not the obstacles. The following edible poem has that kind of power:

If the World Was Crazy by Shel Silverstein

If the world was crazy, you know what I'd eat?
A big slice of soup and a whole quart of meat,
A lemonade sandwich, and then I might try
Some roasted ice cream or a bicycle pie,
A nice notebook salad, an underwear roast,
An omelet of hats and some crisp cardboard toast,
A thick malted milk made from pencils and daisies,
And that's what I'd eat if the world was crazy.

If the world was crazy, you know what I'd wear?
A chocolate suit and a tie of eclair,
Some marshmallow earmuffs, some licorice shoes,
And I'd read a paper of peppermint news.
I'd call the boys "Suzy" and I'd call the girls "Harry,"
I'd talk through my ears, and I always would carry
A paper umbrella for when it grew hazy
To keep in the rain, if the world was crazy.
If the world was crazy, you know what I'd do?

I'd walk on the ocean and swim in my shoe,
I'd fly through the ground and I'd skip through the air,
I'd run down the bathtub and bathe on the stair.
When I met somebody I'd say, "G'bye, Joe,"
And when I was leaving--then I'd say "Hello."
And the greatest of men would be silly and lazy
So I would be king...if the world was crazy.

embrace the absurd,


PS. . . Mr. Silverstein wrote one of my favorite Johnny Cash songs, "A Boy Named Sue."

Friday, April 16, 2010

Edible Poems: The Bean Eaters by Gwendolyn Brooks

To celebrate National Poetry Month, I'll share some of my favorite poems about food. You might also visit Jenni at Prairie Air who is also serving up tasty morsels of poetry.

Around dinner time, I get the urge to go door to door in my neighborhood to investigate what my neighbors are preparing for meals. Part of this curiosity is related to my interest in food, but I'm more interested in the narrative behind the meals and what dinner rituals reveal about people.

My first edible poem "The Bean Eaters" is an example of narrative I hope to find when I knock a neighbor's during dinner time. This is a snapshot that is more than the sum of its parts. If you look closely you'll see something much more than dinnertime.

The Bean Eaters

by Gwendolyn Brooks (I found that she was born in Topeka, so I claim her as a Kansan.)

They eat beans mostly, this old yellow pair.
Dinner is a casual affair.
Plain chipware on a plain and creaking wood, Tin flatware.
Two who are Mostly Good.
Two who have lived their day,
But keep on putting on their clothes
And putting things away.
And remembering . . .
Remembering, with twinklings and twinges,
As they lean over the beans in
their rented back room that
is full of beads and receipts and dolls and cloths,
tobacco crumbs, vases and fringes.

pass the gravy,


Wednesday, April 14, 2010


They say a picture is worth a thousand words:

The new KFC Double Down sandwich is real! This one-of-a-kind sandwich features two thick and juicy boneless white meat chicken filets (Original Recipe® or Grilled), two pieces of bacon, two melted slices of Monterey Jack and pepper jack cheese and Colonel's Sauce. This product is so meaty, there’s no room for a bun!

Here at TGS we'll just call this the What-the-Fuck sandwich!

Watch the language around the youngsters,
Mr. Crankypants

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Notes and Observations: Ted Kooser

Do not choose your wife at a dance, but on the field amongst the harvesters.

****From Local Wonders: Seasons in the Bohemian Alps by Ted Kooser

Last night I left Ted Kooser's poetry reading invigorated, and I'm motivated to venture into some new territory with my blog. Today I'll informally share my impressions of Ted Kooser's reading.
  • The event was held at The Oread, which is a new hotel in town constructed of native limestone. I'm still forming my opinion of the building, but it might be a bit too much for me. Inside the confines of the stone walls, I felt compelled to strap on a miner's headlamp and to do a little spelunking.

  • Poetry should be read aloud. The cadence and music of the words need to be heard for a poem to be fully savored.
  • Mr. Kooser mentioned that he enjoys writing about ordinary things.
  • One of Mr. Kooser's favorite activities is driving by himself and visiting small towns
  • Mr. Kooser is good friends with the painter Keith Jacobshagen who I mentioned in my post about my recent trip to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. After viewing Mr. Jacobshagen's painting and hearing Mr. Kooser read, I see why they are friends. There are great similarities in their works.

  • Mr. Kooser mentioned that he might revise a poem 30-40 time before he considers it complete. For someone like myself who doesn't always feel at ease putting pen to paper, I found this reassuring. Even someone of Mr. Kooser's talent and skill still struggles to find the right words.
  • He talked about the value of taking time to record family memories. I must set aside time to write down family stories.
  • He read a poem titled "Splitting an Order" about an elderly couple sharing a meal at a restaurant. I liked this poem because it reminded me of my grandparents who used to share a "broasted" chicken dinner at Green Acre's Restaurant.
  • When asked about his fondest memory of being the U.S. Poet Laureate, Mr. Kooser said his favorite moment was having the opportunity to interview the songwriter John Prine at the Library of Congress. John Prine was only the second songwriter to perform at the Library of Congress. The first was Woody Guthrie. You can view Mr. Kooser's interview with Mr. Prine at the following link: A Literary Evening with John Prine and Ted Kooser.
There's much more to share of my evening listening to Mr. Kooser, but I'll save it for another day. I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to hear him speak.

you can observe a lot just by watchin',

Monday, April 12, 2010

Rebelling Against Reality

Tonight I'm attending a poetry reading by former U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser, so I thought I'd tie an excerpt from his book Local Wonders: Seasons in the Bohemian Alps. Then I'll try to tie everything back to food and cooking.

I like to get outside and paint pictures in the early spring. I suppose it's my way of trying to be a tulip, pushing my way out of the tight white bulb of winter and opening a little color against the darkness.

I've converted my '92 Mercury Topaz into a rolling art studio so I can paint wherever I can park, and in all weathers. I built a small plywood table over the passenger's seat for my palette, paints, and brushes, and a Masonite easel that fastens over the steering wheel. For a week I've been out making watercolor sketches and was blessed to observe the first greens coming on in the roadside ditches. On the first day everything was the dusty deer-hide brown of late winter. On the second day I would begin to see traces of green in the sunnier spots. And by the third, there was green everywhere. Though I'm an amateur painter and my poor mixing isn't good enough to perfectly capture this transition, my first day's sketch, of a field of corn stubble, looks like late winter and the third day's, of a couple of big bales in the shelter of some trees, looks like early spring. That's accomplishment enough for a Sunday painter in his sixties.

While I was parked by the road, a farmer pulled out of the lane to a farmhouse about a quarter of a mile away and drove slowly toward me in his pickup. When he got up beside me, he stopped, rolled down his window, leaned out, and asked if I needed any help. He looked to be about my age. "No," I said, "I'm just painting a picture." I could tell by the look on his face that he'd never run into anything quite like that before, but he just said "Oh," as if it happened every day, and rolled up his window, tight enough to seal tin his sense of the way things ought to be. then he drove to the next corner, turned around, came past me again, and turned back into his lane.

I like the notion of a car being converted into an art studio. In fact. I love seeing something being used for a purpose different than intended. The missile silo that becomes a home. The propane tank that's becomes bbq smoker. The sinner that becomes a saint.

I guess, this is one of the reasons I decided to use my car to cook earlier this year. My potatoes turned out well, but later I tried baking a flatbread. It didn't go so well. It didn't help that I tried this during a snow storm, which extended my drive to work by 20 minutes and cooled my ambition to stop, get out of the car, and flip the foil-wrapped bread on the manifold.

When I arrived at school, I removed the foil pouch from my car's engine. I could smell the pungent char of the burned bread. Even though it was the smell of failure, I was giddy. Giddiness accompanied with failure makes no sense, but I trace my joy to the satisfaction that comes with rebelling against reality, a reality that dictates that I shouldn't bake bread underneath a car hood and a reality that dictates that we shouldn't take time from more pressing matters to paint tulips.

How do you rebel against reality?

march to your own beat,

Thursday, April 8, 2010

William Stafford and a Place Where Words Matter

"You don't have to prove anything," my mother said.
"Just be ready for what God sends."

***William Stafford's last poem

During my freshmen at Emporia State University, my comp professor invited one of his poet friends to read to the class. The poet dressed in black, possessed wild shocks of hair, and read poems that were laced with profanity. I remember him being particularly fond of the words cock and pussy. Squeezed between his salty words were long dramatic pauses and uncomfortable eye contact with the audience. That was my first exposure to a real live poet, and I wasn't impressed.

Later that year, I gave live poetry another chance when I attended a reading by William Stafford, who was billed as a poet from the Great Plains. I was still gun shy from the first reading I experienced, but Mr. Stafford grandfatherly appearance put me at ease. Then he spoke. He didn't rely on a dramatic, booming delivery. He spoke in a quiet, unassuming voice, a characteristic of someone who was raised on the Kansas Plains. Then I started to pay attention to the words, and I realized he articulated what I felt about being a product of the Great Plains He noticed and pointed out the beauty of the Plains without scarring it with his ego.

That night was a revelation to me. We live in a world where loud, glitzy, sit-com buffoonery is often in the spotlight, but that night I watched a quiet, gentle person shine without the aid of a spotlight. At that moment I realized there would always be a place in this world for me.

I now read Mr. Stafford's poems on a regular basis. I guess, the poems are part anchor and part compass. They give me a sense of who I am and who I want to become.

Mr. Stafford's poems reaffirm that it's OK to be gentle and kind, and there are places in the world for quiet folk. Most importantly his poems remind that there's value in quiet places where words matter.

I believe, we all need a poet who speaks to us. What poet speaks to you?

You Reading This, Be Ready

Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scene of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?

Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?

When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life--

What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?

****William Stafford from August 26, 1993