Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Biscuits and Gravy at Wheatfields

I've been teaching at my current school for 14 years now, so I possess the comfort that comes with knowing the rituals, routines, and rhythms of a place. Every Thursday the cafeteria serves biscuits and gravy. When I was younger, I looked forward to my weekly biscuit and gravy fix.

Because I like to fit comfortably into my pants and because my principal frowns upon mid-morning naps, I rarely eat biscuits and gravy at school. Someday I will have a career that demands hearty breakfasts, and every morning I'll eat biscuits & gravy, hash browns, eggs, and chicken fried steak. Until then I'll try to stay away from the gravy.

For now it's a once-in-awhile treat, and when I want to treat myself to biscuits and gravy, I head to Wheatfields.

The gravy takes center stage in their version of this American classic. It's a meaty gravy that is generously seasoned with a blend of spices that gives it an addictive quality. In a future post, I will attempt to break down the spices, but I need a little time and help. It's the most elaborately seasoned gravy I've ever had.

They might be the best biscuits and gravy I've ever eaten, and that's saying a lot because I've eaten a lot of biscuits and gravy. Where have you found the best biscuits and gravy

may you have a little gravy in your day,


PS. . . I only ate a half order of biscuits and gravy, which cost me $4.09 with tax included. I've never consumed a whole order, but if I did, I imagine that I would like this.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Bottleneck Mural

The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.

***Dorthea Lange

I use a simple point-and-shoot camera for this blog. I'm no photographer, and right now I have no desire to improve my photography skills.

I like taking pictures. I could easily spend an hour a day taking pictures. While I'm not a photographer, I consider myself a documenter. Someday I'm going to place a capital "D" on this title.

I'm very aware that nothing lasts, which is the main reason I'm a documenter. I'm also a documenter because I derive great joy in seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary. I like documenting stuff that brings me joy.

For this post, you'd expect some breathtaking photographs to illustrate this point, but I've got nothing. Remember, I'm not a photographer; I'm a documenter.

I snapped these pictures a year ago at a show at The Bottleneck, the legendary Lawrence, Kansas, music venue. It's dark inside The Bottleneck, so it's difficult to take good pictures. However, I didn't let this stop me from taking pictures of the following mural:

It's a very unpolished mural, and while it still might not satisfy most art lovers, I still like it. If you've ever been to The Bottleneck, you know that this is the perfect location for this mural.

I need to do more exploring and documenting of folk art like they're doing over at Deep Fried Kudzu.

trampin' a perpetual journey,

PS . . . Writing about art makes me think of the following great song by Terry Allen:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Mr. Crankypants: BBQ Beer

I think a man ought to get drunk at least twice a year just on principle, so he won't let himself get snotty about it.

~Raymond Chandler

The other day I'm kicked back reading Mr. Chandler's The Big Sleep, and muddywaters comes home from the liquor store with a wet-dream grin on his face. This worried me. When muddy visits the liquor store, he usually answers the Sirens' call of those corporate marketing bastards, and he returns with some fruit-infused beverage.

I told him to wipe that grin off his face. I explained how I survived the Great Wine Cooler Scare of the 1980's, and I don't care to revisit that estrogen ash heap. He told me that I was being a jerk and a bit sexist, so I told him to quit acting like a pussy.

Normally muddy would go upstairs to pout and read some Jane Fucking Austen, but he held his ground this time. He then started telling me that he had something that would put hair on my chest. Then he pulled this out of his bag:muddy beamed and pointed to the beer like he was Vanna Fucking White.

I mellowed and attempted to comprehend the scene playing out before me.

I like the smokey taste of BBQ brisket washed down with a Shiner Bock, one of my favorite beers. I also like Guinness, which has a smokey taste. Could it be possible that after all these years, muddy knows me better than anyone?

Rather than contemplate the possibility that muddy and I were becoming one, I grabbed a cold Shiner, The Big Sleep, and headed to my hammock. I spent the rest of the afternoon reading Mr. Chandler and thinking about girls with smiles that I could feel in my hip pocket.

I'd like to buy a vowel,
Mr. Crankypants

Sunday, October 17, 2010


Globe is home to one structure, a stained glass shop. I'm not crazy about stained glass, but after browsing the shop's website, I'd like visit it when it's open. I would like a stained glass collage of my favorite foods or the Kansas state seal.

When I was in high school, Globe was home to a small gas station, and it was rumored that underage drinkers could purchase beer there. I lacked the courage to test this rumor. Considering that I was carded well into my late 20's, this was a wise decision.

Just northeast of Globe is an Atlas Missile silo, a relic from the Cold War Era. In 1983 the ABC movie The Day After and a Nostradamus documentary on PBS filled my head with impending nuclear doom. This rattled me so much that I started losing sleep. Looking back, I was just an anxious kid who often worried about things beyond my control.

To ease my mind, I wrote Senator Nancy Landon Kassebaum expressing my anxiety about being a push of a button away from a nuclear holocaust. Composing this letter taught me that writing can be cathartic.

Shortly after I received a letter from her office that put my mind at ease. If I can find the letter, I'll share it in a future blog post.

North of Globe across the 56 Highway, there used to be a bait shop, but it's closed. I don't fish, but I think, the world needs more bait shops. Cold beer at a reasonable price is a good thing.

East of Globe is a home constructed out of rail cars. I'd rather live in a grain silo or a barn.

They recently moved the depot from Welda, Kansas.

I'm eager to see what they'll do with it.

i hear that train a comin',


PS. . . The picture of the truck makes me want to buy a Red Sovine album. I have a 2cd compilation of trucker songs I need to place on my Ipod.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Stoysich's House of Sausage

With apologies to bacon, I've decided that sausage is my favorite meat.

I crowned sausage the King of Meats on a recent trip to Omaha, where I visited the Stoysich House of Sausage. House of Sausage! With almost 40 varieties of sausage, I showed tremendous amount of will power and only purchased two kinds, a Portuguse linguica and a Polish chicken sausage.
The House of Sausage is north of the Immaculate Conception Church. I'm sure a wittier man could crack a joke about the proximity of the two, but I'm not that man.

They also sell European beers and homemade kraut. It's one-stop shopping for Octoberfest.

always travel with a cooler,


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Rice Dressing with Dried Fruits

Three years ago, I didn't like mixing savory with sweet. My Kansas stomach liked my food straightforward and uncomplicated. Now I'm at a stage in my cooking where I'm intrigued with how flavors play off of each other, so I'm more willing to try a recipe like the following:

Rice Dressing with Dried Fruits


  • 1 cup mixed wild and white rice (I like the RiceSelect Royal Blend)
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1-2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup dried apricots, quartered
  • 2 -4 tablespoons butter (I went light on the butter)
  • 2 large ribs celery, diced
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh sage
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh, flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • freshly ground pepper


  • Begin by heating the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Once the oil is heated, stir in the rice. Cook until fragrant. Add the stock and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil. Turn the burner to low, cover the rice, and let it simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the burner and allow the rice to sit with the lid on for another 15 minutes. Remove lid and fluff the rice with a fork.
  • Place the dried apricots in a small bowl, add hot water to cover, and allow to plump for 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  • In a skillet, melt two 2 tablespoons of butter. Swirl to coat the pan, add the celery, carrot, and onion, and saute until the onion is soft and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the thyme, sage, and parsley, and saute for 1 minute longer. Remove from the heat.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. When the rice is cooked, stir in the vegetable mixture. Add plumped apricots, and dried cranberries. stir to combine. Add the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  • Lightly grease a casserole dish. Spoon the rice mixture into the prepare pan and cover. Bake the rice until heated through, about 20 minutes.

We served this with some grilled pork chops and roasted broccoli. I loved this recipe. It's a beautiful autumn dish accented with the earthy scent of sage. The rest of the family didn't care for fruit in their savory rice, so the next time I prepare it I'll omit the fruit. Perhaps, I'll serve the fruit on the side, so I can mix it into my rice.

may the wind always be at your back,


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Aztec Couscous Salad

I gravitate towards the unglamorous.

Exhibit A:
  • I dream about driving across North Dakota. I might be the only person in America who has this on his bucket list.
Exhibit B:

  • If I had a choice between being Paul Giamatti or Brad Pitt, I would be Mr. Giamatti. I'd rather be talented, versatile, and artful than have my picture taped in the lockers of high school girls. Mr. Pitt is talented and an artist, but he has to deal with the baggage of being glamorous.
Exhibit C:
  • I like my coffee black.
My cooking lately has been very unglamorous.

I've been cooking a lot with whole grains, the Paul Giamatti of American cuisine. I'm cooking with whole grains to add another healthy element to my cooking, but I'm also doing it because it's fun. I like getting outside my comfort zone and learning something new. When I stand in front of the bulk grain bins at my local market, I experience the same giddiness I feel at a library or at the start of a road trip. There's great energy in the possibilities.

Today I'm sharing a recipe that provided me with a safe, tasty introduction to cooking with whole grains. It's a recipe from Whole Grains for Busy People by Laura Sass.

Aztec Couscous Salad

(Would the Aztecs eat couscous? WWAE? What would Aztecs eat? )


  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 cup whole-wheat couscous
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/3 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 3 tablespoon lime juice


  1. Defrost the corn, and then slightly heat it in the microwave oven.

  2. Place the couscous in a heavy saucepan. Use a wooden spoon to stir in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Continue stirring until the couscous are thoroughly coated with oil. Add the salt, cumin, garlic and corn.

  3. Stir in 1 1/2 cups boiling water into the couscous. Cover and let sit off heat for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

  4. While the couscous is steeping, combine the beans, green onions, cilantro, roasted red pepper, and jalapeno in a large bowl. Toss he couscous mixture, the remaining olive oil, and lime juice. Season with salt, if needed.

"unglamorously" yours,

PS. . . Despite my allegiance to the unglamorous, it would be cool to be Johnny Depp.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Quinoa Pilaf with Apples and Pecans

In a recent photo shoot for a quinoa and apple pilaf, Quinoa grew surly. When I requested a different poise, Quinoa screamed, "Do you know who I am? I'm Quinoa. The Incas revered me. Nutritionist say I'm the perfect food because of my nutritional balance. I am often referred to as a Super Grain.I've been around for 6,000 years, and I'll be here long after you're gone. I don't need this! Suck it!"

Quinoa stormed out of the my photo studio, leaving me with no pictures for this post. Despite quinoa's uppity attitude, I still like the flavor and texture of this grain. However, I might be better off working with some local grains, which like most Kansans are humble, good-natured, and unassuming. I could see a few of those grains being a good replacement for Quinoa in this recipe.

The apple flavor of this dish intensified day #2, and it's great cold for breakfast.

Quinoa Pilaf with Apples and Pecans

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and finely chopped
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 cups quinoa, rinsed and drained (Rinsing is essential to remove the bitter exterior coating of quinoa)
  • 1 3/4 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • pepper
  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the apple, onion, sugar, thyme, and a dash of salt. Cook until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the quinoa, and cook until it is just beginning to turn golden, about 4 minutes.
  2. Stir in the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until the quinoa is tender with a slight crunch, about 15 minutes.
  3. Remove the cover from the saucepan and continue to cook the quinoa until the remaining liquid has evaporated, about 2 minutes. Off the heat, let the pilaf stand for 5 minutes. Gently stir in the the pecans and parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

it's hard to be humble when you're perfect in every way,