Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Starry Nights & Wauneta, Nebraska

I grew up in Pomona, Kansas, a town of around 1,500 or so. Due to Pomona's small size, we did most of our shopping and business in Ottawa, which was ten miles to the east.

When I was about five, my grandparents asked me if I wanted to go to Otta-Way with them. I loved go anywhere with my grandparents, but I was especially excited about this trip because I'd never been to Otta-Way. We headed east, and eventually we arrived in Ottawa, and I thought: Gee, Ottawa must be on the way to Otta-Way. Then we pulled into the parking lot of Town and Country in Ottawa, and I realized that Ottawa and Otta-Way were the same town. I didn't say anything to my grandparents, but I was a bit disappointed because I really wanted to go somewhere new.

To this day, I still get excited to visit a town for the first time. I have an old Rand-McNally atlas where I highlight all the roads I've traveled in this life.

I've also started taking pictures of towns I visit. I need to do it more often, but it really increases the time it takes to get from point A to point B. Last week I sorted through some old photos I found of Wauneta, Nebraska. I remember going there to drop off my father-in-law's truck, so the damage done during a recent hail storm could be repaired. While I waited I snapped a few photos from the parking lot of the body shop.

There's nothing spectacular about the photos, but I still like them. I like the big sky. I think about how it would be great to spend part of my evening drinking at the Good Times Bar in Wauneta and how it would feel to step out of the bar to experience that big starry sky. That's gotta be something.

the road goes on forever,


Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Dog of the South

I'm currently reading The Dog of the South by Charles Portis. Most of you probably know Mr. Portis as the author of True Grit, but I'm quickly learning that he has other books that are worth reading. The Dog of the South is a story of man who's tracking down his wife who has left him for another man. It's that simple. There are no subplots or literary posing. It's simply a quirky romp that is one part Hunter S. Thompson, one part No Country for Old Men and one part Coen brothers. If you like road books, absurd humor, and the subversive, you'll like this book. If you don't like any of these, I'm OK with that.

Since this is a food blog, I thought I would share a food-related passage. It occurs early in the story when the narrator dines at a Texas restaurant that is run by a couple from North Dakota. He's skeptical of their ability to serve a good chicken-fried steak.

You can usually count on a pretty good chicken-fried steak in Texas, if not a chicken-fried chicken, but I didn't like this setup. All afternoon I had been thinking about one of those steaks, with white gravy and a lot of black pepper, and now I was afraid these people from Fargo would bring me a prefabricated vealette pattie instead of fresh meat. I ordered roast beef and I told the waitress I wanted plenty of gristle and would like for the meat to be gray with an iridescent rainbow sheen. She was not in the mood for teasing being preoccupied with some private distress like the others. She brought me a plate of fish sticks and the smallest portion of coleslaw I've never seen. It was in a paper nut cup. I didn't say anything because they have a rough job. Those waitresses are on their feet all day, and they never get a raise and they never get a vacation until they quit. The menu was complete fiction. She was serving the fish sticks to everybody, and not a uniform count either.

I hate menus that are mere fiction. I hate the prefab, frozen, deep-fat fried CFS. Give me a hand-pounded, hand-breaded, never-frozen,, cook-in-a-skillet, chicken fried steak. The same goes for a pork tenderloin sandwich. Oh, and please hold the canned gravy. It's tough to find a good chicken fried steak in Kansas, but I hear they have a good one at the Leon Cafe in Leon, KS. That's just hearsay though.

This passage made me think of this scene from the movie Five Easy Pieces:

the dude abides,

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Ginger-Peach Hand Pies

I've written about my struggles with baking pastries and how I usually defer this type of baking to the experts. Since I usually leave the pastry baking to my wife, I've never baked a pie in my life, which is a damn shame considering how much I love pie. I'm the guy who rarely eats dessert at restaurants because I'm too cheap and I often consider the calories, but if I see pie on the menu, I suspend all rationale thought.

Monday I decided to confront my fears, expand my culinary repertoire, and attempt to bake a pie to celebrate National Pi Day. While pi and pie have very little in common, it's impossible to hear pi and not think of apple pie with a big dollop of ice cream.

Since I believe in taking baby steps, I used some of last summer's frozen peaches, I also used frozen pie dough and I baked little hand pies rather than a whole pie.

There are two things you need to know about hand pies: First, when you pull these cuties from the oven allow them to cool completely. Biting into a hot pie will place your taste buds on injured reserve for several weeks. I speak from experience. In fact, biting into a molten pie is such a severe form of torture that even Dick Cheney wouldn't condone its use.

Second, hand pie is not a sexual euphenism, so get your mind out of the gutter. Although I never want to hear my daughter utter the following: "After the game I gave Bubba a little hand pie."

I used frozen pie dough for my recipe, but feel free to make your own dough. Below is the recipe for the filling.

Ginger-Peach Hand Pies

Pie Filling Ingredients:
  • 3 cups peeled and pitted ripe peaches cut into bite-size chunks.
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoon freshly chopped ginger
  1. Combine the peaches and sugar in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a gentle boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat and allow to simmer for 4 minutes.
  2. In a separate small bowl, mix the orange juice, lemon juice, and cornstarch. Add to the peaches. Add ginger. Increase the heat and continue to cook, stirring, until thickened and clear, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, and add nutmeg. Let cool.
  3. Note: I made tiny pies, but if you want to make just four large pies, this would much easier. Spooning the filling into little pies of dough proved to be quite difficult. Divide dough into four equal pieces and roll each piece into an 8-inch circle. Spoon cooled filling over half of the dough, leaving a 3/4-inch border along the edge. Moisten the edge of the pastry with a finger, then fold the empty half over the filling. Press the edges together with a fork. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Refrigerate while you make the remaining pies, putting each on the sheet as it is assembled. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  4. Remove the sheet from the refrigerator and brush each pie with a little milk. sprinkle with granulated sugar, then poke the surface of each pie 2-3 times with a fork to make steam vents. Place the sheet on the center oven rack and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperate to 375 degrees and bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes. If necessary for even browning, rotate the sheet 180 degrees, so that the side that faced the back of the oven now faces forward, about 10 minutes before the pies are done.
  5. Transfer the pies to a wire rack and let cool before you enjoy them.


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Riding the Kentucky Mule

Recently I've fallen in love with ginger and Elton John's early 1970's recordings. Both have a changed my life. I avoided Elton John for most of my life because he sang "Nikita" and seemed more concerned with fashion and being a knight than music.

I never used ginger in the kitchen because I'm a son the Great Plains and ginger (especially in root form) would be considered to exotic for a Kansan's taste buds.

Now I'm trying everything with ginger in it. I'm especially into ginger beer, which is an invigorating, quenching, smooth drink. If you've never tried ginger beer, try the one brewed by The Ginger People. If you want to take ginger beer to the next level try it in the following cocktail:

Kentucky Mule

  • 1 1/2 ounces of whiskey
  • ginger beer
  • splash of lime juice
  • wedge of lime or lemon
  • Fill glass with ice, add bourbon, dance a gig, top off with ginger beer, whistle, splash drink with lime juice, and garnish. Sip and count your blessings.
with a pirate's smile,

Friday, March 11, 2011

Drink Locally

What do Bud Lite and making love in a canoe have in common?

Both are fucking near water.

We just finished watching the documentary Beer Wars. In addition to producing subpar beer, it seems Anheuser-Busch engages in some insidious tactics to squash small brewers.

Mr. Crankypants isn't very happy about this. In fact, right after watching the documentary, he armed himself with a tiki torch and pitchfork, ready to storm Anheuser-Busch's lair. I told him to relax, and then he mumbled something about that being a pitiful battle cry when dealing with calculating, corporate fucks.

I told him that there will always be corporate fucks out there doing anything to make a buck, and that it's counterproductive to get angry. I told him to stick the tiki torch in the back yard, light it, and we'd lounge in the back yard enjoying a few beers from local brewers who love beer more than they love money.

And that's how we ended up on a Friday afternoon enjoying beers from two Kansas brewers: Free State and Tallgrass Brewing.

drink locally,
PS: Mr. Crankypants also wondered why any one would want to drink a beer brewed by some Missouri pukes.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Best Fortune EVER!!

In my youth I cracked open fortune cookies with an exuberance that is now reserved for beer, bourbon, bacon, and beans. My enthusiasm was rooted in the hope that the factory-generated fortunes would materialize, and we all know the folly in this thinking. After awhile I started leaving my fortune cookies untouched.

Last week I received a fortune that rekindled my enthusiasm for fortune cookies. The fortune read:

It is better to have beans and bacon in peace than cake and ale in fear.

I realize it's more wisdom than fortune, but I need this sort of Jujitsu (I know I'm mixing my Asian cultures) for the soul.

I look forward to allowing more fortunes into my life.

wherever you go, go with a full heart,

PS: I wish I could get a job writing fortunes.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A True Man

The Greasy Skillet hit the road this past weekend and visited the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum. I learned much about Mr. Truman, and I'm learning more. For now all, you need to know about Mr. Truman are the following details I read in David McCullough's Truman:


"At threshing time, when neighboring farmers came to help the Trumans, as part of the season's usual exchange of labor, Harry would work through the morning, but then, just before the big midday meal, while the other men were relaxing, he would clean up quickly and go to kitchen to help his mother and sister."

Second, when courting his wife Bess, Mr. Truman relied on the written word:

"But it was in letter after letter -- hundreds of letters as time passed -- that he poured himself out to her, saying what he found he never could in her presence, writing more than he ever had in his life and discovering how much satisfaction there was in writing. He also longed desperately for her to writing him, which, as he told her, was the main reason he wrote so often and at such length. Phone calls on a party line were out of the question, with the neighbors listening. He didn't like the telephone under any circumstances. 'I'm always rattled and can never say what I want to,' he explained to her. "

Now I'm contemplating what it means to be a true man, and I'm considering developing a set of courtship rituals for my daughter. I will require her suitors to write letters to her for a year before they embark on dating.

the buck stops here,