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Monday, January 30, 2012

One of the Essential Books I Bet You’ve Never Read


            No, I’m not talking about “The Ethical Slut,” or “The Myth of Monogamy,” both fine books, I’m sure, and both available from Amazon.  Take care of all those details yourselves and let’s get serious for a sec.  “Deep Survival, Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why,” by Laurence Gonzales is much more important to me and everyone else who desires a fightin’ chance.
            But, you say, I do not go deep in the woods, oh no, no, no.  I do not do the crazy things my friend Grunt does, like take flying leaps from airplanes, or my friend Eman does, such as climbing on the sides of terribly high cliffs in god-only-knows-which-backwater country. 
            You’re thinking, I only visit shopping centers, take a few commercial plane rides, do a little skiing.  One of the most poignant stories in the book begins with two teenage girls at a shopping center, who go for a nearby nature walk, without really knowing the nature of the walk.  Nope.  Not what you think.  No molesters or killers lurking.  Just the girls and Mother Nature, whom you soon find out, is about as forgiving as the wicked witch of the west with PMS.
            Or maybe you’re thinking, ah a book about how to build signaling blazes, roast tadpoles, splint limbs, or get water from dead leaves.  Deep Survival is not that kind of book.  Gonzales has been studying accidents and human behavior for decades.  Deep Survival is about what he has discovered, but most of all it’s about how what he has discovered can help you in the darkest of hours and the bleakest of circumstances.
            He doesn’t preach or list rules.  He weaves a web of stories.  There’s the kid in a plane crash who is the only human to make it home alive, and the skier who just does what he always does, and suddenly experiences vastly different results.  Nope.  Didn’t hit a tree and he was on a course he’d skied many times.
            The best part of the book is that, in addition to choices for survival, the author provides a rough blueprint for how to stay alive, period.  All of it told by a master storyteller.  You race through pages at novel reading speed, then reflect and go back to reread.
            Gonzales describes civilization as a bubble of sanity, replete with rules we understand and live by.  Inside the bubble, except for the occasional catastrophic event, nature is mostly contained and controlled.  Outside the bubble, there are no rules and often the bubble ends where we least expect it.
            All is not lost, however.  There are things you can do to protect yourself from getting in a survival situation to begin with.  But, if you find yourself as alone as a star in the heavens and as scared as the icy pee in your socks, you can help yourself and your family.
            If you decide to read this book, available on Amazon, I can guarantee two things:  You’re going to learn a lot, even if you’ve had a million years of survival training, and you’re going to be entertained with edge-of-the-seat excitement.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Going Green, Red, and Garlicky




        Stop!  Don’t put that goopy, mass produced salad dressing in your cart!  Put the damn bottle back on the shelf.  Have you read the ingredients?  Let’s make some good stuff instead.  It’s so simple you’ll never, ever buy salad dressing again.  All you need is a blender, some basic ingredients and three minutes.  Don’t have a blender?  Don’t lie to me, you margarita swilling swine!
        By the way, did you know that margarita means daisy in Spanish?  Hey, shape up!  You ought to know what you’re drinking. 
        Back to the salad dressing.  Here’s the basic recipe:  1/4 cup olive oil, 1/2 cup vinegar, 1 clove garlic, salt, and pepper to taste.  Put it in a blender.  Presto!  You’ve made a wonderful vinaigrette, and it’s only the beginning of your salad dressings adventures.  By the way, I always use Spanish olive oil.  To my tongue, the flavor is more intense.  Note the photo and the old sake bottles I use for my olive oil and kosher salt.  Nicely shaped bottles never go to waste in my house.  By the way, why do they call it kosher salt?  How can salt be anything else?  Kosher salt is the salt they use to cure kosher meat.  Mystery solved.
        Now back to the salad dressing for some not so basics.  For a change of pace, try using flavored vinegars.  I often use seasoned rice vinegar, shown in the photo, also strawberry vinegar, rosemary vinegar, and other vinegars that intrigue my taste buds. I keep strawberry and rose vinegars on my shelf.
        For tonight’s salad, I’m topping fresh baby greens with chopped strawberries and some toasted walnuts.  Hint:  how to toast walnuts.  Put them in a pan over moderate heat – no butter, no oil.  Let them toast, tossing occasionally until you smell the sweet, nutty aroma.
        For tonight’s salad dressing, I’m following the basic recipe, but using 1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar, which is slightly sweet, 1/4 cup champagne vinegar, and also tossing some fresh strawberries into the blender, first removing the tops and any white parts.  How many strawberries?  I started with four large ones, but I needed more berry flavor, so I added a couple more. 
        Want your dressing a little sweeter?  Instead of half and half seasoned rice vinegar and regular, use a full 1/2 cup of seasoned rice vinegar, or add sugar or honey.  Want it creamier?  Add an egg yolk.  Don’t worry about an uncooked yolk.  Just make sure you keep any leftover dressing in the refrig.
        One day soon, we’ll talk about how to make your own flavored vinegars, but right now let’s enjoy the baby greens, walnut, and strawberry salad, with the strawberry vinaigrette

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Fractured- an incredibly short story

        


         I know Mr. Charles doesn’t like me.  You can see it in his beady eyes and the way his lips curl ever so slightly when he stops by my cubical.  He won’t look straight at me.  How can he when the hostility just oozes from him like putrefied garbage?  Thumbs locked under his braces, he rocks back on his heels and you can hear the breath hiss out of him.  A viper about to sink his fangs.  And he asks such inane questions.  “How is the project coming?  Is your wife going to attend the office Christmas party?”  Like he really understands my project, or really knows my wife.  That whiney voice is a dead giveaway.  He should be shot and I don’t mean metaphorically.
         I’m working on the same project I’ve been working on for the past two weeks.  Every Monday morning and every Friday morning, I send a full complement of charts and graphs that fully explains the situation.  It isn’t easy, but of course he wouldn’t know that.  He always calls me, right after the meeting he has on Mondays and Fridays with Mr. Fimburt, and he always implies my work is somehow incomplete.  Next time he comes in my office, I’m going to gut him.
         “What are the results we can expect if sales drop less than one percent in the quarter?”
         “Graph three, sir.”
         A pause, a shuffling of paper.  “That graph is of somewhat limited value.”
         “It’s the one you asked for.”  I told him the graph was useless when he asked me to make it, but of course he ignored me.
         Pause.  More paper movement.  “Perhaps we should rethink the relevance of putting projections and hard number columns on the same page. It’s confusing.”
         “I can easily separate them, if you’d prefer, sir.”  It was my idea to separate them in the first place.  His tongue should be ripped from his head.
         On and on it goes.  Half my life is re-answering questions and rearranging the same figures on new charts, in the futile hope of penetrating his fogged mind.  Fat chance.  I tell you, the man doesn’t like anything about me.  It’s true I got a hefty raise, but that was only because he couldn’t very well turn his back after all the things I’ve done for the company.  No, my raise was just to cover his own backsides.  He thinks I’m fooled by it, but I’m not.  Not even for a minute.  He’ll soon find out how unfooled I am.
         And the bit about the Christmas party?  What a crock!  If I asked him, Mr. Charles wouldn’t know my wife’s name if I branded it on his chest.  I may do just that.  He’s met her at least four or five times!  Where does the company find these cretins and why do they put them in charge?  I remember Mr. Charles’ wife’s name.  It’s Emily.  Not that I ever call her Emily.  I always call her Mrs. Charles, but at least I know her Christian name.  I know his children’s names and his street address and his home phone number.  Once when I was in his office and he kicked off his shoes, scattering them all over the place, I glanced down and noted his shoe size.   Oh, yes, I know lots about our Mr. Charles and he can’t even remember my wife’s first name? Harriet.   Not an especially tough name to remember is it?
         Come to think of it, Mr. Charles may not even know my first name.  He always calls me mister, then pauses to look at the nameplate on my desk.  He’s shifty and hides it well, but I can tell what he’s doing.  He’d probably deny that.  He’d probably lie.  My first name is Jerry, just so you don’t have to thumb through your Rolodex or type my last name into your computer.  I’m paying you enough that you should at least remember my name.  See, I even know how much you make per hour.  It’s more than you know about me.
         I saw the picture of your wife on your desk and it’s signed ‘Rita.’  The soles of your shoes are worn.  You can obviously afford a new pair, but you just don’t have the time.  Am I right? So, do you even remember what I just told you?  Do you know my wife’s name?  Emily?  Very poor.  That’s Mr. Charles’ wife’s name, numbskull.  You’re not paying attention.  I could tell earlier.  Do you know you shift in your seat a lot?  You’re a squirmer and squirmers don’t usually pay attention.  You know what they say:  if a person can’t remember something it’s because he’s trying hard to forget.  So, maybe you know my wife better than I think you do.
         Look at that!  You dropped your pen.  Very significant if you ask me, and your wafer thin, half-smiles don’t change my opinion one iota.
         Paranoid?  When you call me a name it’s just a weak attempt to change the subject.  You may not think it's important, but I find it not only important, but personally insulting.  You don’t like me, do you doctor?  Well, get in line.
         Here’s another tough question for that giant, doctor brain.  What’s my name?  Jerry?  Very good.  Very, very good.  Maybe I’ll remember to send you your check after all.
         Do I make you nervous?  God, my collar is tight.  Just reach over here and loosen it. Well, answer my question!  Do I Make You Nervous?  The question isn’t that difficult.  Ha, ha!  You’re more nervous when you drive to work.  Very funny!  Do realize you’ve picked up your water glass twice without taking a sip?  What does that tell you?
         What do I think about my wife?  What the hell kind of question is that?  And by the way, I’ll thank you to call her by her name.
         Well, she’s very intelligent for one thing.  She has a Ph.D. and don’t think for a minute she ever lets me or anyone else forget it. Oh, I know the name of the university all right, but it makes me want to puke when I say it, so I won’t say it.
         The other day she told me, “Getting an advanced degree was a burden, but it was worth it and I thank you everyday for putting up with all I had to go through.”  That’s a laugh.  It’s just another way she has of belittling me because I don't’ have Dr. in front of my name.  But, you already know about that, don’t you DOCTOR!
         She’s published in some high-powered journals and got her picture on the cover of Newsweek magazine.  I mean it wasn’t the whole cover.  She was with a group of twenty-five or thirty people.  There she was.  Big, bold smile.  That smile hides a lot.  Ask me anything you want to know about her.  IQ?  Shoe size?  Favorite foods?  I could tell you all about those little trivialities.  Just don’t ask me about sex.  I won’t talk about that even if you are a doctor, you pervert.
         Well, you’re right.  This hour is supposed to be about me, not about that crone I’m married to.  She can get her own shrink and don’t think she couldn’t talk his ear off!  Talk?  That woman makes Larry King seem autistic.
         Why do I call her a crone if she’s beautiful?  The eye of the beholder and all that for one thing.  For another, she hates me.  Hate may be a tad too strong.  The woman is so vapid she’s incapable.   Hate, I mean real hate, takes time, energy, concentration, and most of all emotion.  When it comes to my wife, her bucket of energy and emotion is as dry as an AA meeting.  Anyway, she dislikes me.  That makes her very, very ugly, at least where yours truly is concerned.  I wouldn’t make love to her on a bet, even though she’s always begging for it.  Oh, yeah!  Well, I mean, she doesn’t come right out and say it, but a man can tell, can’t he doctor?  Those chance encounters in the laundry room when she just happens to be hanging up her delicates?  Not a chance.  She’s too ugly where it really counts, on the inside.  She’s got a nice figure, pretty well rounded, if you know what I mean.  But, I just can’t do the deed. 
         Oh, I know what you’re thinking, but there’s nothing wrong with the old equipment. The woman dislikes me, with a capital D-I-S.  Would you make love to a woman whom you know can’t stand you?
         So, doc, when are we going to make some progress?  I’m waiting on progress and at the rate you charge, progress should be riding a bullet train.  You say you want to ask a few more questions?  There always seem to be a few more questions.  Long on questions, short on results is what I’m saying.  You ever been castrated, Doc?  Just wondering if you’d like to know what it feels like.
         Mr. Charles? You keep changing the subject.  I can’t believe I need to go into more detail.  More useless trivia.  You know, I’m starting to get the idea that you’re not any more fond of me than he is.
         You think I might need a referral?  To whom?  Another shrink?  I don’t care whether you like that term or not.  This isn’t about you; it’s about me, you moron!  Besides, after the nut cutting, you won’t care one way or another.   Sounds like another racket to put somebody else on my payroll.  What the hell do I need with another doctor?  And these straps are really getting tight.  I’m starting to feel like Venus de Milo.   Loosen ‘em up, meathead.  You really do dislike me, don’t you Doc!  Have you been talking to my wife, or maybe to Mr. Charles?  What the hell are you doing with that needle?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Three Beauties From Alsace

The Three Beauties

A Vineyard Overlooking the medieval village Riquewihr



            Germany is known for it’s white wines and rightly so.  Some are glorious and the varieties endless.  However, just across the border in France, in a region known as Alsace, you’ll find white wines that will inhabit your dreams forever.  Hundreds of vintners it’s true.  But, by luck of a wrong turn and a wicked thirst, I found a special one in the small, but noble town of Rodern.  Metz Bleger bottles a large array of whites and Pinot Noirs, which are also superbly delicious, but today we’re going to meet three beautiful, not to mention luscious, whites: Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Gewurztraminer.
            The wine cellar isn’t always open.  You have to ring a buzzer at the entrance, and listen for a stout woman to bellow at you from a second story window of the attached house.  “One moment, Monsieur,” she calls with the delicately balanced tones of a framer’s wife who’s just dispatched three chickens with her bare hands.
            We wait and soon a heavy set man, younger than the woman and whom I assume to be her son, opens the heavy oak door of the wine cellar and welcomes us.  At first he seems a little edgy, but as we drink and drink some more and order case after case, he becomes more jovial and starts drinking himself.  Soon all of us are absolutely elated with each other’s company.  We croak in German, French, and English, managing to be misunderstood in the variety of languages.  We laugh, slap each other on the back, promising never to part. After slugging down a half dozen bottles of his wine, and with the assurance that we are all good friends for life, he gives us a wink and brings out bottles of the really good stuff.  We stand and applaud.  Champagne flows, before we go back to white.  The trunk of the car is beginning to sag like a nag’s back as the cases stack up.  No matter.  Back to the business of tasting.
            Besides falling in love with a couple of Pinot Noirs, I select a 2009 Riesling, with a particularly bright and cheerful nose and a medium dry body.  Rieslings can be all over the scale, from dry as a Texas draught to sweet as….. fill in your own suitable metaphor. 
            Another Alsatian delight is the Pinot Gris, this one also the Class of 2009. What, you may well ask, is the difference between Pinot Gris from France and the more familiar Pinot Grigio, a popular Italian wine.  Apparently, both wines are from the same variety of grape, but to my simple palate Pinot Gris is creamier and fruitier, probably because of the difference in soil and climate, or it may be because by this time I have a full bottle of it under my belt and am praying that this glorious day never end.  
At home, I drink both the Riesling and the Pinot Gris anytime, either for just sitting and sipping, or with light meals, or because I’m desperately lonely.
            The Gewurztraminer, (Gur-verts-tramer) (low and behold another graduate of 2009) on the other hand, calls for food.  A bit drier and with the bite of fresh herbs, it stands up well to fish, pork, or chicken dishes, if by this time anyone is still standing.
            The next time you head to your favorite wine shop, look for these three great varieties of white wines.  Mine cost about $9 a bottle.  Tell the wine steward the woman who chokes chickens sent you.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Sausage Rolls! From Plain Biscuits to Delectable Hors d’oeuvres





           Essential for every host or hostess is a never fail, crowd-pleasing hors d’oeuvre recipe. It’s one of those necessary entertainment accoutrements, like an extra bottle of wine, or a genuine Elvis Presley guitar pick.  But wait!  When you hear the words ‘hors d’oeuvres’ don’t grab your credit card and race to the gourmet deli for foie gras, black truffles, or smoked salmon.  Instead, serve easy to make sausage rolls, and you’ll have to fight your guests for the last one. I don’t mean the bland, intestine clearing grease balls from a fast food joint.  These are light, almost delicate, with a piquant taste to savor long after the tray is empty and your last guest is asleep on your couch in your favorite pajamas.
            From a previous post, you already have the basic biscuit recipe:  2 Cups flour, 3 Tablespoons baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt, 6 ounces butter, 1 Cup milk.  Mix the dry ingredients, cut in the butter, and mix in the milk.  Simple. Refer to the original post, if you’re a non-decision making ninny.
            A slight transformation from plain biscuit dough to sausage-rolls makes tid-bits as fancy as my Aunt Sally, who used to …well, there’s no sense in opening the family closet, except to say, what she did, she did with only the highest of society and she was always sober whenever she did whatever she did.
            But let’s get on with turning biscuits into suitably sophisticated noshes.  Make the basic biscuit recipe, but instead of cutting the dough into cute little rounds, or neat little squares, flour the surface of a counter and roll the whole mound of dough into roughly a rectangle.  Roll it about as thin as three Quarters or three Euros.  A little thicker is fine. For the criminally anal, see the photo of the rolled out dough with tape measure next to it.
            After the dough’s rolled, dot it with thumb-sized bits of raw sausage, then spread the sausage to cover the dough, leaving an inch or so at the top.  I use a cake server for the spreading, but fingers, toes, and butter knives work just as well. Re: the same photo.
            Roll up the sausage and dough, starting from one of the  long sides.  When you get to the top, moisten it slightly with water to seal. Get the cylinder as tight as you can.  Now pat the ends to make them even.  (See photo) Cover the roll with plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator.  If the roll is too long to fit comfortably, cut it in half, or in thirds, making sure everything is covered in plastic wrap, or the dough will dry out.  Let the raw roll (s) sit in the refrigerator for an hour or up to a day.  Refrigeration will set the dough so it’ll be easier to cut with a serrated knife.
            When you’re ready to bake, pre-heat the oven to 450ºF, or 230ºC.  Crosscut the dough in rounds, like sawing a log, with each round about as thick as the width of your little finger.  If they’re out of round, nudge them back into shape. Put the rounds on an un-greased baking sheet and bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until they’re looking so golden and delicious that saliva drips from your chin.
            Put your platter of sausage biscuits on the buffet; make sure glasses are filled and stand back. Your demure guests will suddenly turn into maniacal carnivores.  When they beg for the recipe, tell them it’s an old family secret, and in memory of Aunt Sally, you can’t give it out to anyone who’s not naked.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Goshawk Squadron - a novel of breakneck flying in WW I

SE5a

If you’re an aviation enthusiast, and especially if you’re a fighter pilot or wantta be, and if you’re drawn to the broken wood and torn fabric flying of World War I, you can’t do better than Derek Robinson’s magnificent novel, Goshawk Squadron.  Written in 1971, it’s a timeless tale of men fighting the un-fightable, smothering in the smell of cordite and castor oil, while being led by a man who is either going to kill them, or make them suffer and then kill them.
           As the author writes in another of his novels, “Up there the world is divided into bastards and suckers. Make your choice.”  The leader of Goshawk Squadron, Stanley Wooley, has made his.  He’s no beauty, and at twenty-three he’s an old timer in a war where the life expectancy of pilots is measured in weeks.  Hardbitten and older than his years, Wooley is determined to kick his squadron into good enough shape to keep them flying just one more day.  Often he’s unsuccessful.  How could he be anything else when youngsters arrive with sometimes eight or twelve hours of total flying time and never having seen an SE5a, let alone flown one.  A week later they’re in combat, trying to kill, but most likely trying only to survive.  They come with light hearts and high ideals.  Soon both are soiled forever by what they see and what they do.
             But, any fighter squadron is not without it’s lighter moments, even if they are almost unspeakably noir.  Some scenes made he laugh out loud.  Being in a fighter squadron is like that. Others made me ache to go back a few years, strap myself into a fighter and once again feel the magic exhilaration that only aviators know.
Goshawk Squadron is a quick read of a little over 200 pages, but it’s not the length of the book that makes it streak by like the bullets from a Folker DIII.  In Goshawk squadron you’re there.  Living in the mud.  Drinking to avoid the reality of knowing that you’re going to die, that it’s going to be wretched…and that it’s going to be soon.  And all for nothing, or so it seems.
Grab a copy of Goshawk Squadron, by Derek Robinson.  You’re in for the shrieking, whirling, terrifying ride of your life.  Available on Amazon.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Three Blogs for the Price of One!

I'm a guy who just can't keep a secret.  Don't look to me to keep your favorite coffee shop, or that tiny restaurant that's never crowded hidden from the world.  I blab.  It's the same with blogs.  I just can't keep a great blog to myself and today I'll give a shout to two of the best!

     Both of these favorite blogs are written by two of my favorite friends.  Ed Rasimus is a fighter pilot par excellence and continues to live on the cutting edge of aviation.  His blog, Thunder Tales, reflects more than a shade of military aviation, and also his other occupation, professor of political science.  Pick a topic, Ed’s got an informed opinion.  His knowledge and research are first rate and he’s not afraid of being honest and forthright, whether or not it offends those on the left or the right.  But, Ed’s real strength is his writing ability.  He flat out entertains! If you want to read about the air war in Vietnam, look no farther than Ed Rasimus’ two autobiographies, When Thunder Rolled, and Palace Cobra.  He’s also the co-author of Fighter Pilot: The Memoirs of Legendary Ace Robin Olds.  These three volumes are modern military classics. Period.  All three are available on Amazon.  
     To read Thunder Tales is to stay informed on matters military and political.  Grab the stick!  Push up the power!  A link is on the right. 

     Laura Burgess, who writes Laura Uncorked, is just as entertaining and information, but in entirely different arenas.  Want to know about wines and travel, or maybe you’re looking for an au currant hideaway for a drink and noshes with that special someone?  Uncorked has the low down on the downtown and uptown.  She prowls New York City, but she also travels the world, and in her travels she finds the most out of the way vineyards, both delicious and cheap.  Best of all, Laura writes in such a refreshing, unpretentious way that after reading her blog, you feel like you’ve just met an old friend for gossip and a sip of vintage grape.  Wines in Charleston, South Carolina?  You bet.  Care to tingle with vinho verde?  Laura’s got this Portuguese wine pegged.  There’s a link on the right to Uncorked.  Enjoy the trip!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Fetid Wind Blows in Scotland

         


            Dr. Rodney Hardstone sat at a sun-blessed table in the Rotted Apple Tea Emporium, perusing a crisp copy of The Establishment Times. When he reached up absentmindedly to adjust the Windsor knot on his Dunhill tie, the sleeve of his tweed blazer caught the edge of a silver butter knife, sending it careening to the marble floor.
            It raised such a clatter, all the patrons looked ‘round to see what was the matter. One of the serving girls sped forward and crouched down to retrieve it.  At the same instant, Dr. Hardstone leaned over the side of his chair to do the same.  Their heads nearly touched.  It was a magic moment.  Astonishment crossed his ruggedly handsome face as he found himself looking directly into the most beautiful jade green eyes.  He managed to exclaim, “Well, fondle my grapes!” only to see the owner of the eyes blush and turn away.
            This startling, raven-haired beauty deserved another look, or even more if he played his cards right. He asked the tea parlor’s owner, whom he’d known only since Friday, the name of the waitress.  Gertrude Stilthbottomm. 
            “That’s spelled with two m’s, the owner leered.  “We had to add the extra m to distinguish her time card from the other Stilthbottom’s who’s so homely we restrict her to the kitchen, except on Halloween.
            “Ah,” Dr. Hardstone replied, although in truth he could not have cared less about m and m’s.
            One visit to the Rotted Apple led to another and through delicate dialog, persistent persuasion, and sniveling sycophancy, he lured the willing waitress into revealing the devious detours that had led her to work as a menial maid. She breathlessly whispered her name, “Synthia Shibboleth,” and although she did her banal bit, she was in fact a laid off atomic scientist, and heir to a Scottish Dukedom.
            “An atomic scientist?” he queried, “Making bombs and whatnot?”
            “Oh no,” she blushed, “Not that kind of atomic.  I’m a chemist with the Atomic Jawbreaker Company.”
            “Hummmmm,” murmured the doctor. “So, no radioactivity, or mutations in the family?  No loose isotopes laying about?”
            “Dr Hardstone,” she implored him, “Although I hate you and you’re a frightful human being, and I know you would lie and cheat to get what you want from me….”
“Yes, yes, go on,” he answered.
“Whom I would never, never marry, or even, you know, kiss and stuff.  Even so, only you can help me return to Scotland and reclaim my ancestral lands, which the evil Earl of Shippingcrateshire is planning to sell to mortgage companies to turn into a suppository for toxic bonds.”  She pronounced Scotland as though trying to say it and swallow it in the same gulp.
“You mean a depository for toxic bombs.”
“Whatever.  It’s so Confucious.”
“You mean confusing.”
“Look, are you going to help me or sit there and do an oral spell-check all day?”
“And to what better use could you put your green, pastoral ancestral fields, my addled beauty?”
She got a far away look in her eye, making her bounteous bosom heave like two Spanish galleons on a temptuous sea.  “I….I….I ..”
“Those are nautical terms, yes?”
“I would donate my life and my land to establishing a pigeon park, where old carrier pigeons could live out their last, disease ridden days.”  A tear crept down her alabaster cheek.
Dr. Hardstone’s brows arched, making it three of a kind.  The girl had possibilities, even though some of her atomic particles were way out of orbit.  Well he’d never been to Scotland, but he kinda liked the music.
And so, the adventure began.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Mastering the Ubiquitous Biscuit


This recipe was handed down by my illustrious ancestor, William the Baker, who in addition to his culinary skills, mastered several foreign languages simply by walking into bars and pinching foreign women’s breasts.  It’s how he learned such useful phrases as ‘cheeky bastard’ in Dutch, and ‘a rolling pin to your poolroom’ in Norwegian.  His name was later shortened to Stubby after pinching the breast of an Irish butcher’s wife.
            But, no matter his shortcomings, he was a hell of a baker and his specialty was biscuits.  This was more than a hundred years before Alfred Bisqslow made his first attempt at formulating Bisquick.  Back then, biscuits were reserved for special occasions such as weddings, divorces, and food fights.
            No longer merely for self-defense, the ubiquitous biscuit has come to mean the warmth and good fellowship of Granny’s kitchen, and a way to keep rambunctious young ‘ums out of the stone jar of lightnin’. So, gather ‘round chillins and let’s make some nice little resting places for creamy butter and fresh fruit jam.
Basic Biscuit Recipe – first take a slow pull outta da jug to activate the brain muffin
Then:  put 2 cups of flour, three tablespoons of baking powder, and a teaspoon of salt in a bowl.  Scramble all them things t-gether.  Next, finely cut in 6 tablespoons of butter.   (If your homestead has lectricity, cheat and use a food processor.)  Add a cup of milk to the flour mixture and stir until you have medium soft dough, not dripping, but not stiff.  Too wet?  Add a little more flour.  Drop the dough onto a floured surface and pat it out to thickness of about half an inch.  Cut into squares or rounds.  Place on an un-greased baking sheet and bake in a pre-heated, 450 degree F oven, unless you’re one of them crafty foreigners, then set your oven at 232 degrees C.  About 12 minutes later, you should be receiving compliments, or if you’re lucky, being called a cheeky bastard

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Grab A Bottle of Spanish Sunshine

           What I know about wine flavors may be summed up in a single sentence.  It’s either mellow and tastes good, or it doesn’t.  Which brings up a question.  If that’s all there is to it, why do I generally prefer red wine to white?  Well, as a friend of mine said, the reds are beefier.  By that I suppose he means fuller bodied.  Makes sense.  He prefers his women like that, too.
            Some of the heartiest, beefiest, boldest red wines I know are Spanish.  No comment on the women.  Spanish wines often offer a mouthful of flavor, with a smooth finish.  Ok, so everyone knows about the justly famous Riojas, with their well-deserved reputation for aging into magnificence.  They are also give-up-your-cable-service and empty-your-pockets pricy.  The top of the line (so it is said by experts with a strong disrespect for the American dollar) is Vega Sicilia, which can run to big money.
            I’m not above paying for superb taste, but I’ve found if you look to Spain and wander outside the Rioja region, you don’t have to empty your wallet and search under the car seats for that last quarter.
            The three wines in the photo, Valtier on the left, Mil Cepas in the middle, and Vega Libre on the right are, quality wines at soda prices.  Valtier and Vega Libre are 2004 and 2007 Reservas respectively.   The Mil Cepa is a 2004 Gran Reserva.  Average price:  four bucks  a bottle.  Maybe you can’t find these where you live.  No problem.  Search for Spanish reds and try what you find. 
What do Reserva and Gran Reserva mean?  Reserva means the wine was stored for at least 36 months, 12 months in oak barrels.  Gran Reservas were stored at least 60 months, 24 in oak.
Valtier is from La Mancha.  The other too come from Terra Alta, in the province of Tarragona, southwest of Barcelona.  I drink them daily and find them unparalled, if you like dry red wines, bursting with flavor, to the point that you look forward to the next bottle. My tongue tingles with delight. The stingy part of my brain glows.  A Rioja would cost me many times the price.  Worst of all, the Rioja wouldn’t taste as good.
            Want a bold Spanish tinto?  Be bold yourself and venture into wine districts outside Rioja, like Valdepeñas, La Mancha, and Tarragona.  Leave your money, bring your thirst.