Monday, November 12, 2012

Happy November 13, to the Man Who Reads All the Cards

He's a hard man with whom to shop for greeting cards. He reads the words inside every card. When our children were small and the time was upon them to find a Birthday Mother's Day Anniversary something something card, they were relieved to get home. --Mom he reads them all I mean every word it's the most annoying--

He reads them all. One of the smartest people I know, his native intelligence is immediately visible in its mechanical manifestation. People whose cars and trucks have been made to work by him, as if by magic, still stop him to offer thanks when their paths cross, in some cases years later. You might say that words aren't his strength, but that wouldn't quite match the fact that he really reads all the cards for the occasion, looking for the precise match, the writer whose words reflect the ones in his head, the words he'd have put to paper if he could have.

This is a birthday greeting to the man who reads all the cards, who has always told me that I could, has loved me no matter what I looked like, who contributed the best half to my children. This is a card that says, I know you. I know what trials you've passed through, and what pains you walk through every day. I know the ghosts that haunt you and the lights that shine through your eyes unfailing. I know you, as you know me, and I will love you always. For better, for worse; in health. In sickness. Under the oak trees and on the beaches. Happy November 13, my Dear Old Person, this year, and every year we may be given. Happy birthday, Rodney.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Chicken tacos. No more, no less.

Writing a blog is a funny thing. You start out with a solid idea, a central notion, and draft the thing in your head before you get close to your laptop or your iPad or whatever...and then the writer's equivalent of a mote of dust in a sunbeam passes across the room or some haiku fragment arrives unbidden or whatever and that clear notion disappears abruptly in favor of a shiny new topic. Chicken tacos, in my case. Yeah, yeah, I know.

The Slow Food movement makes my heart sing in many ways, but it also raises the spectre of so many meals provided in the fastest possible way, and all the attendant consequences. When my boys played baseball and my Dear Old Person worked at night while I worked days and the boys were in school, and all those other distracted realities you know as well as I do, there were more people handing us food through windows than I like to recall. This uneasy guilt is compounded by the fact that I LOVE to cook; I love meals around the table; I love seeing the faces of my dear ones over the plates my grandmother used to serve her meals. On the other hand: conflict. that's a good story without it, anyway?

Earlier this week the northernmost third of Florida was reminded of clear and perfectly aquamarine skies and the fact that we should have stacked firewood already by a quick brush of chilly days, to which I responded by making chicken and rice. You might have put a pot of chili on to simmer, or made a good homemade soup. Chicken and rice begins with about three boneless skinless chicken breasts, quickly browned in a cast iron skillet in a bit of olive oil. The chicken is set aside and mirepoix added to cook until softened, which takes about 5 minutes. (Don't look up "mirepoix" and don't think you missed something if you don't know the term. It's basically diced onion, celery and carrots, and there are a million ways to do it. At EatHere, it's a convenient collective noun.) Skillet gets deglazed with a splash of whatever white wine I'm drinking (because if it ain't good enough to drink, it ain't good enough to cook with) and some broth (vegetable or chicken). Two cups of rice are added (I use a half-and-half mix of brown and basmati rice), about 5 cups of liquid (broth, if you have it, or water or some combination of both) and the chicken breasts placed on top. I cover, and then cook until the rice is done, 30 or 40 minutes, turning occasionally and VERY gently. Two days later, a boy says, "By the way, you make some DAMN good chicken and rice", and I think how easy it is, really, and how small the investment of time, and how I wish he weren't running out the door to work, but was sitting down across the table, eating from his great-grandmother's plates, talking about his day and his dreams and his laundry.

All this is by way of telling you that the very same scraping-the-bottom pot of chicken and rice was elevated tonight, it chicken leftovers finely chopped and some simple salsa added to simmer into the rice, into chicken tacos that would have made you ask me again why Eat Here Eatery lives only in our imaginations. We used some cheese and a choice of corn or flour tortillas, a kiss of sour cream and the lettuce on hand (though spring lettuces from our garden would have been betterAnd the guac - I told you about that, right? No? Okay, it's quick and you'll thank m later. Scoop the yummy part out of two ripe avocadoes and mash them up. ("I don't like it. I didn't like it as a kid so I still don't eat it." Yeah, I know, but trust me when I tell you that your palate doesn't need to be all that sophisticated. You'll love this.) Mash them with a good squeeze of lime juice. Chop a quarter of a good onion very finely and add a chopped tomato. (The tomato should never have seen the inside of a refrigerator, at least not on your watch.) Add a handful of finely chopped fresh cilantro. Mix all the veggies together, and add a teaspoon of kosher salt and some hot sauce. I use Texas Pete. Mix all this beautiful color together, cover and refrigrate for an hour or so before you eat to ensure a happy marriage of all the disparate flavors.

Then you can assemble something that's pretty close to Slow Food, even though, like me, you probably took some shortcuts along the way. I, for instance, didn't come close to making tortillas by hand. But I still got this. And if by a similar process, you also came to the end of the writing of your blog post, during which no Dread Editorial Gorgon demanded you meet a deadline, and find that you also have an interesting subplot or family tale or reminiscence, you may find you've written quite a good post. For me this evening, the plate will be all the subtext required. Later, as my friend Suldog famously says, With more better stuff.