It’s All in the Mustache…Beard…Eyebrows…Toupee…

I’m neutral about facial hair. Well, on males, at least (sorry, Tante Anna!). My spouse had a short goatee when we got together, and while I thought it handsome on him I not only didn’t mourn its demise when he shaved it but realized afterward that it was light-colored enough that some people were apparently not only unaware he’d removed his beard but that he’d had one in the first place. Guess he didn’t go around kissing and nuzzling just anybody.digital illustrationI’m now so used to his being clean-shaven that I imagine it’d seem outright weird to readjust if he opted to grow a beard again, or a mustache. On the other hand, it is intriguing to see the major resurgence of popularity that all sorts of hair-raising acts are undergoing these days. It’s a great time, in my opinion, that it’s not only quite common to see people in the same place dressed in pants or skirts of all different lengths and heels of widely varying heights but also hairstyles ranging right from shaved heads (men’s and women’s) to dreads or super-’fros (black, white and brown people’s). Curly or straight, short or not, natural-colored or wildly dyed, it can be anything that suits the heart or the head of the wearer. I like that.

digital illustrationWhat’s probably the most entertaining aspect of all this to me is seeing so many guys of a twenty-ish vintage looking so distinctly like those photos that can be unearthed of my great-great grandfathers and their brethren. I suppose that shouldn’t be entirely shocking in an era where baby names have also trended back to that generation’s. Can the bustle (you’ll pardon the pun) be far behind? Not to worry…I probably won’t be able to see what anyone’s wearing through the thicket of beards by then, anyway.

 

Foodie Tuesday: Texas Tapas

photoA more accurate name for this food would probably be something about snacking-as-dinner or Gustatorial Grazing, but it doesn’t have quite the same, erm, kick to it. The concept simply goes back to my perpetual preference for offering a wide assortment of things to nibble and letting everyone at table—or wandering around, as is the usual case when we have a houseful—choose his or her own combination of things to eat. Saves any tough decisions on my part and eliminates the complexity of trying to accommodate each person’s allergies and dislikes individually, as long as I don’t have any tiny persons of no discretion on hand and able to lay hands on everything.

I’m particularly fond of the ease of this approach when, as aforementioned, I have a big gathering of friends or family, but it’s also a convenient method for getting up a meal in a heartbeat when last-minute plans evolve. I found out the other day that we had a chance to see an old friend from Washington who was in town for one mere day; thankfully, he was here to consult with a good local friend, so the two of them wrangled their schedules to make it possible to take a dinner break with the two of us. Instant party!

I know that our visitor, while we’d not seen him here, has been to Texas before, but I didn’t know how much he’d had the typical local foods. As the weather was warmer and sunnier than expected, it seemed fortuitously apropos to put together something that had a hint of picnic, a touch of barbecue, a dash of Southern-ism, and a little Tex-Mex character, all in simple forms that could be served at room temperature and combined into whatever ad hoc plates-full we chose, and we could be as casual as we liked with our good friends.

I started with a quick cheat: pre-assembled jalapeño poppers I’d bought at the grocery, seeded jalapeño halves filled with cream cheese and wrapped in bacon. I roasted them in a cast iron skillet in the oven, knowing that this would also preheat the oven for much of the rest of the meal’s roasting.

I bought an array of vegetables, cleaned them and cut them into rough chunks, steamed the hard root vegetables partway ahead of time, assembled all of the prepared parts in a couple of big baking dishes, and loaded them up with butter and a bit of salt before they all went into the oven to roast together. Russet and sweet potatoes, carrots and beets all got the pre-roasting spa treatment of the steaming, and went into the ovens nestled with fat asparagus, whole ears of sweet corn, small bell peppers and chunks of lemon.

While all of those were roasting, I cut some skirt steak into fajita-sized pieces, seasoned them with cumin, smoked paprika, smoked salt and a little granulated garlic, and seared them before a nice braise in a bottle’s bath of Shiner Bock (a good Texas beer), cooking it all in until it candied into glaze at the last. Those went into a bowl to stay warm, and I took the skillet that was still filled with spicy bacon fat from the poppers and lightly cooked up the beet greens in that. When they were not quite cooked, I just took them off the cooker and let them steam in their own heat, covered. Meanwhile, the first dish of the meal was the last to be prepared: pimiento cheese. There would be salsa and crema on the table for dipping or saucing any and everything, but pimiento cheese seemed like a perfectly good addition to this melange of a meal.

Those who know the southern tradition of pimiento cheese know that the classic White Trash version of it is likely to be a combination of shredded Velveeta (something that is called cheese but bears little resemblance to it, in my book) and diced canned red bell peppers in a lot of mayonnaise, possibly with a little bit of cayenne and salt to season it. Like many regional staples, though, every household is likely to have its own variant, and many of the modern ones use cheddar cheese, the most meaningful improvement in the recipe I can imagine. I kept my own version simple but used lots of cheddar, a largish jar of canned pimientos, and a mixture of about half mayonnaise and half whole milk yogurt. I seasoned it all with only a touch of salt, a good dash of cayenne, and a teaspoon or so of dill. Not bad, if you ask me, on crackers or crisps or tortilla chips or, dare I say it, probably even in the great white trash loveliness of making it a sandwich on slices of squishy super-processed white bread. Y’all, let’s eat.photo

An Extremely High Note

I’m like that guy who can very nearly hit his high B-flat.digital illustration

I’m reasonably useful in my little bitty part of the world, but my imperfections are both ever-present and well known to me. I have learned, long since, that as in real (physical/aural) life, in the metaphorical sense I am far better used as a chorister than as a soloist. My ego is neither too big nor too fragile for me to know that I make much better Filler in either setting than I do star material. Anybody with any sense knows that it takes a whole bunch of us to sing backup for the marquee artists, to act as support staff and cheering section and general-dogsbodies for the persons who are better designed for leadership roles. There are rare occasions when I’m the most experienced or skilled in the necessary ways for the task at hand, but as that’s mostly by default and by dint of the odds, I take no cue that it should become the norm.

I’d much rather stick contentedly to my supporting roles, humming along quietly as best I can, and perform no unintentional solos. If I ever get up that high B-flat, I’ll let you know; until then, I’d appreciate if those of you with the proper pipes carry on, and you can count on me for that low undercurrent of pretty-fair tones to fill in around your excellence. I’m excellent enough at my own, non-flashy, kind of stuff.

The Longed-for Sound

digital illustrationAwakening

Whose is the voice that speaks my name, Aloud or silently, the same,

In gentle speech or radiant song, Unspoken care, forgiving wrong?

Whose is the loving, laughing voice That makes my waiting heart rejoice,

That wakes my hope and lights the sky With stars, to which my sole reply

Is humble gratitude, delight That such a voice breaks through the night

To search me out, my heart in two, And make it whole?

Your voice. Yes, you.

One Egg, Over Medium

Ah, the elegance of simplicity. There’s little I find more beautiful than very simple things, excellently performed, made, or executed. Even the commonest thing, in a rather average way, can be fabulous in its simplicity if it’s perfect in its common averageness. Odd, but true. Let me give you an example.

I love eggs. They are delicious to eat, and fairly easy to prepare in a wide number of lovely ways. They are pretty. Their extremely uncomplicated ovals come in a relatively narrow range of colors and textures by nature, each of them marvelous and precious in its own way. They make an outstanding subject for artworks, for this very reason.

As the sole or central subject of any number of artworks in any medium, or as the medium in itself by virtue of being decorated or carved or sculpted upon, an egg is delightfully fine. But even as a supporting player in a larger cast, the humble egg in its unfettered simplicity always pleases my mind as well as my eyes.

If it sneaks into some of my artworks where it really doesn’t have any particular purpose, can I really be blamed? I think not. You may try, but you might well be left with egg on your face. If you know what I mean.digital illustration

The Intersection

Lacking, as I do (see yesterday’s post!) any real sense of direction, physically or otherwise, in my life’s journey, I kind of live it in the middle of the intersection. You know, when the traffic slows down and the smog clears, it’s kind of exciting and always interesting here at the crossroads.digitally doctored photo

There are not only all of the events and incidents that brought me to the place where I stand at any given moment, but so much more that enriches life in the intersection. All of the peripheral things that I didn’t do—yet, anyway—lie somewhere nearby, should I change course or take notice and choose to move accordingly. There are all of the other people who come and go up and down the same roads and walkways, and there are all of those who cross my path at any given intersection, and all of their lives and adventures are influences on my own travel, even on my moments of standing absolutely still there.

And then I move on, often without any greater sense of direction than before, but also, often enough, with an optimistic sense that I will soon find myself having yet another unexpected, very unplanned trip through yet another unknown intersection.

Signs of Things to Come

I’m so far from being clairvoyant that one could hardly accuse me of even knowing what’s happening right in front of me. I’m not even all that hot at figuring out my own history, let alone any that’s larger than me or mine. I’m just plain not very observant.

photo

Even familiar places can lead me astray.

I do have an interested and curious eye for colorful details, don’t get me wrong. Mostly, I’m intrigued by the arcane and eccentric, so it’s inherently unlikely that what catches my attention is useful, meaningful or significant. The reality of my frivolous and shallow frame of mind is that it is easily filled up with trivia and obscure oddities.

photo

If you walk a mile in *my* shoes, you just might get really, really lost.

So forgive me if I’m clueless about what is in my future, or anyone else’s. I can barely find my way from one end of my own house to the other without a map, and I sure as heck don’t have better skills for figuring out how to get from one point in my own history to the next, let alone the history of the larger world. Great reason for me to avoid messing around in history and just enjoy the smaller victories over my little reality. I mean, here I am in the den and I found my way here from the garage when we got home. And I enjoyed all sorts of details along the way, signs and all. See you around!