Sunday, September 20, 2015

"What kind of games do you like to play, gran'pa?"

"What kind of games do you like to play, gran'pa?"
California fashion fairies squatting in
the Tree Garden Tiny House.

Lord, if anyone is gonna make that "gran'pa" tag stick, this girl's it. Bless her heart.

She's 12, the merest wisp of a girl, and we had not set eyes on one another since she was 4 and I was too busy rushing over the hill to be bothered.

"What do you mean 'games', girl? What kind of games?"

"Oooooo .... you know .... board games ...."

Mind you, it doesn't help that she speaks with the tongues of Tinker Bell and of angels.

".... uh, do you l-i-k-e Monopoly?"

Well, East coast girls are hip
I really dig those styles they wear
"Monopoly!" I actually snorted. "Girl, I'd have you for snacks over a Monopoly board!" I thought to add that I'd beat her like a red-headed stepchild at the game but caught myself.

"Really! Do you have a Monopoly game we could play?"

And it didn't help that I had lifted her up, if only for a moment, just to slam her face down into disappointment.

"No, I don't have one anymore. I haven't played in years."

"Awwww, that's too bad," she said, genuinely feeling sorry. For me!

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Great Divide, "Us" v "Them"

A new study proclaims that as much as 20 percent of California’s critical four-year-drought may be blamed on the shifting climate. Common sense seemingly would dictate that as temperatures rise and as rainfall patterns shift across Earth’s face due to climate churn, areas of drought like California and Texas and huge swaths of Africa also will increase in severity, intensity and duration.

What struck me in this report, however, was language; specifically, how we talk about our role in spinning Earth’s climate into whole other parameters never before experienced by a human species.

Park Williams is lead author of the study. An assistant research professor at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, Williams noted,

“We can’t just ask the Earth exactly what’s been human-induced and what’s natural.”

What is “human-induced”, and what is “natural”. Do you see the rub?  Feel ~ as some of us do in our bones ~ the friction of “human” grinding against “natural”?

Here lies our Great Sin. Divorcing ourselves from Nature. Evicting ourselves, as it were, from the Garden.  

"Warlords of Ivory"

This week's Quick Pick Flick Warlords of Ivory airs Sunday, August 30 on a National Geographic Channel near you. Consider yourself a turd if you miss this film.

What are you doing to keep Texas Beautiful?

A shadow of his former self
Saturday ~ Sept. 12 ~ Sikes Lake ~ The Falls

It is time once again to clean up lovely little Sikes Lake. All are welcome to meet at 9 a.m. behind MSU's Wellness Center (east side of the lake).

After the clean up, hang out for the FREE LUNCH!!

Shout out to this event's community sponsors:
Rolling Plains Chapter, Texas Master Naturalist
Midwestern State University
American National Bank & Trust
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department

By the way, if you can't be bothered to come out and help us clean up the lake, don't bother to bitch all over the Interweb about how trashy it looks.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Paula, we hardly knew you

 Paula Bruno at the Wichita Falls Creative Writer's Meeting
photo stolen from Nicole Grabner
Paula and I found one another on Facebook over back yard chickens. She had some. I don't. But AnniePie and I had beat around cracking into the egg business. Then I learned she was a writer. Over a silly FB post, we were One! She even has a BLOGGER page, Lookin Out My Backdoor, similar to mine.

That was ..... oh, I don't know. A month or so ago? We swapped posts and comments across the cyber divide from time to time, comfortable in that zone where constant contact is not necessary and to be avoided at all costs.

She invited me to her writer's group. I told her I wasn't big on meetings. She understood what a blessing NOT doing face-time meetings can be at our age.

We "spoke", as it were, just Wednesday; briefly, over her latest blog post. Thursday morning I read she had left us.

Damn, girl!!

You go. Lord knows, I could not be happier for you. Your late husband is 'late' no longer. Never will get that grin off his face, now that his best girl is back.

Of course, we miss you. This hole in our chest is gonna smart awhile, but we'll get over it, just as The Eagles sang.

Journey well, Paula, and thank you for being a 'Friend',


Sunday, July 19, 2015

"Life is just a bowl of butter beans"

Life is just a bowl of butter beans
Pass the cornbread, if you please
I don't want no collard greens
All I need is a bowl of butter beans

And so It begins ....

Ma'maw Cordie's black-skillet cornbread with Not'cho Daddy's dirty beans.

.... with a pan of Southern cornbread and a pot of beans.

Original FB post, July 16, 2015 ~

Something I had never -- as in NOT EVER -- done before; made my Ma'maw's Southern Iron skillet cornbread. This is traditional, down-home cornbread of corn meal, a touch of flour, baking powder, salt, pinch of white sugar, an egg, buttermilk, bacon fat and butter.

What's your favorite cornbread recipe?
 — with Annie Miller..

Lifted from Doug McCoy
This summer of 2015, I tell you, is not the best of times for a Son of the South. Often times I imagine sitting down with my Elders going back to Knoxville, GA, in the 1830s. The crooked little man with the bushy beard is John Sanford Saunders, Great Grandfather on Mom's side, CSA combat veteran, and my oldest Patriarch. Next to Old John is his last-born boy Wiley Preston Saunders, my Grandfather; and at his right side, his last-born baby girl, my Mom, Gracie Ellen Saunders.
We all know "The Look", don't we.

As I was saying .... That little post on cornbread and beans provoked more than a few comments:

"I like a buttermilk recipe, too. It's very close to yours, but I've never added bacon drippings before. I, too, use my grandmother's cast-iron skillet."

"Martha White (lol) with a bit of sugar and chopped jalapenos. Pour half batter in a hot iron skillet, spread shredded cheese, then pour rest on top & bake."

"I have my great-grandmother's skillet," the widow Vernon allowed. There's a character! Regular readers will, no doubt, be reading more from Liz by the by.

"The best comfort food will always be greens, cornbread, and
fried chicken." ~ Maya Angelou

 Elise over at Simply Recipes offers this take on Southern cornbread.

2 cups cornmeal OR 1 1/2 cups cornmeal and 1/2 cup flour

  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 to 2 Tbsp sugar (optional)
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 1 egg (optional)
  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 Tbsp bacon drippings

This is a solid base from which to set out and explore, but keep in mind these two essential points:
     1. No two cooks make the same cornbread, and 
    2. No cornbread baker worth his salt measures.

I like the three-to-one (3-1) cornbread-to-floor ratio; makes for a good crumb. Really old school cooks will insist on leaving out the flour altogether. This harkens back to cornbread's early people .... <Cue the Dream Weaver music!"

First Cornbread was whooped up by Native American Peoples using only ground corn, salt and water many moons before there was a Columbus to dream of a New World. Different regions of the New World to-be had differing varieties of corn. Blue corn, for instance, was favored in the Southwest, while yellow corn grew best up North. Down South folks, naturally, were used to white corn. White corn likewise would give The South grits, hominy and that shameful feeling of white supremacy.

No sooner had the White Eyes arrived to discover a plethora of great cornbreads when they went to monkeying with the indigenous, native mixes. Northern insurgents soon were fortifying native cornbreads with honey, molasses, even white sugar when they could get it. Below the as yet undiscovered Mason/Dixon, however, no backwoods redneck would be caught dead with sweet cornbread in his poke.

Sweet vs Not Sweet remains the basis for many a Great Unpleasantnesses to this day! Note the "(optional)" appended to the "1 to 2 Tbsp sugar" in Elise's recipe above. Even in a Southern savory bread, a pinch or two of white sugar helps make the other component flavors pop without a sweet taste coming through.

Now, Mom's people were all solid South. Dad's folks, on the other hand, were Upper Midwest, right along the Ohio-Michigan line. So my own personal favorite cornbread mix is 3-to-1 yellow cornmeal-to-floor and a healthy handful of sugar. Yeah, it's sweet, and Mom always swore I never got it from her!

Buttermilk by all means. I mean, buttermilk to drink ain't worth the spittin' out, but it is essential in cornbreads, biscuits and all kinds of cakes.

To my way of making it, the egg is NOT optional. Don't skimp on the butter, neither! If half a stick is good, the whole damn stick is better!

Now to the bacon drippings. Do NOT add this fat to the mix! Every precious last drop of it goes into that large, black cast-iron skillet you should have prepped before you ever started mixing up a batter. So set the oven on 400F, put the bacon fat in the skillet, and set the skillet in the oven. NOW go to making a batter.

Dry mixes with dry and wet with wet. Combine wet and dry in a large mixing bowl (prefer glass) just until the blend is uniform and a bit bubbly. Don't over-stir it.

When -- and not until -- your skillet is screaming hot, carefully remove it from the oven and dump all the batter straight way into the smoking fat. Yeah, it's gonna bubble and sizzle like Satan's own tea around the edges, but never you mind that. Get that skillet back into the oven immediately, if not sooner.

Figure on 20 minutes, but your oven will vary. Keep an eye on it, but don't go opening that oven door no sooner than 15 minutes. We're looking for a rich golden brown top. Once out of the oven, let it set off-heat in the pan for another good 20 minutes.

IF you can wait that long ....

Photo stolen from Rick Ross