Art, music, gaming, and booze go together like… well, like art, gaming, and booze.
May 28, 2013
I’ve been sick for a few days and haven’t had the energy to really do much, but I thought I’d give you, my dear readers, another round of gaming and literary-themed drinks. I’m assuming you’d already have a good shaker handy for some of these. Standard shaker or Boston shaker both work just fine. Get ready for some fun!
Ambrosia, a light green drink, appears to be the drink of choice if you have the resources in the Battlestar Galactica universe. Here’s a visual approximation with a kick.
3 oz absinthe
3 oz simple syrup
5 oz Sprite
4 oz sweet and sour mix
Pour the absinthe, simple syrup, and sweet and sour mix into your shaker filled with ice. Shake well and pour into glass containing sprite with no ice. Enjoy, but be careful. Absinthe has a bit of a kick you’ll never feel until it’s too late.
Many cyberpunk settings are all about synthetic food and cheap booze to dull away the rainy nights as megacorps watch over everything. Whether you’re reading Gibson or playing some Shadowrun, this drink should evoke that same feeling of cheap life and hard drinks. I call it the “adrenalin shot.”
2 oz light rum
1 oz Rockstar energy drink (Low Carb)
1 oz Gatorade (any blue one)
Mix ingredients in a glass and stir. Be careful, though. Energy drinks and liquor can be even more dangerous that regular alcoholic cocktails, so use caution.
Elves are all about nature. I figure they’d appreciate a cool, refreshing drink, and for some reason, the idea of elven moonshine appeals to me. Our elf, a bard, is currently a countess and royalty. Still, she’s a tavern fly first and foremost, so there. I give you, the “Minty Elf.”
1/2 oz white creme de menthe
1 1/2 oz corn whiskey
1 dash lemon juice
Add all ingredients to your shaker with ice, mix well, and pour into a glass. And watch your elf fly… or pass out.
This one is based on my wife’s character in our current game. Her name is Kali, a dragonborn barbarian who is fond of spitting acid at her foes. Her companion character, a little imp she named Sally, has had her moments, too. In honor of these two characters, I present to you the “Kali and Sally.”
1 oz Bacardi 151
1 oz Wild Turkey
1 oz Doctor Pepper
1 oz Jim Beam
1 oz orange juice
This drink actually has two parts: the shot and the chaser drink. For the shot, pour the jim beam and orange juice into your shaker and mix well. Pour into a glass with the Doctor Pepper and ice. For the chaser drink, pour the Bacardi and Wild Turkey into a highball glass filled with ice. Add the Cola and stir. When you’re ready, down the shot and enjoy the chaser drink. Warning! Much like an angry dragonborn, this drink will knock you on your ass if you’re not careful.
Tieflings are humans that long ago made pacts with devils. Modern-day tieflings are the descendants of that infernal deal, but most would just rather be left alone. Our tiefling, Melek, still has that fire from hell within him, and he uses it, so I give you the “Frustrated Tiefling.”
5-7 dashes hot sauce
1 oz Smirnoff vodka
1 tsp lemon juice
Mix all together in shot glass until. Add more hot sauce if necessary, and drink immedietly. For a non-shot version, add the mixture to a lager beer and enjoy slowly.
Drow are secretive, underground elves with a penchant for torture, slavery, and sadism. So, of course, it figures out group has one. He’s actually pretty mellow, though, but he has moments of insanity. Like suggesting the group set an inn on fire so everyone will get to safety when a fight breaks out. Anyway, I give you the “Mad Fey.”
1 oz cream
2 oz vodka
2 oz raspberry liquor
Pour the ingredients into a glass with ice and enjoy! For a slightly less strong drink, consider using simply grape juice instead of raspberry liquor.
If you happen to try any of thee, write a message below and let me know what you think.
These are tools of the megacorps designed to distract you from the environmental, social, and ecological rape! But they’re DAMNED tasty, too.
January 21, 2013
This week, we had our first Shadowrun game. For the non-RPG crowd, it’s a tabletop game where you play characters in the late 21st century at a time when magic has returned to the world and exists alongside security robots, elves, dragons, and trolls. Needless to say, it was a blast. In more ways than one.
Mary and I, as I’ve said before, like to cook and make food for our guests. Mary is quite keen on having food appropriate to the game we’re playing, so when we had an entire marathon session in Baba Yaga’s hut, for example, she made Russian and East European fare. When we played an apocalypse game, she made bread and made it look like it was made with blue-green algae.
Ah, the magic of a drop of food coloring and sculpting.
For Shadowrun, however, we had a bit of a dilemma. The 4th edition sourcebook says that most food is soy, krill, and processed. Soy in this world can be made into almost anything and tastes pretty much like the real thing… So the food we served should look and taste like real food.
In other words, we would serve real food and just say it’s fake.
This would not work. Going off of the cyberpunk feel that Shadowrun tries to emulate, I looked at my notes for the post-apocalyptic game we ran last year. In the end, I decided to tweak the food to make it look slightly alien, but still tasty. After all, a block of tofu with salt might be accurate, but it’s not going to have the players coming back for more.
We needed a main dish, and I wasn’t about to actually buy tofu patties. Mary and I opted for something that looked weird, but had a bit of an Asian flair in keeping with the cultural osmosis going on in such a connected world.
8 hot dog weenies
2 cans of black beans
1 cup soy sauce
1 cup white wine
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
Mince the garlic cloves and place them in a small pot with the olive oil. Fry the garlic until it starts to brown but not burn. Add the wine and soy sauce and place the pot on low heat for one to two hours until the sauce reduces to about half its volume. Keep stirring occasionally and make sure the bottom doesn’t burn. It should be slightly less thick than honey, more like a syrup.
While this is going on, take your hot dog weenies and slice them lengthwise into eight thin strips. You can either boil them or fry them depending on your taste. However, if you do boil them, make sure you leave enough room in the pot for the weenies to curl and move around. Either way, you should end up with curly pieces of meat.
Take your black beans and drain them. Add a pinch of salt, pepper, and a generous pinch of cumin. Cook the beans so they get soft and you can better mash them. Cook them on low until they turn into a paste. You can leave little chunks for texture, too.
Finally, take your buns (toasted of course) and add a layer of beans to both pieces of break. Add your weenie curls, sauce to taste, and close the burger.
Congrats! You now have a burger with familiar flavors that looks like it’s made with weird “meat” product but is good, hearty, and has a slightly Asian flavor.
This one got some WEIRD looks, but as soon as our players tasted it, they couldn’t get enough. For a more mainstream dish, leave out the food coloring.
1 block of cream cheese
1 naval orange
1/4 cup hopped walnuts
Yellow, green, and blue food coloring
Leave the cream cheese out so it reaches room temperature and gets soft.
Peel the orange and remove the pith and seeds. Cut the remaining wedges and place them in a bowl with the soft cream cheese. Mash them together and add a quarter cup of chopped walnuts. Add orange juice to taste.
Finally, add 3 drops of yellow food coloring, 1 drop of green food coloring, and 1 drop of blue food coloring. Mix well and you should end up with a slightly gray paste filled with chunks of… something. Serve with chips and refrigerate if you won’t eat it right away.
These little cubes would actually be pretty good for breakfast any time. They flew off the plate when we served them this weekend.
2 blocks hard tofu
1 cup of flour
Canola or vegetable oil
Green food coloring
Drain your tofu blocks and wrap them in paper towels to dry them. This should take half an hour or until the tofu has the consistency of a dish sponge.
Beat the eggs in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add a generous pinch of lemon pepper. Add one or two drops of green food coloring until you get the color you desire. In a separate bowl, mix the flour and the lemon pepper to taste.
Once the tofu is dry, cut it into small cubes roughly an inch on each side. If this is too unwieldy for you to move around with tongs (as we found out), cut the tofu into strips instead.
Place enough oil in a skillet so the tofu, whatever its shape, will be mostly covered, and place on medium high heat.
Place three or four tofu pieces in the flour until covered, then dip them in the egg wash before placing them in the hot oil. They should cook fairly quickly, but if you leave in too long, the green food coloring will turn brown. Each piece should cook in a few seconds. Place them on a plate covered with a towel to drain the excess oil.
For an added touch, once you have finished your tofu, pour any remaining egg wash into the hot oil. It will cook almost instantly into a spongy, thin membrane. Remove from the oil and place over your tofu treats for extra texture and gross-out appeal.
Of course, you can always forgo the green food coloring and make these puppies for any breakfast.
This one takes a while to make, but the result is not only delicious, but another possible breakfast treat.
1 cup grits
2 cups water
Cook the grits and water in a pot until you get a thick paste. You may need to add more water if the solution is too thick. Add parmesan and butter to taste. The final consistency should be thick enough to shape into little balls that won’t fall apart.
Place the whole thing on a cookie sheet covered with aluminum foil to cool for a few minutes. When the mass reaches room temperature, wash your hands thoroughly and start shaping little “maggots” about one or two inches long. Place them in a bowl for later use.
The funny thing is that this really does look like some processed mass of… something. The cheese flavor, though, makes it incredible. It’s good cold. If you heat it up, the grits will fall apart.
Yes, I know Slurm is from Futurama, but I found a recipe here on how to make a slightly viscous drink that looks like the bastard child of Mountain Dew and hate. I modified it slightly for my purposes.
3 liters of pineapple soda
2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
Green food coloring
Heat 1 cup of the soda in a skillet until it boils. Remove from the heat and add the gelatin until it’s dissolved. Add one cup of cold soda to the mixture, combine thoroughly, and let sit for ten minutes. Return this mix to the bottle with the rest of the soda. Do this in the sink since there may be some foaming.
Add three drops of food coloring and vodka at your discretion to the bottle and GENTLY turn the bottle over to combine.
Place the in the fridge for a few hours and the final product will be slightly sweet, carbonated, and have a not-unpleasant mellowness. It should also have a slightly odd texture, a bit slimy, but not off-putting.
A word of warning, though. If you spill this, it will dry and become quite sticky.
I jacked this one from the Star TrekCookbook. It’s quick, simple, and actually tastes pretty good.
For the Gatorade, I went with any of the blue flavors since they’re a color you’ll never find in a natural food. It looks nice and processed.
Combine equal parts sports drink and club soda. Mix gently to keep carbonation. Bottle and put in the fridge for later or drink right away. The final drink is cool and very refreshing.
As you can probably tell, this takes a bit of time. We also supplemented the game with bowls of chips and other snacks, of course, but we made sure to buy from the international and Asian food section. We found things like snow pea chips, lentil chips, and other oddities. Among them, we found a few bags of dried dulse.
There you go. I hope you enjoy making a few of these dishes and let me know how they turn out. I’ll be posting an article on music an atmosphere later. Until them, enjoy this little ditty I used in the game, as well as pics of the final products. I think it helped set the mood. Please share and I’ll see you later!
I don’t mean that in the personal sense. Diabetes isn’t something fun to have. It affects your life and your choices and makes you plan activities based on sugar. It can be managed and you can lead a fairly normal life, but it’s always there.
I mean this in the professional sense. I’m glad she has diabetes because she hid it for years, makes her money off of showing people how to make ridiculously unhealthy food, she will make money from having this disease, and she takes pride in the last two.
And no, I’m not being too mean. I’m being nice. This is being nice. Being mean would involve Photoshopped images of Dean bathing in a tub of melted butter while she eats salt logs covered in bacon. This? This is justice. She willingly made and ate food that would give most of us a heart attack after the first helping. She indulged in trying to convince others to have her intestinal abominations. There really is such a thing as too much bacon and butter. When you have to measure the ingredients by the pound, you’ve crossed a line. You’ve gone to a dark, dark palce, my friend.
She did all of this in a time where obesity is a national epidemic. She made her fame and fortune from encouraging people to hurt themselves and, when she finally suffered the inevitable consequences of her actions, she hid the fact until she made a deal to make MORE money.
The kicker? She’s not going to stop cooking and eating the way she’s been doing it for years.
This is like a pro-skater breaking every bone in his body after an attempted stunt in a career where he urged his fans to never use safety gear. Said skater then keeps acting stupid.
This is like a porn star encouraging people to not use condoms even after getting 47 types of VD and getting pregnant.
Make no mistake, though. I love food. I love a good steak, a great pasta dish, and have been known, from time to time, to indulge in fine spirits and ales. And bacon? Get out of my way. I will cut you. I will show you’re your still-beating heart and make you regret the microsecond it took you to get between me and pork heaven.
But to everything… moderation.
Dean is not the only cooking star to show how to make dishes to clog your arteries with butter and salt, but she turned up to eleven. She has butter-flavored lip balm with her name on it. No, it’s not a joke. And now she’s selling diabetes medication? This is like Newt Gingrich becoming the spokesman for marriage. Or Rick Santorum shilling for GLAAD. Or me endorsing Twilight.
It’s not the best it.
To Paula Dean, the person, I’m sorry you have diabetes and will have it for the rest of your life. To Paula Dean, the cook and businesswoman, I hope this teaches you a lesson, you hypocritical bacon-munching sack of carbs.
And now, let’s wash bad thoughts away by embracing the awesomeness of the COOLEST 8 year old EVER. No joke. Check it out, and I’ll see you on Monday.
I tried making the spiced wine I wrote about a few days ago, and the results were… well, it wasn’t bad, but the process was a little more hectic than I thought it would be. And it wasn’t the recipe. It was the unwanted extra. Check it out, and don’t forget to keep sharing those links!
Art, music, gaming, and booze go together like... well, like art, gaming, and booze.
November 9, 2011
I recently discovered Drinkify, a website that matches muscicians with the type of drink best suited to listen to their music. There’s a short list of a few samples over at Buzzfeed, but I think someone needs to make a database for drinks best suited to artists and other areas of art. And gaming.
In fact, we need to get some drinks together. Let’s get started.
Edgar Allan Poe
1/3 oz absinthe
2/3 oz blackberry liqueur
Add blackberry liqueur to shot glass and layer absinthe on top.
H. P. Lovecraft
Dark and Stormy
1 oz black rum
Pour rum into the beer. Drink.
1 part Schnapps, butterscotch
1 dash Schnapps, vanilla
7 parts cream soda
Add both vanilla and butterscotch Schnapps to mug. Pour in cold cream soda and stir very gently.
1.5 oz Scotch
1 tea bag
1 tbsp honey
Put scotch and honey into a mug. Add a tea bag and fill with boiling water. Steep for a few minutes, then remove the tea bag.
This one actually has several drink suggestions based on your style of play. I’m planning on making the spiced wine this weekend to try it out.
1 bottle of beer (bock works best)
1 shot bourbon (Jim Beam works best)
Add the shot of bourbon to the beer. Drink.
German Hot Spiced Wine
1 gal Burgundy wine
1/2 gallon water
1 tsp all-spice
2 whole cinnamon sticks
Slice half the orange and 2 lemons. Peel the zest from the last lemon. Drop into pot. In a tea ball or a piece of cheese cloth, put the allspice, cinnamon sticks, and cloves, drop into pot. Add the burgundy and water. Heat on low until hot, add sugar. Bring to a boil, turn down heat and simmer for 2 hours. Turn off and let rest 30 minutes. Remove tea ball or cheesecloth. Serve in warmed mugs and garnish with 1/2 slice orange floating in cup.
½ oz bourbon
½ oz Mountain Dew
1 oz cinnamon Schnapps
Mix all ingredients in mixing glass, along with 1 cup crushed iced. Strain into margarita glass and serve immediately.
That’s it for today, folks. I’d like to make this a regular feature. If you have specific drink recipes or combos you think are applicable for authors, art, gaming, movies, whatever, send me a message through the Contact Me page and I might include it next time. For now, with the recent announcement that Where’s Waldo? might be made into a movie, enjoy this possible sneak peak at what this cinematic, uhm, experience, might be like.
It’s going to be an interesting two weeks. Mary and I are moving in August. I have to get things for the high school summer camp. I started The Weekly Muse, and I’m getting ready to get a podcast up and running once I figure out the software. In the meantime, expect articles on time and general weirdness on the Facebook page and the Twitter feed.
And now, on to the randomness!
Who are the most violent people in the world? The answer might surprise you.
Herman Cain, a man who has whined about race more times than anyone in recent memory, now claims it should be legal to ban mosques from being built. His rationale? Islam combines government and religion and is therefore illegal. By that reasoning, his party’s insistence on combining the Bible of law would make THEM illegal.
The Thing stands as one of the great horror films of the 80′s a truly disturbing movie where anyone could be the enemy. The paranoia made it awesome. That being said, and given my caution when it comes to sequels or remakes of classic works, I’m actually a little optimistic about the prequel, strangely also titled The Thing. Here’s the first trailer, and let’s hope it doesn’t suck.
The new photos from the reboot of Spidermanhave me thinking that they might actually know what they’re doing. Spidey looks, well, like he does in the comic. The costume changes are odd, but at least they have web shooters!
And finally… some of you already saw this, but here’s the official, cleaned-up version of the first teaser for Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises. Please, dear gods of the four winds, do not let this get threequel rot. I will hunt people down with a fork.
On the other hand, it’s comforting to believe in something that has no basis in reality. It’s yours. It’s personal. Conspiracy theorists work this way. They see themselves at the center of some unimaginable tangle of powerful beings and organizations that can somehow control everything from the political landscape, to the progress of technology, and yet cannot catch these desktop detectives as they unravel the web of deceit.
And yet you and I are much too smart for that, right?
How different is superstitious thinking from fanatical religious thinking? Not that far off. We had people who believed, who genuinely believed, the world was going to end last month. Some people, even if not religious themselves, will cross themselves before entering a Catholic church, just in case. My sister refuses to shuffle cards a certain way when we play poker because it will disrupt her card-ma.
Yes, “card-ma.” Her word, I swear to Bob.
I have a Dungeons and Dragons player who insists her dice rolls don’t count if the die touches an object before it comes to a standstill. While I don’t think she really believes it, she insists that touching another object throws her off. In fact, gamers are finicky when it comes to their dice. Some dice are just “lucky.” Of course, gaming dice aren’t tested for balance like casino dice, so there very well might be lucky and unlucky dice.
Everyone’s done these sorts of things, and I tend to laugh when I see them or hear about them.
I believe in chance and choice. I believe there are things I can and cannot control. The things I cannot control are the events that are beyond my grasp, the choices others make, and the totality of existence. I can’t tell lightning where to strike. I can’t make others think what I want them to think. I can’t luck out and hope a publisher sees my work online and offers me a contract.
I can, however, choose to not stand out during a lightning storm while wearing a tin foil hat. I can learn how to put together a coherent argument and make my point as persuasively as possible. I can make my work the best possible and look for ways to advertise and get the word out.
There is nothing that says charms, spells, or even good luck rituals work for us, and yet so many of us really do cling to these beliefs. I know someone’s going to fire back with, “But that’s the die I used when I slew the vampire king! It’s lucky!” or “I was wearing this shirt when I met the love of my life. It’s my lucky shirt.”
Well, show me the study where we discovered luck. Show me equations. Prove to me that our lives and random events around said lives are controlled by invisible force fields and I’ll eat my words!
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go do laundry and make sure I have my gaming shirt for this Saturday. When I wear my Star Wars shirt, I KILL!
And finally, I have to say that while I’ve never heard of or tried this beer, this commercial alone makes me want to do it. it’s over the top, obviously conscious of its own absurdity, but it owns it like a boss. Enjoy, and I’ll see you Friday.
Cooking is an art. It’s like writing in many ways. You can add a dozen spices and spend hours working on something like Indian food, a dish that has more plants in it than a greenhouse, and get something that mixes flavors in unique ways to create new sensations. On the other hand, you could use five or six ingredients and make pico de gallo, slow-roast some pork, and you have dinner. Likewise, writing can involve in-depth research and Alan Moore-like layers of meaning and reference, or writing can involve a simple poem on a greeting card that will nevertheless move a person to tears.
Everyone should know how to cook, and you don’t have to make anything fancy. In fact, some of the best meals are the ones made from scratch with only a few ingredients, and if you’re on a tight budget (what artist isn’t?) allow me to share a few of my favorite recipes and some tips for artists who wish to stretch that food dollar.
Keep in mind that I’m assuming you know how to boil water, cut vegetables, and otherwise not murder yourself with a fork.
If you have a Sam’s Club or something similar nearby, get membership and go shopping. Trust me. The bill may seem huge, but remember that you’re buying olive oil, spices, and canned goods to last at least several months. Don’t buy fresh fruits and veggies here, though, since you’ll likely not go through them before they expire. Instead, stock up on the following:
It really depends on what kind of cooking you want to do, but I find that almost everything I make ends up using sweet leaf basil, cumin, dill weed, crushed red peppers, oregano, rosemary, and thyme. If you prefer, you can also get Lawry’s Salt since it’s already a combo of several spices.
I also highly recommend stainless steel pots and pans. Stuff with Teflon tends to chip and wear away if you use it a lot.
While it might be tempting to just buy instant meals since they’re so darn quick, think about all the sodium and other crap you’re going to be putting into your system. While we may have been brought up with the image of mom slaving away over a hot stove for hours to make a great home-cooked meal, it doesn’t take more than a few minutes of preparation for quick dishes, and even things that take hours usually just require you check in on them every once in a while. Also, do the math on how much it costs to make your food from scratch versus buying ready-made meals.
It’s a HUGE difference.
For a budget, chicken and fish are king. Think fresh veggies or, if you know you won’t use them for a while, canned. In general, avoid things with ingredients you can’t pronounce.
You’ll even find that eating healthy isn’t some yuppie dream. It’s affordable and preferable.
My dad and I both cook using the dump method. You take the meat, you put it in a pan, and dump a bunch of spices, veggies, whatever.
Done. You made dinner.
Let’s be more specific.
Get a batch of fish fillets. Tilapia works just fine, although Mary and I have also used catfish. I’ll use lime juice, dill weed, minced garlic, and a touch of butter for fish, and then fry them in olive oil. You could also poach them in the pan with a bit of white wine on low heat, reduce the wine and fish oil, and you end up with a thick sauce for your freshly cooked fish.
Chicken? That’s easy. Mix a cup of white wine and two cups of orange juice, then add a dash of olive oil, sea salt, pepper, and a little rosemary. Let the whole thing simmer on low heat for two to three hours. All you have to do is stir it to make sure it doesn’t stick, and when the whole thing is reduced to about a cup or less, you end up with an amazing orange glaze you can use on chicken. Now cook the chicken and add the glaze before it’s cooked all the way.
Beef usually calls for a marinade of beer (cheap 40’s will do), sea salt, pepper, marjoram, lime juice, cumin, and a bay leaf. Let it marinade for an hour or so, or overnight if you can, then cook the meat on its own, reduce the mixture the meat was soaking in, and you’ve just made beer gravy.
You may notice a pattern here. Pretty much everything involves liquid, preferably booze, being simmered down into a thicker sauce for the meat itself. The process is slow, but worth it. It does take between two to three hours depending on how much liquid you have (sometimes minutes for really small amounts like with the beef), but the end result is the same. It’s quick to put together and requires little preparation beyond just getting to know the ingredients and knowing what goes good with what.
You can even make your own tomato sauce by mashing a handful of tomatoes, some wine, and adding basil, oregano, olive oil, sea salt, and pepper. Add some water, let the whole thing boil until it’s reduced to a thick paste, and you’ve got the best pasta sauce you’ve ever tried.
Once you’re comfortable with a few dishes, start adding things like pasta and mess with different techniques like baking, frying, poaching, etc.
Being an artist means sacrifice. Unfortunately, part of that sacrifice translates as a tight budget. I’ve found, time and time again, that just following a few simple rules and taking the time to learn how to cook is one of the best things anyone can do to not only
Plus, the girls dig it when you can whip up beef burgundy with a side of garlic-vinegar French fries.
And finally, if you need more proof that it doesn’t take much to make wonderful art, check out this video. One woman. One looper. One voice. That’s it. See you Friday! Also, let me know if you try anything on this article.
But yesterday was Cinco de Mayo, Mary’s last day of class, and I felt like cooking something.
I was going to make fish, but I figured I could make some pico de gallo, salchicha, and… I was stuck for a while. What dish could really capture Mexican pride and simulataniously satisfy a 12-hour work day full of class, work, and research papers?
When he cooked, the man COOKED. Years ago, he gave me the recipe for his carne asada, Mexican grilled meat, and I’ve tried to make it for a long time with little success in replicating his unique flavor. I mean, the meat was good, but it wasn’t the same. It was like a photocopy of a photocopy. It just didn’t feel right.
I think I got it.
When my grandparents cook, there is never such a thing as a recipe. They go more by instinct than anything else. They know the specific parts of the dish much like I would know the overall themes and ideas for a story or poem, but I could never really teach someone one perfect way of getting those ideas down on paper. In the same way, they don’t really measure their ingredients, but instead put them in as needed. It’s taken me years to get this close to the actual recipe. I have it written down, but it’s like trying to learn another language by reading it.
Any self-respecting Mexican knows how to cook. My uncle could make chimichurri from scratch or whip up a caldo de rez to make you forgo vegetables for a month. My grandmother makes delicious dishes with everything from bell peppers to chicken. She’s like Midas with food.
While he was alive, I tried to replicate my grandfather’s recipe. Now, with him gone and only my memories and a piece of paper to guide me, I’ll keep trying to reach that pinnacle of flavor he created so many times for us on special occasions. It’s like kendo training… I’ll just keep going for the rest of my life, getting ever closer to that elusive perfection.
And I’m okay with that.
Years ago, I wrote a poem for my grandfather and his skills. I figured it was appropriate today. Scroll afterwards for the links, and I hope none of you did anything regrettable on Cinco de Mayo.
Dried leaves and sticks,
Crushed color and aroma
From plants I could never pronounce.
Papi kept them in plastic bags and jars,
Autumn in a pantry, an old hechicero’s2 alchemy.
He summoned a nation with each dish:
August heat, like the Tamaulipan desert,
Unyielding, like El Grito de Dolores3,
Or cool and green, like a Cuernavacan4 spring,
Subtle as a pretty morena’s5 wink.
One bite and you thought you’d die
From the cinnamon burn in your blood
And la lengua cortada6 would make you mute.
A bowl of pozole7 was a hundred miles of fields
And boiled muscles under the Aztec sun.
The heat in our tingling veins sang
A slow mariachi ballad,
The living history of our family,
And the old hechicero sat and listened,
While fragrant Mexican autumn filled the room.
1“Ahl-kee-MIS-tah”: Spanish for “alchemist”
2“Eh-CHi-SE-roh”: a sorcerer
3Don Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a Catholic priest in Mexico, gave what is known as “The Yell of Dolores.” On the morning of September 16, 1810, he rang the church bells and called on the people of Mexico to rise up against the Spanish, calling out “Mexicans, long live Mexico! Long Live the Virgin [Mary] of Guadalupe! Long Live Fernando VII! Death to the evil government!”
4The city of Cuernavaca is known as “The City of Eternal Spring” for its mild weather and seasonal rainfalls.
5Morena(o) is a term for someone who is darker skinned, and most likely has native Mexican blood in their heritage.
6“LEN-gwa cohr-TA-da” literately means “cut tongue.” It is an expression used to symbolize the feeling of very spicy meals on the tongue. Even people accustomed to spicy dishes reach their limit when they proclaim they have a “cut tongue.”
7“Po-SOH-leh” is a traditional Mexican dish, similar to a stew, made with cacahuacintle corn, pork, and guajillo peppers. It is often topped with radishes, lettuce, onion, lemon juice, dried oregano, and powdered chili. It has a very strong aroma and taste.