Simple Life

Simple Life

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

OLD COUNTRY FEELING By Greg Evans

OLD COUNTRY FEELING
By Greg Evans

The heavy clouds hung low over the mountains. The air was warm and thick. A whitish mist hung over the valleys and the hot coffee seemed out of place as the sweat formed on the brow. The sound of chirping birds erupts from the still and stagnant air. Then a draft waifs through a break in the pines. On it the scent of a tomato patch nearby. Everything moves slower in the countryside. The way the language is spoke and the pace of the horses with their buggies. Breakfast is consumed slower as is the service. There is little rush in places that time has seemingly forgot.

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SIMPLICITY - POEM - By Greg Evans (Originally published on Poetrysoup.com)


Simplicity
By Greg Evans (American Writer)

A strong drink sits idle in my glass. Two doves sit on the porch and watch me. They warble with great enthusiasm, puffy sirens of the hills. Their language hides the meaning of their words, like the elegant attire worn by common folk. They have everything they need, each other and a nest. A perfect wordless marriage. Communication only through song, and songs for all of nature to enjoy. The grandest love story ever told. 

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GETTING MENTALLY READY TO PLAY


GETTING MENTALLY READY TO PLAY
The sun is barely up over the horizon and early morning mist still lingers as one to four players stand at the first tee, stretching, sipping coffee, each in their own thoughts, ready to conquer the world. Golf is the most difficult game that was ever invented, but at the same time it is divine. And it is important for you to remember that when you feel the brash need to throw your clubs into the nearby lake, the whole point of lugging the heavy thing down to the course was to have fun was it not? You almost made that stroke out of the rough like a pro…almost. Amateur golf is a different game than the one the pros play on T.V. But the objective is the same, and that is to make the ball go into the hole with a reasonable amount of strokes. But how you accomplish this feat is different than a PGA Tour professional. It is crucial for you to understand that if you are intending on becoming a steady amateur golfer shooting regularly in the 90s, you have to play your game, not theirs, but you can learn a great deal from watching them, discounting the fact that they were born with exceptional hand-eye coordination and God given talent that he forgot to give to you. Now that your blood pressure has gone up a few notches let’s continue.
         For me over the years I have found that the worst of my woes that inevitably turned out scores so horrific I can’t mention them here, happened right on the first tee where my confidence was shredded so ferociously that I couldn’t recover and by the end of the round, despite the use of “the mulligan,” I was above the 99 mark, hanging my head and feeling like a drunk who just fell off the wagon. It was no laughing matter. You get back home and the question is asked, “So how was the golf?”
         “I had some decent shots,” you respond. The person nods or grunts.
         “You stunk it up didn’t you?” They say, but by the crazy distant look in your hollow eyes, they leave it at that. There is no need to press the situation, test the waters to see if there are any sharks swimming. There is a certain understanding between golfers and even the spouses of golfers who have learned over the years when to let the conversation drop.
         “I have some laundry to fold, or I’m heading out to get the car washed,” they’ll say to slip away.
         Now that you have been prepped it’s time to dive into the details and begin rebuilding our mental attitude as amateur golfers to become one of the top ten percent in the world and score regularly in the 90s.

-Greg Evans (American Writer)

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A MOMENT OF UNCONVENTIONAL CLARITY - WORDLESS INTERVIEW WITH GONZO


Back in early 2000 I had traveled out to Colorado to interview the Gonzo journalist one of literature’s great moralists. I was in search of a quote. A small pearl of Gonzo wisdom, that received in person, would be of priceless value to me personally. It was early winter evening and a contact informed me that he we was eating breakfast at a tavern a few miles outside Aspen. It was snowing so hard it was nearly only accessible by mule. The place resembled a barn and was lit with strings of Christmas lights. Three men sat at a table in the back. One was Hunter, one was Raoul Duke, who I’d run into once before in Los Angeles, and the other was a fat Samoan. Leaning up against the wall was a cattle prod and a nickel-plated handgun rested on the table beside what appeared to be a Bloody Mary. I took a deep breath and slowly approached the table. I didn’t know whether this would be my last few moments on earth, but I came all the way out and decided it was worth a shot.  I reached the table and the first to look up was the Samoan. He was wearing a grey suit and had a crazed sharp look in his eye, like a recently used hatchet. I barely made pleasantries before being assaulted by Duke after sticking out my hand and saying, “Hi, good to see you again Raoul.” He moved like a leopard. I remember next lying on my side on the floor and the smell of beer. It was cold and wet from the snow. As I was being dragged out of the place I noticed a few patrons sitting at the bar had turned around and were laughing. Some people clapped. Hunter never looked up from his meal.

-Greg Evans (American Writer)
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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

WHAT IS A SENSATIONAL TRADITIONAL MEXICAN LUNCH WITHOUT FLAN!?!

Tomorrow for lunch I will go Mexican and it will be traditional, though none of the overly processed ingredients that leave you itching and tossing and turning from MSG nightmares. I will make my own tortillas from scratch, tortilla corn flour and water fried in hot oil until golden brown and served with homemade refried beans, boiled chicken, lettuce, tomatoes and yellow onions. The homemade refried beans you have to begin preparing at least a day in advance don't forget because it is imperative that you soak them and then pick out the shells, rocks etc. that get into the bag. I may even throw together a homemade salsa to top it all off. The thing about traditional Mexican food when properly prepared is that it is far different then the Mexican food one orders in Mexican restaurants in the states. The traditional food is actually blander and thus purer and more delightful to eat. I know that sounds peculiar but I shun from the addition of extra salt on food. I feel it takes away from the natural flavor of the ingredients instead of enhancing them. The only thing I will do differently then they do in Mexico or at least in old Mexico is that I won't use lard. I really don't care for lard as I think it has dangerous effects on the body over the long haul. One in a while doesn't hurt but once in a while can easily become habitual. As a side I will put together a wonderful Mexican rice dish using onion, garlic, green peas, tomato juice, broth, chicken legs and topped off at the end with slices of boiled egg. Another side that must be included is succotash. This dish is easy and cheap to create. All you need is zucchini squash cubed, corn and lima beans (optional) sauteed in oil with onion, garlic and a pinch of cumin.

Did you know that originally the Mesoamerican Mexican people prepared their food over hot fires or by boiling. It wasn't until the Spanish arrived that frying food became a common method of cooking food in Mexico. Before the Spanish arrived bringing goats, pigs, sheep, cows, olive oil, onions, and a variety of spices the Mexican people ate as well a large variety of foods including turkey, other wild game and insects, fish, corn, chili peppers, mushrooms, beans, various seeds and other vegetables, tubers and various plants. The combination of the culinary cultures created the brilliant foods we have today in that country. Who doesn't love Mexican food? I don't know anybody. Though there are numerous corn based drinks I don't think I will tackle those recipes though atole is quite good. As I always do while preparing my Mexican cuisine I will play Jose Feliciano songs even though he isn't Mexcian, the music makes me think of Mexico and the wonderful trips I have taken there over the years. It saddens me that the country is going through such terrible times making traveling to certain areas rather dangerous and unpredictable. I will never forget those trips to Mazatlan and driving out to the desert town of La Noria in the beat up old blue pickup truck driven by a man named Jorge with a gold tooth and a cowboy hat chatting away in Spanish as if we could understand a word he was saying. Mexican music playing over the radio as the countryside rolled past, orange dust from the dirt road leaving a cloud behind us as we drove. We entered the old colonial town and ate tortillas topped with chicken and washed down with coca colas before heading over to the old abandoned Hacienda Las Moras that today has become a luxury hotel. I have written of the grounds before so I won't go into the details here. Mexico is such a beautiful country with a vibrant culture, beautiful women, friendly elders always ready for some company and a good laugh. And doesn't seem to you that everyone down there loves to dance. I can't wait to get back there and go to one of the zocalos and dance with the pretty girls in their traditional Mexican dresses with fresh flowers pinned in their hair.

But what traditional Mexican lunch can be complete without a delicious flan? My grandmother used to make the most wonderful flan I ever tasted. Flan is a creamy custard with a hint of orange. The ingredients are as follows:

1 cup of heavy cream

3 egg yolks

3 full eggs

1 can of sweetened condensed milk

1 cup of sugar

1 cup of whole milk

1/4 cup of orange juice

1 tablespoon of grated orange rind

1 tablespoon of cornstarch

1 tablespoon of vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

Cooking instructions:
Melt sugar in a pan until it turns a light yellow/orange color. It takes between five and twelve minutes depending on altitude. Pour melted sugar into molds and let cool.

Pour all the ingredients except the heavy cream into a bowl and with a mixer get it nice and smooth. Then add the cream and blend for a few seconds so mixture is smooth and mixed. Then pour mixture over the cooled sugar in the molds.

In a deep baking pan place the molds and fill the baking pan halfway with boiling water. Place the baking pan into the oven and bake for at least an hour or until the mixture is set but jiggles when shaken. Once ready let the flan cool and put into the refrigerator for about 3 and a half hours and then it is ready to serve. To serve it loosen the flan from the mold with a knife by sliding it around the edge of the flan and serve flipped upside down on a plate. It is wonderful.




Monday, November 24, 2014

JUST GIMME THE LUTEFISK ON A BED OF MASHED PEAS ALREADY

Even though it is not yet Thanksgiving and being that it is my favorite holiday one might think I would have it on my mind, which I do, but tonight I made a heavy decision. I think this year for Christmas Eve I am going to have a traditional Norwegian "The Night Before Christmas."But I don't want the sound of television or video game zap, zap polluting the evening. I want it as if it is Vigmostad in 1842 with a foot of snow on the ground, 10 degrees outside, roasted spareribs on the rack and glasses of Mjop, the homemade wine that, even back then, the children would sip out of a sniffer.

My Christmas Eve's while I was growing up in New York were special times. My parents worked hard to make it so for us children and it was magical. Earlier in the evening we would go down to the church and put on a play telling the story of the birth of Jesus. Many hymns were sung, there was a candlelight vigil and a children's moment when my sister would sing to them, "Christmas was Meant for Children."  There was always snow on the ground back then or falling that night. I rarely remember a Christmas go by without a nice coating of snow on the ground. The misty breath in the chilly night and icicles as big as carrots hanging from the gutters. Afterward we'd drive around town and look at all the Christmas lights that people had on display. Then we would return home, the tree ablaze with lights, candles in all the windows of the house, the bushes with white lights making the snow glow, it was very beautiful. We'd then sit around the tree and tell stories and eat cookies and chocolates and my sisters would always open up a small present from my parents which was always jewelry. Before bed we would put out cookies and milk for Santa and carrots for the reindeer. Grandma would always be there also for Christmas. She'd sit with a smile and tell us funny stories about her Christmas eves as a child in the early 1900's. She lived to be 101 before passing on a few years back.

So I figure this year I will make Christmas Eve special for my little one and being that she loves to bake she will make the Norwegian cookies, the bakkels and hjortetaaks. Of course I am not familiar with how to make these cookies though my great-grandmother most likely made them for my grandmother while she was growing up, so I looked up a recipe. It was as follows:

Eggs
Sugar
brandy
butter
amonium carbonate
cardimum
flour
lard

Notice the last ingredient...lard! In this day and age that is like saying a curse word. Cooking with sugar, yolk and lard has become a taboo in the age of olive oil, Splenda and egg whites, but the idea of baking cookies with my daughter using lard as in old norway seems so romantic with the Christmas music playing and the tree all lit up, glistening from the tinsel. In Norway back in the old days, to light the tree they used real candles. Talk about a fire hazard. The idea of having real flickering candles on the tree is magical and I imagine breathtakingly beautiful. The scent of the fresh pine aroma fused with the burning candles and cookies baking in the oven filled with sugar, brandy and lard, it is maudlin. For the Christmas dinner I am considering preparing a roasted rib rack served with mashed peas, boiled potatoes, Christmas sausage and cod boiled in salt water and served with a red wine sauce and lutefisk. Extravagent. You might be wondering what lutefisk is? It is a white fish that has been lying in water and lye for days. It is then cooked in the oven. The protein of the fish decreases by up to 50% and the fish turns into a gelatinous consistency. I have never had this holiday treat and to be honest it doesn't sound particularly appetizing being that jellied fish might take some acquiring, but I love fish, all seafood really and my favorite restaurant is a Norwegian eatery in Orlando, Florida with a fish buffet. It is located within Epcot and I believe it is called Akershus Princess Restaurant. Sensational atmosphere and food. After researching the preparation of Norwegian food I wonder if their food tasted as good as it did because it was both smoked and cooked in lard? We should leave the secrets to the chefs I say and enjoy the food while it is still fresh!

Norway seems to me, especially in winter to be such an enchanting land and cuisine and style of old-fashioned dress I practically want to go out and take Norwegian language classes. An interesting fact about my great-grandmother who immigrated to the United States from Norway in 1902 is that she sailed aboard the ship "The Majestic." The significance of this ship is that the Titanic was built to replace the Majestic and the captain of the Majestic in 1902 was non other than Edward Smith, the same captain that went down on the Titanic on that fateful nigh thirteen years later. With her she brought the traditions of Norway including a short record from a relative of how Norwegian Christmas was spent in the old country which is what gave me the idea. The importance of Christmas as all holidays is to make them as special and magical as possible, especially for the children. They will remember those wonderful holidays just as I did while I was growing up. An old Norwegian once said something to the effect of, "No matter where you are, you want to make Christmas special." Of course that is translated from Norwegian but it is something that is universal regardless of what country one lives in, rural or urban, rich or poor.

And if you want to get fancy and keep the atmosphere going, the following day, after everyone is finished opening presents and the light breakfast of toast and smoked salmon with a hard boiled egg, and why not throw in scrambled eggs and bacon, meat cuts, muffins with jam spread, coffee, fruits and after eights for desert you can serve up a nice farikal for lunch. Farikal is the national dish of norway and consists of mutton (lamb) and cabbage. All you do is layer the meat and cabbage in a large pot with salt and peppercorns, cover with water and simmer until the meat is tender. If you wish for a thicker situation add flour to your liking. The dish goes splendidly with peeled and halved boiled potatoes. And there you have it. You very first Norwegian holiday if you are so inclined as I will be this year. And don't forget to say grace before you eat!

By the way did you know that horse meat and whale meat are commonly used to make sausages in Norway? Other popular Norwegian dishes for your palate include:

Svinekoteletter - braised pork chops served with fried onions and potatoes.

Fiskboller - cod fish mashed together with cream, flour, heavy cream and eggs.

Krumkake - flour, eggs, heavy cream and sugar.

Smalahove - the boiled head of salted sheep.

Kjottboller - meatballs served with a heavy cream sauce.

Lapskaus - a sausage or meat stew with a variety of vegetables to your liking, potatoes, carrots, peas root vegetables, onions etc.

Stekte polser - fried sausages served with peas and potatoes.

Sodd - a meatball and mutton soup with vegetables.

Surslid - which is pickled herring that everyone is used to.

There are many more and variations of traditional recipes tweaked by the family cooks. It doesn't get any better than that. Kan jeg far se pa menyen?

Sunday, November 23, 2014

I'LL BACON YOU CAN EAT ANYTHING WITH BACON

This morning I couldn't help but wake up and throw half a pound of bacon into the skillet. The smell of bacon sizzling in a frying pan is like no other smell in the world. The only thing that comes close to it in terms of perfection is the aroma of an Ashton cigar or maybe a freshly poured Guinness. But really, the smell of bacon cooking, any time of the day, will make even a Vegan's mouth water and having bacon available, makes me wonder how anyone could say no to a nice fat helping. Pun intended. Some days it is just nice to fry up a good helping of bacon and stick it on a buttery English muffin and other days it goes well with eggs smothered in cheddar cheese. It goes well on pizza and wrapped around scallops or really any seafood for that matter. It goes well on a salad, with chicken, in a quiche, in any casserole or simply blended into your smoothie in the morning. Today I had two separate helpings. One on my eggs and cheese between two English muffins dripping with butter and the second time around plain. As always it hit the spot and was followed by a few hours of heartburn but nothing a couple of tums couldn't cure. As I sat in my recliner, feeling myself getting fatter, I wondered if it was possible to create a dish that bacon wouldn't go well with? The more I thought about it, the more I convinced myself that it would be an impossible feat. Bacon goes with everything. I think it would even go splendidly in a Miso soup with the seaweed and tofu. It is a superfood for the taste buds. There is nothing like it. Salt and butter can go with nearly everything but there are instances where both salt and butter ruin a dish, for example oatmeal. Neither salt nor butter enhance the flavor of the oatmeal but some crushed up bacon make it medieval good.

Earlier today I was watching a show about Henry VIII and his Hampton Court home. The majority of the show was about Henry and his wives, his fall from the horse that made him lame and crazy and the chaos that followed. It talked about the elegance of the palace where he lived and his obesity but then they got into why he became obese. One man located an old recipe from that time period, a bone marrow custard that he prepared and tasted on camera. He admitted that it was rich and very beefy, but also said that it wasn't exactly appetizing. The first thought that came to mind was, imagine Henry made the custard with fried bacon instead of bone marrow. He would have eaten a thousand of those little custards and died at 56 weighing 800 pounds instead of the paltry 400. The show said that the last fitted armor that was made for him had a girth sized 54. That is enormous. That can pretty much incapacitate a man and as for his attraction to the women you can imagine it dwindled. For Henry it did and one wife was so appalled by his disgusting appearance she wouldn't even kiss the ogre. Lucky for her it only ended in divorce instead of his affection for head removal. The king had a bad leg that he dragged about that he got from a fall jousting. And it is said after his fall that he may have injured his cerebral cortex which was why he became such a rotten bastard, but this hiccup in his personality, in my opinion, could have been cured with three square meals a day topped with the finest fried bacon accessible. You'd think even back then the queens would know that the quickest way to a man's heart was through his stomach. Henry knew it all too well only he went after the wrong dishes to combat his depression and habitual pain in the leg.

What is bacon you ask? The best bacon is streaky bacon and comes from pork belly. It is either cured by soaking in brine or dry curing in salt or smoked with different kinds of wood, peat, corn cob etc. Takes around 18 hours to cure bacon.

And no, turkey bacon is not a substitute! It is probably one of the leading causes of depression next to the seven day work week. How many of the world's problems could be solved by people starting off their day in a good mood and keeping that mood flying high by actually sitting down and enjoying a great meal? That line could easily be taken out of context by the plant eaters, but think of it metaphorically. Lose the discipline for a day and fry yourself some extra fatty bacon.