This Food’s Here to Represent!

Early in our relationship my wife and I went to a family cookout where coon was served.  This made both of us uncomfortable, but my god, why?  Finding and killing a critter that rummages through the garbage, cleaning it, and roasting the shit out of it – that, I thought, is quintessential southern cooking.  But apparently, there is more to southern cooking than contracting rabies. 

Since then we’ve added two children to our family so that I could experiment with my own dinner creations.  Occasionally, my kids will love a particular meal but, of course, when I make it again a bad moon begins to rise, FEMA trailers pull in the driveway, and specialists are dispatched from the Vatican with the tools needed to perform the Rite of Exorcism.  But now I know it’s not what’s in the meal that is important, rather its presentation.   

So when I stumbled upon a 1976 series of Southern Living cookbooks I knew I’d hit the jackpot.  Though we may chastise the music and dress of our former 70s selves, they were onto something when it came to food. 

Here are a few recipes that I have resurrected and updated.  Bon Appetit!

Iwo Jima Cornish Hens – It might take you a couple of shots to get this one just right – with each hen reaching the top of Mt. Pilaf and holding up weeds from your back yard while trying to shake off the life-preserver glued to its back.  But once you do you’ll have an iconic meal that will stay with you forever.  Seriously, it will stay lodged in your colon for the rest of your life.  But at least that won’t be very long. 

 

BDSM Wild Duck – When you show this recipe to the birds you stole from the local pond, you’ll have to give them the old “Gimp” treatment from Pulp Fiction so they can’t escape.  Just tie them down with the rainbow suspenders that you refused to donate to the yard sale and you’ll have yourself a grunting good time.

 

This one is aptly named, and I’m serious, Lord Jim’s Mincemeat Plum Pudding, referring to Joseph Conrad’s novel Lord Jim.  As in his better-known Heart of Darkness (later adapted into the movie Apocalypse Now), Conrad creates a complex psychological landscape.  Likewise, the domestic chef must manifest this meal as a metastasizing molten mountain, its true ingredients masked by a mesmerizing maze mold.  It should be served with a large jar of stale, crushed Utz pretzels, as pictured.

Roasted Ham with Doo-Doo of Rabbit – Roast the ham on a spit in the fireplace, and towards the end knock it over to give it a nice coating of ash.  After letting it sit there awhile and cool off, the kids’ fluffy pet will happily snuggle up and add its natural side-item to this family favorite.

 

Raw Egg Pie with Murdered Starfish

 

Emasculated Bulls on the Half-Shell

 

He Sleeps with Catfishes – As in the old country, loose lips will get you a mouth full of parsley and sunk to the bottom of a nearby body of water.  No need to cook here.  Just wrap up the raw catfish fillets, toss a shovel load of dirt on top while saying a few Hail Marys, and leave it on the doorstep of your loudmouthed neighbor who will surely get the message.

 

[p.s. the spawn of this idea came from a book named The Gallery of Regrettable Foods by James Lileks that I saw some years ago. You should check it out. ]

Geeking Out at the Diamond

Before I had any thoughts of my son playing baseball, we had heard that one of the local youth baseball leagues was pretty competitive.  I took this to mean that winning mattered a lot to the kids and that yelling and bursting forehead veins mattered even more to the dads.  I usually try to avoid this nonsense and was pleased when things seemed pretty calm and fun when my son joined the league over the summer.  That is, until people started looking at me sideways.

Over the last half-dozen games or so, I have realized I am becoming one of those dads.  But it wasn’t just one bizarre or inappropriate behavior, rather a Forrest Gump “never know whut you’re gonna get” kind of thing.  Here’s a sampler (there’s clearly some funky stuff going on with the font colors in this WordPress theme, so please bear with me):

The Elbows-and-Knees Dad – This dad, although generally laid back, provides two pieces of guidance to his son when he comes to the plate – 1) “Keep your elbows up,” and, 2) Immediately before the pitch is thrown, “bend your knees.”  The result is a batting stance that looks like a woefully undersized Atlas trying to hold up the sky with a stick, along with the facial expression of extreme discomfort that one would expect from holding such a posture.  And when the pitch comes, the boy chops down at the ball and finishes in a camel spin, foot high in the air, for which the Canadian parent sitting in the opposing bleachers gives full marks.  A close cousin of the Elbows-and-Knees dad is the Tuck-In-Your-Shirt dad.

The Primate – This dad stands up against the fence near home plate so that when his son does something, like walk back to the dugout at the end of the inning, he can jump up and down in plain view of the child and all his teammates and yell something incomprehensible as if channelling his inner baboon who’s just caught a glimpse of a nearby female’s bright red fanny.

The Congressman – Knowing next to nothing about a topic doesn’t stop this dad from speaking at great frequency, length, and volume about it.  A parent at a recent game might have seen this dad yelling “Throw the ball!  Get it out of your glove!  Get rid of it quickly!” even though his son wasn’t even on the field at the time.

The Consoler – When a child falls down for any reason, such as from a lack of balance while tying his shoes, these dads run onto the field and surround the boy, asking him repeatedly, “are you ok? Are you sure you’re ok?” until the boy believes he really is injured and crumbles to the ground in a heap of trembling and sobbing.

The Thespian – This dad appears on the scene in a rush and just before game time.  But his real identifying characteristic is his use of language.  For example, instead of encouraging his son to run hard through first base, he will shout “All Attendant Haste!” with a tear in his eye and hand on his breast.

The Clapper – This dad claps not only the loudest but he must also be the last one to stop clapping.  On occasion, he will give one single loud clap for no apparent reason, perhaps just to ensure he got in the last clap. Having two Clappers at the same game can result in a competition similar to two Japanese men of honor bowing to each other.

 

Sweater Meats and John Travolta

Here’s a little clue about what it’s been like to live my life.

Some years ago my wife dared me to put on a dark pink sweater of hers that even she wouldn’t wear and walk outside to get the mail.  Maybe I dared her to dare me, she said “whatever,” and then I felt obligated to follow through to avoid looking like a complete pussy. But whatever.

So I put it on and walked out to the mailbox, no problem, until I was a few steps on the way back when my neighbor roared around the corner and into his driveway in his Mac truck-inspired Dodge Ram pickup.  I hurried across my lawn.  Notice I didn’t say “I ran,” because I don’t.  Apparently, I learned to move from watching claymation films.  I flow-morph in an unbalanced and haphazard way to my final, and usually unfortunate, destination (Oh No, Mr. Bill!).  And standing inside the now-closed and bolted front door, at 6-foot-5 and wearing what looked like a vest made of salmon flesh, I wondered if he’d seen me.  Maybe he drives with his eyes closed, I thought.

“That was quick,” said my wife, briefly looking up from whatever she was doing.

“Ed just pulled in,” I said, trying to catch my breath.

“That’s a surprise,” she responded without emotion, having known that this precise thing would happen.

I sat down on the couch knowing that this big adventure into the world would be my last for a while.  I’d stay in my bubble until I got bored with its predictability and then I’d jump out with something else absurd, though maybe not quite so Ethel Mermanish next time.

So to hell with John Travolta.  He jumped out of his bubble in that movie and he died.  That, I think, is a metaphor.  And you don’t need to guess what would’ve happened if he’d stayed in the bubble.  Just look at the real John Travolta.  He gets famous, and then brainwashed, eventually dressing up like an alien shill for Dianetics.

And there you have it.