We needed something to go with a roast The other day, when all the grandkids were here. I racked (Wracked?) my brain (I know that shouldn’t be too hard should it, as little as it is) to come up with something that young pizza and mac & cheese people might eat. Well, turns out I hit a homerun, much to my surprise. I don’t even know what to call this, but it has elements of salloped potatoes, one of my mom’s old favorites.
In a big cast-iron skillet fry up several pieces of bacon, until crisp and golden, then take the bacon out and set it on paper towels. Now chop a potato into slices like silver dollars and fry these rounds in the bacon grease. Salt and pepper the taters, then chop an onion and add it after the taters are starting to get tender. Finally throw in a cup full of green beans (what we used to call “snaps”). Stir this around until it’s well cooked and the beans are tender, I use a pretty hot fire. Then put the bacon back in all crunched up, and when the potatoes are browned and have sort of almost crunchy edges, serve it in a bowl. We had only enough leftovers for my lunch the next day. See, it doesn’t have to be complicated to be good food!
A couple of weeks ago we went to Austin to attend a concert. The group playing at the Long Center, during the great Austin SXSW, was called Pink Martini. Now, you may know them, and you may not, but in our family they constitute a near cult following. Ten or so years ago we heard their first album on national public radio, and , I for one, was instantly addicted! They mix all kinds of songs and music in wonderful humorous ways, and the members of the small but powerful group are all excellent if not unbelievably talented musicians. I giggle when I hear a jazz type song begin to transition into a mariachi beat then subtle strains of the klezmer sound of a Jewish wedding. Folk type songs suddenly become almost operatic as orchestration reminiscent of Verdi swells in the background, dropping back into an almost be-bop simple tune. The lead singer, China Forbes, sings comfortably in English, Spanish, Italian, and many other European languages while one of the percussionists and vocalists comes forward to sing rock songs in Japanese, learned from an old Japanese immigrant uncle. It’s fun, it’s inspiring and it’s inclusive instead of exclusive. I guess my favorite part of the concert was when China announced that her next song was going to be in Turkish Armenian, and asked if there were any Armenians in the audience. Three people came up and shared the stage as she sang. Then she sang an Arabic song, while Arabic people, probably University students came up. The crowd got even larger as she launched into French, and the French came up. Then she asked if there were any Texans in the audience and the stage was flooded! We all felt like we were part of each other, in a world where different cultures are coming to be seen as enemies, China Forbes and Pink Martini reminded us ever so gently and with great humor and great music that like the John Denver song says “rejoicing in our differences, there’s no one just like me. But as different as we are, we are still the same!”
A few days ago we passed one of the quarter days. Scientists refer to it as the vernal equinox. It is the day when there are the same number of daylight hours as night hours. It is the first official day of spring. The ancients called it Ishtar, from which we get the name Easter, and it was celebrated as a coming back to life of a world gone dormant for winter. The church chose this time to celebrate the triumph of Jesus over death as he was crucified for his beliefs, then in three days was once again alive among his students and friends. Country folks celebrate it as the time to turn the earth, and plant seeds and transplants into the garden in order to produce vegetables for the family. My family has Long been inclined to celebrate these quarter days with fiestas, cooking, bonfires, storytelling and leaping over the fire. It comes from our Scottish roots, one part of our genetics. It seems that mixed in with the German, Native American, Spanish, and even English, we all have varying degrees of Scottish running through our strands of DNA. Even my compadre, who thinks he may be descended from Spanish explorers, found in his cheek swab none other than Scottish genes, among others! This year we are a little more low-key, and as the sun set on a perfect spring day we built a campfire of Mesquite, and sat around quietly viztin’. Of course we all jumped over the fire three times – it’s tradition!
Cowboys have a tendency sometimes to be a bit less religious than civilians. Oh, I don’t mean they aren’t spiritual, it’s just that they may not be that into being part of a group, particularly one that meets inside a building, under a roof. That was the case one year during my time in college when Bill and Charlie Kimball urged me to go with them to highlands Baptist church One Sunday night to hear Dr. Kyle Yates. Apparently he was pretty important to them so I caved in and went.
After a couple of hymns and the usual church liturgy a tall man, and I mean probably six foot five, stood up at the pulpit. He had a head full of snow-white hair and a grin as wide as the prairie. He introduced himself as Kyle Yates and went on to describe a time in his younger years as a Hebrew translator for the revised standard version of the Bible. He had finished a translation of a passage that used a phrase he could only figure meant “joy bells.” There were something like thirty seven places in the chapter where “joy bells” were referred to. Well, the chief editor told him that there couldn’t be that many “joy bells” and he’d have to edit some of them out, say it a different way. He said “now, many years later I have to tell you I regret having lost that battle. I believe now more than ever we desperately need those joy bells, all of them we can get. “And he opened his six foot wingspan of arms and grinned and almost shouted “let the joy bells ring!”