If you've been reading this for any length of time then you have most likely come to the realization that the closest I come to having a style is that I really don't have a style. It's been a strange week. Family pressures for sure. My mother's Parkinson's syndrome keeps getting worse. The stress of having company can nearly paralyze her, her balance goes to hell, she will be trying to walk but her legs freeze up, it's all stuff we try and work with. Lord knows we can't offend the sensibilities of godly men like Ted Haggard and John Ashcroft by doing research to find a treatment or a cure. I came back after a weekend of playing Dixieland jazz in San Diego to find the house still a shambles from Thanksgiving, this morning her attendant hasn't made it across the border from Mexicali (thank you Chertoff and Homeland Security, you've made our country safe from decent people looking for work, you Skeletor looking motherfucker). So I'm trying to wade through stuff, doing laundry, gathering up stuff (if she drops something it's usually not safe for Mom to try and pick it up so there it stays). I found two trays of dinner rolls that have been on the counter since Thursday's dinner. They are stale as hockey pucks (that's where the Maple Bread Pudding comes in). So I'm taking a little break to use the net to organize my thoughts and vent off a little pressure.
Here's how the weekend in San Dee went. Bloody marvelous. The band that hires me every year for this convention comes from the Sacramento area, their regular banjo player is getting too old for travel and the stress of the convention. They found me one year when my Uncle and I went through the convention to check out the music. They explained their situation (you can play Dixieland without a banjo but it just isn't all the way there) and I told them that I could stand on the back beat, do a little flash stuff here and there, and that I would be happy to do it for them (for my usual fee of course). It's been a fun weekend, on Sunday we do a Dixieland Jazz Church Service at my Uncle's church. All in all we have a good time. I would go straight up batshit if this was the only music I played. I love it in small doses though. For me, Dixieland is a lot like Barbershop harmony, or even Bach. It's way more fun to play than to listen too. It possesses a history and a structure that allows for incredible improvisation, and, without Dixieland roots there would have been no Kansas City, no Chicago, no soundtrack for Langston Hughes' poetry. It's essential study if you want to understand Louis Armstrong, King Oliver, Bessie Smith. It's like having to study Palestrina to understand opera.
Where the ethics dilemma came in was when our little group got picked for the honors concert. That's the prize showcase for the groups, where the best of the week gets another chance to shine for their peers. The problem came when I looked at the classification of the band. It said "amatuer." I told the band that we needed to clear that with the committee because, hey, I'm a pro. They explained that they viewed me as a placeholder for them, that they were amatuers and if my status as a pro was honestly evaluated they felt the status would hold. I told them that while I agreed with their evaluation we still needed to take it before the committee so that they could rule on where things stand. I didn't feel it was fair to the other groups or to the committee to be in a position that might be open to different interpretations.
We found a couple of committee members and explained things. That I was mostly just holding a place for a regular band member, that I wasn't a featured part of the act, all the reasons that the band felt they qualified in the category they had entered. The committee agreed. Whew! At the honors concert, I did my place holding thing. I stood on the back beat like a metronome and the band kicked ass all around me.
If the President and his minions would have the same regard for the courts and congress that a bunch of retired Dixieland players showed this weekend we'd all be better off.
Now, that I've vented and spouted off, let's get into the bread pudding. It's a great way to manage leftover or stale bread. It's essentially a custard that gets poured over bread cubes. Anything more and you start to to lose all perspective. Traditionally it is served with a Bourbon or a Hard Sauce. I like a nice light warm caramel sauce though. It's a nice counterpoint to the maple flavor.Ingredients
2 cups stale bread cubes
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup maple syrup (the real stuff, from a tree in New England)
2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (this is about half a whole nutmeg grated on a microplane)
In a mixing bowl, mix everything but the bread cubes and milk together. The breadcubes should be put into an 8 or 9 inch square baking pan that's been buttered or sprayed with a nonstick spray.
Scald the milk and pour it over the other ingredients, mix it well, and dump over the bread cubes. Bake at 350° for 40 minutes.
Served warm, with whipped cream, or your favorite dessert sauce (taking care not to overpower the beautiful maple flavor) or, in a bowl with cold milk for a wonderful breakfast.
We just found out that Leticia (the helper for Mom) has gotten through the border and should be here in a few more minutes. I'm hitting the kitchen, then I'm going to throw the ball for Abbie and find an AA meeting.also at 3B's