Friday, May 25, 2007

Friday Random Ten

Missed last week due to travel and work considerations. This is what's playing on the ranch today.

Hit random twice, take the top ten.

Everybody Knows - - - Leonard Cohen
Mannish Boy - - - Muddy Waters
Many Rivers to Cross - - - Joe Cocker (live, recent bootleg Joe still rocks)
Hard Times - - - Emmylou Harris (live, at the Ryman)
Whiter Shade of Pale - - - Procul Harum
Blaze's Blues - - - Townes Van Zandt
Superstition - - - Jeff Beck
To Love Somebody - - - Flying Burrito Brothers
Piobairechd - - - Me
Reeperbahn - - - Tom Waits


I'll Keep It With Mine - - - Dylan (live at the Bitter End)

What's the soundtrack at your ranch?

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Superstition Ride - - - Day 2 (Night talk)

I go to take care of the horse Silas rode, he's got it saddled with a beautiful, big comfy western rig. He's using a braided horsehair bosal. There are a couple water bags hanging off of the horn, and a set of saddlebags and a bedroll tie off. I know this horse. It's one that I gave to my cousin about ten years ago which makes her about fourteen. I bred her myself, trained her myself. Her name is Ban-Fai which in Thai means "Fire Horse." Because she born on Thai New Year in the year of the fire horse while I was dating a waitress at a very cool Thai joint in Palm Springs. I think to myself that it's probably my cousin's saddle too. It does answer the question about how Silas knew I was up here right now. My cousin is a blabbermouth.

I bring his gear back to the firepit where Silas is slowly savoring a jar of canned peaches, eating the slices and drinking the juice. He has my coffee cup right beside him freshly filled. He says "I bet you got a can of Eagle Brand in that whole house you pack with you when you ride. I love Eagle Brand in camp coffee."

I say "That's Blue Mountain coffee. You want to dump Eagle Brand into it you might as well use some instant." He just gives me a look that says we can play pissant respect and manners games, or we can get along, kid. I rummage around and pull out a can of Eagle Brand that I don't even remember packing. Maybe it's there from my last trip, that shit lasts forever. Archeologists will find that stuff right next to the Twinkies and Big Macs. I open the can and pass it to him. He dumps a slug of that sludge into the coffee and drinks deeply. "That Blue Mountain is pretty good stuff." I say "I'm glad you like it." He gives me an approving glance and says "Your cousin says you have been pretty fucked up for a while now I thought I'd come see for myself." I start to tell him about what's been going on with me and he stops me. He says "We have plenty of time for that. Let's just have some coffee and relax ourselves." I said "That's my cousin's horse you rode up here, nice saddle too." Silas says "It's your cousin's truck I drove to the trailhead on. He couldn't take time off to come with me so I traded him trucks. He said it would be fun to drive my old pickup down to the Tribal Government Building. A truck like mine makes him feel like a real Indin." (Silas has a very old early 50's chevy truck, there's maybe a square inch total of the original black paint job left on it, the rest is rust) We laugh at the idea of my cousin, the brilliant attorney, driving a real "Indin Car" in to see the Lord High Muck-de-mucks of the Tribal Government and council. Silas says "I just took the saddle from his barn when I got the horse. I figured he wouldn't be mean enough to loan me a horse, trade me a truck and trailer and leave me to ride bareback." I ask "Did you get him to pack the saddlebags too?" Silas says "No, I had Maggie's granddaughter do that for me. I told them I didn't need much because I know you like to have all kinds of stuff with you. Let's have a smoke."

Silas gets his pipe in its leather bag from his saddlebags. He pulls out his pouch and begins to fill the pipe. There are some folks who go through a whole rigamarole ceremony when they are filling a pipe. Silas is saying very quiet little words to himself. He sees me watching him and says "There's nothing in this pipe that would cause you any trouble with your sobriety. I know how much that means to you. It means a lot to me too. I missed you while you were gone. This is just some wild tobacco and some mint leaves." I say thank you for that but add that I have been feeling bad enough lately that I would do what ever he thinks I need to so that I can start feeling better. He says "Coming up here tells me that." and lights the pipe with a twig from the fire. He takes a puff and washes the smoke over his head with the palm of his right hand when he exhales. "The mint leaves make it taste real good, have some grandson." (this is a term of endearment, when we call people older than us grandfather and they call us grandchildren it conveys affection, respect and deep connection, it isn't used lightly, even with blood grandchildren) When we pass a pipe from one to the other we always make sure to use two hands and look squarely into each others eyes. When I have both hands on the pipe and our eyes meet he winks at me and says "You'll be alright, you were always a tough kid. You just need me to remind you about that from time to time." I take a smoke and say "You're right, these mint leaves really help tame down that wild tobacco." We sit and smoke for a while. The stars up here away from the city lights are amazing. I hear bullfrogs starting to hum in the pond. I say "Sounds like they are saying breakfast, make me for breakfast." Silas says "I was thinking that we would do Tachih Nádáh tomorrow. There's an old brick kiln not far from here that works just fine for a good sweat." I tell him that it sounds like a wonderful idea. It also takes care of the whole breakfast issue. Although if there's a lot of work involved with getting the place ready, I might nibble here and there to keep up my strength.

As we sit and smoke there are long periods of silence. That's an Apache thing. We have never been known much as talkers. The language is one where single words can take paragraphs of English to do an adequate translation. Silas alternates our subjects between the smallest of small talk and nudging around the big subjects. Like a dentist with a hook, looking for where the exposed nerves are. I ask him how my cousin is doing. Other than blabbing about how fucked up he thinks I've been and telling the world where I was headed.

Silas says "Your cousin is the best friend you have. He loves you and your children more than he loves himself. He's dancing this year. He wants you to be there." (the dance Silas is refering to is a ceremony that is not open to discussion outside the community I am sorry for this but rules is rules)

I say that I will certainly be there with my cousin. I ask how much preparation he thinks it will take to get ready to sweat tommorrow.

Silas says "The place is fine, we're the ones who need work."

I offer to make more coffee. With Eagle Brand.



Classic Shortbread Cookies

There are few things more wonderful than these simple, easy, cookies. They are among my favorites, especially served fresh with Earl Grey Tea and a Lemon Marmalade made from Meyer Lemons. Since it just so happens that my neighbors next door have a huge Meyer Lemon Tree sitting there, visible from my kitchen window, I can't think of a reason not to have a few jars of it laid up at all times. At least no reason that anyone would ever buy. There's not a lot of voodoo or kitchen magic required for either of these recipes and the results will have your guests and friends for afternoon tea quivering in ecstacy.

First to the cookies which are the stated favorite of the The Dark Wraith who along with being the person responsible for the beautiful design of this site is also the publisher and guiding light behind the other site where I post my off the wall thoughts and rants the The Big Brass Blog.

This one's for you, your Wraithness.


8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1/2 cup confectioner's (powdered) sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Dump everything into a big bowl. Use your hands to mix it thoroughly. (kids especially love to do this) Press onto ungreased pans. This recipe will perfectly fill an 8" by 8" pan. Or, if you have moulds handy press into those and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 325° for about 20 minutes. The result should be lightly brown. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan on a rack, then while still slightly warm, cut into desired shapes.

That's it. That simple. So very good.

Now on to the Meyer Lemon Marmalade!


6 Meyer Lemons
4 cups water
4 cups baker's sugar
You will also need
6 half pint Mason Jars and lids

Cut the lemons in half crosswise. Use a paring knife to dig out the seeds. Tie the seeds into a cheesecloth bag with the string leaving one long string. Quarter the lemon halves and slice them as thin as you can. I use a plastic cutting board for this that has a small catch gutter for the juice. As you are slicing place the results into a 5 quart non-reactive heavy pot. Cover with the water, drop in the bouquet garni (that's french for the little cheesecloth bag on a string thing you did with the seeds. Now let that all stand, covered for a minimum of twenty four hours. Don't cheat! If you must, go visit somebody, do something else in the kitchen. 24 hours. One whole day. You'll thank me later.

Bring this to a boil (I'm trusting you all waited the required time), over a medium heat without stirring. Then reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer uncovered, until the entire mixture is reduced to about 4 cups total (a little more than half by volume) which should take about 45 minutes. Stir in the sugar with a wooden spoon, bring the heat back up to a medium setting and boil the mixture, stirring occasionally and skimming off any foam that comes up until a teaspoon drops onto a cutting board gels, which will take around fifteen minutes.

Ladle the hot marmalade into the half pint Mason® jars to about a quarter inch from the top. Be sure to wipe down the mouths of the jars with a dampened rag before you put the lids on tightly. Put the jars into a water bath canner (or use a big ass stock pot and a small rack, just make sure to not have the jars resting on the bottom of the pot) and cover them with at least an inch of water over the tops of the jars. Bring this to a boil, and boil the whole thing, covered, for at least 5 minutes. Use tongs to remove the jars from the boiling water and cool them completely. Check the jars carefully when cooled to ensure a proper seal.

The marmalade will keep for up to a year in a cool dry place. Be sure to refrigerate it after opening.

As I said at the beginning, a shortbread cookie, spread with a dab of this marmalade, and a cup of Earl Grey tea, is about the best thing going in an afternoon. My British ex-pat friends Ian and Andrea make sure to drop by at least once a week or so, right around four. They use all manner of lame excuses like they are only looking for their kids or Andrea is coming by to pick up or drop off a dog (she's an ace groomer) but, it always seems to happen right around tea time. They're brits and they expect custom to be followed. One afternoon I thought I would really mess with them and serve Lapsang Souchong instead of the usual Earl Grey, they took it in stride.