Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Late Night Blue Light Special

When I was a young lad, growing up in the snowy Rocky Mountains, I learned to drive on both city streets and snowy mountain roads.  One of the more important things we learned in Driver's Ed class is that the Snowy Colorado Roads are patrolled by snow plows. Ok, only during the winter, (obviuosly..we don't have snow plows out running the roads in the sunny summers) but it was important to know because one had to learn to yield to these behemoths of the roads so that the snow could be kept constantly plowed. Snow plows always have the right of way...or something like that. The mountain roads and highways are fairly festooned with signs that remind us "Blue Light Means Snow Plow." 

You can imagine my thoughts when I first came to the state of Tennessee when I was out driving along the highway, minding my own business late one night, when what should appear in my rear view window, but a set of blue pulsing lights.  And true to my training, I pulled to the right, and waved them around me. 

At that point, I learned two things.  One: The Tennessee State Patrol has blue lights on the top of their patrol vehicles; and Two: They tend to frown heavily when they turn on their Official Blue Pulsing Lights and all you do is slow down and wave them around.  

You  can also imagine my surprise when the 'snow plow' behind me turned on a siren.  
When all was said and done, more was said than done.  I didn't end up behind bars, nor did I get a ticket; but I did get a stern and lengthy lecture on Tennessee State Patrol vehicles blue lights, and what to do in Tennessee when they appear behind you. 

Lesson learned. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Food of the Gods - The Low Fat Southern Biscuit

There is something about Southern Food which causes Southerners to swoon with glee and non southerners to give that tight lipped grimace of hate.  Southern food? Oh No, they shout!  Southern Food just has way too much butteroilflourporkbadstuffgalore! It's bad for you, it's bad for the environment and will cause the downfall of modern civilization as we know it!  (Deep Breath, Calm now...) But as much as people hate Southern food, or hate what's in it, there is something that Southern food has that you can't find in any other kinds of food.


Southern Food is not pretentious.  It is what it is. No frilly white aprons or gold bespangled dishes needed. (Some of the best southern food is found on paper plates!)  Southern food is flavorful and filling and its roots in the early years of our country are evident in the ingredients as well as the flavors and comfort they convey. 

One of my favorites is the Biscuit (with the requisite capital B.)  I grew up not eating biscuits.  When I was a kid, I eschewed biscuits because they fell apart as you ate them. They were dry and flavorless bombs of dough which required half a jar of jelly just to get it to slide down my throat.  No, I was not a fan.  Until I got to the South and had one of those big biscuits from that chicken place down the street that left me in a butter daze for days.  My life then revolved around finding the Perfect Southern Biscuit. 

Fast Forward 20 years and I'm sitting in my Doctor's office as he speaks to me of high cholesterol and health hazards.  My love of biscuits crashes to the polished Italian Travertine tile of his office. But, wait, this is not going to be an indictment of the Southern Biscuit.  No, this is a re-imagining of that most American of breakfast breads.  After much work on my own part, (and the quiet suffering of my biscuit loving spouse) I have created a Very Low Fat Biscuit which is (almost) Too Good To Be True.  I present the recipe here for your enjoyment. 

Preheat the oven to 410-425 (You know your oven. You want the biscuits to be a lovely golden brown on top and done inside but not black on the bottom.)

2 Cups Self Rising Flour
2 Tbl Sugar
1/4 Cup Liquid Fat Free Butter*
7/8 Cup Fat Free Buttermilk

In a large bowl, combine the Flour and the Sugar.  Add the fat free butter and work this mixture until it has a consistent 'sand' like look. (This is an important step.  You want NO lumps. Flour looks like powder, but this will look like 'sand'.  It may take a while to work it into this state, but it is important to the quality and consistency of the biscuit. I use a large fork and work the lumps against the side of the bowl until the mixture looks all the same.)

Add the buttermilk and again stir and work the mixture to get all the 'sand' mixed in. This doesn't take very long and you end up with a nice doughy lump the consistency of soft clay. 

Put a small amount of flour on your workspace and turn the dough onto it.  Now, work the dough carefully.  Press it down until it's flat (about an inch thick) and then fold it over onto itself and pat it down. (Add a sprinkle of more flour to the work surface to keep it from sticking if you need it.)  I do this about 6-8 times, leaving it about 3/4 inch thick after the last fold. 

Using a biscuit cutter (I use a glass with a 4 inch mouth) press out the biscuits and place them on a cookie sheet - at least an inch apart.  You may need to re-combine the dough to complete the last few biscuits, but be careful not to 'over work' the dough as this will make them tough.  I get 5-6 big biscuits, or 6-7 medium biscuits. 

Bake them on the top rack of the oven until the tops of the biscuits are a dark golden brown, about 10-12 min (which can vary according to your oven. This can take a couple of batches to learn what works best in your oven.)

My mother in law is a great lover of biscuits and is also one to call a bad biscuit a bad biscuit (as well as the biscuit maker!) She loves these and asks for them whenever she visits. 

Score 1 for the Southern Son In Law (with the low cholesterol!)

A final note: These may be LOW fat, but they are by no means Fat Free. They also have caloric content, and gluten.  They just have LESS fat than true Full-Fatted-Stick-Of-Butter-Age-Old-True-To-Southern-Recipe Biscuits.
*Because someone is going to ask, I use one of these low-fat 'fake' butters:

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Where the Road meets the CMAs

Last week, I posted a blog about Trucks (with the requisite capital "T") on the day that the CMA awards were held here in Nashville.  I'm sure there are some southern fan-girls (and fan-boys) somewhere out there wondering why I never seem to report/blog on the music scene here in Music City USA.  It has nothing to do with my preferences (other than much of country music makes me want to drive my car off a cliff in the rain with my ex in the trunk and my dog drinking coffee and lamenting in harmony beside me.) No, it's just that the Nashville Music Scene is not my Cup of Southern Sweet Tea.

Tuesday evening, as our bus wound its way out of the downtown area, we saw huge crowds surrounding one of the local clubs on our route.  When I say huge, I mean 20-30 people deep standing OUTSIDE the club watching the performers through the big windows.  No one on the bus knew who was performing, but someone pointed out that many of the "B" performers will schedule a performance in Nashville during the CMAs so that their travel expense is tax deductible.  (Yeah, these are the things we discuss on the bus.)  But the main point here is that no one knew who it was - and we even got a nice view of the performers above the heads of the crowd as the bus turned the corner right in front of this place. So it's not just me who seems out of touch with the scene. 

A lot of it comes down to my music background and my view of music and music listening. There is a prevalence in the music industry these days which is counter to my own thoughts and beliefs.  It works like this:  Let's say there is a song coming on the radio.  Let's say it's Elvis' "Such a Night."  I like this particular song, and turn up the radio just a bit.  Someone will say, "Oh you like Elvis?"  They say it like I had just admitted that I like to roast kittens on an open spit. 
  "Well, no, not exactly..." I reply, "I do, however like this song." 
  "Oh.." There is a short pause while they take this in.  "So, you like Elvis, is that it?"
  "No..."  this can go on a long time before someone (usually me) calls an end to it. 

You see, - to me, just because I listen to one song by a performer doesn't mean I am going to go out and buy all their albums, tickets to live shows and have their band logo tattooed on my shoulder or name all my kids after the band members.  I like the Song.  This means That I Like This One Song, Regardless of Who Performs It. Maybe two or three by this performer, but regardless, it's the song, not the performer that catches my attention.  AND, if the same band puts out a song I DON'T like, this doesn't mean I am going to stop listening to that one song I DO Like. It's not an all or nothing proposition.  I like music, not bands or performers per se. 

And so now we have the CMAs.  Which, like the Emmys and the Oscars and the Tonys and the Drama Desk Awards and the Golden Globes and the VMAs and the BAFTRA awards and the MTV Music Awards and the CMA Video Awards and the YouTube Awards (Dear Lord, YouTube? Really?) which, to me, are merely a reason for a bunch of entertainment millionaires to get together and congratulate each other on making another million off those of us who don't know how to download their stuff free. 

Now, don't get me wrong.  If I made a million dollars in the same way I'd probably be going to these awards events myself.  I used to watch them on TV, rooting for my favorite performer and reacted properly when they won or lost. Then I found out that I don't need to watch, I just need to check the winners list the next day. I care, but I don't need to BE there or WATCH to actually care.  

In point of fact, Wednesday morning, the day of the CMAs our big bus pulls into downtown at just before sunrise (about 6:30 am) and there is already a huge crowd in front of the Arena. Almost 12 hours before anyone of any note actually shows up! I tried to get a photo, but the bus driver wouldn't stop for me to frame the thing up right.  All I got was the shot above. Two blocks away and you can't even see the big tour buses parked up and down Broadway.

Now, here is the part I've been leading up to.  As much as I really don't care who wins or who loses, I have to admit, I'd like to be part of that crowd.  Take the day off and hang out down there watching the stars arrive and drink a few cool beverages and listen to some good music (hopefully something I will enjoy.) No matter where you live, if someone important is in town and things are happening, it's always something you want to be a part of.  Here in the South, we get the CMAs and that's what's neat about the South. 

Yes, Bubba, I Like Elvis - THIS ONE SONG (and maybe a couple more, don't push it!)  Now, let it go. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Trucks and Pickups

Well, now wouldn't you know it, here's another thing I don't have which it seems that every Southern Male has, and that's a truck. Alternately called a "Pickup" or more colloquially a "Pick-em-up Truck" it's a handy thing to have when you need to go get a load of topsoil for the garden, or some chat* for the driveway, or maybe you just need to get a couple of pieces of lumber which don't quite fit in that cute little bug you drive. 

Ok, I don't drive a bug.  I drive a Jeep.  It's a Jeep Grand Cherokee and it can carry just about anything in the back - except for the aforementioned chat or topsoil.  No way is the lovely Mrs. going to let me fill the back of the Jeep with dirt.  But I have always wanted a truck.  A Pick-em-Up Truck to be exact.  Something old and with an oxidized paint job that I don't have to baby, and maybe it's got a lot of rust, but it runs and carries bricks or cement or enough lumber to build a new garage.  Not that the truck needs a garage, no sirree.  Leave that old workhorse out in the rain, it just looks better and better each day.

Pickups are a big deal out west.  Texas is full of them and Colorado (my original home) had more pickups per capita than just about anywhere - except maybe for here in the south.  Pickups are a way of life here.  It doesn't matter how old the pickup, or the style, as there are many MANY old El Caminos floating around out there.  One of my original first blogs noted the use of an El Camino in what I have deemed the "Southern Moment." The El Camino is the perfect vehicle: Part 2 door coupe, part pickup truck.

I see pickups everywhere.  Most of them are right off the brand name lots, nice standard paint jobs and customizations. Many more are several years old, antiques and hybrids of customization. Those trucks that have paint jobs show the owner's southern roots, sporting everything from state flags, to sports teams and that Southern Flag (Confederate Flag.)

But again, it's not the paint job, it's the truck itself. Something in the actual shape, or utilitarian feel of the truck itself is what a good Southern Man wants or needs.  I suppose it's even a requirement of being a Good Ol' Boy.  Neighbor Bubba calls my Jeep a car, but the state considers it a truck.  When I point this out to him he laughs.  He also points out how we ought to put a load of compost in my 'truck' and see how it fares.
Neighbor Bubba can be a pain sometimes.   

*Chat is a term for broken up bedrock.  Originally a byproduct of mining, the broken bedrock pieces are used for packing driveways or walkways.  Its rough and odd shaped nature makes it a better surface for traction as well as not being easily pressed into the topsoil.