Monday, September 29, 2008

Chile Rellenos and unidentified fungi

Well, my four heavy weeks of work have ended, for the most part, giving me some down time to pursue some personal activities and give my thoughts to future plans.  The work seemed a bit easier this year, due I think to the several years of experience I've put in up to this point and also to the knowledge that it would most likely be my last season driving a van full of instruments around New England.  I will grudgingly admit to a certain wistfulness visiting some of these schools I've become familiar with the last nine years, but it's time to move on and I am very excited for the coming changes to my life and career, though they are still months away.  I wish I could get started sooner, but I will do my best to enjoy the fall and winter and leave my job in good standing.  

Anyway, as I said before, this weekend has been a time of restorative activities that I haven't had time for over the last month, and they have done much to raise my spirits and energies.  I had an enjoyable night out with some friends on Saturday evening, including an excellent meal at Henrietta's Table in Cambridge; I especially enjoyed the duck leg confit.  Sunday morning I slept in and spent the day relaxing with music and books, capped off with a very messy attempt at making home-made chiles rellenos.  I love to cook, and I think I've developed some affinity for it, but I certainly haven't mastered the finicky arts of stuffing and deep-frying.  Every time I try I tell myself that there's no need to master every single tasty culinary technique, but eventually an impulsive desire to make a recipe that's caught my eye undoes my resolution.  I love stuffed chiles, even the standard suburban tex-mex variety, and so I found myself caught in the throes of chaos, fingers mired with goopy batter, a wok filled with hot oil and splattering, frothing chunks of cheese that had slipped out of the roasted chiles, which had likewise slipped from their coatings of flour and egg.  All I could do was scoop everything out of the wok, drain it of excess oil as best I could, drown it in red chile sauce and eat it.  

Today I went for a run, and during a quick cut through a local plot of woods I noticed that with the recent rain mushrooms of all kinds were popping up everywhere.  I noticed many russulas, some beautiful amanitas which may or may not have been death caps (they had that greenish tinge to their caps), a smelly stinkhorn and a bunch of others that I had no idea what they were.  I even grabbed a handful of some particularly meaty, fresh-looking specimens (picture above) that I thought might be blewits due to a faint purple color on the cap edges and the stalk.  Unfortunately, I wasn't able to key them out successfully - their spore print was a medium brown color which should nix the blewit - and I couldn't follow the taxonomic key in Mushrooms Demystified to a convincing conclusion, so I guess I won't be eating them.  Too bad; they smell pretty good.  

I look forward in the coming weeks to getting out my fiddle and my guitar, finishing what will be the fourth draft of my novel, making plans for next year (travel and my apprenticeship), and whatever else might strike my fancy.  

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Unexpected Pop Songs

You know, it’s a wonderful thing to know that life can still throw small surprises your way. By this time in my life (let’s generously call it approaching early middle-age), I sort of understand that big, unexpected things could happen to anybody, anywhere; health things, accidents, world events, what have you. I also understand that I understand very little, and everyday shows me new things in the world, which I sometimes appreciate and often overlook, but still my jaded eyes know the basic boundaries of my small, daily world, what I can expect and how I can appreciate or ignore the things that come my way.

Take pop music. I’ve always loved pop music, which I take to include all but the utmost fringes of rock, r&b, rap, folk and country music. But I’ve had a difficult relationship with it for a number of years now. I’ve always continued to appreciate the music that I learned to love and that was important to me as a youth and young adult. And I’ve always been interested in exploring new things, but the last few years it’s become something of a chore. I have a restless ear and I want to like new things, I read record reviews, I ask friends, I listen to things that people like or love or that catch my fancy in some definable or indefinable way. And I like a lot of it, but it kind of stays there…I like it, and then I don’t listen to it again. New stuff, old stuff I never heard, whatever (I will say that the percentages go way up when I catch overlooked stuff from bands or eras that I enjoyed when I was younger).

I usually write it all off to being a bit of a fogey, not appreciating the darn-fool stuff that kids today listen to, combined with my brain being full already of pop music. But today an utterly unexpected gem came my way, nothing world-changing or shattering, just a perfectly written and executed gem of a pop song from a source I’d never given a moment’s thought. The song is “Goodbye Lucille #1” from 80’s British band “Prefab Sprout”. Written by Paddy McAloon, it’s definitely pop, and polished, but…well, like I said, just perfect, moving in surprising yet entirely natural ways, moving and sentimental yet straightforward, earnest with a lash of humor and off-the-cuff spontaneity.  The album is "Two Wheels Good" or "Steve McQueen" (you can find it under either title), and it's all good, but for my money this track is the standout.

This is just a tease, isn’t it? Maybe I’ll figure out how to put a streaming copy of the song on my blog so you all can enjoy. Otherwise, I’m sure if you’re so motivated you can figure something out. And if not, just take solace in the knowledge that these little surprises lay in wait for you, too.  

But it helps if you do a little digging and keep your ears open.

Nothin' doing

Okay, so I'll try my best to get something up here every week for the next month or so; it's important that I keep my fans happy and hungry.  We'll see; as some of you know, I am pretty busy for the month of September, driving around New England, meeting young musicians and their parents and helping to get them started with a violin, viola or cello.  I am going to try and not complain as much as I usually do about all the overtime, the nights on the road, the loss of a full weekend; not only does that not really help anything but also I am anticipating working just as hard, if not harder, for several months next year with my upcoming farming apprenticeship. Serves me right, I suppose.  

Anyway, knowing that this will be my last season doing this has lightened my spirits and allowed me to enjoy it more than I have the last few years, even if I still look forward to the end of the month and the easing of my schedule.  

You can see I have next to nothing in mind for this posting today; my sincere apologies.

One interesting thing I'd like to note:  I have a counter for this blog where I can track how many people visit this site, where they come from and how they got here.  Lately I've picked up a lot more visitors, especially international visitors; I can only assume that Blogger has done some work in making their blogs more visible to the greater world of the internet.  In particular, I have a lot of visitors who take a peek from a google search that brings up one of my postings.

Which brings me to the interesting (or not) thing:  a large percentage of these visitors got to me through a search on google for the following string: "blue hubbard squash".  Apparently there are a lot of people out there looking for more information on this topic, and have visited a brief posting I made last fall extolling the merits of this wonderful food and describing how I prepare it.  

Anyway, I found that interesting.  Thank you for your patience.