Friday, May 15, 2015

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

B.B. King has left the building. I remember standing before the enormous statue of him right outside of Memphis and later going into his club on Beale Street (although he wasn't playing). The man had presence, even when he wasn't around. Suffice to say, The Thrill is Gone.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Charlie Sexton.

Now Playing: The Kinks Low Budget
Chicken Ranch Central

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The nostalgia of Dewberry pie

On the route I drive to take the kids to school there is a pasture where the barbed wire fence is overgrown with dewberry vines. I first noticed this a little more than a month ago, as first bunches of white flowers appeared alongside the fence and road, followed some weeks later by bright red (unripe) berries. Anyone growing up in semi-rural Texas in the '70s or '80s will remember that dewberries were a found treasure, purple-black bursts of tart sweetness that grew everywhere and were free for the taking. As a child, I remember going out into bramble-filled pastures with my grandmother (and presumably the rest of the family as well) filling up buckets with dewberries while getting scratched up by those nasty little thorns. We always wore boots and carried long sticks because of the potential for snakes. Both of my grandmothers would bake dewberry pies that were magnificent. I cannot remember them ever baking any other kind of pie--well, maybe lemon meringue, but as I didn't like lemon meringue, that doesn't count. The tart/sweet balance was fantastic, and I would eat as much of those pies as I could get away with. One grandmother always baked them with a crust lattice on top, the other baked them open-faced. I didn't care--I ate both types without prejudice. The one thing I didn't like was the crunchiness of the seeds that filled said pies. What can I say? I could be dumb as a kid.

So, as these red, unripe dewberries turned a tempting black, the notion that I should pick some took root in my mind. Every day I drove past, with more and more berries ripening... and every day I forgot by the time evening rolled around. Until last Saturday, when I saw half a dozen cars parked alongside of the road with twice as many people out there, filling up buckets with dewberries. "I've been thinking about doing that very thing!" I shouted out my car window. They laughed, holding up their buckets, and said there was plenty for everyone.

The next day I, along with Monkey Girl--Fairy Girl and Bug declining to participate--headed out to the dewberry patch with boots and poles in hand. Monkey Girl was somewhat wary at first, but after trying one, she ended up eating as many dewberries as she bagged. Seriously, she downed a bunch of them. Alas, the crowd from the day before got all the low-hanging fruit, so to speak. There were many ripe dewberries left, true, but a large percentage were small and undersized. The largest, most appealing berries lay on the other side of the fence, but after discovering first-hand that the fence had an electrified livestock line (that was indeed hot) we both decided those berries were just fine where they were. All told, we gathered almost three quarts of dewberries for half an hour's work. Not as many as I'd hoped, but a pretty good return rate, given the circumstances.

Someday, I'd like to make some homemade dewberry wine as my family had done years ago, but my homebrew equipment isn't set up yet, and we didn't have enough berries to even start. So pies it was. Except, I didn't have the recipe either of my grandmothers had used. So I Googled. There were recipes there that looked interesting, but were far more complex than what I knew my grandmothers made. I finally settled on one that was a simple mix of berries, butter, sugar, water and thickener (flour). This recipe had issues, however. After baking the allotted time, the dewberry pie was more soup than anything else--not what I wanted. So after an emergency application of hastily-bought tapioca flour and additional cook time, I ended up with two open-face, passable dewberry pies.

They weren't exactly right, but that familiar dewberry tartness was there, that familiar crunchy texture from seeds that I so hated as a kid. It was almost like the food critic scene from Ratatouille. Almost. Not quite. For one, it was too sweet. Too much sugar. I'll cut back on that next time. Also, the overall texture was more stratified than consistent throughout--which I attribute to the early mishap with thickener. But I was close. It was familiar. I'd forgotten how much I missed dewberry pie. The kids? Well, they were like me at that age, devouring as much as they could.

I've got a couple of blackberry plants growing in the back yard, and they are growing well--even setting a few small berries this year. Next year might yield a decent crop. But my experience with blackberries (which admittedly isn't extensive) is more sweet than flavorful. We'll see. But if these blackberry plants cannot match the in-your-face flavor punch of the humble dewberry, I know where I can harvest some vines for transplant.

Now Playing: The Kinks Kriminally Rare
Chicken Ranch Central

Friday, May 08, 2015

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

Remember back when Charlie Sexton was a national solo star instead of a go-to backing band and session guitarist? Success takes many forms, but if you blinked, you may have missed "Beat's So Lonely."

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Pinkard and Bowden.

Now Playing: The Kinks The Road
Chicken Ranch Central

Friday, May 01, 2015

Friday Night Videos

Pinkard and Bowden are great. If you're not familiar with them, they're professional songwriters with an impressive number of hit songs between them. But once they started collaborating, everything they did was shamelessly silly. I had their fantastic compilation, "Gettin Stupid," until I foolishly let someone borrow it and never saw it again. Now, all of their albums are out of print and quite costly to get used. The video for their song "I Lobster But Never Flounder" shows once again that country music just did not get the whole video concept, but it is amusing nonetheless. And this is simply the punniest fish song this side of Kip Adotta's "Wet Dream."

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Now Playing: The Kinks Schoolboys in Disgrace
Chicken Ranch Central

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Happy San Jacinto Day!

On this date in 1836, Texas forces under the command of General Sam Houston defeated the army of Santa Anna in a surprise attack along the banks of the San Jacinto River near present-day Houston. The complete destruction of the Mexican army secured independence for Texas. Many Texans know that a significant credit to the victory is due to Emily Morgan, a mixed-race indentured servant of reputed beauty. She was captured by the Mexican army and Santa Anna became enamoured with her. Santa Anna, eager to bed her, ordered his army to encamp along the banks of the San Jacinto River over the objections of his generals who argued the position was indefensible. Thus was Sam Houston able to catch Santa Anna with his pants down--literally. The song "Yellow Rose of Texas" is specifically about Emily Morgan, as mixed-race people of the time were often referred to as "yellow." I'm partial to the late Stan Freberg's version, myself, despite his mispronunciation of "Rio Grande."

People sometimes wonder when I insist the story of La Grange's Chicken Ranch brothel is very much that of Texas itself, and I stand by that assertion. But as you can see, the republic (and by extension, state) of Texas owes its very existence, at least in part, to illicit sex. It's literally embedded in the cultural fabric from day one. Amazing what history isn't taught in history class!

Now Playing: The Kinks Did Ya
Chicken Ranch Central

Monday, April 20, 2015

Weekend in review (or, a study in self-destruction)

So, Saturday I did not get to sleep late on my one day of the week I normally get to do so, on account of Bug having a make up baseball game that morning. The game the night before had been rained out by the storms that rolled through, and Saturday morning was the only alternative as more rain was predicted for the other options. Naturally, when we get there it turns out the Orioles win by default, as the opponent didn't bother to show up. There were two other teams there with defaults as well, so since everyone was up early and in uniform, the coaches combined the three teams into two and held a scrimmage. I'm happy to report that Bug hit a single off the other side's starting pitcher, and ultimately scored the only run for his side. Yay! Coaches noticed that he's gotten hits in back-to-back games as well, which is always good.

Back home, I tackled some much over-due yard work. I planted two caerulea passion flowers (blue) and three caerulea var. Constance Eliott (white), which I'd grown from cuttings taken from the old house. Caerulea are known for producing pretty, bright orange fruit with deep red arils inside. The edible fruit looks delicious but is so bland as to be offensive. My particular Constance Eliott actually produces fruit with a mild sweetness, so while it's still a long way from being "good" it is at least palatable. So I'm happy I've been able to perpetuate them. Unfortunately, I'd grown the cuttings in plastic soda bottles, and to get them out for planting I had to cut them. Using a pocket knife to slice through the plastic, I slipped twice and gashed my left thumb and ring finger pretty good. You'd be surprised how much little cuts like that bleed and hurt. For first aid, I had my pick of Angry Birds and Frozen Band-Aids. Such is my life.

Once the bleeding stopped, I planted out the Li jujube and Austin pomegranate. Both of these went in without any significant bodily injury, although the clouds abruptly burned off and the sun made my back yard an instant sauna about halfway through the enterprise.

Then I went to work on the studio, which, were my name King Sisyphus, would be my personal boulder. The Wife had the studio booked all day Sunday, so I went to work on detail work that would give it a more completed look. I installed vintage-style track lighting on the ceiling, casing on the entry window and about half the crown molding (with the requisite wood puttying as well). I'd meant to tackle the three north windows as well, but didn't get around to them. That list may not sound like a lot, but it kept me working until midnight, with the exception of a one-hour break to shower and take the kids to Herbert's Tacos for dinner. I have to say the studio is rounding into final form, and will look damn impressive once all is said and done (the flaws and corners cut are glaring to me, but I am assured the casual observer won't ever notice). The Wife is growing more giddy, as the aesthetics are turning out to exceed what she'd envisioned. Which is good, because the goal has always been to give the studio a luxurious feel, so that clients never for a second feel they've stepped into a converted garage.

Naturally, I wrapped up the evening's work by spraining my right wrist. I know, right? Whilst cleaning up to make the studio usable for the next day's bookings, I had my left arm filled with tools and other stuff so I reached with my right to unplug the drill from the wall socket. I'm still not clear how I managed it, but when I pulled, my wrist popped and the plug remained in the socket. Wow. Now any lateral stress--picking up, lifting, pushing--generates an impressive amount of pain. Not enough to incapacitate, but enough to get my attention. Fortunately, it's faded significantly now (otherwise I wouldn't be writing this) but it's still reminding me to take it slow. Considering how much I'm using table, band, jig and chain saws of late, I suppose I should be happy that I still have a wrist to sprain.

Next up: More studio work plus planting the pindo palm and loquat tree!

Now Playing: Stevie Ray Vaughan The Real Deal: Greatest Hits Vol. 2
Chicken Ranch Central

Friday, April 17, 2015

Friday Night Videos

In honor of Stevie Ray Vaughan getting his much-deserved induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and seeing as how we've had some pretty serious thunderstorms blow through the state these last few days whilst dropping not-insignificant amounts of rain on us, I present to you Texas Flood.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Stan Freberg.

Now Playing: Prince The Black Album
Chicken Ranch Central