"Do I contradict myself? Very well, I contradict myself. I am vast. I contain multitudes." -Walt Whitman

:malicious user:

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

a long 'un, kiddies...

I've had a monumentally crappy day, involving (in separate incidents) lawyers, landlords, and a great outlay of money. Nevertheless, people depend on me for various things, and, being the incredibly (ir)responsible bloke that I am, I must oblige. So, with further ado, I present the recipe for one of the best damned hybrid sloppy joe/grilled cheese sandwiches you will ever encounter.

Notice I said 'with" further ado. Here's the ado.

A bunch o' years back, before I had access to the internet, I got my news through a medium consisting of ink on newsprint, ironically called "a newspaper." I found therein a fantastic recipe for an incredible sandwich that was a mutation of a grilled cheese sandwich and a sloppy joe, labeled as a Indiana Cheeseburger, or some such. (Did I just violate grammar by using "a" before "Indiana"?) I made them, people ate them, and there was much rejoicing in the land. Then I got married. Then we split, and I did not get possession of the recipe file. I couldn’t make Indiana Cheeseburgers anymore.

There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth throughout the land. Beating of breasts. Etc., etc., etc.

Some time later, I met angel (another blog's worth, at least). We lived many many many miles apart. Enough miles to fit several states between us. We communicated by email, IM, and snail mail, when we couldn’t be together. Down in angel-land, I came, I saw, I cooked.

But I did not cook Indiana Cheeseburgers, because I did not have the recipe.

One day, I got a package from angel. It contained a card, a letter, and various pieces of flotsam and jetsam that she had discovered whilst cleaning the kitchen drawers (she had a huge kitchen, with many drawers). One of these items was a newspaper, which had been saved for reasons no one could remember. And in the newspaper was a syndicated column by Jane and Michael Stern.

A light went on. A bell dinged. A jaw dropped.

I fired off an email to the Sterns, describing the Indiana Cheeseburger. The next day, the honorable Mr. Stern replied with the recipe that follows, which, I discovered, were indeed from a restaurant in Indiana, but were actually called:

Cheese-Br-Grr's


To make meat sauce:

1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbs vegetable oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 lb. ground beef
2 tbs. brown sugar
2 tsp. salt (I leave this out)
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. worcestershire sauce
5 - 10 drops Tabasco sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
1/2 - 1 cup tomato juice

Saute garlic in oil over medium heat in large skillet. As garlic browns, add onion and saute until soft. Stir in beef. Cook beef, loosening with fork, until it is browns. Drain off excess oil, then add remaining ingredients, adding tomato juice to create a sloppy but not soupy mixture. Simmer, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes. (I drop it in the slow cooker and let it sit there all day.) Yields enough for 4 cheese br-grrs.

To make a cheese br-grr:

2 slices of white bread
1 slice American cheese
1 - 2 tbs. butter or margarine

Spread meat sauce across a slice of bread. Top with slice of cheese, then another slice of bread. In skillet over medium-low heat, melt butter or margarine. Grill sandwich on both sides until golden brown.

Here's my take: I use a square cast-iron skillet, butter the bread, and drop it on the skillet. Then plop some meat mixture onto each slice, drop on the cheese, and put on the top layer of bread. Butter the top piece of bread, then flip 'em.

The American Heart Association won't condone this recipe, but damn are they good with a cup o' soup or fries.

There you go, Drew!

Other randomness: Meat Loaf's new album, Couldn't Have Said It Better, is bombastic, pompous, cliche'd, and predictable. And ya know what? It's great! I should have half the testosterone this guy has! No one does this over-the-top theatrical power rock with tongue in cheek quite like the big man. Stephen Trask contributes a track, which is just icing. If Bat Out of Hell II was just a little too Jim-Steinman-y, you'll be happy to know CHSIB is a happy medium. (If you like the theatrics of Meat Loaf but haven't heard of Trask, go get Hedwig and the Angry Inch; if you like the theatrics of Meat Loaf and have heard Trask, go see Hedwig. If you have no idea who Meat Loaf or Hedwig are, you're in the wrong room and your purchase price will be refunded.)

So down the road a piece there is a used bookstore which has this wonderful policy of leaving books outside for free ("take all you want, but read all you take"), and once a week or so I partake of their generosity. Right now I'm reading Neil Gaiman's American Gods, and it's the best thing I've read in that genre since his Neverwhere, which I read entirely over a series of homeless nights spent alternating between Barnes and Noble and the Hotel Nissan. Anyway, I also grabbed a book called Understanding Jazz. Let me tell ya, fair reader, I need a book called Understanding "Understanding Jazz", cos I don't have the slightest idea what this guy is talking about. Think I'll return that one to the free book pile.

I was hoping it would be a good bathroom book. Yes, I have books in the bathroom (an acquaintance of mine used to have a newspaper rack in his bathroom, fully stocked). These are usually books of such nature that an entry or two can be read in the time one might normally spend in the throne room. Such as? It Was a Dark and Stormy Night is perfect for this. But currently it is the above-maligned Understanding Jazz, and Stud Turkel's Hard Times. I have to tell you, if you think you have it bad, pick up this book. If your family has been in America for more than a generation or two, read a few pages of the accounts written here. Then shut up. Unless you have served or are serving in the military, shut the hell up. And then shut up again. Hell, if you're reading this, then shut up, because you obviously have electricity. Our grandparents (and/or parents) went through crap we can't imagine. Stop whining that your double latte is taking too long and you'll be late for work.

Shut. Up.

Angel's dad was a bomber pilot in WW II. When I met her, he had already been ravaged by Parkinson's disease to the point that he was bed-bound and rarely coherent. But members of his crew came and visited him from time to time, and there were framed newspaper articles about him in his cramped bedroom. Every time I entered his room, to say hello, or to help change his catheter or his diaper, I still felt like saluting. It pissed me off on Veteran's Day to know that people like this man were lying around forgotten, that their sacrifices were being taken for granted. Perhaps the beneficiaries of their work never realized what they had been given because the men and women who fought for those benefits did it with pride and without complaint. My own father did that too. I never knew a day of hunger or want, despite his being out of work sometimes, and me being one of six children.

Many of us are rabbits between the wheels. I hope that my dad and angel's dad can look at me with the same pride with which I see them.

To live between a rock and a hard place
In between time
Cruising in prime time
Soaking up the cathode rays


To live between the wars in our time
Living in real time
Holding the good time
Holding on to yesterdays


You know how that rabbit feels
Going under your speeding wheels
Bright images flashing by
Like windshields towards a fly
Frozen in the fatal climb
But the wheels of time
Just pass you by
Wheels can take you around
Wheels can cut you down
We can go from boom to bust
From dreams to a bowl of dust
We can fall from rockets' red glare
Down to "Brother can you spare..."
Another war
Another wasteland
And another lost generation


It slips between your hands like water
This living in real time
A dizzying lifetime
Reeling by on celluloid


Struck between the eyes
By the big-time world
Walking uneasy streets
Hiding beneath the sheets
Got to try and fill the void

-Neil Peart

Oh, and the answer to last week's extra credit problem: Yaz Pistachio was a character in Berkeley Breathed'sbloom county.
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i used to be disgusted. now i try to be amused.
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