Author Archives: RB3

Kitchen Impediment

Our kitchen, newly revamped, gussied up and painted, has a particular problem. It had the same problem before we went to all of the trouble of spiffing things up to sell. And to be honest, it’s partly our problem because we insist on using the kitchen as our primary living space. If you ask the wife, she’ll tell you it’s really just my problem, but really, it’s not that much of a problem for me. I mean, I’m just sitting there, doing my own thing, not bothering anybody, well, unless the Mrs walks by and I feel it’s necessary to handle the goods, by which I mean, anytime she gets within arms reach. What’s the point of being married to a hot, retired hippie chick if you don’t at least make some effort?

Got distracted there. Back to the issue at hand. We call it the long dog syndrome. Ole Sweet Pea, when he stretches out, spans a good portion of the wife’s cooking area. And being I am the guy that has taken him on long walks, thrown sticks that never seem to come back, helped him put the kibosh on rats hiding under things that he can’t get at, well he likes to lay at my feet. And stretch out, all the way to the stove. Which causes the Chef to mutter some choice words when trying to choreograph the morning breakfast. We just look at her with What? in our eyes and can’t figure out who put a gnat in her orange juice. One would think that her solution would be a shorter dog, but nope. Her stated opinion on dogs with short legs is “what’s the point”? I nudged Ole Pea and told him that maybe irritating the person who feeds him, might be a non-winning idea. He scooched his one leg in, maybe an inch or so, and that was his concession to compromise. This boy has had a habit of being a bit hard headed. I gave him a Pro Tip that the lady of the house is just as hard headed and not to push his luck. He told me not to worry, hippies are non violent. I barked out a laugh and told him that was 40 some years ago, and it never seemed to slow her down when her inner Skandi Viking got her blood up. He gave me a hard look and right after that, his legs got a lot shorter.

Running on Fumes

It started out, as most days do, with an early morning wake up and a quick check of the weather. These days, my 4am is what most people’s 7am is. The early morning is a quiet time, with occasionally just a whisper of wind. Living in Kansas, you treasure those still moments, and that also makes it the best time to see fireflies. Saw my first one of the season, last week, and he announced his presence with a glaring neon green flash right in front of my nose.

Of late, we’ve been looking for still mornings with a few clouds to add some zing to the sunrise. Smooth talker that I am, I badgered the Mrs into trying her own drone on for size. She was a bit apprehensive at first, but gamely strapped herself in for a little aerial photography. And today was perfect. A nice mix of clouds before sun up, to add some drama for picture taking.

I got her all set up and she pushed the Go Fly button and off her drone went. Next I sent my drone on the same Greet the Sun mission, but at 400 feet vs her 150 foot altitude. While I generally create any excuse to bump into my wife, head on collisions in mid air loses a bit on the romance scale. Things went well and we came back in the house to have a cup of tea and view our sun rise photos and post them on FaceBook. That’s what it’s for, isn’t it? One would think that should have set the tone for the rest of the day, however…

Her plan was to head to Ark City, pick up the grandkid and go shopping and maybe see some chicks and ducklings at Orschelns, a local farm store that coincidentally stocks farm stuff. Not always a given in these strange and modern times. My plan was to use a jig I made to mortise a door I was building. An hour of so later, I’m out in the shop, covered in sawdust and muttering curses at my mortising attempt, when I get a call from the Mrs. saying what a bust the trip turned out to be.

No grandkid because the people in charge of the grandkid were still drooling into their pillow and it’s now 10am. A 4 year old little girl answered the door and seemed to be the most level headed individual in the whole crazy house. She informed the Mrs that those concerned had not yet roused from their wild living induced slumbers and thanks for coming. It seems modern youths, 4 year old females excluded, don’t seem to know the value of keeping their word or even being awake when life comes knocking at the door.

I, on the other hand was having communication issues with my router and door frame material. Which caused me to go to Plan B and a few less angry wood chips to grind under my heel. After confirming Plan B was a go, I decided to change venues and mow the pasture before it rained again. The 2N Ford fired right up, after sitting all winter and we went to mowing. And of course, the mower deck decided that it was such a beautiful day, what say we throw a bearing and grind that outside blade gearing to dust. Why not, it was a bit breezy and my eyes were starting to itch, sounds like a good idea. Of course, I had a plan B for this too. You do have a plan B for your projects, don’t you? Mine’s a brush hog, what’s yours?

The lady of the house gets home, we bitch about our setbacks and have a fine lunch. During lunch, I mentioned that I needed more gas for the tractor, weed whip, chainsaw and things of that nature and also needed to pick up 3 pieces of black pipe from the boys at WISCO, our local industrial hardware purveyor. So we set off for town and ended up running into road construction on the North end of the entry to town. Kansas is famous for vague and confusing cone placement. New Mexico has the same problem, but we live in Kansas now. We get flagged to a stop, cool our heels and watch the flag lady get sunburned. A seemingly long time later, we get waved through to the other side, where the flag dude is waving for us to hustle it up. So I did, and failed to notice where the hell the lane we were supposed to drive in, was. So I improvised and picked what I thought was the right way to go. By the time I hit the first cone barrier, blocking my way, the Mrs helpfully mentions that maybe we weren’t supposed the be in this lane. I glanced in my review mirror and noticed all the rest of the sheep dutifully trundling along in the correct lane. Well, screw that, when you’ve chosen your path, it’s better to ask for forgiveness than beg for permission and stepped on the gas. I slalomed through 3 successive cone barriers of some very tight openings between the cones. I gotta say, when it comes to sticking a rampaging 7 foot wide Dodge Ram truck through a 6 and half foot opening and not bobbling either cone, I still got it.

We laughed all the way to the South end of town, non rule following rebels that we were, and stopped to put some gas in my 2 gas cans I had in the bed of the pickup. That went well until I slid the very full plastic gas containers, standard 5 gallon gas cans, sold all over the US of A, as approved for fuel storage and transport, to the front of the truck bed. I didn’t push hard and the second one just kissed the front of the truck and, wait for it…. busted. The bottom corner of the plastic gas can broke and started burbling highly flammable gas all over the back of my truck. Mom always told me there’d be days like today.

I jumped up into the truck and tipped the gushing gas can upside down. Which stopped the gushing part from leaking, much, but the spout end started dripping. Now, I’m not a guy to freak out over a five gallon gas can spilling its guts all over a gas pump that sits on top of a tank holding a couple thousand gallons of highly explosive fuel and insist that other people share in my misery. No sir, I like to keep and handle my troubles to myself. I made a command decision to get away from the apocalyptic scenario playing in my mind where the gas station and South end of town goes up in a whump, and take our ticking fumey time bomb next door to a very large parking lot. The Mrs, another cool head in a jam, suggested we get another gas can and transfer said loose fuel to an unbroken gas can, rather than leak 5 gallons of gas all over a hot muffler and go boom. I endorsed this as a winning idea and she trotted off to procure a brand new gas can. I stayed with the vehicle, to prevent Mr John Q Public from walking near by and flipping a cigarette in my local direction. From past singed experience, I had learned that fumes travel an amazingly long way on a hot tar surface. I phoned the Mrs and said maybe a couple gallons of water would be a good thing too. Roger.

She comes out, and I saw how she paused to see if the parking lot was on fire, and heads to the truck. I took one gallon of water and doused the bed of the truck and used the empty gallon jug for a funnel. Now, my idea of fun on an 88 degree day, is not pouring gasoline out of a broken gas can into a shiny new gas can in the middle of a public place. There was some spillage that added to the fun, but I got the gas from one can to another without going up in flames and noted that only about a gallon of fuel got loose. Took the other gallon of water and doused the bed of the truck. Pro Tip: Did you know that gasoline turns milky colored when mixed with water and floats on top, but will still burn?

The wife, in her authoritative mother voice, informed all in earshot that maybe a time out for me, the truck and gas fumes would be a good idea. I didn’t argue, this time, and so we took a walk around the shopping mart and grabbed a few more gallons of water. After a good 15 minutes to let the majority of the gasoline smell dissipate, headed back to meet our fate.

As we were at the checkout, I told the wife that if we notice a yellow orange glow coming from the parking lot and lots of screaming, just act nonchalant and head back in and grab some hotdogs, buns and mustard. Call it my plan B. Didn’t need it, so we doused the truck with a few more gallons of water and decided to leave now before the EPA and FEMA got involved. I told her to not buckle up when we drove off, just in case. Murphy musta been busy with someone else, because we were able to leave the parking lot and a somewhat large puddle of watery gas without any sort of kaboom.

Made it to the North end of town and WISCO, totally unsinged, and the boys got a laugh at my story of a soon to be Superfund Site near the South end of town. As we headed home, still not buckled in for luck, I mused that any gas spill you can walk away from, without your hair on fire, is a good one. On the way out of town, we waved to the road construction boys as their faces showed recognition of the crazy Dodge Ram Slalom contestant. The East German judge marked us down a couple of points for excessive gas fumes, but whatever, man.

Eggs and History

I’m sitting at the kitchen table, reading a fascinating web article on the Industrial Revolution and the premise of if the British had dropped the ball, how soon would it happen again. The consensus was, probably never.

My slightly svelte and totally delicious Mrs Chef, is whipping up breakfast as I bend her ear on my take of what I have read. She has a history degree from some hippie commune University on the Left Coast and we tend to have some interesting chats about historical things. I have always had a keen interest in the past, fostered by my Mother’s taste in books. She had a collection of Elizabethan murder mysteries that I burned through after mastering the mysterious black magic of making letters into words. The Weekly Reader was a hard core favorite of mine, and as soon as I got my first library card, pestered the Librarian with my eclectic tastes in reading material. I more than once was told that a particular book that I had requested was “beyond me” or not appropriate to my reading level. It was here, my disdain for authority bloomed. In fact, my mother had to intervene, more than once, by telling the blue haired nazi to “give him the damn book so he’ll shut up about it” or words to that effect. In later years I was the go-to guy for the Trivial Pursuit game.

All of which brings us to this morning’s conversation. After prattling on for a good 10 minutes, I took a breath and informed my wife that I recently awarded myself a Master’s of History and other odd stuff degree. I paused, looked at the wife and asked, “I can do that, right?” She responded, while sliding the eggs onto the toast, “I don’t see why not, when they’re handing out posthumous degrees and sh*t like that.” Alright then. It’s a done deal. Pass the rooster sauce, please.

Birthday Boy

Today is Sweet Pea’s 5th birthday. And as a dog that likes to live each day as the best day ever, he started early by eating some lizards and barfing all over the dining room floor in the wee hours of the night. It has become a spring ritual of sorts. First bunnies, lizards, wood rats or what have you of the warm season, over-indulge and spend the next few weeks with you and the alpha dog that opens the door to let you out, getting less sleep than optimal. No worries though, you’ve got a comfy couch and fluffy pillow to power nap on, and hit the afternoon like you mean it. The alpha chick that cleans up after him, had a bit of curl to her lip this morning. Consequently, dog and I will be spending the majority of our day communing with nature, for our health, dontchaknow. Scandi babes on the warpath are not to be trifled with.

Last day of April

I took my spiffy new drone up for a quick look at the neighborhood yesterday. According to the media pundits, the end times were upon us and I wanted one last flight before having to stand at the pearly gates and explain several questionable things I had done during my short 58 years on planet earth.

The weather was having a bi-polar moment, giving us highs in the low 40’s and lots of rain, but to the west of us 100 miles or so, they had a full out blizzard, with 14 to 20 inches of snow. You expect that kind of thing in Minnesota, Western Kansas, not so much. I guess since we did not have much of a winter this year, with February being warmer than March, Ma Nature decided to tie one on and make us pay for her hangover.

From the air, all the turned ground was awash with water, so I guess the farmers should be happy, unless you were one of those guys that kinda put off doing any dirt work till next week. Kansas has a habit of forgetting to stop raining some times. The tardy guys might have to wait until July to do what they should have done without hip boots.

The new drone was a joy to fly. I upgraded to a semi pro version of what I had and am happy with the results. This one has a better camera and can power through wind and still keep smiling. I couldn’t resist zooming Sweet Pea the dog as I brought it home. Ole Pea wanted to play tag with it, but I told him to sit and be a good boy, which he does so well.

Bunch of stuff

It’s been a while, and a bunch of stuff has happened since my last post. I know all of you have been wondering what’s up, all three of you, so here goes… The slightly svelte and totally delicious Mrs Chef has returned home. After 8 weeks of vacationing in the frozen north, she came to the conclusion that a firmer hand on the tiller, um, yeah, was needed to get me going, and get out of here.

 

About 15 minutes after she walked in the door, I handed her the wooden spoon and thereby transferred responsibility for the home and hearth, to her very competent hands. I had a beer to celebrate and she started cleaning. We have different ways to deal with stress, I guess. I thought I had run a pretty tight ship, but guys aren’t always aware of how to organize the silverware just so, so a bit of rejiggering went on, but I was more than happy to compromise on a whole host of issues.

While she was gone, I went and did something I had been wanting to do for quite some time. I had always been interested in photography and had muddled along with middle of the road cameras for many years. Back when I was still working for the school district, I took an interest in RC Aircraft and helped start an RC program at the middle school. Along the way, I made a big score at an auction of about a half dozen old-school RC Airplanes, which are great for hanging on the wall, but need a bit of work to get them in the air any time soon. Then the D word came into my life. Drones. Drones with high end cameras that made me think that it was time to up my game, as it were. And literally I did, up to 1800 feet. Got me a DJI Phantom 3 with a 2.7K HD Video camera, that can also take 12 Megapixel photos. It arrived, and after spending 4 frustrating hours fighting to get the controller and drone to talk to each other, I pulled a rabbit out of my hat at the end to complete the hand shake. After that, it was awesome. In fact, it turned into the classic tale of boy meets drone, boy loves drone, boy loses drone and is devastated. Boy then finds comfort in the propellers of another, better looking, but half priced drone. A modern love story, if there ever was one.

The day I took it up for the first time, we’d been having little thunderstorm cells popping up here and there. As I lifted off, a huge, horizon to horizon rainbow was strutting her stuff and I thought, man this is going to be a great video and, I, uh, forgot to push the record button and had to settle for a teeny little rainbow and had to skedaddle home before my new drone got rained on. The next few days were filled with prairie fires and sunsets. My inner 12 year old was having a grand old time, while I smiled indulgently and plotted my next flight. That got interrupted with a certain much missed female that came back home, and I told my inner 12 year old to take a hike while I reacquainted myself with my wife. Knowing him, he probably peaked.

Then came the day that you read about, but think will never happen to you. It was foggy at sunrise, with different layers of clouds breaking up and looking all dramatic and stuff. I thought I would just run the drone up and get a short video coming up through the cloud layers. There are horror stories of drones just flying away, but these were from sketchy characters, with tattoos and weird tastes in music. You can draw your own conclusions. I was a mature individual with more common sense than these guys could spell. What I didn’t reckon on was my inner 12 year old running the show, with predictable results. About the time it hit 400 feet in altitude, a very strong south wind took control of my little bitty drone and the last I had contact with it, it was 2 miles away and 2000 feet in altitude and rising. It was all over but the shouting, by that time. I won’t even mention me running down the road, pleading for my little drone to come home. The worst part was coming in the house and telling the wife “I’m an idiot.” Not a big surprise to her, I’m sure, but I was pretty bummed. They say the best lessons are the most painful ones. My take on that is, if you ain’t cheating you ain’t tryin’. I spent a few days moping around the house and then got ahold of the boys that sold me the drone. Told them my tale of “whoa!” dropped a few jokes on them, plus one or two pearls of wisdom, and made a deal for a better drone at half the price. My father would have been so proud. Didn’t tell the wife, because her idea of an idiot is someone that does the same stupid thing twice, thinking there will be different results.

The Fed Ex guy pulls into the driveway, I go out to meet him, the wife watches suspiciously from the window and the dog barks because that’s his job. Fed Ex guy asks if I am home in the mornings. I had seen him drive past our place about 10am, it was now 3 pm. I told him I am home all the time, being retired is like that. He gave me the guy look of “you lucky dog” and handed me my new drone. The reason he asked when I was home, is you have to sign for drones in a box. I signed my name, he said congratulations, I told him it’s not all beer and sports watching, I work for my wife now. He said there’s always a down side and drove off into the sunset. I walked into the house and explained how this time, I’m not gonna be an idiot. Uh huh, she said. I fetched my own beer that night. And spent another 2 stupid hours making the controller and drone say hi to each other.

The next day it rained all morning and Sweet Pea was moping around the house, because we gave him tick medicine and because he hates the rain. He finally starts to perk up around 1pm and I let him out and notice him sniffing something in the driveway. It looked like a dead squirrel at first, and I wondered why the wife hadn’t mentioned stepping over a dead squirrel when getting the mail. I looked again and saw that it’s a snapping turtle the dog is nosing. I run out and yell for him to get away from that thing. Luckily, the turtle had his head tucked in his shell and wasn’t the angry type. The dog decided he better listen to me and I hustled him into the house. We already have one big idiot living here, no need to add to that number with a dog playing Where’s Waldo with a snapping turtle and losing.

Spring Sunrise

One of the things I love about living on the prairie is the spring sunrise. Quite often the always-present breeze has dropped off to almost nothing, and now you can hear the Barred owl hooting softly, down in the draw to the South East, with a haunting echo. Tom Turkeys are calling behind our ridge, and since spring is the burning season, the sky is softened with smoke and brings brilliance to even the most boring sunrise.

From our house, you can look to the East, where the lay of the land drops some 40 feet down into the valley and we get a beautiful view from straight down our driveway, of the sun or moon rising. Often the view includes a couple White-tailed Deer, a slinking, thieving Coyote, even a Bobcat every now and then.

Sky on Fire 2
Sky on Fire 1
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It seems as soon as the sun has risen, the wind picks up, washing out all the quiet sounds, and you start squinting at the dust being blown into your face. And if you stand there long enough, sure as the sun shines, you’re gonna pick up some chigger bites. That ought to be a good enough reminder that you’ve got no business standing around, getting all dewy eyed over mean Mr. Sol. Daylight’s burning, and you best get busy if you want to get done here and get back home to Minnesota for the fishing opener and mosquito season. I’ll take mosquitos over chiggers any day. Summer up there, is only a couple of months long and the rest of the year is bug free. You’re not gonna get that kind of love, down here in Kansas. Now where’d I put that anti-itch cream again?

Sportin some green

This is the extent of my St. Patty’s Day celebration and the wearin’ o’ the green. The last few slurps of my Super Deluxe And Totally Awesome Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup. With chicken so tender, and broth so flavorful and zippy, so spicy in fact, you should be sweating, just looking at this spoonful of golden goodness.

I realize that not everybody has the time and inclination to whip up a batch of something that will improve your health and more than likely put a spring in your step. Seriously, if a 58 year old, white male from the frozen north, where only white food and jello were allowed to be eaten, can whip up something like this, you have no excuses. None. Sure, Helen Keller might want to think twice about attempting to work a gas stove and serrano peppers, but the rest of you? Get with the program. I expect to hear back from each and every one of you, on your successes and sure, a few failures of making this totally awesome soup. Sniveling that the soup is too hot is not an acceptable excuse for not trying. You are supposed to suffer in life, not get fat and collect welfare.

Pro Tip: When cutting jalapeno and serrano peppers, don’t, and I mean DON’T touch any part of your face or other sensitive areas of your body, ever. Once you get that stuff on your hands it’s there for life. You might want to talk to Helen about how to deal with a handicap, umm, better yet, just wear disposable gloves.

Second Pro Tip: While simmering the soup, your eyes and lips may experience some burning, similar to being pepper sprayed like some vagrant hippy at some totally useless protest. This is normal and not to be concerned about.

I return you now back to your humdrum and boring corned beef and cabbage, which I’m told, the Irish don’t even eat. Only us Yanks who thought we were stealing a swell idea for dressing up in green and acting stupid. Like we needed an excuse.

Warmer than normal

Ah spring. The Blue Jays are starting to courtship feed each other, instead of terrorizing the small birds and stealing their lunch money. Mourning Dove males have begun beating the snot out of their females. Birds of peace, dontcha know. And the Henbit is growing with such enthusiasm, it’s practically begging for a spritz of 2, 4-D.

We’re a month ahead of schedule this year. It’s been 80 degrees a couple of times already since late February and my fruit trees are in full bloom, right on time for a killing freeze that will insure that no plums or pears will be had this year. Just like last year and the year before. The stupid trees seem to be enthusiastic supporters of the earlier the better philosophy of blooming, and miss it every dang time. Ma Nature is a mean old crab.

Also, the whole Doves as symbols of peace is a load a bird poop from my point of view. Mourning Dove males start chatting up and pursuing females as soon as warmer temperatures start showing up. At first, it’s just stalking the female and being everywhere she is, along with the mysterious phone calls late at night. Soon they start bumping into and crowding their intended victims, and shortly after that, the pecking and wing beating begins. They end up hounding the females to the point that I’ve been tempted to open a home for abused females of the Dove tribe. I looked online for information from other birdie weirdos, to see if they are seeing the same things that I am in my backyard. Nope, nothin’. Just waxing lyrical about the gentle dove and cooing and, I don’t know. Am I supposed to believe these anonymous fan boys on the web, or my lying eyes?

Or maybe I have some weird strain of Muslim Mourning Doves. With everything wacky in the world today, it wouldn’t be a stretch of your cognitive processes to ponder the possibility. I’m dropping a lot of “p’s” on you there, so you know it’s got to be semi legit. It also occurred to me that living in the sticks, miles from anywhere, with only a dog and cat to talk to has skewed my rational thinking to the point of anthropomorphizing about birds that like to beat  their mates, maybe converting to a religion that endorses that kind of thing, claiming “no it’s a peaceful beating.” That was a mouthful and nah, I’m not seeing it. However, the old saying, “just cause you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you” seems to have a bit more validity as the daze days go by.

While the dog is good company, he really doesn’t hold up his end of the conversation when we get to chatting. Sure, he’ll howl on command and he likes singing with his wild cousins in the wee hours of the morning, but with me, nothing but a bit of whining when he hears the salted nut can getting opened. He’s got a thing for a big ugly nut I don’t care for. Last summer we gave him an antler that we found on our North pasture. Oh man, he was in disbelief that such a fine piece of happy good times was being offered to him, and that old question of “who’s a good boy” had just been answered. Sure, horse hooves and cat turds are fun and all, but an antler was the Skoal Wintergreen of a dog’s chewing pleasure. Immediately after getting it in his mouth, a new game was created. Rhino Tag, where the pointy end of the antler gets to tag you, most often in the uncomfortable zone, after which, checking to see if blood was drawn, you chase the dog around the kitchen table. Much growling and other such nonsense occurs until finally, the boom is lowered by She Who Must Be Obeyed. The dog and I retreat to our respective corners, but end up making faces at each other until one of us can’t stand it anymore and we are off again. Good times, good times until the rolling pin comes out.

Ole Sweet Pea had chewed his antler down to the nubs, and the other day, I had procured a new antler  and thought this would solve the “nothing to chew on but the cat” argument we’d been having. I called him over to me and whipped out the surprise from behind my back. He stood there, wide eyed but confused, holding the old one tight in his mouth and nosing the new one. He’s got a big mouth, when he yawns, his jaws open like a hippopotamus, with plenty of room for the new antler, with deer attached, but that only works when you are willing to unclench your teeth from your favorite chew toy. Being that I have opposable thumbs and all, I was able to conjure a way for him to solve his dilemma. Pry his stubborn double German jaws apart, grab out the old stub and insert new awesome chew toy.

The dog’s a bit thick headed to new concepts, but eventually he saw the method to my madness, as I shoved the new and unsullied antler into his pie hole. A few moments later The Brown Peril had a froth worked up as he went to town on his new favorite chewer. I asked him to smile for a picture, but yeah, whatever dude, I’m chewin’ here. It’s assumed that as soon as the boy has had his fill of gnawing, an impromptu game of full contact Rhino Tag will be initiated, when my back is turn and I’m bent over. You get extra points for sneak attacks and with no troll in the kitchen to rein us in, well, good times!

Soup and Sammich

Seeing as this is another food post, I guess I should make a separate category and call it The Prairie Food Companion. Where some lonely knucklehead cooks his wife’s recipes, thinking “how hard could it be” and damn he misses his girl. A thousand words of that, ought to put the kybosh on your insomnia issues.

I’m a soup and sammich kinda guy and have been that way for years. I think it all started with Mom making me PB and J’s for lunch and I guess the soup would have been Kool Aid. Work with me, people. I ate a lot of PB&J’s and drank a lot of Kool Aid. Then came the voice changes and thoughts of love… of pizza, not that icky girl stuff. I remember coming home from school, I think I was 14 or so. I had eaten lunch, and here it was 3 hours later, and I was ravenous. I was in the wrestling program and we had regular weigh ins. I was 158 pounds that fall and could eat you out of house and home and then wonder what’s for supper? So, I’d come home, turn on the tv, and Star Trek was boldly going somewhere in space, while I grabbed a pizza from the freezer and made myself an after school snack. Ate the whole thing and when Mom came home and made supper, I ate that whole thing, had seconds and about a half gallon of ice cream for dessert. I kept up that routine until I left home and discovered that cooking for yourself kinda sucked. Mom was glad she didn’t have to refinance the mortgage to feed me.

I turned back to my old love of soup and sammich, because you could hardly screw that up, but according to My Dad, whose favorite saying while I was growing up was “you could screw up a soup sandwich.” I think I proved him right more than a couple of times. Being on your own and wandering the wasteland of poor choices in life, where you ate whatever and suffered the consequences of eating whatever. Finally got my head screwed on straight and found my wife. She’d done time in California, so her cooking style was eclectic, but I didn’t care, somebody else was doing the cooking. She liked different foods, that I characterized at the time as sour, bland or ishy. By that, I mean she would eat plain yogurt, kiwi fruit and some other awful stuff I didn’t much care for. I was a flooring contractor back then, and all the fumes from new carpet and vinyl caused me to not have a real good sense of smell. And without smelling good, you end up not being able to taste subtle flavors. She was forced to make big tasting food for me while she nibbled on the sour, bland and ishy stuff she liked. We eventually ended up in New Mexico where chile peppers are on everything but your breakfast cereal. There was a restaurant that we went to quite often, they had an habanero pork loin that was fantastic and out of the 5 times I had it, the habaneros won twice. You had to bring your A game when eating there. It became a grudge match that I eventually triumphed over, but oh, it hurt so good.

Shortly after that we moved to Missouri, or as I like to call it, Misery. We discovered Alton Brown on the Food Network and it pretty much changed how we went about food. My wife went from some California-esk cooking to a somewhat svelte hottie chef. I took an interest in consultant cooking. Meaning I dreamed up something that I thought would taste good and helped her figure out how to make it. Consultants don’t have to do the dishes, it’s in the contract, fine print. She started upping her game and by the time we settled in Kansas, people came to know her as the “Food Lady.” My son’s friends loved to eat at our house, we’ve bribed people with her pies, and even catered several holiday feasts at her sister’s house.

And then… and then the somewhat svelte and totally hot Mrs Chef went back home to Minnesota. Oh, quit your blubbering, it was part of the plan. I have to keep telling myself that, over and over. All of which left me no longer consulting, but actually having to do the dishes. She left me recipes of things that I might make when I got tired of eating frozen pizza. Well, I’m still not tired of it, but I decided to try the chicken noodle soup. I mean, it’s soup, how hard could it be, right?

I had a package of frozen chicken breasts in the freezer and thought I would experiment with brines. We’ve used a wet brine on chicken and pork for years and with great success. Just recently, I found a dry brine that I tried on pork and really liked. I would wet brine two chicken breasts and dry brine one. The wet brine can be cold or boiled and then cooled. So, one was cold mixed with 1/4 cup of salt, pepper, cayenne, thyme and garlic powder. The next one got the same amounts and spices and boiled and then cooled. Many cooks recommend boiling to better integrate the salt. The last breast was dry brined with the same spices and amounts but for only 2 hours, uncovered and in the fridge. The first 2 were in the fridge overnight. The next day, I pulled the two breasts in wet brines out of their solutions and dried them off, not rinsing the breasts with water. When the dry brined breast was ready, I added some parmesan cheese and they all got grilled to 165 degrees. I plated them up and samples were consumed. I could not detect a difference in the wet brined chicken. They were highly seasoned with salt, because it had not been washed off, but dang good. The dry brined chicken, I ate. It was the winner, very moist and tasty. I would use less salt next time, but dry brining was the way to go.

Soup day. I got the wife’s recipe out and made chicken noodle soup. I used one of the remaining chicken breasts for the soup. Because the chicken was well salted, I found I didn’t need to use any more salt to season the soup. And once the soup was done, I took part of the other breast and made a sammich from my freshly done home made bread. If your mouth is not watering right now, something might be wrong with you, better see your Doctor. My only wish was that my dearly missing wife could taste this ambrosia I had created. In an ironic twist, I had been complaining to Mrs Hottie Chef that she was spicing up her soups so much that I couldn’t enjoy the rest of the flavors. The soup I had just created, had a jalapeño and a serrano pepper, along with a fist full of cayenne. I was sweating like I was in a sauna when I got done, and liked it. Guess the cook won’t be hearing anymore complaints about spices in her cooking. When I was buying the peppers at Wally World, invariably the checkout girls are never sure what that green thing is. This one was able to identify the jalapeño, but she was stumped on the other one. I told her it was a serrano pepper. She kinda frowned like she hadn’t heard that before.

“What’s it taste like” she asked?

I asked her if she had tasted a jalapeño? She had, but it was way too hot.

“Well” I said “the serrano is the thinner angrier cousin of the jalapeño.”

“Ooh!” she shuddered, “I couldn’t eat that.”

Because I am, at heart, a decent person and not prone to embarrassing people, I didn’t point out the irony of a hispanic girl telling me she couldn’t eat something from south of the border. Kids, you buy ‘em books and they just chew the covers. In this part of the world though, not the spicy covers.

Earlier, I had mentioned weighing 158 pound at 14 years old and eating everything but the shingles off the house. I am 58 and weighed myself this morning. 161 pounds. I can attribute that to eating less, not smoking, not doing drugs, drinking in moderation, eating real food, not junk food, avoiding sugar like it’s poison and missing Mrs Hottie Chef. If you are trying to drop some pounds, I recommend everything above, but you’ll have to find your own Hottie Chef to pine for.

Chicken Noodle Soup

1 chicken breast, cut up
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped bell pepper
1 or 2 jalapeños, chopped
Real men also throw in a serrano pepper, chopped, with seeds
1 quart of stock or broth
1 quart of water
1 teaspoon worcestershire
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon cayenne & paprika
A squirt of anchovy paste, don’t avoid this part, you’ll be sorry
1 teaspoon parsley
4 oz noodles

Sauté chicken, onion, celery, carrots, peppers a few minutes, then add broth and seasonings and simmer a few more minutes. Add noodles and simmer at least 10 minutes until noodles are tender.