Sunday, November 28, 2010

Choctaw Zweibelkuchen - a weekend recipe

Central Oklahoma has many citizens of German extraction, the language still spoken in Oklahoma households where German cuisine is still proudly served. Choctaw, Oklahoma, and the Old Germany Restaurant have hosted an Oklahoma version of Oktoberfest every September for the last twenty years.

Here is a Germanic recipe with a slight Okie modification. P.S. – this recipe originated in German wine country and, yes, grapes are now grown and wine being produced right here in central Oklahoma. Although great with wine, I can personally attest to the fact that this dish is also great with a cold Beck’s. Yes, southern comfort food sometimes has European origins.

Ingredients

• 16 strips bacon

• 4 large yellow onions, chopped

• 2 jalapeno peppers, roasted, deseeded, finely chopped

• 2 eggs plus 1 yolk

• ¾ cups sour cream

• Salt and pepper to taste

• Caraway seeds

• 2 -8 inch pastry shells half baked at 400 degrees

Directions

Fry bacon until crisp. Drain, crumble and set aside. Fry onions in oil until soft and yellow. Add beaten eggs, and yolk, chopped jalapeno pepper, sour cream, salt and pepper. Add crumbled bacon. Pour mixture into pie shells and sprinkle with caraway seeds. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes, or until centers are firm. Enjoy.

Eric'sWeb

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Old Bones

It’s a gray day here in Central Oklahoma, my two kitties, Buster and Buttercup, searching for even a scant patch of sunlight in which to bask. The gloom reminds me of a search I made many years ago that resulted in an eerie discovery.

A chill weekend in November found Gail, my ex, and I deep in a piney forest in southwest Arkansas. A graduate student in geology, my thesis concerned long forgotten mineral deposits in a sparsely populated corner of the universe. Years before the invention of GPS tracking devices, we relied on a very old Brunton compass to navigate through the stark loneliness of the southern Ouachita Mountains.

Tall trees, mostly pines, grew everywhere, covering the rolling terrain. While the Ouachitas aren’t high, rapid elevation changes of several hundred feet or more are common. We were moving slowly, picking our way through undergrowth as we traversed an east-west trending ridgeline, looking for an old lead mine hidden deep in the forest.

Prospectors searching for silver in the 1830’s had found lead and antimony instead. Last mined during the Civil War, the Davis Mine used horses and slave labor to mine lead for the Confederacy.

The mine is mostly forgotten and few accounts of its operation remain. Those that do, obliquely refer to abuse, torture and even murder of Union prisoners of war conscripted to work there. Some say ghosts still haunt it. When we crested a ridge and saw the barren pile of disturbed earth that was all that remained of the mine, we could feel their presence.

A scar, roughly a half-acre in size, was all that was left of the old mining operation. Vertical shafts had collapsed, or were filled with standing water. We soon began digging beautiful ore specimens out of the talus pile strewn with old bottles and broken timbers.

It was already past noon when we found the old mine, days short and our time there limited. We took photos and collected specimens, all the while feeling as if there was someone present other than ourselves. Rapt with discovery, I felt as if eyes were on my back. When I turned, I saw only fleeting shadows. The distinct sensation that we were disturbing a place where something terrible had happened was unmistakable. I felt it and so did Gail. When she dug up the remnants of a human skull, I knew we were disturbing a haunted place.

It was almost dark when we exited the forest to our old faded green Ford truck, waiting for us on a muddy dirt road. The portion of the skull we found was weathered from decades of lying at ground level. Not wishing to disturb it further, we buried it, voicing a few words, hoping they would somehow relieve the endless torment of some forgotten Union soldier’s soul.

When we returned to Fayetteville, I sent some of the ore samples to the U.S. Geological Survey in Denver for analysis. The results surprised me as I’m sure they would have the prospectors that discovered the Davis Mine. The ore wasn’t just lead and antimony; there was silver present and it was richer even than ore from the Comstock Lode.

Many years have passed since Gail and I felt the presence of ghosts at the remote Davis Mine, hidden deep in the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas. Today, as an overhead cloud cast a shadow on my kittens, sleeping on the hood of my car, I remembered in vivid detail.

Eric'sWeb

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Bayou Runs Through It

It's likely true that the lessons you learn as a teenager do as much to cement the real values in your life as anything else. That said, I spent many of my teenage years attending college in Monroe, Louisiana. Majoring in geology, I took many science courses but I also dabbled in English and the arts. Probably the most important course that I took at Northeast Louisiana was a lesson in life - a lesson in how to cope in a world filled with no family and mostly strangers.


When I attended NLSC, a gallon of gas cost thirty cents, or less. A Coke was a nickel and you could buy a pitcher of beer for a dollar. My favorite watering hole, along with that of most of the male population of the college was the Trianon. I wrote about the Trianon in my short story A Talk with Henry. Henry was a real person and I took much of the dialogue for the story from actual conversations.

I started college during summer school, at the tender age of seventeen. My Brother Jack and close friend Elwin also attended summer school the same year. The year was 1964. There was an air show at the airport that summer and a local pilot offered plane rides in his Beechcraft Bonanza for a penny a pound. Jack, Elwin and I all took our first ride in an airplane for a cost of less than five dollars.

A Bayou runs through the campus of what is now the University of Louisiana at Monroe. During summer, Bayou DeSiard is a hot spot for students. While not quite Florida, sun bathing students line the beach and it was, and is, a great place to meet members of the opposite sex. Jack, Elwin and I went swimming every day that semester and even light-skinned Eric had a tan before the end of summer.

At night, Jack, Elwin and I would haunt the Trianon. There were gambling machines, the walls black, lighting dim and music loud. We chugged lots of beer and discussed every important world issue there was. At summer's end, Jack and Elwin both flunked out, unable to return the next semester because of poor grades. I made it, passing, but barely.

Today, I can't remember a single course that I took that summer. As far as grades are concerned, I almost flunked my first semester in college, but now it doesn't seem so important. Looking back, I think that I probably aced the part of my life that was most significant at the time.

Eric'sWeb

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Joy's Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake with Mocha Butter Frosting

Marilyn’s mother Joy had seven children. When her husband died in his early forties, she went to work to feed and support them, first as a waitress and later, owning her own café. None of her children ever went hungry and I quickly realized during the short time I knew her that she was a wonderful cook. Former customers of Joy’s café still remember her home-made cakes and pies. Here is one of her personal favorites.

Ingredients

• 2 cups flour
• 4 tbsp cocoa
• 1 cup sugar
• 1 cup water
• 1 ½ tsp baking soda
• ½ tsp salt
• 1 ½ tsp baking powder
• 2 tsp vanilla
• 1 cup mayonnaise

Directions

Combine dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Stir in mayonnaise, water and vanilla. Mix well and pour into two 9” greased and floured layer cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Spread with mocha butter frosting.

Mocha Butter Frosting

Ingredients

• 1/3 cup butter
• 4 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
• 1 egg yolk
• 1 ½ tsp vanilla
• 2 tbsp light cream
• ¼ cup cocoa
• ½ tsp instant coffee

Directions

Cream the butter, adding half the sugar, cocoa and all of the instant coffee until well blended. Beat in egg yolk and vanilla. Blend in remaining sugar and cocoa, adding enough cream to bring the frosting to spreadable consistency.

Eric'sWeb