Bar Life & Lobster Looping

In the past weeks, I’ve had the chance to visit my two favorite bars. Zeno’s, in State College and below street-level, is tobacco-toned, beer-rich, and faultlessly pub-like. Zeno’s makes you feel like you have something interesting to say—maybe to yourself, maybe to the forensic anthropologist beside you—or it makes you feel that you have nothing to say at all, because taking it all in seems more intelligent still.

The Flora-Bama on, you guessed it, the Florida-Alabama line is wholly other: an encampment of shacks, tents, and stages sutured together on the white Alabama sand. Bras drape the rafters, high-alcohol Bushwackers abound, and there is no reason to think about anything except the Royal Reds, the honky-tonk cover band, and the few perfect moments eked out amid the Flora-Bama’s grit and grime.

To add to the raucous perfection, the Bama has installed a new attraction: two you-catch-‘em-we-cook-‘em Lobster Zone machines, modified versions of the stuffed-animal claw game. For two bucks, you get one try to position and drop towards a tasty crustacean—some with a $10 bill rubbed-banded to one delicious claw. I chose the lobster in the front, right corner and looped him, but, sadly and somewhat expectedly, he wriggled from the giant grab.

My husband always defines his favorite bars as places where judges are sitting with janitors—at either of these, you likely to find table-fulls of wild match-ups and wild stories to boot. At the Flora-Bama don’t be shocked if the judges are the ones in bare feet!


Funds for Food Writing?

As my first draft of SCRATCH is complete, I am applying for an artist’s grant from Chattanooga’s Create Here to work on its completion. I feel confident in my project and asked two great resources—my fellow-MFA, editor Danielle Ibister and my former professor, celebrated poet Julia Kasdorf—to read my manuscript and offer references for the grant application. They both agreed!

With these great reference-writers on board, I am now considering my needs in relation to the grant and find myself somehow stumped by the requested budget list. For what, specifically, am I requesting the money? What are the tools of my trade? Unlike visual artists, I don’t need a kiln, paints, or photo-processing chemicals. But I do need a new range. The stove/oven in our kitchen—my studio—is irregular, problematic. The oven is off-temperature and the burners are touchy and flicker off when asked to offer low-flame; I don’t have an age on the unit, but I would guess that it’s thirty years old and certainly not easy to construct accurate recipes by. Still, a range seems an odd artist’s request, somehow, and, even more odd, to list grocery items.

My more standard requests: I need a good printer/copier/fax unit as well as funds for accompanying food photography—juicy, hot pictures. Lastly, I have an artist in mind—a friend of my sister—who I would like to create some scratchy-cool food illustrations—my Ralph Stedman.

I am terribly optimistic regarding the grant, believing that I offer a significant and interesting project. And I certainly stand behind in my from-scratch-for-all premise. Hopefully, mid-April, I’ll get cookin’ on perfecting my recipes—on a shiny, temperature-accurate range!

Shitake Success

We had our first growth on our shitake log! I’m thrilled! After waiting (and waiting, nine months of waiting) for a sign of life, Chris moved the log to a location where it would get more rain water. Presto! Mushrooms in March!
I love the growth of mushrooms—from stub-ling to substantial overnight. Perfect for the impatient. And one of my favorite foods to boot. Tonight, assuming their caps have popped, I will harvest the first of them and sauté them in butter.

The caps had, indeed, popped to parasols on many of the shitakes, so I harvested them with a paring knife (is this the best means?) and proudly carried them to the cutting board in a kitchen towel. It was serene, somehow, to harvest and eat them within the same hour.
Unlike our local grocery’s shitakes which are often tough, these Chevalier shitakes were extraordinarily tender and more subtle in flavor, soft all-around. See them here in the skillet and, following, plated with our meatloaf, Dijon mashed potatoes, and peas with bacon and shallot.