Friday, April 29, 2016

Kitchen Witch Red Beans

Kitchen Witch Red Beans
Thanks for asking; here’s what I do:
The day before, I put on a pound of Camellia brand dried red kidney beans (2 ½ cups) to soak 12 hours at least, preferably over night; I use 3 quarts of water at least for the soaking. After soaking, I throw the soaking water away and rinse the beans in a colander with cold water; then I put the beans in a heavy bottom pot on the stovetop, on medium heat with 6 cups of water and bring up  to a boil. When they reach the boiling point, I transfer them (and the hot hot water) to a Crockpot and let them cook, covered on the ‘low’ setting, all day while I’m at work, or all night while I’m asleep; what’s that, 6-8 hours? If the beans set up some foam in the ‘up to boiling’ stage, just skim the foam off and toss it; however make sure that you keep the 6 cups of hot hot water.
When I get back to the beans I give them a good good stir aiming to break some of them up to form that good good gravy. Meanwhile I sauté 2 cups of diced onion in 2 ounces of vegetable oil, up with 6 ounces of Field Roast brand chipotle sausage, also (a larger)diced; this product has the advantage of having enough sodium, spices and heat to where I virtually need no other seasonings.
When the onions are sautéed translucent and the sausage is well heated (it’s already at a cooked stage when you buy it), I mix them in with the beans and serve them with crusty French bread over cooked rice (I only use brown rice, but you can use whatever rice you like). AND don’t forget the hot pepper sauce on the side (we like Crystal or Louisiana brands). Serves 6-8, leftovers are yummy and the rest freezes well.
Now, you can gussy the dish up with other ingredients; but, to me that’s like putting a suit on a monkey: you can certainly do it, but why would you want to? Advice? Try it my way first before you decide to confuse the dish. Thank you, Philipe

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Princess Pinky and the Flatbush Kid Chapter 1

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
 Princess Pinky and the Flatbush Kid
Freedom’s Finale
            Almost as a punishment at the nursing home, the ‘Bingo no-shows’ are wheeled into the dining room to watch the cooking channel. The blind, the deaf, the frail of mind and the stubborn of spirit, handed melamine cups of weak, tepid coffee or plastic glasses of acidic juice/water complete with hinged straw. By coincidence, two mismatched miscreants were seated side by side facing the seventy-inch flat screen. Her hands were in her lap, neatly dressed and quite proper; her eyes were dim and unfocused. He was wearing a faded tee shirt emblazoned Brooklyn, jeans with the knees out, a three day growth of beard and a petulant attitude. Both were well past their prime in age.
            “The nerve of these guys” he opined, “just ‘cause you don’t wanna play some old lady’s game they tear you away from whadever ya doin’ and make you watch this crappola-- no offense--pardon my French, Lady.
            “Christ on a crutch!” he erupted “They feed us slop that makes MacDonald’s look like a friggin’ celebrity joint and then they make us watch goor-met stuff being hatched just outside of our reach! Sadism is what I calls it!
            “Say, you’re new here ar’ntcha? Well, ya better learn the ropes quick if you don’t wanna ‘game over’, if you get my drift….. whatcha name Honey?”
            The not quite elderly, trim and neat woman turned and said quietly “I am M-M-Missus. P-P-P-Prinella P-Pinkers and I am p-pleased to m-meet you, I’m sure,M-M-Mister……”
            “Oh, hey, the name’s Billy Macula but everybody around here calls me Flatbush ‘cause that’s where I’m from, you know Flatbush? Brooklyn? Nostrand Avenue? You know it? Close to the bridge, it’s changed, sure, but Jeeze, I had some swell times comin’ up there. I miss them times too, ya know?
            “So Pinky, you mind if I call you Pinky? Swell- listen- I ain’t kidding when I’m tellin’ you that smart money gets the layout before they opens their mouth, see; and it’s good to have a friend on the inside what’s gonna give you the lowdown before there’s a showdown, capeesh?”
            “T-Thank you, I’m sure M-Mister Bush b-but…….”
            “Ah, don’t mention it, glad to do it, glad to do it; say, you’re all right with me Pinky!” Here he turned and winked as a more than conspiratory connection was established, at least in his mind. “Okay, there are five floors in this bird house: bottom floor: offices, laundry, break rooms and dining room, where we sit which doubles as a TV room, bingo and Sunday church go to meeting -- if one is so inclined. And I, for one, ain’t.
            “Second and third floor is our living hell quarters and the fourth floor is the infirmary. The fifth floor is for the loonies and anyone who gives them trouble: you speak outa line and Bam!, they jab a needle in you and poof, you do a Houdini. You don’t want to go to the fifth floor—one: nobody hears from you again and – two: the cigarettes are more pricey; down here, they’re four for a buck, up there you only get three. Ya gotta conserve your money here-- they only give you thirty eight bucks a month as you well know-- stick with me kid, I’ll keep you on the straight and narrow.
            “Next: there are three workin’ stiff shifts that you have to watch out for; the first is the Monday through Friday day shift, that’s the best one where there’s some kind of human milk of kindness, plus the bosses are around. Second: the night shift where you’re totally ignored unless you’re havin’ the epilepsy, bleedin’ to death or takin’ a leak in the hallway. And then there’s the worse and worser: weekend shifts AND the night shift on the weekends. Here’s where you could die of thirst, strangulation or a broken heart and nobody would notice till rigger-mautis sets in.
Now pinky, see that big guy over there pickin’ his bazoo ? Well that’s……….”
The Flatbush Kid talked for hours not slowing, waiting for a response or contribution to the conversation and ‘Princess Pinky’ (as she became to him) sat enthralled as the Kid wove tall tales, gossip, hearsay, rumor and conjecture around her consciousness like gossamer clouds; his memory, imagination and articulation astounded her, and when at times she rose to the occasion to question his information, he would grin lopsidedly, give her that wink and “hadja that time, didn’t I Pinky?” or “Hard to believe, ain’t it, Princess?” Needless to say, they became inseparable…..
            One day the Kid turns to the Princess and says, “Ya know what Pinky, the other night after you went back to your room, I was thinking, ya know?
            “I was thinking how what the whole point of livin’ this long is, see? Yer friends, family, loved ones, they die; you survive being poor, being rich, sickness, health--- you wake up in the morning with pains----being old hurts!-- you lose your freedom, your strength leaves you and all you have to show for making it this far is a single bed in a ‘facility’ with nothing more exciting than Bingo on Thursday night and The Golden Girls on TV, if you can stay awake long enough; sheesh, if I didn’t have my choppers, they’d be giving me baby food for dinner!
            “And then I come down to breakfast and I see you waiting at ‘our’ table, smellin’ fresh and looking real fine. I swear Pinky, I don’t know what you see in this old wreck, but you…. you make my life worthwhile and, and, what I’m trying to say Pinky is that you’re the most important person in the world to me now, and I’m thankful for all the crappola that I been through just to sit here with you”
            At that point the Princess’ eyes cleared and she looked at The Kid, as if into his soul. “Why Sir”, she said with a shy smile “are you flirting with me?”

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Stormy Weather

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Almost Famous Me
Ready for My Close-up
I’ve been writing for Where Y’at for nigh on to sixteen years, every month I post my article to my blog. Two hundred-eighty-four blog posts later and it’s like being the homeliest hooker haunting Harrah’s; I could be wearing a sandwich board that says “Free Beer and a Hand Job!” and still not attract attention. You may have guessed, I’m looking for a little validation here. As for Girlfriend (Tales from the Quarter) and I expressing ourselves in that great metropolitan newsprint; we regularly make deadlines and miss meetings through thin and thinner; we’ve watched this magazine go through growing pains and staffing changes, we’ve seen it rise like the Phoenix after (un)natural disasters to take its place among the best and, more importantly, recognized publications in the country. Every issue, we wait toward the rear of the issue like grandparents on the back porch, ready to spin yarns for your amusement and edification.
 Enough about me, what about me? I live in a spacious half double in a great neighborhood with an exceptional landlord and gifted neighbors. I have a studio for painting, a piano in the living room, a woman that loves me and a passel of critters. I am owner (with Girlfriend) of one of the few cookbook shops in the good old U. S of A. I have healthcare, pay taxes, visit the infirm and put up with public stupidity on a regular basis; it comes with the turf. There’s drinking in the saloons (Liuzza’s by the Track), necking in the parlor, bread in the oven and yet… I pine.
I suffer, Lord how I suffer, with artist’s angst; I worry, Lord how I worry, about the economy (my economy), politics, my waistline and cash flow. I’m concerned, oh LORD, so concerned, about my planet, diet and the world that I’ll be leaving to my grandkids.
I’m at the age now (and who isn’t?) when I obsess about closure; meaning, all the people that I have wronged and all the (perceived) wrong that I have been dealt. Will there ever be closure? Or, will I shuffle off this mortal coil having all these loose ends in my life and these countless cosmic creature questions left unanswered; e.g.: what did women put in the back pockets of their jeans before the advent of cell phones? Or, why is it whenever I start to think of heavy stuff, I immediately begin with jokes and stupid thoughts? And then vacillation: another demon that I wrestle with. My life is full of walking contradictions, moving violations, irresistible forces and immovable objects; however, in July those points are moot.
One thing that July (bitch)slaps us with is… we’re right into another frigging hurricane season! Yep, yessir and yesindeedie folks, all your (and my) troubles will be so far away you’ll believe that you were another person compared to the person you will be if another big one hits. Margaret Orr will be having kittens and conniptions, tipsy Bob Breck will come out of retirement; they’ll have you full of so much paranoia that you’ll pee in your pants and set your hair on fire! Spaghetti models, Exact Casts, VIPIR predictions and Radar Dopplers will make your stomach churn like curdled cream and your privates shrivel into raisinettes. .
Have problems with gentrification, crime, poverty and lack of infrastructure? Shucks, ain’t nothing that fifteen feet of water can’t cure! Rent’s too high, job sucks, you and squeezy ain’t getting along? Get stuck in thirty-six hours of traffic jam trying to get out of here or wait to get rescued from your rooftop; THAT will put things in perspective, you betcha Buddy.
I know, I know, we’ve been through storms before; pick up some extra batteries and a case of spring water; crackers, cheese, a Swiss Army knife and a bottle (or three) of old vine Zinfandel. We’ll be okay. We’ll throw that piece of French bread that we got at St. Joseph’s Altar out the back window and it’ll pass us by; why look at last year: nothing! Or not. We just might have the mother of all weather muggings. How do we know? We don’t.
Personally, I’ve given up following the weather forecasters; I find the only difference between them and me is that they get paid to be wrong. Here on the back porch we look to the clouds, check if our joints ache and wander down to the river to see if it’s running in reverse. We’ll know by the way that the tourists suddenly disappear and the birds and squirrels start hiding, then we may turn on the TV, check if the fridge is sufficiently cleared out and decide whether we have a couple extra grand to spend on evacuation, or a couple of hundred to hunker down with. We’ll ask our neighbors what they’ll do, batten down the hatches or get the hell out of Dodge. And as usual I’ll keep good notes and records of what goes down this time around. Did you know that we stayed six days after Katrina? It’s in the blog or in the Where Y’at archives.  
Being a writer who is pretty much a combination chronicler, philosopher, story teller, advice giver and smart ass, I get to do this every month; I’m a very fortunate fellow. So here’s this month’s question: do you believe someone who swears they always tell the truth or the person who tells you that they lie all the time? Think about it. Happy storm season.