I do not fear dog bowl. Say it again, mantra style. I do not fear dog bowl!
For those of us who have iron-gut, there is an implicit challenge. Enjoy the mixture, revel in the insanity.
Wait, Pal. What’s dog bowl?
Exactly what it implies–a bunch of leftovers and odds-and-ends that don’t really go together, but you know the dog would enjoy. The first dog bowl, at least in modern Edison lore, consisted of Thai food leftovers (2 dishes) mac ‘n cheese, goldfish and half-a-cheeseburger. It was delicious in its own weird way. To me, anyone who can stomach mayonnaise-peanut better sandwiches (yes, they exist) can handle dog bowl.
My friend once consumed cinnamon french toast, a seafood omelet and chocolate milkshake in one breakfast sitting. Go ahead, let that culinary hurricane sink in. The only way to make that one weirder would be to throw in lime Jell-O with some tapenade-asparagus. Did he get sick? No, but his brother was almost nauseous watching him eat.
We all get our inspiration (and revulsion) somewhere. Man-hash was just dog bowl with a little forethought and a skillet. Whenever my wife sees me working on dog bowl, she walks the other day. I offer some to the kids, no thanks. But my son’s gaze lingers, his curiosity piqued. He, like me, is of the Iron-gut Clan. And he can handle spicier South Indian food than I can. So there may come a time.
Since I’m a writer who writes about stuff (lotsa stuff) I offer this: Start throwing things together–characters, objects, places. The combination may be unworkable or toxic, or now and then produce something unexpectedly awesome. This weird world calls for a little zany. Taking a stroll through the loud, vibrant circus carries no obligation to move forward with it. Plus, you never know.
Very few rational people would follow a real-life Jack Sparrow. But he sure is fun to listen to.
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun
–Time, by Pink Floyd
I have a couple irrational fears in my knapsack–plus a few that aren’t so irrational. My recent 42nd birthday was neither a panic moment nor a boot in the arse, but it did seem to herald middle age. So, again (with feeling): What have I done with my life?
When I look around my house–and it is undoubtedly messy–the first part of the answer is easy (responsible for 85% of the mess), two great kids. Happy, well-adjusted, confident and fun to be with. (My wife, Luanne, is a huge part of this, naturally.)
The second part is also easy: My books. Three down, a fourth (“Tempest Road”) planned for September release, and the fifth (“Destruction”) and sixth under way.
For the sake of sanity, I’m bypassing the questions of value or worthwhile investment these things occupy in my world and the hours of my life. (The Churning probably took 3,000 hours, all told.) This is an issue that all artists wrestle with–unless they’re an arrogant ass–yet the answer is defiantly evasive. (I’m a storyteller. Does anyone benefit/learn/see the world differently through my work?) Suffice to say, this is what I know how to do best.
Back to that irrational fear, though. The Pink Floyd song “Time” scares me quite a bit. “Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled line.” Call it a poetic urging to do something! (For each of us, that something is different, of course.)
I’d be kidding myself if I said my time was unlimited. Statistically, the fact that I’ve personally avoided cancer and bad auto accidents and death by violence, so far, doesn’t favor my avoiding them all in the future. Factor in my upcoming work plans and, well, my window of opportunity may be slamming shut. Only so many hours in a day. The fear of not doing enough looms large, every day.
A song calls. How do I answer? One turn on the merry-go-round, after all.
Clean arcs of water in buttery just-dawn light.
A rustle of tree leaves.
Distant mountains silent. Roars yet to be discovered.
Mornings of cloud, plaintiff meows, one-counts for 2% dispensing.
A puffy white blob–pursed lips with trailing attendants–against a sheet of blue-gray. Turning slowly.
The mother-ship has finally come for me.
(For lack of a better title.)
I goof around in the kitchen, fair enough. Since I’m not afraid of incendiary events (rather, I’m not likely to cause one) I’ll occasionally throw stuff together. On my honor: Though I offer these creations to the kids and my wife, they are under no obligation to try anything–thus saving my ego the gratuitous ding.
Spray the skillet. Using the kitchen shears (at $10, a real moss-free, tape-free bargain) cut the bacon up into 1-inch pieces. I cut 3-4 strips at a time. It all separates in the pan, anyway. Cook the bacon to desired crispiness. Set the cooked bacon aside (the manly way is to put it in the bowl you’re eventually going to use to eat–fewer dishes, cha-ching!). Drain the bacon grease however you see fit. (The way I do it is to pour it on a section of cedar-tree litter. It looks a little trashy, but it’s efficient.)
Without cleaning the pan (unnecessary!!!) apply cooking spray and start cooking the onions. As they’re cooking, you can chop the red cabbage (1-inch pieces will do) and apples and anything else you want to add, like carrots. (No worries: cooking apples takes out the strong flavor, so the finished product works in a lot of autumn recipes. You can also use old apples for this.) Throw in a can of garbanzo beans/chickpeas, the olive oil, salt, pepper and spice. When the onions are soft and grilled-looking (a real chef knows the term for this) add the bacon and stir it all for another 5-10 minutes. The cabbage is pretty stiff to begin with, so cook and stir until it’s softer.
[For those who don’t know: Red cabbage and chickpeas both have a mild taste while being high in protein and fiber. In other words, they’re awesome for you!]
Serve as a side for steak or burgers, probably with a beer. Bam!