Posts Tagged With: Mississippi

Soft Shelled Nuts

 

I. Rumbles from the Deep

My life changed forever when Bert Bivalve, my pet mollusk, announced his attention to form a political party. Bert had trouble communicating as he had no lips with which to form the “m” sound, so necessary in English speech.

He also had a patchy vocabulary due to a lack of a brain. Did you know there is no mollusk equivalent to the word “danger.” What’s the point for a mollusk cannot outrun any predator? However, there are 273 phrases to express the anguish of being eaten by a humongous furry creature with sharp claws. Eventually Bert and I worked out a sign language and so, interspecies dialogue began.

Bert, a cultured soul, had wearied of his benign neglect by humanity. He contacted mollusks all over the world to express his discontent–this explains my huge long distance bills. Thousands echoed Bert’s frustration and disillusionment. With Bert’s encouragement these sea creatures rushed to form debating societies. At first, however, they called these societies “Bicycling Clubs,” so as not to arouse humanity’s suspicions.

At first, these gatherings were chaotic and violent with the ugliest of insults exchanged freely. The phrase, “So’s your mother,” by itself, generated dozens of drunken brawl with gastropods careening into cephalopods. Eventually, cooler shells prevailed and organizing began.

One momentous day, Chuck Chiton, suggested that they would never get any respect from the politicians inside Washington unless they themselves entered politics. “After all,” he said, “Puerto Rico never got any respect until it became the 51st state.” As you no doubt know, Puerto Rico is not a state. Some think it is this inattention to detail to research that held mollusks back through the centuries.

The mollusks overcame their lack of political knowledge with shrewd business sense. As we all know mollusks are superb lichen harvesters. By skillful manipulation of the lichen markets, the mollusks quietly amassed a huge fortune over the centuries which they quietly deposited in off-shore banks.

These wealthy critters, conservative by nature, initially considered throwing in their lot with the Republican party. Only inopportune anti-mollusk rhetoric by some of the GOP candidates stopped this alliance.

What to do? They couldn’t back the democrats with its welfare society. Why the idea the very idea of a young mollusk just sitting there and doing nothing was disgusting.

Eventually, Sarah Scaphopod raised her hand, figuratively, of course, to suggest they form their own political party. All the mollusks agreed that she had a wonderful idea and brought out the fermented lichen to celebrate.

I laughed, along with the rest of humanity, when the mollusks held their first press conference in Bodega Bay, California. For one thing, how were they going to get enough signatures to be on the ballot in all fifty states.

Well, they had the last laugh. Hell hath no fury like a mollusk mocked. They set the world on its ear with their alliance with Carl Hickham, the billionaire seafood king from Texas. Mollusks control the supply of lichen, the bottom of the food chain in the oceans, and they let Mr. Hickham know it. The crafty critters presented the Texan with an ultimatum, either provide us with machines that help us to write or we’ll let your fish starve. Carl Hickham caved into their demands the next day.

II. One Giant Step for Mollusk

Mollusks from all over the world swarmed the United States. The beaches of Southern California became saturated with walls of mollusks reaching up to ten feet high. Beach merchants complained to the police that these invaders were devastating business. The men in blue sympathized, but pointed out the mollusks had a constitutional right to freedom of assembly.

The mollusks used Hickham’s machine to great effect. Within two weeks they gathered 423 million signatures; which is nine times the total human population of California. In the face of impending molluskan–if that is a word–domination the peoples of California buried their differences with an enormous clam bake that ran the length of the state.

Mollusks reacted to this barbarism by overwhelming and suffocating a dozen surfers off the shore of La Jolla. Some commentators remarked that interspecies warfare signaled the end of the world, while most thought it just an aggressive campaign tactic in the vein of the Willie Horton ads of 1988.

It was pretty much the same in all the coastal states. The mollusks consistently refused to blend into American society. They never bothered to learn English or any other language, save Romanche, an obscure language spoken by a few thousand Swiss.

The Democrats and Republicans united in the face of impending political disaster. Would it be enough? The coastal states were goners, but could they hold onto Middle America? Would the People’s Party prevail?

III. Remember Maine!

The leaders of the People’s Party assembled in Lincoln, Nebraska. Peacemakers solved lingering differences by feeding the chairmen of the old parties to mollusks stationed at Fort Sumter. Voter registration drives began in earnest as everyone did his bit. Negative ads ruled the day. You couldn’t watch tv for more than five minutes without seeing an ad ripping into the mollusks. Do you remember the ad that said “If the mollusks gain power, your daughter will be forced to marry one.” I do.

The mollusks did their best, but so did the humans. The boatmen of Mississippi refused to transport the mollusks. So did the railmen of Texas. The pilots of New Orleans were not tested as mollusks are afraid of flying.

Our defiant stand forced the mollusks to trek overland from California. Have you ever seen mollusks move? Take it from me, it’s not very fast. Weeks later, the mollusks began to die of exhaustion and dehydration. Most died in the middle of Phoenix where they began to decompose. Millions of birds now live in Phoenix, but no people do.

The heartland of American had been saved. But what about Maine and the other coastal states?

IV. The Readers of Nebraska

Remarkably it was the readers of America that rescued our great land. Fortunately, Nebraska, home of sixty percent of all book sales in U.S., remained mollusk free. These readers reminded the politicos that voters must be eighteen and American citizens. Amazingly, no one else had thought of that. Ha, we had the shelled bastards by the balls, or what passed for balls on a mollusk.

Election officials fanned out into all fifty states checking voter registrations. It was always the same; the mollusks were all underage. We struck them off every voting list. The stricken mollusks protested as vehemently as they could, but their protests fell on deaf ears.
We had won, or had we?

V. The California Mollusk Rush

We totally forgot about the stubbornness of your typical Joe Mollusk. They say an elephant never forgets, well an elephant has nothing on a mollusk. I can say with certainty that a mollusk knows as much today as it did a year ago.

Those mollusks–oh dang it, what’s a good synonym for mollusk; how about “invertebrate animals,” well that’s passable–still harbored an abiding hatred for our mistreatment of them. Since, they could not take America by the ballot box, they would take it by force.

Well, we weren’t afraid of those mollusks. Our army would soon make them cry uncle. In fact, our army was singularly unprepared to fight. Three years ago, the Pentagon asked Congress for thirty-two billion dollars for a weapon system to combat crustaceans and mollusks. At the time it seemed like just another example of the Pentagon wasting tax dollars. So, the proposal was defeated. Who knew?

Congress voted again; this time the vote was in favor of making the weapons. But it was too late; the weapons would take two years to develop. In that time, the coastal states would be permanently lost. The mollusks, stinking ‘lusks, were already starting to push the locals around. It was especially bad in California where they restricted surfing to one hour a week, hogged all the good times at all the best seaside restaurants, and darn near monopolized the inland tennis courts.

VI. Wally and the Beaver

Not all Americans gave up so easily. Wally Quoin, a true mountain man from the Sierra Nevada came to our rescue. He suggested that we set all our beavers on those damn ‘lusks. He said beavers love to eat ‘lusks. He also said beavers and ‘lusks have been feuding for centuries, its origin lost in the mist of time.

The President went on tv to tell us of our new allies. As he spoke, rangers in the National Park Service enlisted our friends, the beavers.
Well, you know what happened next. Millions of beavers swarmed the beaches. Their sharp claws broke open the mollusks’ shells to make countless tasty meals.

VII. E Pluribus Unum

We thanked the beavers for saving America. All they asked in return was that we stop logging near their homes. We stopped doing it, for the beaver is our friend forever. Look at the front of your five-dollar bill; you will see a portrait of a beaver.

– Paul De Lancey, The Comic Chef

My cookbook, Following Good Food Around the World, with its 180 wonderful recipes, my newest novel, Do Lutheran Hunks Eat Mushrooms, a hilarious apocalyptic thriller, and all my other books, are available on amazon.com.

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Elephants Graveyard – Part 1

“The Elephants’ Graveyard is right there in Biloxi.”

The cabby’s assertion startled me.

“Biloxi, Mississippi? Are you sure about that? It seems hard to believe.”

“It’s true all right. You have my word as a cabby.”

“Come now, I don’t see any elephants here.”

“We’re not in Biloxi, friend. We haven’t left the airport. We gotta go east to Biloxi to see any elephants. The FAA don’t let no elephants into Gulfport. Dangerous to landing planes, you know.”

The meter ran as he talked and I was anxious to make my meeting, but I couldn’t resist saying,

“But the government is shut down again. Who will keep the elephants out of Gulfport now?”

“Damn!” The cabby slammed on the brakes to stop the cab, which wasn’t hard to do as we weren’t moving. He jumped out of the car. “Ow!” Chastened and little more cautious he opened the door and then got out. He retrieved a massive weapon out of the trunk and made his way back to the cab.

“Here, take this,” he growled as he hurled the gun at me. Minutes later when the ringing in my ears subsided I replied,

“How is it that I never read about it, anywhere?”

“Oh, I don’t know. I guess the local reporters just got used to ’em, and just never wrote ’em up.”

“But surely, the migration of elephants to Mississippi would have made front-page news?”

“You’re wrong, friend. The elephants came here in 1862, right in the middle of the war. Folks round were just too preoccupied with the fighting to notice them right off. But soon enough, General Lee enrolled them into his army. The ‘phants, as some call them, were in Pickett’s charge at Gettysburg. We would have won the battle, but them Yankees let loose thousands of mice. Those mice scared the ‘phants, who turned around and stampeded the Rebel men. That’s how we lost the war.”

“Fascinating, but why did they choose here of all places?”

“For the peanuts.”

“But they don’t grow peanuts in Mississippi, they grow peanuts in Georgia as you well know.”

“Well, those ‘phants didn’t know nothing about that, did they? You’re not as smart as you looked, Mister. I’m fixing to take you there, right now.”

“But, I simply must be at a meeting in Long Beach, to the West!”

He ignored my feeble protests, gunned the engine, and soon we hurtled eastward at speeds up to 20 miles per hour. Soon the fair gulf regaled us with its shimmering beauty.

Thalassa! Thalassa!”, I shouted to the cabby, “That’s Greek for the ‘The Sea.’ The Sea.”

“Yea, whatever. Look, there’s Peanuts Pavilion. Right next to that is the Planter’s dock and peanut refinery.”

“Ooh, that looks quite interesting. May we stop and investigate?”

“No.” He stomped on the gas pedal as way of protest and soon we were pushing the edge of the envelope at 25. “We’re looking for ‘phants. You gotta problem with that?”

“No,” I meekly replied. Since I was at the cabby’s mercy, I resolved to endure the best I could and would resolutely scan the horizon for the noble beasts whenever I wasn’t following the soaring meter.

Soon we crossed the border into Biloxi and immediately the clouds parted to reveal glorious, golden shafts of sunlight. I could almost swear I could hear angels singing melodious hymns of joy. The cabby belched.

Soon, the traffic in our lane slowed and eventually stopped at Eisenhower Drive, while in the lane to the bookstore, traffic ground to a halt. All the while, the meter merrily climbed. We noticed state troopers inspecting the cars, talking to all, waving some on, and pulling over others. Soon, one made his way to the cabby’s Honda Accord.

“Transporting any illegal elephants with you?”

“No,” the cabby explained at length as he handed over his license.

The trooper examined the license and then carefully pointed his flashlight inside the cab. Eventually, he seemed satisfied by our serene demeanor and waved us on. Whoosh, aided by a tail wind, we again darted eastward, leaving even the most vigorous pedestrians far behind. I turned to watch the Miss-Elephant-Rider-of-the-Mississippi-Gulf-Coast contest taking place on the beach; so did the cabby.

Crash! After shaking off the shattered glass, I looked up to behold a most angry pachyderm. Instinctively, I knew the elephant’s name to be Felix.

“What ho, Felix! How’s it hanging?” I bantered cheerfully to the gray skinned beast breathing in my face. Evidently, this was not proper elephantine etiquette as Felix trumpeted loudly as he crushed the front of the cab with one mighty stamp.

“Damn,” gushed the rattled cabby and then moments later, “I’m ruined.”

“My goodness, it’s not as bad as all that,” I opined. “Aren’t you covered by AAA insurance? I have it and it explicitly states that they will replace any one car crushed by a rampaging elephant.”

“Yep, but that won’t do me no good. That ‘phant will just hunt me down and crush every car I drive.”

“Surely, you are blowing a little tiff by that elephant all out of proportion.”

“No, I’m not. An elephant never forgets.”

The cabby remained inconsolable, and so, I waited quietly for AAA to bring the new cab. I then spied the smashed meter, and so, waited contentedly for the new car.

– Paul De Lancey, The Comic Chef

My cookbook, Following Good Food Around the World, with its 180 wonderful recipes, my newest novel, Do Lutheran Hunks Eat Mushrooms, a hilarious apocalyptic thriller, and all my other books, are available on amazon.com.

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Shrimp And Grits

American Entree

SHRIMP AND GRITS

INGREDIENTSshrimpandgrits

1 cup chicken broth
¾ cup milk
2½ cups water
1 cup grits
¼ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter
1¾ cups grated Cheddar cheese
1 garlic clove
4 stalks green onions
5 bacon strips
1½ pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined
1½ tablespoons lemon juice

Makes 4 bowls. Takes 45 minutes.

PREPARATION

Add chicken broth, milk, and water to large pot. Bring to boil using high heat. Stir frequently. Add grits gradually, stirring with whisk until no lumps exist. Add pepper and salt. Reduce heat to warm. Simmer to 10-to-20 minutes or until grits become tender and all the water has been absorbed. Stir occasionally. Remove from heat and add butter and Cheddar cheese. Blend in cheese and butter with fork. Cover.

While liquid boils and grits become tender, mince garlic and dice green onions. Chop bacon into ½” squares. Add bacon squares to pan. Cook at medium-high heat for 3-to-5 minutes or until bacon becomes crispy, turning them over at least 1 time. Remove bacon and place on paper towel. Keep bacon grease in pan.

Add shrimp to pan. Sauté shrimp for 3 minutes at medium heat or until they start to turn pink or orange. (Don’t overcook shrimp. It will get mushy.) Add lemon juice. garlic, and green onion. Stir quickly until shrimp is well coated with garlic and green onion. Remove from heat.

Ladle grits into bowls. Top with shrimp and garlic/green onion/lemon juice. Sprinkle with bacon squares.

TIDBITS

1) It seems hard to believe now, but shrimp portraits were once quite popular in America during the late nineteenth century.

2) Darned difficult. I mean, why?

3) Okay, to understand phenomenon, one simply must read, Dr. Amos Keeto’s enthralling work, “Amazing Fads of the Gilded Age,” Garlic Press, Paducah, Kentucky, 1933.

4) According to Dr. Keeto, horse racing was incredibly popular in the 1890s. People with too much money, having bought up anything of any value in America, turned to gambling. They wouldn’t bet on baseball. Ordinary folk did that.

5) So the filthy rich, so called because oil from their wells constantly spurted onto their clothes, would clean up and go the race tracks to wager on horses, the sport of kings.

6) Everything went well. The had fun playing the horses. They lost vast sums, of course, but they had vast sum to lose. The race course owners became quite wealthy as well. They purchased gigantic mansions and went on railroad buying sprees. The Race Track magnate, Silas Brunswick, even bought BrusselsSproutsTM for $250,000 after it came out with the BS PadTM.

7) The BS Pad, a precursor to iPhonesTM, tablets, and the such, consisted of two tin cans tied together with a string, an abacus, and a sketch pad. Improvements have been made since then. Nevertheless, it was all new back then and the sexy BS was all the rage

8) But the craze stopped a scant year later when all of a sudden shouting became socially acceptable once more.

9) Then horse racing died out. On May 5, 1897, the swiftest horses gathered for the prestigious Mississippi Derby in Biloxi. Society’s elite bet over a million on the horses. The favorites were Southern Boil and Sandstorm.

10) People still debate what happened. As the horses turned the corner to enter the final stretch, an enormous fog rolled into. When the fog had lifted, all of the horses were gone. Everyone.

11) Where had they gone? Some speculated that the horses had gone to the same parallel universe that orphan socks go to when placed in a dryer. Some folks dispute this, noting electric dryers weren’t invented back then. The proponents counter, “Where you there, na, na, na, na, poo, poo?”

12) Some folks say that a mare in heat passed by the track and that time and the stallions merely left the race to chase after her. Still others maintain mass spontaneous combustion claimed all the horses, ignoring the fact that no explosions were ever heard. I mean, really.

13) We’ll never know what happened to the race horses. The race-track owner claiming that since no horse crossed the finished line, paid off none of the bets. This defiant act angered the wealthy bettors. Horse racing rapidly fell out of favor.

14) Fortunately, the crowd spied a cocktail of shrimp–you know, like a pod of whales–swimming off shore, and fast! An energetic entrepreneur, his name is lost to history, improvised a shrimp race course. By heavens, the event was fun. Shrimp racing became the most popular social event of the 1890s.

15) Breeding shrimp for speed became a lucrative business. Wealthy owners hired artists to paint their prize shrimps. These artists loved to eat grits. Hence, shrimp and grits. There you go.

– Paul De Lancey, The Comic Chef

My cookbook, Following Good Food Around the World, with its 180 wonderful recipes, my newest novel, Do Lutheran Hunks Eat Mushrooms, a hilarious apocalyptic thriller, and all my other books, are available on amazon.com.

 

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Noodles With Poppy Seeds

Polish Dessert

NOODLES WITH POPPY SEEDS

INGREDIENTSPoppyPasta-

8-ounce bag egg noodles
¼ cup poppy seeds
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons honey

Takes 15 minutes. Makes 4 bowls.

SPECIAL UTENSIL

spice grinder

PREPARATION

Cook egg noodles according to instructions on bag. While noodles cook, melt butter. Grind poppy seeds thoroughly with spice grinder. Drain noodles. Add ground poppy seeds, melted butter, and honey to noodles. Mix ingredients with fork until well blended.

TIDBITS

1) I was tempted to write, “Toss ingredients,” but I recently saw a football movie and I kept picturing someone tossing the poppy pasta down the length on the kitchen.

2) Pasta football almost caught on during World War II. Real football production had ceased in 1942 due to wartime restrictions. Real footballs became harder and harder to find.

3) Professional football merged to conserve the nation’s dwindling supply of real footballs.

4) But the fans in the cities that lost their teams still wanted to see professional football. Patriotic Polish-American chefs came up with the poppy pasta football. It was enough for the football starved fans. In 1944, the PPPFL, Polish Poppy Pasta Football League was formed.

5) The league was comprised of franchises from: St. Louis, Poway, California, Keokuk, Illinois, Madison, Wisconsin, Taos, New Mexico, and Biloxi, Mississippi. The league did not thrive. The poppy pasta football kept disintegrating in the rain.

6) Then on November 17, 1944 with Keokuk losing to Poway 44 to 13 and three minutes left, Keokuk quarterback, Chris Gashud ate the last football. No football, no more playing. There were no rules to cover this. The game was considered to be the same as a rainout. Losing teams took their cue from this incidents and ate the pasta ball in the final minutes of game after game. The league folded in late December.

7) Isn’t Gashud Swedish for “gooseflesh?” Yes, it is.

– Paul De Lancey, The Comic Chef

My cookbook, Following Good Food Around the World, with its 180 wonderful recipes, my newest novel, Do Lutheran Hunks Eat Mushrooms, a hilarious apocalyptic thriller, and all my other books, are available on amazon.com.

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Powegian Wonderful Soup Recipe

American Soup

POWEGIAN WONDERFUL SOUP

INGREDIENTSWonderS-

2 carrots
2 celery stalks
2 medium onions
2 red bell peppers
1 cup fresh spinach
3 big tomatoes
1/2 cup raw, unsalted peanuts
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup milk
2 cups vegetable broth
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon Jamaican All Purpose spice
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
1 teaspoon parsley
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon tarragon
1/2 teaspoon thyme

SPECIAL APPLIANCE

spice grinder

PREPARATION

Mince carrots, celery, onions, red bell peppers, spinach, and tomatoes. Grind peanuts into powder. Add all ingredients to large soup pot. Cook on medium-high heat until soup boils. Stir frequently. Lower temperature to low heat and simmer with lid on for 40 minutes or until onion and carrot is tender. Stir occasionally.

TIDBITS

1) This Powegian soup has a rich tradition.

2) In late 1863, Annabelle and Clayton Morrison left Vicksburg, Mississippi for good. They had lost everything during the Great Siege even though they had resolutely taken no sides during the Civil War. The Confederate Army had requisitioned all their crops, all their livestock. The Yankees burned their home and all their buildings to the ground.

3) After the briefest of cries, Annabelle had told her husband she never wanted to see their accursed land again. But Where would they go?

4) “I’d like to go to California to grow carrots, celery, red bell peppers, spinach, tomatoes, and peanuts,” said Clayton,
“Why, I declare,” said his devoted wife, “when did you come up with this pla?.”
Clayton furrowed his brows for dramatic effect. “I’ve always wanted to grow all that.”
“I never knew,” said Annabelle. “Why did you never say anything about it.”
Clayton shrugged. “There’s a powerful lot of pressure ‘round these parts to grow cotton. Folks would have laughed at me if I had grown anything but cotton. King Cotton, hah!” He gestured to the burnt farms all around. “Annabelle, I need to go to California, where a man can grow whatever produce and herbs he wants and no one will think the less of him for it.
Annabelle nestled against her husband’s shoulder. “And so you shall. I’ve always wanted to catch a peak of the Golden State.”

4) And so, Annabelle and Clayton Morrison made their way west by wagon train. They faced floods, raging rivers, poisoned wells, and Apache attacks. Some of their fellow wagoneers turned back, but not the Morrisons. Fired by their vegetarian dream, they pressed on.

5) Finally, on May 5, 1864, they reached Poway, California. Their hearts soared at the valley’s majestic beauty. So did the flocks of bluebirds that flitted and swirled about them.

6) Months later they harvested a bumper crop of carrots, celery, red bell peppers, spinach, tomatoes, and peanuts. Annabelle wanted to provide a feast right there and then.

“Not yet, dear wife. I need to go to the port of San Diego. I’ll be gone a few weeks.”
“Land sakes, Clayton, two weeks, whatever for?”
Clayton smiled. “A surprise, a wonderful surprise.”

7) Two weeks later Clayton returned bearing fabric for new dresses for his love. She had not had a new dress in years. More importantly though, he had traded for: bay leaves, Jamaican All Purpose spice, ground mustard, parsley, sea salt, tarragon, and thyme.

Annabelle threw up her hands in delight. “Now I can make wonderful. I’ve already made mayonnaise and vegetable broth and I can borrow some milk from the Hendersons.”

8) Thus Annabelle, Poway’s great pioneer lady, made her soup. And it was indeed wonderful.

– Paul De Lancey, The Comic Chef

My cookbook, Following Good Food Around the World, with its 180 wonderful recipes, my newest novel, Do Lutheran Hunks Eat Mushrooms, a hilarious apocalyptic thriller, and all my other books, are available on amazon.com.

 

 

Categories: cuisine, history, humor, international | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tamales

Mexican Entree

TAMALES

INGREDIENTS – MEAT MIX

1 onion
1 1/2 pounds chicken breast (or ground beef or shredded pork)
1 beef bouillon cube
1/4 cup tomato sauce
2 tablespoons chili powder (1 tablespoon more later)
1/2 tablespoon coriander
1/2 tablespoon cumin
1/4 cup yellow corn meal
1/2 tablespoon garlic powder (1/2 teaspoon more later)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

INGREDIENTS – CORNMEAL COATING

1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoons chili powder (2 tablespoons more earlier)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (1/2 tablespoon more earlier)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 package corn husks or tamale paper

INGREDIENTS – SAUCE

1 cup tomato sauce
1 7.5 ounce can chili
1 bouillon cube
1 cup vegetable oil

(This recipe is spicy. If you prefer milder food, consider reducing the amounts of chili powder by up to half the stated amounts.)

SPECIAL UTENSILS

2 large pots
Box of wooden toothpicks (optional)

PREPARATION – SOAKING OF CORN HUSKS

Place corn husks at a time in first large pot. Heat corn husks at warm heat for 1-to-2 hours.

Soaking makes the corn husks pliable. Stiff, brittle corn husks really don’t roll well. The corn husk will split or the tamale will unravel. (You’ll end up shouting over the ensuing disaster and your whole family will head grumpily out to a fast- food joint.) Soak those corn husks.

PREPARATION – MEAT MIX

Set aside an afternoon to do this. Mince onions. Shred chicken breast or meat of choice. Crumble bouillon cube. Combine onion, tomato sauce, shredded chicken, chili powder, coriander, cumin, corn meal, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, and bouillon.

Mix thoroughly with hands. Shape mix into sticks no longer than about 3/4 the width of the corn husks.

PREPARATION – TAMALE COATING

In large bowl, mix corn meal, chili powder, garlic powder, and salt. Roll meat sticks in corn meal until coated all over.

Take a tablespoon of this coating and place it near the top, narrow part of the corn husk. Roll the husk from the top until the meat stick is enclosed. Fold in the sides of the husk and finish rolling. Be sure to roll it tight. Place the resulting tamale in second large pot with the seam side down.

Continue with the rest of the tamales. Put each tamale right up against the side of the pot or another tamale to prevent the husks from unraveling. You might wish to hold the tamales together with a wooden toothpick as well.

REMAINING PREPARATION

Mix sauce ingredients together. Pour sauce over tamales. Add enough water to cover the top layer of tamales. Bring to boil then reduce heat. Simmer for 40 minutes. Add vegetable oil. Simmer for 5 minutes more. Let soak for 30 minutes. This gives the cornmeal time to absorb the sauce.

Unroll the corn husks and serve the tamales. Cover the tamales with as much sauce as desired from the pot.

ADDITIONAL MEALS FROM THIS RECIPE

It’s possible that you might run out of pots to cook all the tamales you would otherwise make. You can use the excess meat mix as a burrito or taco filling. The remaining sauce in the pot makes an excellent chili soup. Reorganize the fridge. Make room for all this great food.

TIDBITS

1) My grandmother, who was born in Sonora, used to make tamales. I wish I remembered this better.

2) After making this dish, you’ll have a much greater appreciation of why tamales cost so much in stores and in restaurants. You’ll also see why establishments make tamales in such big batches.

3) Profusely thank your sweetheart who cleans up after your cooking. If you don’t have a sweetheart, consider finding one to help you tidy up after making tamales.

4) There is a Tamale Museum in Newport Beach, California. Featured there are paintings of Los Angeles’ taco trucks.

5) The first tamale factory in America opened in Austin, Texas in 1911. Prior to that, America was in the culinary dark ages.

6) There is a tamale factory in Vicksburg, Mississippi. It opened in 1939. I’ve been there. Their food is good. People in Northwest Mississippi are serious about their tamales. Who knew?

– Paul De Lancey, The Comic Chef

My cookbook, Following Good Food Around the World, with its 180 wonderful recipes, my newest novel, Do Lutheran Hunks Eat Mushrooms, a hilarious apocalyptic thriller, and all my other books, are available on amazon.com.

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Soft-Shelled Nuts – Originally published in San Diego Writers’ Monthly, 1995

I. Rumbles from the Deep

My life changed forever when Bert Bivalve, my pet mollusk, announced his attention to form a political party. Bert had trouble communicating as he had no lips with which to form the “m” sound, so necessary in English speech.

He also had a patchy vocabulary due to a lack of a brain. Did you know there is no mollusk equivalent to the word “danger.” What’s the point for a mollusk cannot outrun any predator? However, there are 273 phrases to express the anguish of being eaten by a humongous furry creature with sharp claws. Eventually Bert and I worked out a sign language and so, interspecies dialogue began.

Bert, a cultured soul, had wearied of his benign neglect by humanity. He contacted mollusks all over the world to express his discontent–this explains my huge long distance bills. Thousands echoed Bert’s frustration and disillusionment. With Bert’s encouragement these sea creatures rushed to form debating societies. At first, however, they called these societies “Bicycling Clubs,” so as not to arouse humanity’s suspicions.

At first, these gatherings were chaotic and violent with the ugliest of insults exchanged freely. The phrase, “So’s your mother,” by itself, generated dozens of drunken brawl with gastropods careening into cephalopods. Eventually, cooler shells prevailed and organizing began.

One momentous day, Chuck Chiton, suggested that they would never get any respect from the politicians inside Washington unless they themselves entered politics. “After all,” he said, “Puerto Rico never got any respect until it became the 51st state.” As you no doubt know, Puerto Rico is not a state. Some think it is this inattention to detail to research that held mollusks back through the centuries.

The mollusks overcame their lack of political knowledge with shrewd business sense. As we all know mollusks are superb lichen harvesters. By skillful manipulation of the lichen markets, the mollusks quietly amassed a huge fortune over the centuries which they quietly deposited in off-shore banks.

These wealthy critters, conservative by nature, initially considered throwing in their lot with the Republican party. Only inopportune anti-mollusk rhetoric by some of the GOP candidates stopped this alliance.

What to do? They couldn’t back the democrats with its welfare society. Why the idea the very idea of a young mollusk just sitting there and doing nothing was disgusting.

Eventually, Sarah Scaphopod raised her hand, figuratively, of course, to suggest they form their own political party. All the mollusks agreed that she had a wonderful idea and brought out the fermented lichen to celebrate.

I laughed, along with the rest of humanity, when the mollusks held their first press conference in Bodega Bay, California. For one thing, how were they going to get enough signatures to be on the ballot in all fifty states.

Well, they had the last laugh. Hell hath no fury like a mollusk mocked. They set the world on its ear with their alliance with Carl Hickham, the billionaire seafood king from Texas. Mollusks control the supply of lichen, the bottom of the food chain in the oceans, and they let Mr. Hickham know it. The crafty critters presented the Texan with an ultimatum, either provide us with machines that help us to write or we’ll let your fish starve. Carl Hickham caved into their demands the next day.

II. One Giant Step for Mollusk

Mollusks from all over the world swarmed the United States. The beaches of Southern California became saturated with walls of mollusks reaching up to ten feet high. Beach merchants complained to the police that these invaders were devastating business. The men in blue sympathized, but pointed out the mollusks had a constitutional right to freedom of assembly.

The mollusks used Hickham’s machine to great effect. Within two weeks they gathered 423 million signatures; which is nine times the total human population of California. In the face of impending molluskan–if that is a word–domination the peoples of California buried their differences with an enormous clam bake that ran the length of the state.

Mollusks reacted to this barbarism by overwhelming and suffocating a dozen surfers off the shore of La Jolla. Some commentators remarked that interspecies warfare signaled the end of the world, while most thought it just an aggressive campaign tactic in the vein of the Willie Horton ads of 1988.

It was pretty much the same in all the coastal states. The mollusks consistently refused to blend into American society. They never bothered to learn English or any other language, save Romanche, an obscure language spoken by a few thousand Swiss.

The Democrats and Republicans united in the face of impending political disaster. Would it be enough? The coastal states were goners, but could they hold onto Middle America? Would the People’s Party prevail?

III. Remember Maine!

The leaders of the People’s Party assembled in Lincoln, Nebraska. Peacemakers solved lingering differences by feeding the chairmen of the old parties to mollusks stationed at Fort Sumter. Voter registration drives began in earnest as everyone did his bit. Negative ads ruled the day. You couldn’t watch tv for more than five minutes without seeing an ad ripping into the mollusks. Do you remember the ad that said “If the mollusks gain power, your daughter will be forced to marry one.” I do.

The mollusks did their best, but so did the humans. The boatmen of Mississippi refused to transport the mollusks. So did the railmen of Texas. The pilots of New Orleans were not tested as mollusks are afraid of flying.

Our defiant stand forced the mollusks to trek overland from California. Have you ever seen mollusks move? Take it from me, it’s not very fast. Weeks later, the mollusks began to die of exhaustion and dehydration. Most died in the middle of Phoenix where they began to decompose. Millions of birds now live in Phoenix, but no people do.

The heartland of American had been saved. But what about Maine and the other coastal states?

IV. The Readers of Nebraska

Remarkably it was the readers of America that rescued our great land. Fortunately, Nebraska, home of sixty percent of all book sales in U.S., remained mollusk free. These readers reminded the politicos that voters must be eighteen and American citizens. Amazingly, no one else had thought of that. Ha, we had the shelled bastards by the balls, or what passed for balls on a mollusk.

Election officials fanned out into all fifty states checking voter registrations. It was always the same; the mollusks were all underage. We struck them off every voting list. The stricken mollusks protested as vehemently as they could, but their protests fell on deaf ears.
We had won, or had we?

V. The California Mollusk Rush

We totally forgot about the stubbornness of your typical Joe Mollusk. They say an elephant never forgets, well an elephant has nothing on a mollusk. I can say with certainty that a mollusk knows as much today as it did a year ago.

Those mollusks–oh dang it, what’s a good synonym for mollusk; how about “invertebrate animals,” well that’s passable–still harbored an abiding hatred for our mistreatment of them. Since, they could not take America by the ballot box, they would take it by force.

Well, we weren’t afraid of those mollusks. Our army would soon make them cry uncle. In fact, our army was singularly unprepared to fight. Three years ago, the Pentagon asked Congress for thirty-two billion dollars for a weapon system to combat crustaceans and mollusks. At the time it seemed like just another example of the Pentagon wasting tax dollars. So, the proposal was defeated. Who knew?

Congress voted again; this time the vote was in favor of making the weapons. But it was too late; the weapons would take two years to develop. In that time, the coastal states would be permanently lost. The mollusks, stinking ‘lusks, were already starting to push the locals around. It was especially bad in California where they restricted surfing to one hour a week, hogged all the good times at all the best seaside restaurants, and darn near monopolized the inland tennis courts.

VI. Wally and the Beaver

Not all Americans gave up so easily. Wally Quoin, a true mountain man from the Sierra Nevada came to our rescue. He suggested that we set all our beavers on those damn ‘lusks. He said beavers love to eat ‘lusks. He also said beavers and ‘lusks have been feuding for centuries, its origin lost in the mist of time.

The President went on tv to tell us of our new allies. As he spoke, rangers in the National Park Service enlisted our friends, the beavers.
Well, you know what happened next. Millions of beavers swarmed the beaches. Their sharp claws broke open the mollusks’ shells to make countless tasty meals.

VII. E Pluribus Unum

We thanked the beavers for saving America. All they asked in return was that we stop logging near their homes. We stopped doing it, for the beaver is our friend forever. Look at the front of your five-dollar bill; you will see a portrait of a beaver.

– Paul De Lancey, The Comic Chef

My cookbook, Following Good Food Around the World, with its 180 wonderful recipes, my newest novel, Do Lutheran Hunks Eat Mushrooms, a hilarious apocalyptic thriller, and all my other books, are available on amazon.com.

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