Thursday, October 15, 2009

On the road to Helena -- to stardom

posted Sat, 09 Oct 2004

It’s raining this morning. It’s one of those nice gray, drizzly, stay-in-bed rains, except today is the day that Harpo and his band play at the King Biscuit Festival. It looks like we will be taking umbrellas with us.

It’s the first morning that it’s been cool enough to make tea. I pulled down the tin of mango/raspberry infusion that I had splurged on last year to use in the cool silver teapot Harpo got me a few years ago.

Guess what? Stuff you buy at the chi-chi organic store really is made without preservatives or pesticides. No pesticides means nothing to kill pests, which means after a year in the cabinet, your tea gets worms in it.

The rain is quite welcome, though, for many reasons. First, I think one of the main causes of my headaches is changes in barometric pressure. When it is promising to rain – but it doesn’t – when it just hovers – then I get the sinus pressure headache. (I’m still not sure of the provenance of the someone-is-squeezing-my-eyeballs headache or the railroad-spike-through-the-eye headache.) Once it starts to rain, though, the headache usually goes away.

The second is that we are about seven inches behind in rain for the year here. Not good for my garden, which was awful this year anyhow. No garden of the month award for me, not that I am going to win it anyhow, as it is completely fixed. I know it is fixed because I haven’t won it. Isn’t it obvious?

I took yesterday off. I had planned to do so early last month when we didn’t know for sure which day the Snake Docs would be playing in the festival. When we learned it would be today, I decided to still take the day off and goof off. I still have about six vacation days to take this year, but I have learned there is no reason to take official time off at Christmas because there is NO ONE at the office anyhow. Why waste vacation days during a time when you come in late, take a long lunch, leave early, and still get as much done as you would at other times just because there is no one to bother you?

Harpo doesn’t work Fridays or Saturdays, so the plan was to goof off together. Poor guy. He works such ridiculously long hours that he usually spends his days off catching up on his sleep.

We went out for a big breakfast at about 12:30 (I had already run eight miles, transplanted two trees, thrown four big cement rocks into the trash can, and glued the clay numerals that I got in France two years ago next to my front door, thank you very much), then went to the Pink Palace Crafts Fair.

The Pink Palace is a neat little museum here. This fair is their annual fundraiser, so I didn’t mind (so much) paying the admission fee. There were the usual tacky crafts there that you always see at such things, but there were also some very cool displays. Several folks came from the Ozark Folk Center. There was a broom maker, a soap maker, a candlemaker, and a caner (not the hitting people kind, but the chair weaving kind).

One guy had a lathe he had built with just wood and rope. He did have a bungee cord to add tension, but the rest was as it would have been two, four and six hundred years ago. There was a little boy, maybe six, who was just fascinated by it. His grandparents kept trying to get him to go to the games section, but he wanted to stay and watch the lathe work.

There were two other lathes being used to make the pieces for rocking chairs. One was run by a spinning wheel, the other by a treadle. The demonstrator was dressed in period clothing. Let’s all be grateful that breeches are no longer fashionable for men. Now if we could just get them to stop wearing shorts and tank tops.

Let’s see. There was also a blacksmith and a forge. There were from here, from the metal museum where I am going to take a blacksmithing class in January. There were also weavers and spinners and candlemakers and quilters and beekeepers and woodworkers and leatherworkers.

But let’s get to the really good part.

There was food.

Not that I felt hungry. Or even an appetite. I gotta tell you. This topamax really does make me feel full most of the time. It turns out – if these internet sites are to be trusted and sometimes they are not (don’t even believe everything you read here) – that the makers of the drug (J&J, I think) did test it as a weight loss drug, but the side effects were too much. But I hope it works for me, as I finally dared to step on the scale this morning and, as I suspected, I did gain weight in Italy.

But I didn’t let that stop me, darnit. I am a trouper. The best food booth was the potato gizmo place. Not for the food itself, although any delivery system for hot, salty fat is going to be a good thing, but for the sales spiel this woman had. She kept up a constant patter in a down-home, Ozark accent as she stuck a potato into the device, turned the handle, and converted it into a long, thin, curly strand. “Even if you don’t got no money, you always got a tater and an onion,” she said. The machine wouldn’t cut the entire potato or onion, but she refused to discard it. “Don’t throw that away,” she warned. “Save it fer hard times. Always gonna be hard times.”

The potato thing was sort of like this, only wooden.

She held up a potato. “This is a small bag of potato chips.” She held up another potato. “And now this is a large bag. You’re paying $4.00 for two potatoes.” Then she cut up the potatoes in her machines. “Don’t gotta do nothing but cut ‘em up and drop ‘em in the hot oil,” she said, as she proceeded to do just that. “Just leave ‘em until they stop steamin.’”

“You know how much they charge you at a restaurant for fried onions?” she asked as she held up an onion. “All’s that is is one onion. Watch.” She cut up the onion in the device. Then she mixed an egg and some milk and began to season it. “Everyone got Lowry’s at home. If you don’t like the way I make it, then you make it your own way at home. Put in just a little Lowry’s,” she said as she poured about two tablespoons of the seasoning into the egg mixture. “Measure carefully.” She reached for the cayenne pepper. “Just a dash of cayenne. Careful now, because it’s hot.” She poured another tablespoon of cayenne into the mixture. “And garlic powder. Some people don’t like too much garlic, so measure real careful here.” She emptied the bottle and searched fruitlessly for another.

She mixed the onions with the egg mixture, then shook in a bag with flour, then fried the whole thing (“in oil hot enough to cook fish”). “Don’t be pokin’ at it, now,” she admonished as she stirred. “If you poke at it, all the breadin’ will fall off and it will all turn to mush. Don’t be doin’ what I’m doin’ right now.”

Her way worked just fine, though, because even Harpo, who doesn’t like onions (“Jim never asks for a second cup at home!”), ate the fried onions with relish. Well, there was no relish. You know what I mean. He even bought one of the thingamabobs, which was probably a good investment, because it makes me nuts to see him buy potato chips rather than a five-pound bag of potatoes. I wish I were the person selling popcorn and potato chips, because those have to be the highest margin products in the world.

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