Happy St. Paddy’s Day!
That’s a wish I never used to bestow, but I do it now with the whole-hearted enthusiasm of the recently converted, which I am. The tale is fascinating to me, and I hope it will prove of some small interest to my readers as well. Here, then, is the story of how a life-long Anglophile became a shamrock-waving Irishman as it appeared in the archives of Jack’s Hideout on August 8th, 2017:
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As a Father’s Day gift in 2016, my daughter did a DNA kit on me, and while my family always told me I was predominantly Viking (i.e., Scandanavian), those pesky little protein strings show me to be 38% Irish, 35% Scandinavian, 17% British, and 10% trace elements from three continents. Ancestry.com includes a map of the world showing the source of all your genetic makeup, and all of my elements, major and minor, almost exactly coincide with a map of all the places the Vikings dominated at some point, from Ireland to Russia to the near east. Maybe the old folks knew what they were talking about.
To mark the occasion, I decided to host a cookout, and in honor of finding myself a member of one of the coolest ethnic groups on earth, I set about creating a celebratory recipe. As a newly minted Irishman and a lover of potatoes, it had to be a potato recipe, and as a lifelong resident of southern California, it had to include a Southwest flavor. So, after careful study of a number of recipes, I settled upon combining features from several to produce (a little drum roll, please . . .)
To make this incredible dish, you’ll need:
Four small potatoes (or two large ones), scrubbed.
One-half of a Green Bell Pepper.
1/2 tsp. Paprika.
1/2 tsp. Parsley Flakes.
1/8 tsp. Cayenne Pepper.
1/8 tsp. Mustard Powder.
1/8 tsp. Garlic Powder.
1/8 tsp. Black Pepper.
1/8 tsp. Celery Salt.
1/8 tsp. Ground Cumin.
And for the hint of the Southwest, 1/8 tsp. Chili Powder.
Cooking oil of choice.
Boil potatoes fully covered for about 15 minutes. You’ll want them to be almost done, but still firm. While the potatoes are boiling, cut the Bell Pepper into ¼” rings, then chop the rings into ¼” pieces. You want to finish with a pile of ¼” squares. Set these aside. Thoroughly mix the various powders in a small bowl to a smooth, reddish-brown consistency.
Drain the potatoes and let them cool to where they can be handled. Cut them into thin wedges, skins and all. Coat a large mixing bowl with oil. Place the wedges in the bowl, and “toss” them until they all have at least some oil on them. Continue to toss, gradually adding the mixed seasonings, until all the wedges have some of the seasoning on them. Mix in the Bell Pepper squares and take the bowl to the grill.
Cook over medium heat in a grilling basket, using a stir-fry technique, until hot. The recipe as you see it serves 4, and can be easily doubled, tripled, etc. to serve large gatherings.
This was by all accounts the hit of the party, and proved so popular that an uninvited guest dropped in.
Everyone was very excited to see him, but he didn’t eat much, and the people sat out on the patio in the warm summer night talking and laughing, and enjoying each other’s company. No one felt compelled to leave until after midnight. It was what I call a perfect party, and these spuds are what was remembered. I’ll have to admit that they’re pretty labor-intensive, but if you know your way around a kitchen and you like the flavor of the southwest, they’re well worth springing on your friends. I hope you enjoy them as much as we did!
Friends at Work
Now I’m going to offer up some blogs and authors that I enjoy following, and I think, if you’re being entertained by what I’m doing, you might find these enjoyable as well. First up is an entertaining lady from Queensland, Australia, Cogpunk Steamscribe. Her bio states that she is a writer of both creative non-fiction and Fantasy/Science Fiction. Her blog was originally created to help keep her motivated and on track with writing and editing her Steampunk novel. These days, it has grown to be a little more than that. It is more about the writing, and the alternative subculture, and her general day to day experiences as she tries to upgrade to being a full time writer. As well, it is a way to support her writing community, which has been so kind to her.
Currently, she writes a monthly Science Page for Voyager Online for HarperCollins Publishing Australia, and she has short stories published in anthologies. She is part of a local writing group, and has also volunteered for writing-related community events, like writing conferences and the Aurealis Awards. She is passionate about writing, and writes under the name Lynne Lumsden Green.
Second is writer C.P. Lesley. People tell you to “write what you know,” and her blog expresses that philosophy. She is a historian writing historical fiction set in early modern Europe and the steppes, so you will find lots of mini-history lessons there — more fun, she hopes, than the ones you may have suffered through in school. She’s worked in publishing for two decades and makes up one-quarter of Five Directions Press, a writers’ cooperative launched in 2012, so she has lots to share about the business as seen from both sides. She has loved the ballet since childhood and have spent twenty-five years doing her best to master the art, as reflected in her Tarkei Chronicles series. And like every other writer, she has to cope with the technological challenges posed by the twenty-first century, so she blogs about those, too — especially the new publishing climate and the social networks that constitute such a large part of the modern marketing universe.
Last but not least, she blogs about books: reading them and writing them. In addition to nonfiction works, she has published five novels under the Five Directions Press imprint and this pen name, C. P. Lesley, and is working on a sixth.
Last but certainly not least is one of my oldest enjoyable reads, Sandy, a.k.a. Doris the Great, a Newfoundlander who under the title Aging Disgracefully writes an ongoing saga of a journey of exploration and discovery of who she is becoming during the aging process. It is mostly “A great big bang-up HURRAH! that I’m alive!” A lot of talk about sundry and miscellaneous stuff & nonsense that may or may not have relevance; they may not even make sense, but she’s hoping they’ll be fun. By my lights, they really, really are!
Me at Work
Finally, news on the writing front: There isn’t much. William Jackson contacted me to ask if I could write an introduction to the upcoming Scribblers’ Den anthology, the fourth to be published by that stellar writers’ group, and while I was at it, maybe a story. Well, I got the bones of the intro written, though it will have to be brought into focus once I know what stories by which authors will appear in it, but no movement on a story yet. I think that the short story, 5- to 8,000 words, is too short for me to work in, although there was an exception that I’ll mention in a moment here. I do my best work, I have found, in the novella format, 20- to 25,000 words. That’s plenty of room for depth and development, yet short enough to not require padding, as I find myself doing when I try to write a full-blown novel. I’ve had a couple of story ideas that may develop yet, but what’s crippling my efforts is an inability to squeeze them down to fit the format of the anthology. On the upside, Beyond the Rails IV is taking shape between my ears, and if it follows the pattern of what has gone before, it will soon by clawing at the back of my eyes in its efforts to get out!
Den of Antiquity
Last year’s anthology produced by the members of Scribblers’ Den was Den of Antiquity, a collection of twelve tales of adventure, horror, the supernatural, and a number of other qualities by some very well-known names in the genre… Yes, including me. My story, Brass & Coal, was included, and is the fluke that causes people to think I can repeat it. Maybe I can; I guess this is the year we find out! DoA, as it is affectionately known to its authors, is available on Amazon.com. Brass & Coal is included here for free under the tab above of the same name, and if whether you are a veteran punk looking for some quality stories, of a curious tourist thinking to try the water, Den of Antiquity is a chance to do well by doing good, as all proceeds are donated to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund.
And that’s 30 for this installment. Have a happy St. Patrick’s Day, a great weekend, and I’ll see you back here before you know it. Read well, and write better
~ Sean “Jack” O’Tyler