“Kid, I feel like we come back strong after thet vacation. We’ve had author Sean Prentiss here at the Saddle Up, then a bunch a fine readings fer 5 At the Mic an’ jist this past week, T. Marie Bertineau, Keweenaw author of The Mason House. What’s the plan fer this week?”
“Pal, folks’ll be busy but’ll have food an’ family on their minds this week so we’re jist gonna see if folks got recipes ta share, mebbe a story ta go with it.”
“Thet’s a good idea. Hey! Weren’t the ranch hands goin’ on ‘bout avocado toast over at the ranch? I’ll ride on over there an’ git thet avocado toast link.”
“It’s slow here, Pal, I’ll ride with ya. Mebbe come up with somethin’ ta contribute.”
Meanwhile, back at the Saloon… it’s Ramona Gordon, from the WIP of Charli Mills:
“Kid? Pal? Anyone here? I’m here with dinner for you! Hallooo? Well, I’m going to leave it on the counter with the recipe.”
Ramona Gordon’s Family Spaghetti
2 pounds ground beef
10 mushrooms, sliced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 large red onion, diced
5 cloves of garlic, minced
3 carrots grated
1 quart canned tomatoes from the garden (or 28 oz can from the store)
1 8-oz can tomato paste
1 tsp. dried basil
5-10 sloshes of tabasco sauce
1 tsp. Mexican oregano
1 tsp. dried, crumbled rosemary
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
Simmer on low for three hours
Make 16 oz Spaghetti Noodles according to the box
Double everything for company and serve with a green salad and garlic bread.
“There’s the recipe. No one here, so I’m going to wet my whistle with a wee smidge of apple cider while I wait.”
Meanwhile, still riding back to the Ranch…
“Dang you, Kid, ya wanted ta ride along, but now ya ain’t bein’ present. Shouldn’t ya put thet book down an’ watch where yer goin’?”
“Hoss knows the way. I’m readin’ Bowled But Not Out, by Ruchira Khanna. It’s ‘a delightful story of a conventional Delhi girl who finds herself in the eye of a storm’.”
“Sounds good. Read some ta me, Kid.”
“Okay. Saru entered her unadorned apartment after a grueling day at the University. The thick textbooks needed attention since assignments were due. Frost swirls coated the windows and created a rime on ledges.
Cold winds were knocking on her window as if wanting to come in. Fatigue and sleep were overpowering her brain as she eyed her mattress and the comforter, but her will power wanted to work on her homework.
“I wish I’d learned how Momsy used to make that strong cup of tea every morning for me,” she muttered. She looked at her watch, calculated the time back in India, and made a call using her calling card.
“Mom, I have only two minutes on my card.” Saru came to the point. “Please tell me what all you used to add to my cup of tea every morning?”
“Pour one and a half cup of water in a pan.
Crush 8 inches of ginger, two cloves, two cardamoms.
Let the water boil.
Allow it to turn pale brown.
Add half a cup of milk.
Add two teaspoons of loose black tea or two tea bags.
Add one teaspoon of sugar.
Boil until the liquid develops a dark brown color.
Sieve and pour into your cup. That’s Saru’s ginger tea!”
“Kid! There’s a recipe! We kin serve thet ginger tea with the avocado toast!”
“Yeah. A good start on recipe rustlin’.”
“Hey Kid, let’s pull over ta this place here, rest the hosses. Mebbe have a snack. Funny I ain’t never noticed this place afore.”
“That’s ‘cause it’s fictional, with fictional characters, but I recognize ‘em from the Ranch. That’s Lexi an’ Tessa, they’s writ by Sue Spitulnik. You know, Michael an’ his band played at the Saddle Up Saloon one time.”
“Oh yeah. Well speakin’ a rustlin’ recipes, look whut Lexi’s up to.”
“What is she up to? She’s rustlin’ through a recipe box, but is she rifflin’ or riflin’?”
“Let’s keep it fam’ly frien’ly, Kid, no riflin’. Jist rifflin’”
“Gotcha. Okay, let’s lissen in on these characters.”
Lexi riffled through her mother’s recipe box. “Hey, Date Nut Bread. Wasn’t this your Grandma’s recipe? Why did you stop making it? I remember the loaf never lasted long.”
Tessa smiled at the memory. “The loaf disappeared because I ate most of it. I sliced it warm so the butter melted. I ate it cold with tons of butter. I hid the last slices for me. It’s one of those treats I can’t leave alone.”
“Well I think we should make some for the holidays. Will you give me a lesson?”
“We’ll have to get dates.”
“I’ll go now.”
Date Nut Bread
1 cup chopped dates or one box
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup hot tap water
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbs. butter-room temperature
2 cups sifted flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup chopped nuts
Coarsely chop dates and put in small bowl. Sprinkle the baking soda over them, and then cover with hot water. Make sure all the dates are immersed. Let cool while mixing the rest of ingredients. In a medium sized bowl cream sugar and butter, add the egg and cream again.
Add the dry ingredients. Mixture will be thick.
Add water from dates to the mixture and mix till smooth then dump in the rest of dates and liquid and nuts. Stir until just mixed.
Pour into greased bread pan. Bake in preheated 325 degree oven for 50 to 60 minutes until inserted toothpick comes out clean.
“Yeehaw! We rustled anuther recipe! Soun’s like a good one too. ‘Cept I seem ta have trouble findin’ dates.”
“Mebbe somethin’ ta do with all yer kids.”
“Ya mean my goats?”
Meanwhile, back at the Saloon… Ramona’s grandson Ike Gordon and his wife Danni, from the WIP of Charli Mills, have just showed up:
“Mo wants us to bring her garlic toast recipe by the Saddle Up?”
“Yep. Here it is:
Dig garlic from Grandma’s patch when she’s not looking or she’ll come after you with a hoe.
Get your wife to peel it and chop it up into tiny pieces.
Add it to a stick of butter and nuke it.
Use a brush (not your wife’s archeology brushes) and get butter and garlic on two halves of French bread.
Have Grandma stick it in the oven.
Steal a piece when Grandma is slicing it (tastes best stolen).
“Ike, I’m not sure this is a legitimate recipe.”
“Sure it is. That’s how I make garlic toast.”
“With your court case pending, you’d best strike that last line.”
“Hey, is that Grandma’s spaghetti pot on the saloon counter?”
Meanwhile, having collected the avocado toast recipes from the Ranch and riding back to the Saloon…
“Feel like we been gone a while, Kid. Hope ever’thin’s okay at the Saloon.”
“What could go wrong Pal? Hey. Listen.”
“Bethenia Ann Harris! You let the biscuits burn to a crisp again! I doubt the hogs will even eat them.”
“Why, Kid, now we’ve come across some characters from Donna Armistead’s WIP, her first YA novel, inspired by family stories about her great-grandparents, who farmed 100 acres in Georgia on the eve of the Civil War.”
“Yer right. Hey there, Bethenia. I’m Kid, this here’s Pal.”
“Oh, hello. Don’t mind my Aunt Eliza’s hollering. It’s just that Aunty despaired that I would ever amount to any kind of a cook in spite of all her efforts to teach me. Her specialty was her apple stack cake, which folks clamored for whenever we had a dinner on the grounds. Here is her recipe as far as I can recall:
Aunt Eliza’s Apple Stack Cake
You need about 8 to 12 cups of dried apples. Fresh won’t work, nor will applesauce…make the cake too soggy. Simmer them in a saucepan with about 3 cups of water, 2 pounds of sugar and a couple teaspoons each of cinnamon, nutmeg and molasses. Mash into a thick paste and set aside to cool.
Now for the layers. It’s a deal of work! Sift together four and a half cups flour, a teaspoon each of salt and baking powder, half a teaspoon of soda and a big pinch of cinnamon. Then cream together 6 ounces butter, a cup and a quarter of sugar, three quarters of a cup molasses (sorghum works too) and 2 eggs which you beat in one at a time. Add in the dry mix, alternating with half a cup of buttermilk a little at a time, till you get a stiff batter. Roll into a ball, wrap and cool for a spell in the spring house.
When it’s cold, divide and roll out in 6 or 8 equal circles. You can use a cake pan to trim the circles. Aunt Eliza said it works better to bake them not in pans, but on a sheet in a slow oven for about ten minutes. This takes a while, depending on how many you can fit in the oven at a time.
When the layers are cool, spread a cup or so of the apple filling on one, and build your layers. Now, this is important: Wrap the cake in dish towels and leave it set in a cool place for at least a day. This way, the flavors will blend real good. You can dust the top with fine sugar, if you’ve got any, right before serving.
Make sure everybody gets a slice before Uncle Frank and old Mr. James Timothy Hardy come back for seconds. Because they will, if I know them.
“That soun’s real fine, Bethenia, thank ya so much fer the recipe. Reckon ya better git back ta yer Aunt an’ to yer story now.”
“An’ we best git back ta the Saloon, Kid. Bye Bethenia.”
Sometime later, almost back at the Saloon…
“Feel like we been gone a while, Kid. Hope ever’thin’s okay at the Saloon.”
“Almost there, Pal. Oh, somebody showed up. Idaho plates…”
Meanwhile, back inside the Saloon… Ramona’s grandson Ike Gordon and his wife Danni, from the WIP of Charli Mills are still here; but where’d Ramona go? Oh yeah, she was going to just wet her whistle with a wee smidge of apple cider while she waited for Kid and Pal to show up:
“That is your Grandma’s spaghetti pot on the bar. I thought it smelled like her spaghetti in here. But she only said that we needed to drop off recipes for Kid and Pal. Where are they, anyways?”
“Who knows? Kid’s an odd one. He writes poetry and keeps goats.”
“Pal, did you hear that guy?”
“Yep, Kid I did.”
“I don’t like goats, Ike.”
“You and our writer.”
“Pal! We gotta git in there!”
“Hey, Danni, want a cider? I’ll leave tenner on the counter for the bar keeps who ain’t keeping.”
“Pal, that’s Danni Gordon! She seemed nicer when she was here before.”
“Oh, yeah, thet archeologist. I ‘member her from yet anuther visit.”
“A Sierra Pale Ale would be great, Ike. Pal keeps them in the small fridge.”
“Mo! Hey, Danni, Mo’s on the floor behind the bar!”
“Hey! Hi! Ho! Whoa! Mo? Yo, Ike! Oh, no! Kid, the old broad’s hit the boards.”
“What Pal? Oh, no! Did she fall?”
“Grandma, are you hurt? It’s me Ike.”
“Ike, is Grandma—“
“Than a skunk! She smells like a still.”
“What’s that jug?”
“Not cider, Mo. This is hooch!”
“This is a recipe for disaster!”
“We better get her home, Ike. Sober her up with coffee.”
“What’s thet recipe, Ike? I’ll git it goin’.”
“Fill percolator with water, preferably clean. Toss a heap of ground coffee and eggshells to settle the grounds. Put over a fire and bring to a boil. It’s not cooked until you can stand a spoon in it. Will sober up any whiskey-laden cowboy who needs to get on a horse.”
“But will it sober up Ike’s Granma?”
“Jist don’t let her drive.”
“Hic… I can drive the cattle!…hic… Down in the valley…”
“Danni, Ike, what’re the three a ya even doin’ here?”
“Mo— Ramona— Ike’s Granma– said to drop some recipes off for you.”
“Thet’s yer story?”
“Yes. That’s our story. Now, I’d be thankful if I could have that Sierra Pale Ale, Pal.”
“Sure thing, Danni. Folks, if ya got a recipe an’ a story ta go along with it, they’s plenny a room in the comment boxes. What’re yer characters cookin’ up?”
If asked, Pal & Kid will deny that they spill from the pen of D. Avery. They claim to be free ranging characters who live and work at Carrot Ranch and now serve up something more or less fresh every Monday at the Saddle Up Saloon. If you or your characters are interested in saddling up to take the stage as a saloon guest, contact them via email@example.com.