Monday, November 24, 2008

Monday Morning Musings: Oh The Ash! Oh The Humanity! Oh The Baltimore Ravens!

This post does not include the words Bailout, Bush or Baghdad Bombing. Baltimore, yes.
I gave the plants at the pied-à-terre a good watering (except the cacti, which are on a once-a month schedule), deadbolted the door and hopped on up to the old mountain hideaway. (Yeah, I know a pied-à-terre is supposed to be a second home and not a primary residence, but indulge me, okay?)
It was a brisk 30 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 1 degree Celsius) when I left the coastal plain in the early morning darkness. Some 24 hours later, it is 14 degrees F (-10 C) outside as I sit at the computer, and despite the fact that it is much colder and the heating system here in the mountains is primitive, I am considerably warmer.


The pied-à-terre is cozy enough: A state-of-the-art, fairly efficient and relatively cheap to operate fan-blown natural gas heating system that warms the space but nothing else. In the mountains we are burning Pennsylvania anthracite rice coal, the ne plus ultra of the carbon-emitting crowd, and in the two weeks that the DF&C has had the ancient coal stove cranking the floors and walls have become toasty warm and the heat literally gets under one's skin.

I heated with wood in an old farmhouse for nearly 25 years before moving to civilization and a succession of pads with electric baseboard, oil and gas heat systems.

These simply cannot compare to wood and coal, which as environmentally incorrect, labor intensive, inconvenient and messy (oh the ash! oh the humanity!) as they are, warm the heart and soul.

Speaking of heart and soul, what could be more nostalgic, what could be more of a throwback to that old pioneer spirit, than a meal of . . . vegetarian nachos.

Here's how I prepared last night's repast:

(1.) Begin with a microwaveable or broiler-safe 12-inch plate.

(2.) Cover the plate with five or six heaping handsful of Garden of Eatin' Restaurant Style White Corn Nacho Chips. (You can substitute with big namebrand commercial stupidmarket chips, of course, but they lack the flavor and thickness of the G of E chips, the latter being helpful when you heap a bunch of stuff on them.)

(3.) Spread the chips evenly.

(4.) Smother the chips with about three-quarters of a pound of fresh shredded extra-sharp white cheddar cheese. There are zillions of brands available, but Kraft Cracker Barrel is okay in a pinch. Extra sharp is highly recommended because the taste of less flavorful cheddars tend to get lost amidst the other ingredients.

(5.) Core, clean and chop half of a large red bell pepper into julienne-style strips and spread on the cheese.

(6.) Drain and rough chop about two-thirds of a 12-ounce can of pitted black olives and spread on the cheese and peppers.

(7.) Rough chop a loose fistful of fresh cilantro (or basil) and spread on the cheese, peppers and olives.

(8.) Heat a 12-ounce can of Amy's Vegetarian Chili or comparable brand and put on the side. We go with a medium, but mild and hot do just as well.

(9.) Open a 4-ounce of sliced jalapeno peppers or thoroughly seed and rough slice two fresh jalapeno peppers.

(10.) Open a container of sour cream and put on the side.

(11.) Open a container of organic guacamole and put on the side.

If you have a wrought-iron cooking rack, you can melt the whole 'arama on the top of a coal or wood stove, but you're on your own. Purists will want to put the plate of nachos under an oven broiler and heat until the first signs of browning and remove before they catch fire, which has happened to me more times than I care to admit. The faint hearted will want to nuke the nachos in a microwave at the standard setting for three and a half to four minutes.

Serve with the chili, jalapenos, sour cream and guac. Yummy!

The mountain hideaway has an incredible array of wildlife, including six species of raptors, oodles of deer and chipmunks, as well as the occasional black bear, but no television. This works out just fine most of the time, but there is the rare occasion when there is must-see TV.

Such was the case yesterday afternoon when the fading Philadelphia Eagles played the rising Baltimore Ravens, so off we went to the local tappy where we got a seat on the 50 yard line under a TV -- one of 12 or 15 in the joint -- showing the tilt between these interdivisional and interstate rivals.

The DF&C was wearing her official No. 5 Joe Flacco jersey in honor of the great University of Delaware quarterback who is making pro football history by not only starting in his rookie year but playing damned well.

Contrast that with Eagles' quarterback Donovan McNabb, who looks and plays like an old man and was helped along nicely by some pathetic play calling by Eagles Coach Andy Reid, whom Philadelphia fans can only hope will join McNabb on the same outbound train at season's end.

The final score: Ravens 36, Eagles 7.

Flacco photograph by Gene Sweeney Jr./Baltimore Sun

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