Friday, January 30, 2015

Free Range Friday ~ Freaking Fabulous Fare, Cher

I just want to say at the outset that this isn't my every day fare. That will surprise a few of you, those who think we all sit under palms sipping pina coladas all day, while browning our skin under non-cancerous rays, listening to the waves gently crash ashore. Ok, for the one of you who thinks that. For the rest, who just wish that, you know Paradox is just full of wonderful surprises, I can only say may you get to have a Tres home meal someday.

When Doug comes to town, I know I'm always in for some sort of feasty treat and this year he promised to raise the bar by inviting along their friends Tres (pronounced like the three that it is, trace) and Nancy, Tres being a chef of New Orleans background, style and substance (was it the 'Hello, chère' that gave it away?). After months of hearing about this, the meal was on. And so was Tres, with his lovely assistant Nancy.

My first clue that something good was going on was what I first noticed on walking into the kitchen. At first glance, his scrap bowl could almost have been a sort of primitive salad. 

My second clue was that he moved faster than light and food wasn't flying except where it should be flying. 

I think the point I started whimpering was when he said that this was duck meat he'd brought with him to make the empanadas. 

Nancy and Tres making empanada skins from the delicious dough Tres had made earlier

And the goodness grows

Gandules, bacon (I think, I had been rendered speechless for a second there), pumpkin and brussel sprouts

Stuffing the yellow tail with his simply made cilantro pesto. Next time I'll turn him on to racao. Well, unless he already knows it, in which case I'll just pass on a handful.

Local fresh caught yellowtail

Corn meal and flour dusting for the gator bites. Yes, he brought along gator too. I know, right?

and the fires roared. Tres was making flash fried super skinny fries from...not yucca but..oh! one of the root vegetables that goes into Susie's island mash. I'll think of it later. Of course I will. 
Sometime in there, Tres headed off to clean up and the party started gravitating to the kitchen. Actually, the party had been gravitating on and off into the kitchen for the last hour or so, drawn in by the lasso of aromas curling around corners, right into our soul belly centers. 

But it wasn't ready yet. Insert the rumbling of stomachs. Not from hunger, there were plenty of horse de vores on hand, rather just from watching the island start to get loaded with the goods. It wouldn't be long now.

Yes please, everyone pour their own libation.

Tres and Nancy giving an overview of what will be pleasing our palates this night


All good boys and girls deserve flavor.

The yellowtail was ready to come off of the grill

At first, Tres considered deboning the fish. Then, no, just cut them in half to be sure everyone got some and let the grown ups figure it out.

Where is my drool bib?

What did we do before we could take instant photos of our food? I can't...oh, yes, we remembered and told stories!

Serve yourself up, master planner guy!!! 

At last, Tres and Nancy get their plates and we get stories. Really good stories. Food stories including Taj Mahal and Willy Nelson type stories (no bad gossip, nice guy stories), traveling and cooking stories. Like that.

Tres feeds me a brussel sprout. 
While eating his amazing food, I thought this might just be the time to break the 'I hate brussel sprouts' cycle. And damned if it wasn't! Crunchy texture and bacon for flavoring? I may never eat another brussel sprout I like but this one (and the other ones) were sheer brussel sprout heaven. I'll keep sampling now, but the bar is high. This photo is to prove I really did eat (more than) one. Yay, Tres!

I think the grown ups figured it out

It's the little things. Like roasting the seeds from the calabaza to sprinkle on the finished dish of mashed spiced pumpkin angels are singing on the tongue result.

Carrot escabeche that Tres says is as common to the table as s & p in his world.  
What is Tres world anyway? He is chef at Bouchon, a restaurant in Asheville, NC that specializes in French comfort food. From a New Orleans background, Tres has that pretty down, in this case taking French and Boricua based foods, combining them with his own flair with a lot of love poured over all of it. Bouchon is also a creperie, but Tres works the other side of it. It will definitely be a Turtle stop in the future!

I never made it to the cole slaw or rice, filled up with some of every other thing on offer. Oh regrets are made of these...but a very happy belly said 'Enough!' and it was exactly that. 

The thing is, there was nothing fancy here. Just good food prepared with skill and a knowledge of how to make flavors sing without the use of sauces or other covering ingredients. Comfort food indeed. Get inspired! and Buen provecho!

Thank you, Doug, for putting this all together. Thank you, Tres for your gift of really enjoying what you do and sharing it with us. Good food, good friends old and newly made, what a night!

Have a friends with food Friday. Do something finely. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

ThrowBack Thursday ~ a non Ongoing Feature that Will Go On

It started with a photo. Ok, it didn't really just start with a photo but I've always wanted to use that line, and it's pretty much true in context. It was barely less than a week ago...

I've been searching for information, any information about my mother's family, of whom I'd never met a grandparent, an aunt or uncle or a cousin, for a really long time, as in decades. Somehow that slipped by osmosis into my daughter Sarah. Different times, she in the age of information harvesting that, though I consider myself good at gathering, she excels. 

My maternal grandfather, Robert Farquhar Holden 1913 at Harvard
The thing is, this was posted on by a woman I'd never heard of in my life. Who was this person claiming that MY grandfather Sarah had worked so hard to find was also her grandfather? And so it began to unravel, the ball of knotted yarn of a side of my being that has been (and in some ways still is) shrouded in silence for way too long. 

That woman turned out to be my first cousin, Liz. After a slightly hesitant start on both sides, we confirmed our connections and now she is my cousin, really and truly, with whom I exchange lengthy emails, filled with stories: stories that connect us, stories with amazing coincidences in our lives (ex. - she and her husband lived on St. Croix and St. Thomas with an overlap of one year of me living there, before moving to Culebra - meaning she knows exactly where Culebra is!). Each time an email alights in my inbox with her name on it, it is like opening another chapter of the very best book...

When I told my brother about it, he summed it up pretty well. "This reminds me of that commercial where this lilting voice says 'I followed a little leaf!'. Sarah followed a leaf and the whole damn tree fell down!' He is as excited as I and it is a Christmas morning excitement, finding what you asked for and then finding more that you hadn't even thought to imagine asking for. 

Living on Culebra, where family is such a huge part, with 70 year olds caring for their closing in on century old parents, where a party is barely a party unless everyone from the grandfather to the newest baby is close at hand, where family history isn't just a dusty book of photos but a daily, living entity, full of demands and obligations and rewards with laughter and tears and the simply mundane  and the high joys of everyday-ness. 

There has always been a little feeling of me leaning against a door that is full of wondering, a door that refuses to stay closed. Now that door has swung open wide, with so much tumbling out it is almost cartoonish, sitting dazed and smiling in the aftermath, picking up one jewel after another. 

I've found out that England and Wales and Spain run through my blood. Yes, Spain, the Garcia's from Oviedo, Austurias, Spain to be exact. Does that explain my strange love of Spain? Nah, Spain is just easy to love. My attraction to Latin culture? I'll give a tip of the hat there. At least I think a little Spanish is easier to grasp than Welsh! It certainly makes for a new addition to the bucket list.

And I have a favorite new grandmother quote from a great great grandmother I never knew about, but I do now. When confronted with the down the nose sneering of our WASPy Back Bay Bostonian side of the family concerning her heritage, she made a comment that came down through history as "When your English ancestors were still painting their faces blue running around in animal skins, my ancestors had art, music and literature!" Some things must certainly be genetic! Oh these wonderful women.

Have a tap-into-it Thursday. Do something tightrope-walking-ish. With a net.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

So I Lost a Day. Again.

All morning (when you wake up at 4 with a cat on your head, morning starts early) I've been thinking about this Tiny Home Tuesday post. Up until I started writing this sentence, when I realized it was...not Tuesday. I guess that Sunday Funday Monday thing threw me off. At least, that's my story and I'm sticking to it. Now what?

Carrying on anyway!

Yesterday I sat on the front deck of my tiny houseboat with my son, sipping wine, watching the sunset and talking about a 1000 things, but the number one subject of conversation was the re-habbing of the houseboat itself, which I will be moving on to within a month or so. What? Leaving my tiny shack for the tiny houseboat? Leaving my beautiful yard? Leaving Spike the hummingbird? Yes and yes and yes. As my (and many of ours) friend English Karen says, "You'll have a new (and massive) yard to explore!" And of course, she is right.

Things change and although there is some heartwrenching in leaving this yard I've loved and tended to for over a decade, I'm starting to get excited about the move. The poor houseboat has needed a revamp for ages and this is about the best and fastest reason it's going to happen. Luckily, I have my son here to do the bulk of the work; he's living on it until it is ready for me. Hooray!

This is an excellent view but it will not be my view, at least not quite. There is still the question of 'where in the bay' with a few potentials looking good, but that is way down the list of decisions at the moment. More important are some basics, like rebuilding steps and benches and some floor areas where rain did its bad work (as opposed to it doing its good work on the land and in the cisterns). 

Having only lived in one place my whole time on Culebra, the exciting part will be so radically changing gears. I remember how much I liked going out and spending time on it back before it got seriously storm beat up. Just being back on a boat of any sort is a very soothing prospect. Though I've never lived on a boat with a cat before...

I know people with cats on their boats. Of course, most people I know with cats on their boats are a little crazy (you know I say that with love), so that might also help in our case.

You know how projects can drag on and on and on? This one has done that but I get the feeling that we're not too far away from that oh wow we're really close time now. And I'm excited!

This was a day of serious demolition about a year ago. It was way big fun! 
And a way big mess to clean up. But then, almost instant gratification on a project moving along. Woohoooooooo!
There has been a fair amount more un-doing but we're getting around to redoing now. Tiny houseboat hear us roar! (I love to say us and we when it's pretty much my son - mother's prerogative, si?)

I get to do the fun stuff, like ordering solar light/various devices chargers. Many of them looked good but I liked this combo one as well as reviews as well as that they work with underdeveloped countries to provide light in the darkness. Win win win! I bought mine from Amazon and got a nice surprise in an unmarked price reduction. That would be another win on the scoreboard! 

I didn't know until after ordering it that it can be bought on the site with the link below (their link on Amazon made it sound like it could only be bought there...go figure) so that's what I did. 

You can read all about it here.
Have a we can work it out Wednesday! Do something whiz-bang!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Sunday Funday Monday

It was a Monday but it felt like Sunday Funday at Zaco's Tacos, with music from a put together band of winter folks along with Doug and Monika. I'm not usually one for crowded places but this was a great crowd with a lot of people I've not seen for awhile, toe tapping, singing along, all joined in a moment of music and friends in a great space. Thanks, you talented music people! 

I wanted to add a short video of the music but it's taking so long, I'll have to do it later
But you can tell from the rapt expressions, it was really good!

Kai hitting everyone up to buy tickets to Abbie's School meal this Saturday. 8 bucks, what a deal!

David tell us a story

Mellow mando

Monika and David making some sweet harmony

I promised Barry I wouldn't say anything suggestive about this photo. Except that there are three great guys in it. 

David takes a break

Oliva in listening mode

Kevin is down here and just in time for his birthday! It was Mike's birthday too.

Chris took this photo and I would only let him if I could have some serious beauty in there with me. That worked.

Though they've known each other many years, this was the first time these two ever played together!

We staked down our corner and Molly saved my seat. 

Mirrors are interesting for photos. Thanks for noticing that!

I think this was maybe the third stringed instrument Eddie played. He's amazing. Too.

We weren't quite sardines but I think the weight limit was close to being reached.

Thank you all so much! 
I'll see if I can get the videos on when I have a better connection. Grrrrrrr.

Have a tailor-made Tuesday. Do something treasured.

In remembrance, this is the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Those who remain are now numbered in the hundreds. A humbled thought to the horrors of history can help us keep from repeating it (although it has been repeated in too many countries since then for the same reasons of 'differentness'); we must do our best to embrace and acknowledge our fellow humans in speech and deed.