Your Own Back Yard – Michael Gillan Maxwell

Visual Art – Creative Writing – Social Commentary


August 2013

An Embarrassment of Riches


An Embarrassment of Riches

 Back in June I experienced the surprise of my life when my piece “Funky Little Blaze Orange Pork Pie Hats” was selected as the first place winner in the FLASH MOB 2013 Flash Fiction Day Competition.

LIke I said then, I’ve won stuff. Lottsa stuff. A bike at a school blacktop carnival. A pie at St. Anthony’s parish festival. A bag of groceries. A two dollar lottery ticket. A karaoke contest in Tokyo. A bonus round on the slots at a casino in Cleveland. An arm wrestling contest.  Yeah, I’ve won stuff. Lottsa stuff.

But I never expected to win that kind of honor in FLASH MOB 2013. That was overwhelming enough. Then, unexpectedly, surprises began to arrive in the mail. The surprises were the 1st place prize in the form of the latest books authored by so many of the writers whose work I admire. It is an honor of the highest sort.

Included in this unexpected bounty is a copy of Gears ~ A Collection by Alex Pruteanu, Thank You For Your Sperm by Marcus Speh, Three Squares a Day With Occasional Torture by Julie Innis, The Merrill Diaries by Susan Tepper, and The Cheese and Onion Sandwich and other New Zealand Icons by Vivienne Plumb.

It is with a sense of deep gratitude and appreciation that I welcome these works to my library and accept the responsibility for their care and feeding, but most importantly, for their reading and appreciation! I only hope that some of the genius of these authors might rub off on my work!

Once again, my gratitude and appreciation goes out to the participants, organizers and judges of FLASH MOB 2013, including Christopher Allen, Michelle Elvy, Marcus Speh, Robert Vaughan, Leah McMenamin and Nuala Ní Chonchúir and Linda Simoni-Wastila, and to the aforementioned authors for their work ~ Alex Pruteanu, Marcus Speh, Julie Innis, Susan Tepper and Vivienne Plumb. Thank you one and all. I look forward to paying it forward if I am ever presented with the opportunity to do so!






Hey there boys and girls! This is the Lunch Laddy, Michael Gillan Maxwell coming’ at ya with a late summer dog days edition of The Lunch Lady Cookbook. For those of you who have spent any quality time in the trenches with real Lunch Ladies, you know that public school cafeterias are not known for their hors d’oeuvres. But maybe they oughtta be. Perhaps it would bring a whole new level of sophistication and civility to the 30 minute lunch period. But first we need to call it something different. Just trying to say “hors d’oeuvres” correctly, much less trying to spell it, is a recipe for a Beavis and Butthead moment in any middle school cafeteria. So let’s just call it an “appetizer”.

Today we celebrate late summer with a time honored seasonal appetizer ~ Insalata Caprese, or in American layman’s terms ~ Mozzarella, Tomatoes and Basil.  While arguably, this dish can be made during any season, nothing beats freshly picked, vine ripened tomatoes and basil straight from the garden. Let’s face it, unless you’re an Italian dairy farmer, most of us don’t have the capacity to produce fresh mozzarella on site, so we’ll just have to do the best we can with what we can get. Not only is this recipe mindlessly simple, it’s also lots of fun because you get to use a really, really sharp knife.

And so, without any further adieu, I present Lunch Lady Cookbook Dog Days Insalata Caprese!



1 large freshly picked vine ripened beefsteak tomato

1 sprig freshly picked sweet Italian basil

Ball of fresh mozzarella

Colossal Spanish Olives (stuffed with feta cheese)


Slice mozzarella and arrange on platter

Sliced Mozzarella

Slice tomato and place on mozzarella slices

Sliced Tomato

Slice olives and place on top of mozzarella and tomato slices (are you sensing a pattern here?)


Garnish with shredded basil and VOILA! There you have it!



Ice cold Pinot Grigio (This will generally not be available in the cafeteria except as a black market item, but you may find it in some faculty lounges)


Musical Accompaniment:

The Lunch Laddy had Guy Clark’s “Cold Dog Soup” dialed in on Pandora, but adjust to suit your own tastes.

Serve “al fresco” on screened porch with other appetizers while shouting “Mangia! Mangia!”

This is your Lunch Laddy, Michael Gillan Maxwell wishing you all a dog days Bon Appetit and saying arrividirci from The Lunch Lady Cookbook!

The Lunch Lady Cookbook ~ A Midsummer’s Night Dream ~ Wild Texas Gulf Coast Shrimp

The Lunch Lady Cookbook

A Midsummer’s Night Dream  ~ Wild Texas Gulf Coast Shrimp

Lunch Laddy at the Dirt Track Races
The Lunch Laddy at the Grill

Hey there boys and girls! This is The Lunch Laddy, Michael Gillan Maxwell comin’ at ya with a summer edition of The Lunch Lady Cookbook! It’s the season for running around naked in the back yard, chasing fireflies, dodging lightning bolts during thunderstorms and jumpin’ in the old swimmin’ hole (or the neighbor’s pool when they’re out of town!) And nothing says “summer” more than grillin’ & chillin’ and munchin’ on savory summer salads.

Today, the Lunch Laddy checks in with a sumptuous feast for a midsummer’s eve consisting of Wild Texas Gulf Coast Shrimp, Avocado Salad With Fresh Garden Herbs, Coleslaw and the appropriate libations and musical accompaniment.

That’s enough pussy footin’ around. Without further adieu, The Lunch Lady Cookbook is proud to present A Midsummer’s Night Dream ~ Wild Texas Gulf Coast Shrimp.

As you know, The Lunch Laddy cut his teeth hangin’ with the home girl Lunch Ladies in their respective middle school cafeterias. Although Shrimp on the Barbie ~ Hey! Get your minds out of the gutter! We’re not talking about Ken’s relationship with Barbie here! That’s what they call it Down Under. No. That’s not what I mean either. We’re talkin’ about Australia here. OK. Go ahead and snicker all you want wise guy. I know where you live!

Ken & Barbie

Shrimp on the Barbie? Not!

Now, as I was saying, although Shrimp on the Barbie is not exactly a middle school cafeteria staple, The Lunch Laddy thinks it oughta be! It’s mindlessly simple and it’s good and good for ya!


Jumbo Wild Texas Gulf Coast Shrimp

Lunch Laddy Sweet Honey Sauce

Raw Honey (Tablespoon)

Olive Oil (Tablespoon Extra Virgin, if you please)

Sweet Mustard (Tablespoon)

Garlic Powder

Sea Salt

Ground Red Pepper

How We Do It:

While the Barbie is heating up  ~ again, people, minds out the gutter?

Clean and de-vein shrimp (if you just hauled it out of the Gulf, you’ll need to do this) then peel shrimp and remove tail

(might as well get this all out of the way before grilling!)

Skewer, if you’re in the mood for poking stuff with a sharp stick

Combine honey, olive oil, mustard and spices and mix briskly

Brush coating of Lunch Laddy Sweet Honey Sauce on shrimp

Place on grill

Hey! Snap out of it! Either glowing coals or turn that puppy waaay down ~ You’re not working in a foundry here ~ this requires restraint and the delicate touch of a sensitive backyard grill chef. And this is no time to get caught up in swilling brewskies! Keep an eye on these guys, turning frequently and brushing with Lunch Laddy Sweet Honey Sauce. (While you’re at it, brush some on yourself too ~ Barbie will thank you for it later!) Shrimp is done when it turns pink and sauce starts to get a little crispy. A few minutes ~ tops!


Wild Texas Gulf Coast Shrimp

Lunch Laddy Avocado Salad With Fresh Garden Herbs




Sweet Vidalia Onion

Spanish Olives w/Pimento

Fresh Lime



Olive Oil

Feta Cheese

How We Do It:

Dice avocado, tomato, and onion

Combine with juice from lime, olives, fresh basil & chives

Toss with olive oil and feta cheese

Serve chilled

Avocado Salad

Avocado Salad With Fresh Cut Garden Herbs



Shredded cabbage

Shredded carrots


Olive oil


and a whole bunch of other stuff

How We Do It:

Combine bag of shredded cabbage and carrots with coleslaw sauce.

(Available in the fresh produce section of your local grocery store)

Did I mention ~ “mindlessly simple”?

Serve chilled.

Cole Slaw

Cole Slaw ~ The Cowboy Way


Corona beer ~ Ice cold with a twist of lime

The Lunch Laddy’s not usually a fruity beer guy, but this is to die for. Unless you get the lime wedged in your esophagus, then it’s to die from.


Corona With Lime ~ No ~ You can’t Just Drink One

Musical Accompaniment:

Robert Earle Keane, Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, James McMurtry & Jerry Jeff Walker for that Up Against the Wall Redneck Mother Wild Texas Gulf Coast vibe.

That about does it for this summer edition of The Lunch Lady Cookbook.

This is your Lunch Laddy, Michael Gillan Maxwell signing off and reminding you all to

hang in the shade, drink plenty of cerveza & most importantly

Be Cool ~ DON”T Stay in School!

In Memoriam ~ Ruth H. Maxwell

In Memoriam ~ Ruth H. Maxwell

Ruth Maxwell was my “Aunt Ruth”. She was brilliant, kind, compassionate, funny and an important influence on my life. I especially cherish the reconnection we made through our shared passion for writing during the past 3 years. Her book “Suicide: Living With The Question” was life changing and I was honored and humbled when she asked me to write a review of it. Her most recent book “The Peshtigo Greenhorn” is a historical novel documenting the Peshtigo Fire which took place the same night as The Chicago Fire and consumed an estimated 1.5 million acres or 2,400 square miles in northeastern Wisconsin and Upper Michigan. Thousands of men, women and children perished. Both books are available on Amazon.

Reading posts from “Ruth’s Blog” shed light on much of my own family history and helped me with my own “Family Tree Project.” I miss her, but continue to feel her presence and somehow, I know that she is really never too far away. She will continue to be an inspiration to me and I will never forget her. Love you Ruth!

Michael Gillan Maxwell

“Good Help Is Hard To Find” in The 2013 issue of the Santa Fe Literary Review

I am thrilled and honored to have my 100 word shorty short “Good Help Is Hard To Find”  in The 2013 issue of the Santa Fe Literary Review alongside so many writers whose work I admire. Thank you Meg Tuite for your time and positive energy in this and congratulations to all on your great work! :-)Includes work from Sheila O’ Connor, Mary Stone Dockery, James Joseph Brown, Mathieu Cailler, Robert Vaughan, Alex Pruteanu, Timothy Gager, Teisha Dawn Twomey, Libby Hall, James Claffey, Mia Avramut and others.

Meg Tuite’s interview with Sheila O’Connor is a fascinating glimpse at the creative process.

Follow the link below for online access to the entire journal. My story is on Page 53.

Santa Fe Literary ReviewPoems, stories and essays from Santa Fe’s up and coming writers.

Santa Fe Literary Review

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