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Your Own Back Yard – Michael Gillan Maxwell

Visual Art – Creative Writing – Social Commentary

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The Lunch Lady Cookbook: Dining at the Dirt Track Races

Lunch Laddy at the Dirt Track Races

Hi there boys and girls! This is the Lunch Laddy, Michael Gillan Maxwell bringing you another installment of the Lunch Lady Cookbook. Summer is a fleeting season and it won’t be long before lunch ladies across the nation will be at their posts with healthy heapin’ helpins’ of classic American Lunch Lady AWESOME. But I heard Summer say: “I ain’t dead yet!” and the Lunch Laddy still has a wild card or two to throw down before Labor Day. This installment of the Lunch Lady Cookbook is takin’ it old school. We’re gettin’ our act together and takin’ it on the road. The Lunch Lady Cookbook takes you out to eat at one of the grittiest and noisiest venues for classic American haute cuisine ~ the dirt track races!

Black Rock Speedway

The dirt track menu has the venerable, time honored comfort food that is the epicurean cornerstone of county fairs, amusement parks, rodeos, traveling carnivals, the circus and most sporting events.  To say that it is a veritable cornucopia of healthy vegan delights would be more than a little white lie. There may be some nitrites, white flour, high fructose corn syrup and a smidgeon of hydrogenated oil in one or two of the offerings, but I’m not altogether sure and I don’t really want to know. This is not the place where one goes to sample whole foods masterpieces, gastronomic innovations, and strokes of gustatory genius. This is not cocktails at Noel Coward’s. We’re wearing tee shirts and ball caps, not silk smoking jackets and ascots. This is the dirt track for God’s sake.

Slushies, Ice Cream
Cotton Candy

It is here that one may dine on such delicacies as fried dough with powdered sugar, giant pretzels, cotton candy, nachos smothered with melted cheese, pulled pork, Slush Puppies, ice cream cones, french fries with vinegar, sausage, chili, salt potatoes, Texas hots, and of course, the uncontested foundation of all classic cuisine Americana: burgers and dogs! This is not just another Friday night out on the town. This is the mecca of midway concession delights. This is a sacred pilgrimage. Of course, any selection one makes from the menu may be embellished and enhanced with any number of old stalwarts from the condiment trough including yellow mustard and (fancy) ketchup, chopped onions, dill relish, chili relish, sweet relish, powdered sugar, vinegar and a half dozen other gooey, slippery, slimy, gloppy things guaranteed to turn your shirt into a dish towel. Unless, of course, you have the foresight to wear a bib. However, that could turn out to be a tragic fashion choice at a venue like the dirt track races. Let’s not forget that a healthy layer of sand and grime and grit will enhance any selection you have made, especially if you are seated with the Lunch Laddy at Turn 4. Think of it as extra fiber in your diet.

Menu

The switchboard is lighting up with callers who just want to know: “Lunch Laddy ~ what did YOU choose for your dirt track dining entree?”  I must confess, my mind was already made up before I even left the house. I would settle for nothing less than a hot dog and a beer. The Lunch Lady Cookbook dog was served on a white bun in a cardboard tray and smothered with chopped onions, (Fancy) ketchup, yellow mustard and  chili relish. The dog was sublime ~ an insouciant little sausage with just the right amount of nitrites and grease. I could bite it but it didn’t bite back. It would not have been complete unless it was washed down with a cold can of beer. (And then another one, for good measure.)

Dirt Track Dining

Beverage pairing:  Labatt’s Blue ~ chilled to perfection, drunk from the can.

Music Pairing: Whatever heavy metal tunes that were pulsating from the speakers. All I know is that the guitar tone felt like a bag of hammers being dropped on my head.

As for the races,  it was  the Lunch Laddy’s first visit so it was like sacrificing a virgin to the volcano. The Lunch Laddy sat just above track level coming out of turn 4 and surrendered himself to the volcanic din of mechanical mayhem, the ambrosia of burning rubber and fuel combustion engine exhaust, the sweet caress of filth and grit massaging his skin and blinding his eyes, the earsplitting shriek and howling maelstrom that is blood sport spectacle for the whole family on a Friday night somewhere in America. What’s not to love?

3 Cars and a Cloud of Dust
Rounding Turn 4
The Roar of the Greasepaint, the Smell of the Crowd

So, until next time, this is the Lunch Laddy signing off.

Get your motor runnin’!

Arrivederci and Bon Appetit!

The Lunch Lady Cookbook Summer Edition Sizzlin’ Summer Slam Extravaganza Volume I

Blues in the Bottle

Hey there everybody! This is The Lunch Laddy, Michael Gillan Maxwell, bringing you a special summer edition of The Lunch Lady Cookbook. As Alice Cooper said:” School’s out for summer!” Right? You know it Baby ~ and when school’s out, that means the Lunch Lady is chillin’ like a villain and gellin’ like a felon ~ but there are  still plenty of Lunch Lady doings to rant and rave about.

First of all, it’s been a scorcher. It’s as hot as a dockers armpit, so hot even my sweat is sweating, hot as a marathon runner’s jockstrap, sweating bullets and hotter than a two peckered billy goat, hotter than Hades and sweating like a stevedore, hotter than a hen in a wool blanket, hotter than a two dollar pistol, hotter than bus station chili, hotter’n a burnt boot, hot as Methodist Hell, hotter than the hinges hangin’ off the gates of Hell, oy it’s a schvittz out there!

Conflagration

Some of you have been writing me to say:”What gives Lunch Laddy? Who takes the summer off anymore? People gotta eat!” You have spoken and I am listening, good people. Not only do people gotta eat, but people gotta drink too. There may be some of that here in The Lunch Lady Cookbook Summer edition. Just you wait and see.

Summer Grill

Summer is the right time for the night time to fire up the grill! The coals should be just past the point of incinerating anything that comes near them. I always find it best to start with a humongous pyre on a spit of land that is surrounded on three sides by water. That way if things get out of control it greatly increases your odds of outrunning the conflagration, should things get out of hand and if that doesn’t work, you can dive into the water in any one of three directions. On Seneca Lake there are any number of wineries or microbreweries that you can swim to while you recover from the trauma.

Dusk on Fir Tree Point
Firing Up the Coals I
Firing Up the Coals II

So getting down to brass tacks. The Event of the Season was The Lunch Laddy’s “Lunch Lady Cookout for the Summer Babies” (which of course was a thinly veiled excuse to invite all my friends over to give me presents!) My oldest childhood friend, Mike (by that, I mean he’s 1 day older than me) flew out from Wisconsin so we could celebrate our birthdays together. Needless to say, our reunion set a new standard for civilized discourse and sophisticated entertaining for generations to come. It was ascots and cocktails at Noel Coward’s all the way..

English Butler
Basic Supplies
Fancy Hors D’oevres
Basic Munchies

The menu was replete with summer classics ~ all kinds of skewered stuff, flaming grills, blues, cold beer, watermelon, sweet corn, chicken spiedies, venison spiedies, shrimp on the barbie, summer salads a-go-go, carrot cake, banana bread, blueberry bread  and about 52 bottles of wine that my friend Jeff brought (what kind of man does he think I am anyway???) I served elegant hors-d’oeuvres on pirate themed dinnerware and we played ukeleles ‘till dawn. Thankfully no animals were injured in the making of that party. I even successfully navigated that most prosaic of summer dishes, but one who’s essence has eluded me ~the time honored, but very underestimated: “Potato Salad”

Lunch Lady Summer Slam Potato Salad

2 pounds eensie weensie itty bitty fresh red potatoes (no ~ don’t even THINK of skinning them!)

1 cup Spanish onion (finely chopped)

1/2 cup fresh celery (finely chopped)

3 scallions sliced diced signed sealed and delivered

Cilantro, basil and chives from the Lunch Lady’s Herb Garden

Pink Hawaiian Sea Salt, pepper, garlic powder

Mayonnaise (4 tablespoons ~ maybe more)

1 Tablespoon of hot, horseradish mustard

Steam potatoes until done ( not too done ~still a touch on the firm side ~ if potatoes could be ‘al dente” that would be it) Chill in fridge until cool. (or even cold)

Slice and dice ~ along with everything else on this list. (Watch your fingers)

Add together with mayonnaise in a large mixing bowl.

Add spices liberally. (Season to taste)

Chill.

Serve on pirate themed dinnerware.

Pirate Themed Dinnerware
Pirate Themed Napkins

Beverage pairings:

9 bottles of wine ~ mostly Spanish Reserve Riojas

Ice cold beer

Grey Goose Vodka and Pomegranate Juice (it’s brimming with antioxidants)

What Kind of Man Do These People Think I Am?

Music pairing:

The Lunch Lady Summer Baby Birthday Mix

  1. Birthday     The Beatles
  2. The Stumble      Freddy King
  3. Treat Her Right Roy Head & The Traits
  4. Boogaloo Down Broadway     The Fantastic Johnny C
  5. Haunted House  Roy Buchanan
  6. Mr. Pitiful Otis Redding
  7. Barefootin’     Robert Parker
  8. Tramp     Otis Redding
  9. Knock On Wood  Sam and Dave
  10. Land Of 1000 Dances Wilson Pickett
  11. Cool Jerk The Capitols
  12. Nashville Cats The Lovin’ Spoonful
  13. Respect Aretha Franklin
  14. Soul Man Sam & Dave
  15. Walking the Dog Rufus Thomas
  16. Peter Gunn     Duane Eddy
  17. Rumble Link Wray
  18. Darlin’ Companion The Lovin’ Spoonful
  19. California Sun    The Rivieras
  20. Bad Boy The Beatles
  21. Lovin’ You    The Lovin’ Spoonful
  22. Polk Salad Annie    Tony Joe White
  23. Henry Thomas The Lovin’ Spoonful
  24. Six Days On the Road Dave Dudley
  25. (You’re The) Devil In Disguise Elvis Presley

Repeat as necessary then follow up with playing ukeleles ‘till dawn. It helps if you can pay your neighbors to leave town for the weekend. I think that’s one of the reasons I still have a squeaky clean criminal record. If you ever sleep over at my house there will always be a fresh kazoo next to your bed, in case of emergency.

That’s it for Vol.I ! Stay cool and keep it on the DL…..

Be back soon with:

The Lunch Lady Cookbook

Summer Edition Sizzlin’ Summer Slam Extravaganza ~ Volume II

(Spoiler alert ~ It involves 2 pounds of BACON!)

Happy Dance

Lunch Lady Cookbook ~ Lunch Lady Tuna Casserole

Lunch Lady Tuna Casserole

Cooking

Hey there boys and girls. This is the Lunch Laddy, Michael Gillan Maxwell, bringing you another recipe from The Lunch Lady Cookbook. Today we have a dish that ranks right up there with the All-Time-All-Stars of Comfort Food – a time honored go-to – the venerable Tuna Casserole. I’ve been in many a school cafeteria where the Lunch Ladies were slingin’ Tuna Casserole and this actually is the first legitimate Lunch Lady staple to grace the pages of the Lunch Lady Cookbook. 

Lunch Lady Action Figure

This does come with a caveat  ~ a little tuna casserole goes a long way. Too much of a good thing could even lead to the disintegration of a relationship as depicted in article in the New York Times (April 7, 2012) that examined various reasons for divorce in England, which unlike every state in America does not have a no-fault divorce law. In one case “a man declared that his wife had maliciously and repeatedly served him his least favorite dish, tuna casserole.” A conservative approach relative to the frequency with which tuna casserole graces your dinner table will go a long way towards maintaining a peaceable kingdom. 

Kitchen

No question about it, tuna casserole is a prosaic working man’s special, to be sure. But this is no reason to throw in the towel and go totally lumpen proletariat. All it really takes to class up this dish a little is a little imagination with your spices and garnishes and your beverage and music pairings.  This Lunch Lady workhorse of a dish could be juiced up and spiced up in any number of ways, and this particular spin on Lunch Lady Tuna Casserole does incorporate one or two ingredients that might not be used in a typical Middle School cafeteria. So without further adieu, I present to you

~ LUNCH LADY TUNA CASSEROLE ~

Ingredients:

1 12 oz can of White Albacore Tuna in Water

1 Can Campbell’s Golden Mushroom Soup

1 5.5 oz. Can V-8 Juice ~ (Psst! Secret ingredient. Good and good for you)

1 Package Frozen Sweet Peas

1 Small Spanish Onion ~ sliced & diced

1 Small Tomato ~ sliced & diced

1 Celery stalk ~ sliced and diced

1/2 Cup Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese

12 oz. Wide Egg Noodles Bistro Style

Whole Wheat Bread Crumbs

Worcester Sauce

Salt

Pepper

Garlic Powder

Red Pepper Flakes

Basil

Preparation:

Slice and dice fresh veggies.

Assemble your arsenal of spices, sauces and garnishes.

Boil the noodles ~ don’t over do this ~ better to prepare them “al dente” ~ they will cook more with the casserole.

Drain tuna. Feed tuna juice to your dogs and cats. They will love you with a white, hot passion for this.

Combine all ingredients in a 2 Qt. casserole dish, adding spices and a bit of the cheddar cheese intermittently as you gently stir together. Hold half of the tomato in reserve for topping.

Top with bread crumbs & rest of the cheese & tomato.

Bake covered on center rack of oven at 350 for 1 hour. Uncover for last 15 minutes if you like the topping a little crusty. 

Lunch Lady Tuna Casserole

Music Pairing

I dialed in a potpourri of songs from artists including Guy Clark, Old Crow Medicine Show, Steve Earle, Gillian Welch, Jerry Garcia & David Grisman, John Prine, June Carter Cash & others. Songs about working blokes, hopeless romantics, broken hearts, mercenaries,  moonshiners, orphans, vagabonds, drifters & dreamers, hard luck cases & whimsical goofballs. There’s even a gender bending sea chanty in there. These songs all have a familiar feeling. Even if you don’t know them, they somehow sound like songs you grew up listening to, songs that were the background of your lives. This became the foundation for a collection of tunes I burned to a CD and called 3 Chords & A Cloud Of Dust Collection Volume I. But I digress ……

3 Chords & A Cloud Of Dust Collection Volume I

Wagon Wheel Old Crow Medicine Show

Mystery Train Part II   Steve Earle

Dublin Blues               Guy Clark

Galway Girl               Steve Earle

Those Memories of You   Parton, Harris & Ronstadt

Souvenirs               John Prine

Shady Grove               Garcia, Grisman

Ring of Fire               June Carter Cash

Poor Man                         Old Crow Medicine Show

Orphan Girl               Gillian Welch

Paradise                          John Prine

L. A. Freeway                  Guy Clark

Mohammed’s Radio Warren Zevon

Old Shoes Tom Waits

That’s the Way the World Goes… John Prine

Handsome Cabin Boy Jerry Garcia, David Grisman

When I Paint My Masterpiece Bob Dylan

Fish and Whistle John Prine

Mercenary Song Steve Earle

I Was In The House … Warren Zevon

Tear My Still House Down Gillian Welch

Steel Guitar

BEVERAGE PAIRING

ITHACA NUT BROWN ALE ~ OF COURSE!!!!!

 

Ithaca Nut Brown Ale


Until next time ……

Bon appétit !

Lunch Lady Chicken Cacciatore

Lunch Lady Chicken Cacciatore

Cooking

Hey there everyone! This is Michael Gillan Maxwell, the Lunch Laddy coming to you from La Trattoria della Lunch Lady to bring you a sizzling new recipe from The Lunch Lady Cookbook. Today’s recipe is a spin-off from a venerable Italian country cooking classic ~ Chicken Cacciatore. Original cacciatore recipes descended from a hunter’s stew made from fresh game and fresh seasonal herbs and veggies. Rabbit, wild onion, carrots, tomatoes and herbs were often the foundation for this dish, which was cooked over an open fire. Fire roasted wild rabbit is not exactly a staple in most American public school cafeterias these days, but I think you will like this variation on that theme, and you won’t have to go traipsing through the under brush like Elmer Fudd chasing “that silly wabbit.” It’s also mindlessly simple. Big plus point.

Elmer Fudd Hunting

So ~ without further adieu ~ I present to you:

 Lunch Lady Chicken Cacciatore

Ingredients

6 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Thighs

1 16 oz. Can Diced Tomatoes with Basil, Garlic and Oregano

1 Spanish Onion – Sliced

2 Fresh Plum Tomatoes – Diced

1 Fresh Red Pepper

Parmesan Cheese

1 or 2 Cloves Fresh Garlic – Minced

Basil ~ Fresh (If you got it) otherwise Freeze-dried will have to do, I suppose)

Garlic Powder

Freshly Ground Sea Salt

Freshly Ground Black Pepper ~ although one of my close friends is allergic

~ you know who you are ~ so I won’t be using black pepper if you are amongst my guests!

Preparation

  • Slice, dice, mince, shred, tear, bend, spindle and mutilate fresh veggies, herbs and cheese.
  • Drain liquid from canned tomatoes into casserole dish.
  • Lay chicken breasts in there all nice and cozy. Squeeze ‘em in there, snug as a bug in a rug.
  • Season liberally. Don’t mince words and don’t be shy with the minced garlic. How much is too much? There’s no such thing as too much. It should be enough to repel an attack by a vampire. (Or a blind date that’s going badly)
  • Lay in the sliced and diced onion and tomatoes.
  • Add the canned diced tomatoes, spread evenly.
  • If you’re using fresh basil, tear and sprinkle over mixture.
  • Top with freshly shredded parmesan cheese.
  • Cover and bake at 350 for 60 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes.
  • Serve over pasta or rice. I used Tri-colored fusilli for it’s festive appearance.
  • Dracula Repulsed By Garlic

Music Pairing

Guitar freak that I am, the muse dictated that I create a “John Fahey” Pandora Station for this occasion.  John Fahey is an acoustic guitar god. He is kind of the grand daddy of acoustic guitar finger picking. The station features lush and pristine 6 and 12 string acoustic guitar solo playing from such masters as Leo Kottke, Norman Blake, Martin Simpson, Bert Jancsh and many others. There’s even some chicken pickin’ Tele playing from the late, great Roy Buchanan.

Steel Guitar

Beverage Pairing

Rioja

Cosme Palacio y Hermanos Rioja Reserva

To tell you the truth, I haven’t actually tasted this yet, but I have two bottles that are calling my name. It got a monster rating from Wine spectator, it’s very affordable, and looks and sounds totally munch-able. A good Spanish Rioja is hard to beat. My Spanish friends tell me you can drink a good  Rioja all day long. Sounds like that makes for an early night though. It goes down smooth and has an earthy quality, like a good French Rhone. As a friend of mine once said: “ A good Rhone should taste like dirt!” If that’s not a good selling point, I don’t know what is!

In closing, all that’s left to be said is Mangia! Mangia! Mangia!

Chicken Cacciatore

Introducing The Lunch Lady Cookbook Rock Stream Red Beans and Rice

Cooking

Lunch Lady Cookbook Introduction and Recipe I

Michael Maxwell here to introduce the newest category on Your Own Backyard. I am proud to present to you the first recipe in The Lunch Lady Cookbook. I am your host, The Lunch Laddy. 

Those of you who know me have heard me say that all good recipes should be built upon a solid foundation of bacon. While although I may have said that, I am no longer married to that rule, since all rules are made to be broken. However, suffice it to say, you may build any recipe you choose upon a solid foundation of bacon, but cheese or beer could be substituted just as easily. I feel it is incumbent on me to issue an advisory that not all of these recipes are for the faint of heart. In fact, many of them may need to be modified relative to your personal tastes or medical conditions, such as having only one artery left to clog. So please, adapt accordingly, drive safely and don’t go swimming for at least an hour after eating. (I think that is one of those old adages in the same category as catching pneumonia from getting your feet wet)

Also, although I am as carnivorous as Tyrannosaurus Rex, many of the recipes are vegetarian – as is the case with my first one – and if you choose not to top with cheese it is  (GASP!) Vegan! and so, without further adieu, I give you ~

Lunch Lady Rock Stream Red Beans and Rice

Ingredients:

1 Cup Brown Rice

2 Cups Water

1 16 oz Can Red Kidney Beans (no salt added)

2 Cups Chopped Red, Yellow and Orange peppers

1 Cup Finely Copped Red Spanish Onion

3 Green Onions

2-3 Cloves Garlic

2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Freshly Ground Garlic Powder

Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Freshly Ground Sea Salt

Red Pepper Flakes

Half Cup Shredded Cheddar

Black Bean and Corn Salsa

Sour Cream

Combine rice and water, bring to boil, and simmer until done.

Lightly saute chopped veggies in olive oil. Add garlic last so it does not overcook.

Drain red beans. Combine rice, veggies and beans in 2 Qt Casserole.

Add seasonings to taste. Don’t go hog wild, but it’s gotta have some hair and teeth.

Cover with shredded cheddar. Bake at 350 in Covered Casserole for 45 minutes.

Serve with tortillas and top with healthy dollop of sour cream and salsa.

Suggested beer pairing ~ Great Lakes Brewery Edmund Fitzgerald Porter

(Because that’s what’s currently in my fridge)

Suggested Musical accompaniment ~ Live Musicians if you can afford them

otherwise  ~ Acoustic En Vivo  ~ Los Lobos ~ while cooking

Los Lobos ~ Acoustic En Vivo

~ Buena Vista Social Club ~ while eating

Buena Vista Social Club

Eat hearty Maties!

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