Now. Back to the kitchen

July 23, 2017

French toast, with sourdough bread from the Farmers’ Market.

It’s sure quiet in my house this morning.

For the first time in more than a week, I have no children here. Well, I do, but they’re of the grown variety, and thus are sleeping soundly. All the campers from Camp KayKay have gone home, or in any event to other grandparents’ homes. There are no toys in my living room floor.

It’s kinda lonesome.

But I have a lot to do today — two work projects which didn’t get done last week, because I was chasing tiny tornadoes hither and yon, plus figs that need to be washed, jam made from them, and canned, purple hulled peas (a half-bushel of them) that need to be shelled and stashed in the freezer. The half-bushel of peaches can wait until a little later in the week, which is also filled with lots of things I  need to do, which I hope will involve significant cooking.

Because there sure wasn’t any last week.

The above photo is one of the three times my stove was turned on last week. The other two were to boil eggs for AGC3, and to make a grilled cheese sandwich for AGC1. I did make potato skins one night after everyone had gone to bed and it occured to me I’d forgotten to eat. And while there was plenty of fast/junk food, there were also two good meals out, both Mexican in nature, at Colorado Grill in Hot Springs and at the old faithful Ark-Mex standard, Pancho’s, in West Memphis.

Meanwhile, I had the best tiny fig-picker around. AGC1, at 6 years old, is big enough to go do things with and have fun. I needed to go to Hot Springs and pick figs, which, well, get ripe when they get ripe. So we betook ourselves to Little Rock, spent the night with friend Kate, where AGC1 got to ride a horse and was entranced, and went on over the the Spa City the next day. After we picked figs, we stashed them on ice in a cooler in the trunk, and set out to entertain ourselves for the day in Hot Springs. She was entranced with the observation tower, the Alligator Farm, and the Mid-America Science Museum, which was all we had time to visit. I, on the other hand, was entranced with Colorado Grill.

I have a bajillion favorite restaurants in Hot Springs. And Mexican is not high on my list of very favorite cuisines, though I do like it from time to time. But CG does one dish I’ve never seen elsewhere, that I dearly love, and I had a taste for it, and it was convenient. It’s Shrimp Diablo, which is a dish with sauteed onions, zucchini and carrot strips, and a stray strip or three of red bell pepper (I shoved those to the side), with shrimp, sauteed in a fajita skillet, seasoned with a mild chili-powderish flavor, topped with crispy bacon, and drizzled with a mild cheese sauce.

Have mercy. This stuff is Sweet Baby Jesus good, and I have never had anything quite like it anywhere else. One of these years, I will manage to make it at home.

Shrimp Diablo, poor quality screen grab from a web page.

Ahhhhhh. Chips and dip and Negro Modelo.

Then last night, when we met the other grandparents to transfer children, Children A and C and I decided we’d eat at an old favorite, Pancho’s. Well more than 50 years old, it sits at the corner of Broadway and Martin Luther King in West Memphis, once the gateway to a thriving business district, now on the edge of a ‘hood that looks like it’s been bombed out (or that bombing out would improve it). But Pancho’s soldiers on, dishing out its only vaguely Mexican fare to probably the fourth generation, maybe fifth generation, of diners for whom, when you’re in the mood for cheese dip and “hot dip,” nothing else will do.

We started out, as you do at Pancho’s, with the complimentary cheese dip and “hot dip,” which I learned much later on was salsa. The hot dip is a thin but chunky mix of tomatoes, onions and peppers, the pieces chopped small. The heat tends to vary, I guess according to that day’s batch of peppers. But the cheese dip — oh, the cheese dip! It is the standard by which I judge all other cheese dips (well, that and the marvelous, late-lamented Juanita’s white cheese dip, in Little Rock, but that’s a different thing). Smooth, slightly runny, it’s based on nothing more than Velveeta (or possibly American cheese, but I doubt that) with Ro-Tel tomatoes almost pureed, and sprinkles of cumin and garlic powder. I can eat it with a spoon.

We all had our favorites — tacos, quesadillas, tostadas, Shrimp Vera Cruz, a Mexican cheeseburger. Child C and I dressed everything liberally with Pancho’s dressing, which is a sweet, mustard flavored viniagrette that’s blended to the point of emulsion. Which was the point of an amusing exchange as we were about to leave.

A…rather inebriated…woman came in to pick up a carry out order. We were sitting at a table closest to the hostess stand/carryout counter. The woman got her bag, strolled to your table, and asked, “Can I borrow y’all’s dressing?” We said OK, and she plunked her bag on the counter, got out her carryout plates, uncovered them, and proceeded to douse both them and the surrounding tabletop with dressing. Fortunately, she missed all of us.  Then she helped herself to a stack of napkins the waitress had left for us. The hostess, quite mortified, dashed to the table. “Ma’am? MA’AM! You can’t be coming over here to these folks’ table and getting their stuff!” and escorted her out.

We had a fine laugh over that.

If you ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em are looking for something to do today and tomorrow, come on over and help me put up figs and peaches and shell peas. And if you decide to go to Pancho’s, don’t sit at the closest table to the hostess stand!






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