The first wasp of spring is hovering under the eave outside my dinner room window. I’m not a fan. Bees, wasps and any manner of stinging beasties have followed me, as I’ve said before, throughout my lifetime leaving little furry bee footprints all over my psyche.
Living in Arkansas, as I’ve said many times, was like going to a different planet for me. Once acclimated to the oppressive humidity, I was struck by the amazing beauty and dramatic scenery surrounding me. The water was the first of many differences. Almost clay like in color, the ponds and rivers appeared to be filled with creamy milk chocolate rather than water. Jutting tree limbs shrouded in lacy fauna cast shadows across murky lagoons like ghostly figures watching over an eerie domain. Buzzing insects were a given, ranging from extraordinarily persistent oversized mosquitos to chiggers, fleas, ticks, bees and a entomologist’s happy list of so many others. Not to be outdone, the slithering and reptilian species stuck their scaly heads up from beneath the browny depths from time to time, others sunning lazily on the smooth surface.
Hailing from that area, my husband at the time owned his first fishing pole before he tasted his first jar of baby food. Waterways thereabouts offered up an abundance of riches for those adept at casting a line, catfish being a local favorite. Before I moved to the south I viewed catfish as bottom feeders. Fish you threw back over the boat if you happened to haul one in. After tasting the delicate flavor of a freshly caught catfish dredged in a half mix of cornbread and flour then deep-fried, I was as hooked as that well whiskered fish.
One weekend with nothing on the calendar, we packed our fishing gear and my sketch pad, stopped at the bait shop in town and drove a piece to a state park set on a river. Our little corner of paradise was located in the tri-state portion of the state. The tri-state area encompassed parts of Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana. In the blink of an eye you might find yourself across a state line without even noticing it. This particular day we crossed into Texas.
It was hot that day, but then you could say that most days there during the summer months. In the heat of the day the fish don’t bite, and soon I became disenchanted watching the bobber moving up and down on the end of my line. Casting our lines once again far across the water I anchored mine in the dirt, and began to draw. It was seductively warm and after awhile I leaned back on both elbows and just let the sun have it’s way with me. “Hold still”, were the next words I heard. Never one to take directions well, I opened my eyes catching movement to the right of me. About two feet beyond my bare feet a cottonmouth snake was slithering up the bank. I’m not sure if I wet my pants, but I’m quite sure I thought about it. Stopping to give me a once over and appearing to find me lacking, it lifted its head as if to say hello or strike then moved on. Everything inside my body had already moved on. It was explained to me afterwards though cantankerous, and capable of delivering a fatal bite they are basically docile and such occurrences do not occur often with humans. Sincerely hope the snake had a bead on that information.
Now I needed to use the restroom. Nothing was available except for the park facilities which hadn’t been updated since Lincoln freed the slaves. It had stone walls, and was broken up into a side which said “MEN” and another for the ladies, but as far as amenities it was just one rung above a portapotty. I had bib overall shorts on that day. I only remember this because not long after I entered the building I recall dragging the bib portion clinking behind me all the way back out the door. Perched on the commode I noticed a very loud buzzing. Letting my mind wander, I attributed this buzzing to telephone wires or machinery of some sort. Following the sound upwards my eyes rested on a huge brown mud-like looking mass with bees circling around it. An inquisitive scout dropped down to take a look at me. From what I understand, they’re called mud dobbers. Because I am what I refer to as “beephobic”, this was tantamount in my world to having a hungry tiger circling the room. Heart beating and in mid-stream I ran screaming from the restroom dragging my bib overalls in the puddle left behind. Running straight past my astonished husband standing outside waiting for me, I didn’t stop to say hello on my way to the car. I’m sure I gave the people standing in the parking lot a lot to talk about over dinner.
Often during my time in the south the locals would say to me “You’re not from around here, are you?”. How could you tell?
This is an excellent way to use up the St. Patrick’s Day corned beef still lurking in your freezer. The broth keeps the dish from drying out and adds a nice flavor. My other half likes the olive oil basted eggs from time to time. A subtle difference from cooking them in butter, also really good over a bed of lemony spinach as a change of pace.
Corned Beef Hash with Olive Oil Basted Eggs
Corned Beef Hash
3 Tbsp. butter
1 onion chopped
1/3 cup green bell pepper, chopped
1 1/2 cups leftover corned beef, small cubed
1 1/2 cups cooked, skinned potatoes, cubed
1/4-1/2 cup vegetable broth
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
Melt 2 Tbsp. of butter in large deep skillet over med. heat. Add onion and green pepper to pan and cook until onions are translucent and peppers are soft, about 5 mins.
Increase heat to med.-high. Add 1 Tbsp. of butter to pan and corned beef and potatoes. Pour 1/8 of a cup of vegetable broth overall. Continue cooking, lifting with spatula to test for browning, until bottom is golden brown. Turn over gently adding additional broth as needed to keep from drying out.
Season well with salt and pepper. Stir in parsley and serve hot.
Olive Oil Basted Eggs
8 large eggs
Salt and pepper
In large skillet bring 1/2″ of olive oil to shimmer over med. heat. Cooking in batches, place each egg in a ramekin and slide into oil. Baste top of egg repeatedly to cook to your liking. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with parsley.