This week has been devoted to projects. My desk is piled high with prints of half-finished Adobe Illustrator projects which I’ve been struggling with since Monday. It has been a while since I actually put on my “thinking cap”, to drag Tom Terrific out of the closet and dust him off, and actually put my brain on overdrive. I find it has given me a headache.
As with all software manufacturers, Adobe has messed which what was excellent in the first place, and now made it harder to understand. When I worked full-time I used the software every day and as things changed and morphed I had other illustrators to discuss the updates with making it easier to grasp. These days I can only defer to my other half still struggling with the difference between portrait and landscape when saving a file, and Boo, the Queen of Cats, who views the computer as a device taking my time away from her multitude of needs. As I’ve said before I believe when buying a laptop, or whatever, an IT person and software guru should be included in the cost of the unit. I have a spare room. We could make it work.
Thinking of Tom Terrific took my mind to the Der Weinerschnitzel commercials currently airing on TV. Very retro by design, they take me back to days when television offered up far less sophisticated fare and I kind of liked it. “Retro” is loosely considered the period of time falling between the 1940’s and 1980’s. Certainly a far different time than today. Music changed dramatically over the years starting out in the 40’s with such memorable artists as Billy Holiday delivering her singular sound in a bluesy offering of God Bless the Child and working its way right through to Disco “hustling” its way out of popularity early in the 80’s with hip hop jumping into its spot. I have to admit I wasn’t entirely disappointed when huge hair, disco balls, and white leisure suits fell by the wayside. Not my favorite time to hit the dance floor.
Disco was propelled into the spotlight when John Travolta hit the big screen in Saturday Night Fever, soundtrack provided by the Bee Gees. White three-piece suits were suddenly the fad, shirts laid open to the waist, and bling, lots of bling. Actually Travolta moved us to imitation in both dress and music twice in his movie career. Urban Cowboy compelled the every man to buy carved leather belts with big buckles portraying bucking broncos or longhorn cattle. Bankers and investment brokers squeezed themselves into designer jeans, and cowboy hats and boots. Country western bars shot up around the country quicker than black-eyed peas in a spring garden. Mechanical bulls threw boozy customers onto sawdust covered floors, and ladies and men bellied up to rustic bars for shots of J.D. or boiler makers. Dance studios began offering line dancing and two step lessons for novices. Even my boss, an engineer by trade, began showing up to work looking as though he was working on a cattle ranch. The closest that man ever got to a horse or cattle were the ones depicted on his cowboy jammies when he was four.
During that time my ex and I spent a year living in Washington state. God, as I like to say, spent a little extra time creating that part of the world. Absolutely gorgeous tree covered countryside everywhere you look, and not much of it wasted by lack of use. Because of the heavy rain prevalent in the area, everything grew with little encouragement making green the color of the day everywhere you traveled. On this stay we made our home in Longview, a lumber supported town just north of the Oregon border. Smells predominate memories of my time there, because where there’s an active paper mill the smell of sulphur isn’t going to be far behind.
During our nine month stay both of us worked in the mill. For me it was in the office, while he worked in the mill itself. Work often chewed up the good part of a week. When we got a sunny day to ourselves as tired as we were it seemed a sin not to take advantage of the weather and the time and explore the area. One Sunday we found ourselves in Tootle, a small unincorporated community not far from Mt. St. Helen’s. Short on population but long on welcome, we lingered there for a while in a local bar and pool hall. People were friendly, beer cheap, and talk encouraged. Outside several horses were tied up on a post and once your eyes adapted to the dark interior it became obvious who had ridden on them.
After a game of pool with these two gentlemen, they told us they were working cowboys on a ranch not to far from town. Being the friendly sort they asked if we’d like to join them and their families and the rest of the hands for a cookout later in the day. Sounding like fun, we accepted. Directions in hand we found our way through back roads as the directions they’d given us indicated finally arriving at a huge gate decorated with a rusty O with a W inside. Driving in through the open side of the gate we made our way along a windy dirt road until we came to a group of houses. The main house seemed to be the gathering spot, and to the right a ranch sized outside grill was being manned by one of the two men we’d met earlier. It was a great evening, filled with steaks grilled to perfection, a campfire, real cowboys singing real cowboy songs, and a real bull which I chose not to find out if I could stay on. My husband, being an ex-rodeo rider himself, actually got a chance to show off his riding skills which were excellent. For me it was all about the sky filled with stars, the delicious ranch style beans, creamy potato salad, homemade biscuits, and lightly laced coffee that made the night a hit. Their blue jeans were worn in the seats with faded outlines on the pocket where they kept their tobacco. There wasn’t a disco ball, but it was a night with the cowboys I’ll always remember.
This recipe has nothing to do with cowpokes or campfires, but it was delicious paired with a nice cut of beef and some red-eye gravy. You can mix and match the mushrooms in this as desired.
8 cups artisan bread, cubed
3 cups 2% milk, divided
2 Tbsp. butter
4 shallots, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup onion, chopped
4 oz. portobello mushrooms
6 cups quartered button mushrooms
1 Tbsp. sherry
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/2 tsp. dried rosemary
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
4 large eggs
1 egg white
1 1/2 cups Gruyère cheese, shredded
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray 2 quart casserole dish with cooking spray.
Combine 2 cups of milk and bread cubes. Cover and refrigerate for 30 mins., stirring occasionally.
Remove brown gills from portobello mushrooms and discard. Cut mushrooms in half, and cut halves crosswise into 1/4″ slices.
Heat butter in large skillet over med.-high heat. Add shallots and garlic and sweat for 1 min. Add mushrooms and onions to pan. Saute for 5 mins. Stir in sherry, parsley, rosemary, salt and pepper. Saute 1 min. Remove from heat.
Combine remaining 1 cup of milk, eggs, and egg white. Whisk well. Spoon 2 cups of bread in bottom of casserole dish. Top with mushroom mixture and sprinkle with 1/2 cup of cheese.
Top with remaining bread and finish with 1 cup of cheese. Pour egg mixture over top. Bake for 45 mins. or until set.