Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Man In Black

I wear a lot of black.  I just do.  Sometimes I fight the impulse to buy yet another black sweater or dress.  Sometimes, if I find a great bargain, I give in and add it to the collection.  I've struggled with the image over the years.  The Ex-Ex asked me one time if I was having a Johnny Cash day.  However, just recently, I learned to embrace it, thanks to a sixth grade boy.  Here's how the story goes:

First period class, 13 eager sixth graders, lesson on telling your age and how to ask someone else's age...

6th grade boy: (hand in air- oh, good, a question, I think, about this fabulous lesson I have just presented)  Why do you always wear black, madame?

Me:  (mouth kind of open, no sound coming out- I should be used to this kind of thing after 32 years of teaching middle school) Uh...

6th grade girl:  (very matter-of-factly) Black is very slimming, you know.

Me:  (composure somewhat regained):  You probably don't know who this is, but there was a famous country singer named Johnny Cash, and he always wore black and so do I. (As good a reason as any, right? And it is slimming, just for the record.)

6th grade boy:  Oh yeah, I know who he was.  I've heard his music.

Me:  (mouth kind of open again, thinking that I must remember to thank his parents)  Good for you!  I am impressed.

Back to the fascinating lesson on the French verb avoir...

Later in the week, I gave them a quiz and I put a caricature of Nicolas Sarkozy, president of France, on it as extra credit to see if any of them know who he is.

One girl guessed Johnny Cache.  She spelled his name in French, no less!  She didn't even know she had done it.  How great is that?

So now when I get up in the morning and pull on a black turtleneck or tights, I think, thank you, Johnny.  It's a good look.  I guess it is just who I am.  It doesn't mean I am depressed or going to a funeral, either. 

The black boots that I bought in Arles in 2008--
The black Longchamp purse I bought at Galeries Lafayette on one of my March student trips--
The inside is always a disaster (the phone is usually buried way in the bottom somewhere so that I can't possibly get to it when someone calls)--

One of two black trench-type raincoats that I own--
Carol, at Paris Breakfasts, posted recently about what the Frenchies are wearing... noir, bien sûr, so I feel even more chic.

Back to Johnny... I visited Folsom Prison a few years back when out in California for computer training.  Luckily, I was with another teacher who grew up in the area.  We finished our work early one day and decided to see the sights.  I jumped at the chance to see the prison.  Sounds a little weird to you, does it?  When you grow up on the music of Johnny Cash, it is not at all weird.  My dad and mom listened to him all the time.  When Walk The Line came out on video, my boys gave me my very own copy of it.  Son #2 even downloaded some of the songs on his iPod- I was so pleased and proud.  I am listening to the soundtrack as I type.
Naturally, my thoughts turned to What would Johnny eat?  And bless the internet and google because thanks to them I found out.  All I had to do was just google Johnny Cash favorite food and up popped a picture of his sister Joanne and a bowl of chili.  A fitting recipe for a chilly Sunday afternoon so this is what the Ex-Ex will have while he watches football today.

Rest in peace, Man in Black. 
Johnny Cash Chiliserves 12

(I wish I had my mom's old cast iron pot to make this.  She used to make things like this on the wood cookstove she inherited from my grandmother.)

5 lbs. sirloin steak, chopped
3 packages McCormick's, Lawry's, Schilling or any other good chili seasoning mix
Mexene chili powder
Spice Island's chili con carne seasoning mix
4 15-oz. cans red kidney beans
4 16-oz. cans whole tomatoes
1 can tomato paste
Seasonings to taste:
Sage leaves
Garlic powder
Onion powder
Chopped onions
Chopped chile peppers
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar

Brown meat.  Add chili seasoning and cook 5 minutes.  Add beans, tomatoes, spices to taste, onions, chile peppers to taste, sugar, chili powder and/or chili con carne seasoning to taste.  (Tasting here is essential so you won't over season.) If too hot, add more tomatoes.  Add tomato paste.  If chili seems too thick, add water.  Simmer on low heat 20 minutes.

**Sabbatical Chef notes:  I cut the recipe in half (just the two of us now) and made a few adjustments.  I used petite diced tomatoes with green chilies in them.  I used one envelope of chili seasoning, I ground up one teaspoon each of cumin seeds and rubbed sage.  I threw in a teaspoon of herbes de provence (mine is a mix of thyme, basil, savory, fennel seeds, and lavender flowers-- the recipe has been Frenchified!).  I chopped up a medium-sized onion and two cloves of garlic.  I added a tablespoon of sugar.  I left out the garlic and onion powders.  I didn't have any con carne seasoning on hand.  It is pretty spicy as it is.  I didn't add the tomato paste.  The Ex-Ex doesn't care for a strong tomato taste.   It is pretty darned good, if I do say so myself.

Johnny's Cornbread

Once again, a well-seasoned cast iron skillet would be the best thing to bake this in.

1 1/2 c. self-rising cornmeal
1 1/2 c. self-rising flour
1 1/2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 eggs
2 3/4 c. buttermilk
1 onion, chopped
1/2 c. melted butter

Mix cornmeal, flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder.  Add egg, buttermilk, and chopped onions. Pour into skillet and bake at 350˚F for about an hour or until done.  Take out of oven and pour melted butter on top.  Let set for 10 minutes before cutting.

Bon appétit, Johnny!

No comments: