Saturday, February 27, 2010

How to play a guitar solo

I must admit that George Harrison isn't my favorite beatle. Actually, my favorite beetle is the Scarab Beetle, but be that as it may, Prince plays the shizzle (please take notice that I'm trying not to swear) out of the solo on (eeek! can I even speak the name?) 'While my Guitar Cries In Fright', or something. Amazing solo; amazing outfit. Plus you must check out Dhani Harrison in the background, just 'cause he's so freakin' good looking.

I suggest (strongly) that you ignore everything until about 36 seconds in, when Prince appears magically (I suspect a Tardis in the near vicinity.) Also notice Prince throws his guitar up at the end of the song and it never descends. Magical powers, I tell you.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

there is at least one useful cat on the planet.

Fred, take note.

I'm so glad

Life's been kinda tough of late, but there's still beauty in the universe. I got to ride in a Ferrari (i'm not convinced it's actually a vehicle, more like a work of art) and I found Skip James' original recording of "I'm so glad," pretty generally considered one of the most difficult guitar songs ever recorded. Plus, it's pretty. Cream, poor boys, used Skip's much simpler 1960's recording for their hit. Take that Eric. Actually, the royalties from the Cream cover allowed Skip James to live out the few remaining years of his life in relative luxury for the very first time in his life. Thank you, Eric Clapton, for your basic decency.

When I listen to Skip James' music (a regular occurance), I'm slapped in the face by his intelligence and humbled by his life story--he worked, essentially, this astonishing musician, as a laborer, until pretty much the end of his life.

I have it easy.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The best band in 1973 might just have been the Stones, but in 1971 it was Judee Sill.

Pretty embarassing. I'd prefer it was someone no one had heard of.

As always in 1973 the camera work more than sucks, but try to spot Keith Richards actually playing beautiful lead guitar. It's a Bitch.

Oh, and Lessie, this song is for you. It's not a bitch but as crayon angels go, perhaps a bit out of tune. But not the song. One of my favorite songs ever. For good luck.

And for you too, Lessie, the Lamb ran away with the crown. Some of the only known live footage of my hero. All together now: "I laughed so hard I cried, and the lamb ran away with the crown.'

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Just Following Directions....

Reading the meticulous directions for the brownie recipe below (following post) triggered a flashback to my college years. For a time I lived at Xanadu Co-op, a coed house with 53 residents plus a handful of boarders. Talk about a learning experience!

We prepared all our own meals, so this meant that a bunch of young and inexperienced cooks (some MORE so than others) were all of a sudden preparing meals for about sixty people. At least we had a Hobart mixer!

Hobart mixers come in a range of sizes and are of the same general design as Kitchen-aid mixers----in fact, Kitchen-aids are just the domestic version of those giant, industrial mixing machines. The one at Xanadu stood about four feet tall and featured a mixing bowl well over two feet deep.

I remember walking into the kitchen one day and seeing N---- hovering over the bowl, her arm reaching all the way down into the bottom; the rim was practically at her armpit. I approached, wondering what had fallen into the machine.

When I got close, I saw that after pushing her sleeve way up, she had apparently thrust her arm deep into a batch of brownie batter. "N-----, what are you doing?"
She straightened up, momentarily pulling her arm from the batter. Thick brown clumps clung all along her forearm. She pointed agitatedly at the Joy of Cooking on the counter. "It said when you add the flour, 'stir by hand'!"

At dinner, I declined to tell my fellow diners of the culinary technique our cook had employed that evening. As for the brownies? They disappeared quickly.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Brownies: my daughter's perfect recipe.

Calla lilly spent roughly a quarter second on line and found this brownie recipe, which she promptly lost, after baking it to general acclaim. Thank goodness I made her write it down on a post-it note, using my motherly privilege. Everyone whose eaten these has gotten that silly, goofy almost embarassing grin on their faces. Even mentioning past memories of these brownies brings back that inmistatable look of joy contemplated in peace. Enjoy.

Heat oven to 350 degrees
Line a 9X9 baking pan with one large piece of aluminum foil. If the sides of the pan are exposed, line with another piece of foil in the different direction. Parchment paper can be used as well. Some people like to butter the aluminum foil at this stage, but I forgot to mention it to Calla lily, and they still turned out.

Optional ingredients:
If you're using nuts (1/2 cup walnuts or pecans,) toast them now. I toast my nuts in a copper pan on pretty high heat, shaking all the time. I stop toasting when the nuts start smelling wonderful, and let them cool prior to making the rest of the recipe.

Required Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
Beat eggs, vanilla, and sugar (using a balloon whisk or a egg beater) until frothy and lemony. Now that I am a proud owner of a lovely orange Kitchenaid, I throw everything in there and wander over to check until the color of the liquid is a lovely lemon-yellow and there is some eggy-looking froth on top.

3/4 cup unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks)
Melt butter gently, you don't want it too hot. I generally try to leave a few small pieces of unmelted butter in the butter mixture when I take it out of the microwave, the heat from the rest of the butter will melt them. (Yes, my microwave is basically a complex butter-melting device.)

1/2 cup very high quality cocoa powder
Add cocoa powder to the melted butter-this may take some mixing.
Let cool.

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking poweder
pinch of salt
Mix the flour, salt, and baking powder together in a small bowl. I prefer using a fork. Actually, I prefer a really awesome whisk-like thingie with stainless-steel balls on the end of the flat whisk wires--but this device only seem to exist in my kitchen; I seem to recall buying it at Williams-Sonoma for a song at some point in the last century.

Add the previously prepared 1/2 cup toasted walnuts or pecans, if desired to the flour mixture. Rumor has it one can used untoasted nuts with good results.

Add the cooled (but still liquid) butter/cocoa to the sugar and egg mixture, stirring until combined. If the butter is too hot at this step the eggs can curdle. If you have to use hot butter, then stir a tablespoon of two of the hot butter mixture into the sugar egg mixture to temper it, before adding, slowly, (beating all the while) the rest of the butter.

Gently fold the flour mixture into the sugar/butter/cocoa mixture until all the dry ingredients are incorporated. DOn't over-mix.

Put into the prepared pan.

Bake on center rack of oven (heated to 350 degrees) from 25-35 minutes. A toothpick inserted in the center shouldn't be liquid or dry, but should have a couple moist crumbs hanging off. I'll try to remember to take a picture of this (or more likely, have someone who doesn't entirely specialize in thumb pictures snap the photo) because the wonderfulness of the brownies are rather disturbingly dependent on the baking length.

Cool on a rack. If you don't have a rack, improvise.

Good eating.

I must mention here how much I love cooking; it's been difficult for me to actually cook for quite a while, but I have offspring! And I can order them around (within limits). I tell them they're "cooking lessons."

Hoping for more cooking recipes (from me!) soon.

My next will be (i hope) my magical way to get the easiest and flakiest corn bread and muffins. It's awesome and very very easy. Feel free to pester me if the recipe isn't forthcoming. My health is iffy, but when I feel good, I want to share-friends, even if on-line count as friends.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Baby please don't go

down to New Orleans. I love you so, baby, please don't go.

Big Joe Williams on a nine (9!!!) string guitar.

I think he wrote this; my favorite youtube clip in I don't know how long.