A Midsummer’s Night Picnic

While the date may vary slightly from year to year, the summer solstice, also known as midsummer, officially marks the first day of the summer season. The summer solstice occurs when the orbit and axial tilt of the planet positions our hemisphere closer to the sun than at any other point during our yearly trek around the big ‘ole fusion-furnace we sometimes call Sol. As a result of this cosmic positioning, the summer solstice is the longest day of the year, and ancient cultures have long recognized this neat little piece of astronomical trivia. Traditionally, the solstice has been a time to celebrate the coming of the crops, light bonfires, and, until the Church ruined it, engage in merry-making.

One of the reasons ancient cultures, specifically the Gaelic ones, stayed up late, partied, and lit bonfires on Midsummer’s Eve was because they thought it was a time when Faerie folk wandered the countryside freely, and they hoped the big fires and revelry would scare them off. Those of us literary types will recall that this is exactly what happens in Shakespeare’s classic “A Midsummer’s Night Dream.”

Mmmm,spicy

Mmmm,spicy

It was in this rich tradition of celebrating nature and the verdant bounty she provides that, instead of the normal, sit-down affair that characterize most of The Homegrown Revival dinners, The HGR Team decided to hold its final event of the spring season as a picnic in Butler Park on Midsummer’s Eve.

When we arrived at the park, The HGR Team had already set up a serving table on top of a small, grassy hill, and several of the Revivalists had laid their picnic blankets on the ground. The HGR Team greeted us warmly, and then they set about mixing up our aperitifs, which they called “Spicy Greyhounds.” For the uninitiated, a “Greyhound” consists of vodka and grapefruit juice. A “Spicy Greyhound,” as The HGR Team jovially explained, contains a muddled slice of jalapeno, which definitely kicked the whole thing up a notch. The final product contained Texas grapefruit, Dripping Springs vodka, and slices of muddled jalapenos from Springdale Farm.

Muddle it up, Tink

Muddle it up, Tink

Since a line of thirsty Revivialists had begun to form, Tink Pinkard decided to join in and help make the drinks. Noticing that the singular muddler was currently in use, Tink decided to improvise, just as any outdoorsman worth his salt would do. So he grabbed an unopened beer bottle, flipped it upside down, and proceeded to use the cap to muddle away like a madman.

You can't repeat the past? Of course you can!

You can’t repeat the past? Of course you can!

We took our drinks and sat on our blankets, and before too long, The HGR Team brought us our dinner in a beautiful picnic basket. The picnic baskets had come from Shuford Alexander, a vintage luggage restorer in East Austin. I have to say, those cases were magnificent. One of our friends said our basket made him feel like Gatsby, and I had to agree. Just having it on our blanket brimming with food upped my gentleman quotient by an order of magnitude. Just look at that thing. Isn’t it gorgeous?

Since this dinner didn’t have service, we got to choose the order in which we ate our dishes. We started with the potato salad that the chefs had made with potatoes from Springdale Farm and Urban Roots. Four egg halves rested on top of the salad, and we greedily spooned it onto our plates. Next we moved to the squash salad that had also been sourced from Urban Roots. The tangy crispiness of the squash dish did a nice job of complimenting the smooth taste of the potato salad. We also had a mason jar filled with a cool and crisp shredded cucumber salad that I simply couldn’t get enough of.

No Joking! These are serious business!

No Joking! These are serious business!

After exploring the veggies, we moved to the proteins. We each had an entire sausage to ourselves, and we were told they had been made with wild Texas boar and cold smoked by The HGR Team specially for the picnic. Sometimes I find the smokiness of smoked meats overwhelming, but it was perfectly balanced, and when combined with the homemade mustard sauce, the sausages almost made me think the meal couldn’t get any better.

Plate of Deliciousness

Plate of Deliciousness

Then we opened the bag of fried chicken, and that thought quickly flew from my mind. The chicken, which was sourced locally, was absolutely delicious. It was full of flavor and perfectly juicy, and the breading was unlike any I’ve ever had. It was crispy with just a hint of sweetness.

For dessert we had mini angel food cakes topped with blackberry jam made from Springdale berries. By this point in the evening it was fairly dark out, and I couldn’t resist swiping a second cake.

Aos Sí

Aos Sí

 

We reclined on our blankets, bellies full and hungers satiated, and basked in the cool night and the soft glow of the lights of downtown Austin. And since APD would have likely frowned on us lighting a huge bonfire in Butler Park, The HGR Team passed out glow sticks. We laughed and waved them manically in the air to usher in the solstice, to say good-bye to the spring, and to scare away any Faire Folk who may have been lurking in the bushes nearby.

 

EDIT: Just a quick update. The HGR Team kindly posted the recipes for several of the dishes. But there’s one caveat if you wanna successfully make these dishes: You have to eat them with friends.

 

 

Categories: Austin Life, Homegrown Revival | Comments

I, Biscuit

I, Biscuit

I, Biscuit

In this podcast, Hyperliterature Presents “I, Biscuit,” which is the audio version of a short story I wrote several months ago. You can download it from iTunes here.

This short story was inspired by a couple of things. First, it’s obviously a play on Isaac Asimov’s classic I, Robot, and the story does make use of Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics. But don’t worry. You certainly don’t have to know anything about sci/fi to enjoy the story.

The other inspiration for this story comes from my habit of verbifying nouns. Specifically, converting “biscuit” into a verb. As in, this morning I biscuited. Or, I can’t get the phone right now. I’m biscuiting.

One of my co-workers called me out on this silly little habit in my Facebook album “You biscuit.” It was an imperative title, you see. I was commanding the audience to make biscuits.

Seemed reasonable at the time.

In any case, this is the story. I tried to read it with some panache. I hope you enjoy it.

Play
Categories: podcast, Writing | Comments

A Night With The Homegrown Revival: Food, Conversation, & Community

Leigh and I have been attending The Homegrown Revival’s dinners for nearly two years now. We’ve only missed a couple during that time, and I start to get a little antsy if too many days tick by without seeing The Homegrown Revival Team and the Revivalists.

The friends. The food. The conversations. Breaking bread and sharing drinks with farmers, foragers, and foodies. Sharing a meal with the wonderful chefs who prepared it.

There’s just something special about attending The Homegrown Revival’s dinners.

Table's ready to go. All we need are people.

Table’s ready to go. All we need are people.

The last dinner we attended took place way back in January, and that’s entirely too long.

The Homegrown Team members had planned to hold the dinner in the garden area at in.gredients, but because of the looming threat of thunderstorms, they had to abruptly move the dinner to the warehouse at Reclaimed Space. I love in.gredients, but the warehouse at Reclaimed Spaced provided a perfect location. When the thunderstorms finally rolled over Austin, the clattering rain on the tin roof provided our soundtrack, and the breeze brought in by the cold front helped cool us down.

Last night’s meal was a special one because The Homegrown Revival is currently in the process of creating a television show based on its mission statement, and during last night’s dinner the camera crew floated around and filmed the action.

Duck Season

Duck Season

The meal itself couldn’t have been more amazing. The menu came together as the result of a collaboration between Sonya Cote, Tink Pinkard, and Paige Hill. Tink provided the proteins, which were duck and yellow catfish. Paige foraged and sourced the produce, and Sonya created the dishes.

Look at that color. So Beautiful.

Look at that color. So Beautiful.

We started with duck confit, served with beets and onions. Chef Cote had poached the duck in its own fat, and the result was nothing short of amazing. After the duck confit, we had a bright red radicchio soup. Thinly sliced cucumber graced the middle of the bowl, and the soup had just a naughty little hint of spice that played well with the coolness of the cucumber. Along with the soup, we had a dish of potato salad made with several varieties of potatoes and beautiful hard boiled eggs. The fourth course was a huge mound of salad with fresh veggies from local Austin farms, and right on the top sat a pile of candied pecans.

Catfish Ceviche FTW

Catfish Ceviche FTW

And the coup de grâce was a ceviche made with yellow catfish, mango, and jalapenos. Before last night, catfish would have been waaaaaay down on my list of fish I want as ceviche, but man oh man was that ceviche good. Really just sublime. I could have easily mistaken it for something like grouper. But nope. Good ol’ Texas catfish.

Mmmmmmmmmm

Mmmmmmmmmm

And for dessert? Fresh strawberries and chocolate ganache. The chocolate was just lovely–rich and creamy. I’m glad they didn’t give us a spoon. I would’ve eaten it right out of the bowl.

I mentioned earlier that a film crew was on hand, but what I didn’t mention at the beginning of this post was that I had the distinct honor of sitting in on a roundtable discussion about local food for the shoot. In fact, I sat at the head table with Tink Pinkard from The Homegrown Revival, Cameron Molberg from Coyote Creek Organic Feed Mill and Farm, Judith McGeary from Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, Paige Hill from Urban Patchwork, Dorsey Barger from HausBar Farms, and Renee Rangel from RRR Farms.

I have to admit, I felt a little outta my league. Those wonderful ladies and gracious gentlemen were so knowledgeable and passionate about the Austin local food movement that I had to internally remind myself that I was there to talk and not listen.

TV stars in the making

TV stars in the making

One of the things that we kept coming back to during our discussion was the importance of community and the communal act of sharing information. Changing the way we view food in this country will take a real paradigm shift, and for that to happen, many people have to enter into this conversation. So talk to people about local foods. Go to farmer’s markets and actually talk to the vendors. Check out the web pages I linked above, and then visit those farms and try their produce and proteins.

Above all else, become involved with your food and the artistry that’s required to prepare it. The ability to create food that sustains us nutritionally is easy. Thousands of species of animals have figured out how to create or gather food for sustenance. But as far as I know, we’re one of the only species capable of creating delicious, transcendent meals that not only sustain us, but that bring us emotional and life-affirming pleasure. We should take pride in that aspect of our species and celebrate it.

It’s special.

It’s unique.

It’s what makes us human.

Categories: Austin Life, Homegrown Revival | Comments

Tales from the GAM: Little Bucky Edition

In this podcast, Hyperliterature Presents Tales from the GAM Little Bucky Edition. Click here to download it from iTunes.

During Tales from the GAM episodes I sit down with old friends, and we discuss what it was like growing up in Gholson and Aquilla, two small Texas towns. Returning this episode is Jason Olson, whom I typically call JRO (it’s pronounced jay-row) and joining me for the first time is Bucky McAdams. I’ve known JRO and Bucky for nearly 30 years, and there’s not a lot that we don’t know about each other.

Our discussion goes off the rails pretty quick, and if you’re offended by juvenile discussions of parties, sex, alcohol, and drugs, then this episode is not for you. Consider yourself warned.

Seriously. I warned you.

Also, the music that you hear in the new intro is from Noise Problem Selections. If you’re a musician and want your music on the podcast, send me an email.

Play
Categories: podcast, Tales from the GAM | Comments

Tim Braun & Fusebox Wrap-up

In this podcast, Hyperliterature Presents Tim Braun and a Fusebox Festival Wrap-up. Tim Braun is the Editor-in-Chief of New and Social Media for the Fusebox Festival. We recorded this podcast on the last day of the the festival after having eaten a bag full of breakfast tacos, and we spend this podcast discussing Fusebox Festival and blogging. Tim’s a good friend, and this podcast was loads of fun to record.

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Categories: Fusebox Festival, podcast | Comments

Highway to Hell?

Now that charges have officially been filed against Dzohkhar Tsarnaev, I’m sure that we’ll soon be overwhelmed with the many arguments regarding his future punishment. Since the federal government intends to try him for the use of a weapon of mass destruction and the malicious destruction of property resulting in a death, there’s certainly the distinct possibility that he will receive the death penalty.

According to this website, the federal government has only executed three people since the 1960s, one of whom was Timothy McVeigh. Seems highly probable that Tsarnaev will likely face the same fate.

And truthfully, I’m not sure how I feel about that.

First off, I know the death penalty doesn’t actually do anything. Study after study after study has demonstrated that it isn’t a deterrence against crime. It just isn’t. Get over it.

So if the death penalty doesn’t deter future criminals, in this case future terrorists, why should we even consider using it in Tsarnaev’s case?

Well, if you’re a religious type of person, maybe you think that the death penalty will put the accused on the fast-track to some type of eternal punishment. Fire and brimstone. Soul burning ice. Skin-flaying Cenobites. Or maybe just an eternity spotting Pat Robertson as he works out. Whatever.

But the same side of that religious coin also tells us that if the condemned adequately repents for his or her sins, then he or she might still be able to enter into an eternal paradise and enjoy such grandiose eternal rewards like infinitely singing church songs to god or deflowering giggly virgins. Well shit, that’s no damned good.

Fortunately, I am not a religious man, so neither one of those quandaries worries me. I think dead is dead and gone is gone, but I’m still torn on what to do. Here’s why:

Since I know the death penalty doesn’t really do anything, I also understand that the only logical reason to use it is as a form of vengeance or revenge. And I’m okay with that. Tsarnaev toyed with the lives of innocent people, incapacitated Boston for days, and reminded us all that we’re only one wacko away from a horrible death. So fuck that guy. Carlin said that once we realize the death penalty doesn’t deter crime we can actually start to have some fun with it. With that in mind, dress Mr. Tsarnaev as Bozo, place him into a circus cannon, and shoot him directly at a brick wall. Colorful and jolly!

But the more logical part of me understands that killing him, while immensely pleasurable, will also likely inspire other like-minded religious assholes in the years to come. His death will immortalize and mythologize the creep, and other extremists won’t remember him as a person, all lanky and pre-pubescent looking, but rather as a proud, deified hero.

Secondly, he wants to die. All these religious nutbags want a publicly grand death because they think it guarantees them a place in whatever Disneyland-like afterlife they’ve invented for themselves. Which means that if we put him to death, we’re giving him exactly what he wants.

So killing him just won’t do.

What makes sense is to keep him alive in jail. By all accounts, he’s got a hole in his throat. I’m sure in prison that little wound will get’em a great nickname. Probably something like “Ole Rectum Neck,” or “Mr. Vagina Throat.” We can cross our fingers and hope that his cellmate is a hardass from Dorchester or Mattapan. Mr. Tsarnaev would spend every waking moment terrified that the angry Bostonite would rape him in his throat-hole.

We’d also have the opportunity to see him grow old and senile. You know the press would trot him out every so often like they do with Manson. And like Manson, as the years go by, he’ll get less and less scary and more and more pathetic.

It’s easy to deify an angry, vibrant, young hero. It’s much harder to deify a doddering old man who drools simultaneously from his mouth and his neckhole and who shits himself every time he farts.

And that would be the best punishment. Debased. Humiliated. Mocked.

Categories: Politics | Comments

Hank Cathey

In this podcast episode Hyperliterature Presents Hank Cathey from The Fusebox Festival’s Digestible Feats. Hank is the Culinary Arts Coordinator for the culinary branch of The Fusebox Festival, and I’ve wanted to have him on the podcast since I started this little venture. Hank is such a fun guy, and we mostly discuss The Fusebox Festival and the Digestible Feats series, but we also dive into related topics like the culinary arts, artists in general, and the loveliness of Graham Reynolds.

Make sure you check out The Fusebox Festival in Austin, and if you have the opportunity to chat with any of the Fusebox Festival coordinators or Fusebox Festival artists, don’t pass up the chance.

Play
Categories: Fusebox Festival, podcast | Comments

The Homegrown Revival

In this podcast episode Hyperliterature Presents The Homegrown Revival, click here to subscribe in iTunes, I had the pleasure of talking with Sonya Cote, executive chef at Hillside Farmacy and the executive chef and owner of the upcoming Eden East restaurant. She’s such a lovely, amazing woman. And talented. She’s crazy talented. We talk about food, urban farming, and The Homegrown Revival. During the second part of the podcast, I sat down with David and Charles Barrow, two members of The Homegrown Revival Team and all-around great guys. They’re incredibly knowledgable about the Austin food scene and urban farming, and it was an honor to record this podcast. Be sure to check out Hillside Farmacy, The Homegrown Revival, and be on the look-out for Eden East which will open at Springdale Farms sometime near the end of April.

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Categories: Homegrown Revival, podcast | Comments

Discussions on Gender

In my newest podcast episode Hyperliterature Presents Discussions on Gender, I sit down with four lovely ladies to discuss gender in the 21st century. I learned many things about my female compatriots, not least of which was that I am overly sensitive to gender. Guess I should limit the number of Buffy marathon sessions. Enjoy.

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Categories: podcast | Comments

Hyperliterature Presents Podcasting

It’s unusual when I get truly excited about something. But here I am, jumping up and down at my new artistic venture.

Two posts ago I announced that Hyperliterature would begin publishing podcasts. I am finally ready to announce that the “Hyperliterature Presents…” podcast is now available in the iTunes store. The second podcast listed is truly the first episode, as the first one I posted was really nothing more than a test podcast.

I intend to post a variety of podcasting material. For the time being, I’ll simply follow the categories on the blog.

Hyperliterature Presents Tales from the G.A.M.

This is a new addition to the blog categories. These podcasts will feature people with whom I grew up in Gholson and Aquilla, Texas. G.A.M. stands for Gholson Aquilla Metroplex, and in these podcasts, we will tell stories about growing up in small Texas towns. The content will be debauched, juvenile, puerile, and, depending on your sense of humor, hilarious. Again, these will be totally debauched. You’ve been warned.

There are already two “Tales from the G.A.M.” listed in my iTunes channel. The first is really just a test podcast, but the second is a full episode. Again, the material is 18+ on those.

Hyperliterature Presents The Homegrown Revival

In these podcasts I’ll host discussions with various members of The Homegrown Revival Team. We’ll cover things like the importance of eating local food, the sustainability of monocropping, the food scene in Austin, and whatever else strikes our fancy.

Hyperliterature Presents Blogging

These will simply be audio versions of past blog posts.

Hyperliterature Presents Teaching

In these podcasts I’ll host discussions with some of my colleagues at The University of Texas, Trinity University, Texas high schools and beyond. We’ll talk about education, the college readiness of today’s high schoolers, and I’m hoping my colleagues will feel comfortable sharing some of their funnier stories.

Hyperliterature Presents Nerdology

I have to be careful with this one. If I’m careless, these podcasts will morph in to a rip-off of Chris Hardwick’s excellent podcast The Nerdist. We’ll discuss nerd culture in all its glory, and we’ll address things like gaming, films, comics, and any other nerdy venture we identify.

These are the podcasts I have planned, but I fully intend to offer additional content in the future. So do me a favor: subscribe to the podcast and share the channel with as many people as you can. Help me climb the iTunes charts, will ya?

Categories: Blogging | Comments

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