Burgoo: It Raises More Questions Than It Settles

I don’t really think of the rural Midwest as having a culture. There’s no unique and immediately recognizable accent. If someone hears that I’m from the Midwest, they don’t immediately assume they can guess my stance on various social issues. We don’t all dance the same way or like the same songs or eat the same foods.

I mean, if I said, “Come with me to Swett’s for some down home Southern cooking,” y’all would immediately have some idea of what such a meal might entail.

But if I said, “Come with me to this restaurant for some good Midwestern cooking” we’d have a much harder time defining what that might be. There’d certainly be a lot of casseroles and some layered Jello desserts and macaroni and cheese, but they have those foods other places. There might be loose meat sandwiches and horseshoe sandwiches.

And, I suppose, there’d be burgoo.

I was discussing burgoo just this morning with a man who had no idea what I was talking about. This man, who shall remain nameless unless he chooses to out himself, is something of a meat expert and yet he’d never heard of burgoo.

He accused me of trying to warp him with some “Yankee” thing.

Could the burgoo be the one unique Midwestern cuisine item? The one thing we can look at and say, “If you’re eating burgoo, you’re eating Midwestern?” I did some internet research.

The home of the burgoo seems to be located in two places–Arnezville, Illinois, population 400 and Owensboro, Kentucky, population something or other that I couldn’t easily find so I gave up looking.

So, I don’t think it’s fair to call it “Midwestern” but I’ll happily put it in the “rural central U.S.” category.

The folks in Arnezville now claim to only use beef and chicken in their burgoo, but I swear I remember this being one of those things where every one went into their freezers and took out whatever meat they had left over and bringing it all into one place to cook the shit out of it and eat it up and make room in their freezers for hunting season. So, I could have sworn you’d end up with beef (of course) and chicken (of course), but deer and rabbit and turkey and whatever else you’d caught and killed the year before.

But none of the recipes are like that, so maybe I’m remembering wrong.

I do, however, remember how all the men in town would gather around to take turns stirring the burgoo all night long and how hot the fires were and how listening to them laugh and talk when the women weren’t around delighted me.

Yes, I’ll admit it confused me how all these men who could not go near a kitchen “because men can’t cook” could, when the cooking was transferred out of doors and into kettles over large open fires,find the necessary skills to hack up meat and vegetables and make a fine thick hearty soup*.

But I was a baby feminist at that point, and had the men all to myself, so I asked no questions.

*If our Food Ambassador would like to chime in here with an explanation of the difference between soup and stew, I’d love to hear it. I think of stews as being thick, but this is thick and is still called a soup.

The Butcher Talks Theology at Work

The Butcher’s Co-Worker: You know, the Bible says that there will be one world government before Jesus comes back.

The Butcher: You know, Jesus says you shouldn’t get married.

They return to work. After a few minutes of silence.

The Butcher’s Co-Worker: You know, Jesus is probably right about that.

The Difference?

Okay, y’all, let’s just think back on the big difference in my life between February 28th and March 1st. Yes, I’m still amazed at how much better I feel. If you don’t want to speculate about why that is, just think about bees or trains or something instead. But for those of you who are more home-problem-fixing inclined than me, I’ll just point this out.

On the night of February 28th, I opened the window in my bedroom. It has been open since then.

And it’s not just me who’s feeling better. The tiny cat is hopping around like a kitten and Mrs. Wigglebottom about pulled me over four times on our walk this morning as she was chasing after birds or squirrels or just frolicking.

Do you think our heater is to blame?

Just a thought.

Also, on a semi-related note, Mrs. Wigglebottom and I were out on our walk (as previously stated), and the black dog that has been our nemesis since the beginning of time, it seems, was out for a walk with its owner on a leash.

I know.

I about died. Both Mrs. Wigglebottom and I just stood there dumbfounded as that dog walked by without even looking at us, like it didn’t even know us, like it didn’t try to bite us every fucking time it was out in the yard and we walked by.

Well, America, if that’s how the dog behaves around its owners, no wonder they left it outside low these many years, because they probably thought that dog was sweet and well-behaved.

I don’t know who disabused them of that notion, because lord knows I was too afraid to go up to their house, but I’m glad someone did.

Dick Lit?

I finished Todd A’s book Being Good because, despite my whining, I had to know what happens.

Here’s the backstory. Todd self-published this book, which means that, rather than getting a dollar a book that he has to split with his agent, he gets almost everything, but has to fund his own marketing, which has got to suck. But he’s a creative guy, so he’s finding a way to make it work. To that end, he’s giving away copies of his book to whichever bloggers ask for it, in order to create some buzz, which will, he hopes, sell some books.

Will it? It should. Todd’s a great writer and I got sucked right in. This is the story of Slav O Se, an English teacher at an all girls’ school in Atlanta who has repeated run-ins with the interim head of the school and various women. Todd’s strong point is writing immediately recognizable and engaging characters that you like despite yourself.

And I could devote a whole post to the way he writes about sex and bodies in general, because it’s always funny and insightful. Here. See what I mean:

I went to the bathroom and stood over the toilet, placed one arm against the cabinet over the toilet to steady myself and let loose a powerful gush of urine. I stood like that with my face to the ceiling and my arm to the wall before I realized I wasn’t hearing any of the sounds which normally accompanied a well-deserved piss. My penis was warm but there was no splashing. I looked down and saw a swelling condom hanging tentatively over the bowl of my toilet.

How great is that?

It also makes a nice segway segue into my minor complaints about the book. See that last “of my toilet”? Yes, we know. Trust us as readers to remember from the beginning of your paragraph to the end what your main character is peeing into. He does this quite a few times–gives you a little more information than you actually need and it can feel a little clunky.

Also, the climax. I’m torn between whether it’s a cop-out or brilliant.

I think the story at the end makes it brilliant. See, Todd includes a… epiprologue… proepilogue… a story at the end of the book that actually takes place before the action in the book.

So, you read the book and you feel like nothing has really changed for O Se, that he remains a guy that stuff happens to and around, but that he remains unable to effect real change in his own life.

Kind of. I think Todd gives you hints that O Se is a bit like his condom, damming up something very interesting, so that, when he finally gives way, it’s messy.

And the story at the end solidified that for me, that O Se is capable of change, and into someone interesting.

Ha, obviously, I suck at reviewing books.

So, here’s what I thought of it. I really, really liked it and I’d buy copies for Sarcastro, the Boy Scout, and Knucklehead if they weren’t already bloggers and could just ask for their own damn copies, because I think all three of them would get a kick out of it (or did, in Sarcastro’s case).

So, if you like the three of them or wish you were like the three of them, buy Todd’s book and support independent publishing. It’s good for you. Oh, and it’s a quick read, so you can take it into the shitter and finish it in a handful of sittings, if that’s your thing.

To Bring Folks Up to Speed

1. Remember the other day when I went blog-hopping? The guy who writes the blog between Sarcastro’s and the chick’s I ended up at left me a nice comment and the posts he links to say better than I can about the strange fortuities of the internet.

2. Today is day two of “B. feels so much better.” What the fuck? I’m not complaining, don’t get me wrong. But it’s really like someone flipped a switch between February and March and I feel more like my old self than I have in months.

3. I don’t read a lot of fiction and Todd A’s book reminds me why. I’m about half way through it and I just can’t go any farther. It’s good, don’t get me wrong, but I cannot stand the antagonist and I can’t bear to watch the protagonist suffer any more under his machinations. I’ve got to know, he gets it in the end, right? No, don’t tell me. No, wait, tell me. Okay, don’t.

Also, Todd does very little writing about cooters–he’s more a tits man, apparently–but the cooter writing he does was surprisingly touching, in a weird way.

4. The effort to get the Butcher a car continues. One of you sent me a link to Metro’s auction site. Now I feel compelled to ask if any of you have any experience with this and any advice for the Butcher about it. Is it a good idea to buy a car up for auction? I’ve got to tell you, I’m thinking about getting me seven copiers. That seems almost too good to pass up.

5. Give Huck a job, Nashville folks. But, if you hire him, you must promise to let him come to lunch with me on occasion, otherwise, I’ll be lonely. His talents include fathering children, conversation, and mayhem. No, really, a great propensity for mayhem. Also, for a mere $15,000 a year more, I’ll throw in the Butcher–he has issues with authority, but he’s great with people and has extensive sales experience.

6. I forgot to mention that now is prime puppy/baby/shirtless man watching weather over at Centennial Park. If you like to look at any or all of those things, might I suggest wandering over there this weekend?

7. As we were walking out of the office today, my co-worker turned to me and said, “Well, sometimes it just bees that way.” This tickled the shit out of me.

8. Well, I forget what eight was for…

Ha, I haven’t thought about that song in ages. But what a good song.

All right, y’all. I’m headed back to Todd’s novel. This “happy” shit is unnerving me, but let’s enjoy it while it’s here.