Cured Meats

by wjw on May 20, 2024

I’ve been at the Truchas Peaks Place the last week, at the Rio Hondo workshop with a group of my friends. For our first meal I provided a 16-pound Serrano ham complete with carving stand. The ham had been shipped from Iberia after spending 14 months curing in a Spanish cave.

Here’s what it looked like with the layer of fat removed and showing signs of my inexpert carving. I had bought a special Serrano-carving knife when in Spain a few years ago, but hadn’t had a chance to use it till now, and there was a steep learning curve.

That first meal was a Deusy. The main dish was sliced ham and Spanish chorizo with olives and Manchego and Iberico cheese. Side dishes included asparagus wrapped in ham, shrimp in a chorizo garlic sauce, and for dessert melon with slices of ham and a balsamic reduction. Served with a couple bottles of an unoaked Spanish white.

I’d been looking for an occasion to do this for years, but consuming an entire ham would have required a very large group of diners— and indeed despite the big dinner and slices being carved for meals and snacks over the next week, we managed to consume only about half the edible bits. The rest is now in a box in my living room, and I plan to tackle it tomorrow. Some ham for ourselves, some for friends, some put in storage for another day.

And maybe the bone for soup. Mustn’t waste.

New Wheels

by wjw on May 9, 2024

My trim line may be slightly different

So after seven years with a Subaru WRX, I’ve gone and bought a new WRX. Upgunned with a 2.2-liter boxer engine that wouldn’t be complete without a ginormous turbocharger sitting on it.

My old car was in good shape, and a used WRX is always in demand, so I got a very nice price for it.

One obvious difference is the giant touchscreen of an entertainment/climate system sitting in the middle of the dashboard. I have only the slightest idea of how to work the thing. After some struggle I finally manage to get it to play a podcast off my iPhone.

Yes, I know I should look up the answers in the owner’s manual. But which owner’s manual? This beast comes with no less than FIVE owner’s manuals. And none of the questions I have seem to be addressed in any of the indexes. Maybe I can find some Youtube videos.

I’m going to do my best to avoid temptation for the first 5000 miles or so, and not succumb to the temptation to write it out on New Mexico’s exemplary mountain roads. But all I can say is, that temptation is certainly there.

Pig and Veg

by wjw on April 27, 2024

We’re in a campaign to empty out the chest freezer, which contains a lot of stuff that I don’t remember buying, and the result for tonight was this pork loin roast cooked with potatoes, carrots, and onions. You could think of it as a one-pot meal if it weren’t for the fact that it’s in a pan, not a pot.

If I make this again I’ll cook the vegetables a bit ahead of time, since the vegetables that weren’t in the cooking liquid (mostly apple juice) came out hard, dry, and largely uncooked. So I scooped out the uncooked bits and put them in the microwave, and in the meantime enjoyed those elements of the meal that were properly cooked.

Tasty, addictive, and easy-peasy. I’ll be making this one again.

Tonight’s Sunset

by wjw on April 24, 2024

I know it looks as if I produced this in Photoshop, but this is exactly what I saw from our front porch.

I love the Southwest.

One Way to Get to Pylos

by wjw on April 23, 2024

Another picture from my 1980 trip. I’ve fled the freezing rain of Northern Europe for the Med, and here we find me on a rare sunny day. Greece turned out to be cold and rainy as hell, and one night I pitched my tent in a tree-sheltered hollow, only to have the rain start to pour down after I went to sleep. When I woke up at maybe 2am, I found my tent was now pitched in a lake, and I had to haul my belongings out of the water toward higher ground, an experience somehow emblematic of the whole trip. My sleeping bag got good and flooded and spent the next day hanging on a clothes line in hopes of drying out.

I happened to be on the quay when this ketch was trying to moor, and I helped haul on lines and otherwise to make myself useful, in vague hope of being able to join the vessel as a deckhand on the next stage of its journey. The skipper was a taciturn Frenchman who was rather impressive in the way of a Nescafe model, but he took no notice of me one way or another.

Maybe he could have used me, because his crew seemed to have deserted. She was a young woman who came ashore in a miniskirt, lots of makeup, and pink plastic boots— au courant for 1980, but she didn’t strike me as a sailor. I last saw her that night partying with a group of Greeks in one of the waterfront taverns. The man, on the other hand, was not to be seen.

I thought about dropping by the tavern and chatting up the lady, but she seemed pretty high-maintenance, so I didn’t.

I made note of the pair and thought I might put them in a story, but I never did.

The town on the cliffs behind me is modern Pylos, as distinct from the ancient Bronze Age palace of Pylos on the northern end of the bay. That Pylos was the home of King Nestor, according the Homer the wisest (and most long-winded) of the Greeks. Nestor’s palace was burned in the aftermath of the general collapse of Bronze Age civilizations that ended the Mycenaeans, as well as the Hittites, Ugarit, Luvians, Babylonians, and various others (the Assyrians and Egyptians barely survived in weakened form). Nestor’s palace is very large and well-preserved, and nearby is a large echoing beehive tomb. The fabulous tomb of the Griffin Warrior wouldn’t be found for another 35 years.

Elsewhere in history, in 425 BCE the Athenians succeeded in trapping a Spartan army on the large island of Sphacteria and forcing their surrender (so much for the myth that Spartans would always fight to the last). The Spartans had to ask for an armistice and came close to conceding the Peloponnesian War.

Much later in 1827, a Franco-British-Russian fleet entered the bay and defeated the Ottoman navy and secured Greek independence. A lot of history for such a small place.

Anyway, I didn’t get to take a boat to Nestor’s palace— probably I went on a bus, but I don’t remember. It was well worth the trip.

The Europeans trips of 1972 and 1975 were paid for by my parents while I was in college, but by this point I was on my own, and the trip was made on the budget of a newly-minted writer of sea-adventure novels. I carried travelers’ checks in one pocket, and dwindling supplies of cash in another. I had a well-hidden credit card for emergencies, and I pitched my tent whenever possible.

The worst part of the trip was not financial anxiety, but the weather, which was relentless. I thought I’d never be warm again.

The Small Rains Down Do Rain

April 19, 2024

Here I am in the UK in the autumn of 1980. I’m in Greenwich doing research for the Privateer books, and I’m standing in front of the clipper ship Cutty Sark. I seem to be an older and more weathered person than I remember. I seem to attract extreme weather whenever I visit Britain, and […]

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April 16, 2024

“Damn.” Now that’s a word you don’t want to hear from your eye doc when he’s peering through his scope at the interior of your eye. And you really don’t want to hear his next line, which is: “You really can’t catch a break, can you?” The vision in my left eye has been deteriorating […]

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Down the Gullet

April 8, 2024

This is the best picture I got of 2024’s solar eclipse, taken by focusing the camera directly into the eyepiece of Kathy’s Astroscan telescope. What followed was disappointing, because the actual eclipse was clouded out. Totality nevertheless remained impressive, as the moon’s shadow descended with amazing speed. If I were a neolithic tribesman I would […]

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April 4, 2024

I haven’t been visible much online because I’ve been buried up to my eye sockets in submissions for Taos Toolbox. Because of the weeks of radiation and other treatments last year, I was late in getting notices out, and as late as a couple weeks ago I was wondering if we’d get enough applications to […]

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La. La.

March 26, 2024

The big residuals check from Hollywood came in! Imagine the fun I could have with all this money!

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