Good stories have an arc. We get to know a character. Problems arise, choices are made, and there is a resolution eventually. Sometimes that resolution is a neat answer to who killed Professor Mustard, other times it is less tidy–challenges surmounted, or coming of age.
Blogging is more about vignettes for me—snapshots that share moments in time as vividly as I can portray them, because I want you to taste something along with me, whether that is the grit in my mouth on a dusty street in Spain, or a Jamón ibérico so good it brings tears to my eyes.
Real life is messy. It doesn’t fit into a clean arc with an intro, rising action, climax, and a satisfying dénouement. This is one reason I am so fascinated by memoirs. When they are done well, the seemingly disconnected moments of real life become part of a bigger story arc. And I get to see and feel and taste right along with the author.
Book club met at Cindy’s last night. The book was The Boy Kings of Texas, a memoir by Domingo Martinez. We did something entirely new for our group. We invited a guest. Actually, we invited the author. Yes we did! And he was gracious enough to come spend an evening eating and drinking with us and answered about a million questions we threw at him, and even signed a few books. It was a very lively evening, and I’d like to invite Domingo to all of my dinner parties from now on.
Maybe life doesn’t always come together like a novel in the end, and we don’t have full control over the arc it will take. But we can write the script for the smaller moments, choosing to fill them with whatever delights our soul—friends or solitude as the moment demands, novelty, cats on laps, good books, and plenty of delicious meals.
We often have a dinner that matches our book selection at book club. Not being authorities on full Tex-Mex, we went with a loosely Mexican food theme for The Boy Kings of Texas. Diana brought a rich chili verde, beans and fideos. We also had tortillas and salad and fruit and dessert and plenty of wine.
For the appetizer, I made this quick salsa. In the height of summer, I might have made a pico de gallo type salsa. January is just not the time for recipes that require good-tasting fresh tomatoes, so this particular salsa is perfect for winter as it relies on canned tomatoes. I first started making this salsa (although in giant vats) when I worked as a prep cook in a Mexican restaurant during my first few years of college. It has stood the test of time and will kick the cojones of any tub or jar of pre-made salsa from the store. This produces a medium-heat salsa by my standards. You can adjust the heat by increasing or decreasing the jalapenos a bit, or pouring in a little of the liquid from the jalapeno jar. It makes quite a large bowl, so if it’s not for a party, you could scale it down by half, using a smaller can of tomatoes. The only problem I have with it is a tendency to hog the entire bowl.
- 1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
- 2 tbsp diced fire-roasted green chiles (from a little can)
- ½ cup sliced “nacho” jalapenos (the kind in a jar)
- 5 green onions, sliced
- ½ bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped
- Salt to taste (start with a small pinch)
- Juice from the jalapeno jar if you want to increase the heat
Place chiles, jalapenos, onions, cilantro, and half the can of tomatoes in a deep bowl and use an immersion blender very judiciously—just enough to cut everything into small pieces, but not enough to fully blend. This can also be done in a regular blender with just a few quick pulses. Stir in the rest of the tomatoes and hit them once or twice with the blender if you want to make a few of the tomato chunks a bit smaller. Taste and add salt as needed. Taste several more times just for fun before serving.
Elsewhere: We’re reading My Life in France by Julia Child over at Edible Books