What can I say- I like cheese. The cheesier, the better. I am a sucker for it every time. Especially the ones that you have your head in the picture. Leaping tall fences, cutting off traffic, abruptly stopping the car… I am guilty of all.
Thankfully my sons were always game for another stop on our adventures.
I think my love of Roadside Kitch began in the early ’70s with a long trip to the east coast and my first sighting of an oversized Bobs BigBoy! Or maybe it was Burma Shave that grabbed me with their signs…”The monkey took one look at Jim and threw the peanut back at him“(Dixon, CA)
Roadside attractions became wildly popular all over the US in the 1930s when we began to “See the USA in our Chevrolets” and continued well into the 60s. – They were to grab your attention and get you off the road and into town.
The general intent was that if they got you to stop to see the worlds biggest ball of twine, then you’d probably stay for dinner, get gas (think “eat at Stuckey’s and get gas”) and maybe even stay the night or do a little shopping.
The idea is still the same today, except most roadside attractions are now in predominately rural areas.
And I still stop at them. I doubt I will ever be too old to enjoy the novelty of roadside attractions.
And small town bars.
We all know those jokes- “A guy walks into a bar……………..”
Many years ago we moved out to the sandhills of eastern Colorado. We had bought a café sight unseen on a hand shake at a football game in Denver. Yes- true story.
After weeks of working double shifts I decided I needed a drink. So off I went to our nearest town with a bar- Yuma- 40+ miles away.
Our town was D.R.Y….
So, in the middle of the day, in the middle of the week, I walked into the bar. ALONE…and sat down at the end. The quintessential bartender is leaning on it at the other end yapping it up with the ‘regulars’. They all look a little startled.
Him: What can I get you?
Me: A B-52
Him: Ohhh- Akron has an airstrip… anything else?
Me: okay- How about a Bulldog?
Him: Mason there (points at guy) has dogs for sale
Me: How about a beer?
….Brings me a bottle…
ME: in a glass….
Him: It IS in a glass!
And then the frosting on the cake……
Him: WHO are you here with?????
And that is when I learned that well bred ladies do NOT go to the bar ‘unattended’ out there unless ….. Unless what??
Maybe I should have had him explain it to me? heehee
On another occasion we needed some wine to go with a harvest dinner for a private party- So I ran to the beer store in Joes looking for some- Fully expecting some KJ or Hogue or Napa Valley or something reasonable…
As I’m looking around, the very nice lady asks if she can help me find anything in particular…. I tell her we’re looking for a wine that pairs well with steak and seafood…
She proudly directs me to the far wall where they have EVERY FLAVOR of
Not quite what I was thinking… but what do you say in the face of such pride???
“We’ll take a DOZEN of those….”
BTW- Boone’s has over 25 flavors…
Of which I am sure I have tried nearly all at some point….
But Boone’s and Strawberry Pop-tarts is another story
“What is the difference between Red and Green Chili?”
Yes. I have actually been asked that by “northerners” who have neither seen or tasted it.
This easy recipe has been on hand for more than 20 years. Tried and true and easy to make hotter or leave mild. And by “hotter”- I mean it’s easy if you live somewhere (not here!) where you can just go the market and grab some Hatch or Serranos or heck.. even just plain old Japs….
~I only know how to make one size… but I imagine this would reduce well.~
This makes a dozen high quality tupperware containers (cool-whip and sour-cream!)
2-3 lbs (diced small) pork (butts, chops, whatever) (Dillon- that’s like 1 baby pork loin or 8 chops) Olive Oil +/- 7 cloves Garlic-minced / 1 huge onion-diced / some Japs-diced / 1-2 quarts chicken broth or stock / about 26 oz (lg can) diced green chilis / +/- 3 scoops (or cans) diced tomatoes (scoop= sm s.cream container size) / 2tsp Oregano / 3/4-1 cup (dry) cilantro / salt to taste
~ Brown pork in olive oil- put in large pot… Like a stock pot. Sautee O’s & Garlic. Add to pot. Add chix stock. Add chili’s and toms. Add spices. Stir from bottom to help heat evenly. ~Thicken with cornstarch & water or with roux if you want too.
…….Great over Mexi-burgers, with taquitos…..
**Handy dandy tips for my Boyz**
Mom sez– Onions– Yellow= middle of the road- except WallaWallas & Vidalias are sweet onions (like on brgs) White= sharp/hot Red = sweet.
Chix stock– A Quart is the same as the large canning jars you guys take from me! You can use fresh stock, cubes (that’s like 8-10 per 2 Q’s) or Swansons.
Spices– look for DRY spices. Most grocery stores have a bulk/organic section.. Or… you could use a cup of like Salsa dry mix if you had too.
Peppers– For just ‘some’ heat- dice a few (not a bunch) Japs and add. If you want to be on fire.. add ONLY 1-2 Serrano or hatch chilis.
Thickening– Did you pay attention when mom used cornstarch??? put a couple spoonfulls (like a cereal spoon) cornstarch in a small dish and add a smidge of water to dissolve. Add to chili and stir in.(takes a few minutes) . It should thicken to a gravy consistency. If it doesn’t… add more. Roux essentially butter/flour… does the same thing. A little more involved…
Pork- No pork? or not enough? In a pinch, you could use cubed chicken breasts.
Once upon a time in a far off land….There was a beautiful Queen and a little Prince and Princess.
It was Thanksgiving in Sacramento in about 1972…. At school all the classes were talking about Thanksgiving and what it means and what all our families were doing and practicing being Pilgrims and Indians.
The teacher instructed the class to find out what they were having for Thanksgiving dinner and share with the class the next day.
The little Prince pestered, and pestered the poor Queen until she finally snapped.
Prince: Ma! Ma! What are we having for Thanksgiving??? Huh? Huh?
Queen: I don’t know yet…..
Prince: Well?? Huh? Huh? Ma! Mommy! I NEEEEEEEEED to know RIGHT NOW!!!
Queen: Damnit son, we’re having Hotdogs. Okay?? Hotdogs.. Got it????
Prince: What? Wow! Really??? I loooooooove hotdogs! Cooooooool!
The little prince went back to school the next day and each child told what their family was having. Some were having Italian, some were having roasts, but most were having turkey and all the trimmings. When the little prince was asked what they were having, he cheerfully said Hotdogs!
Apparently that wasn’t an acceptable answer.
On thanksgiving when the Queen and her King and the little Prince and Princess were sitting down to dinner, the doorbell rang.
The Queen was taken aback when she beheld several of the teachers from the school holding out a turkey and all the trimmings for the poor little Princes family that were only to have hotdogs!
…….. Now- anyone who knows our family KNOWS my mom would rather the ground open up and swallowed her whole instead of being embarrassed. EVER.
Imagine the teachers surprise when they beheld us all eating a turkey dinner! They were sputtering that my brother said all we had was hotdogs and my mom was about to round on my brother….
Lesson: Watch what you tell your kiddo-s. It WILL come back to haunt you!
My sons… You drive me crazy when you call at 4pm to ask how to fix a roast for dinner at 6pm!
Tonight we had red beans and rice for dinner. A dish the Boyz enjoy. A 100% non-traditional version. Simple. Fast. Filling. Cheap. All things great for folks on a budget! Bare with me- most the recipes I post here are also for the kiddo-s benefit and read like a children’s book. (They both live on their own and call… How do ya??? )
*Double everything if you’re feeding the roommates too!*
1 link sausage 2 teaspoons oil (whatever’s on hand – yes- butter is an oil) 1 can red beans (drained and rinsed)**AKA Kidney Beans** 1 medium onion (diced) 1 can diced tomatoes (or a few fresh diced) some diced green pepper (about a 1/2 a one) 1 or 2 cloves garlic -minced 2+ cups water 1+ cup rice 2 chicken bullion cubes (if you have them or stock- fine- if you don’t, that’s fine too. *seasoning- a tablespoon or so of Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning – but use whatever you have… Chili seasoning, taco spice.. whatever. If you want it spicy.. lay it on!
Slice sausage into bite size pieces and fry in oil. Toss in onions, garlic and peppers and sauté. Pour in water and add bullion cubes or a little chix stock if you have it. Add tomatoes, beans and seasoning and bring to a boil. Add rice. Turn down and simmer about 10 minutes or so (assuming you’re using minute rice) … serve with sour cream and fresh diced tomatoes if you like.
Viola! Poor mans Red Beans and Rice….
Some notes : *you can mince garlic without a garlic press! simply use the side of your knife to flatten the clove and then dice really small. *red beans (kidneys) are in the canned veggie isle right next to the Great Northerns. *onion is relative- red, yellow, white-I just use whichever one I have on hand. -white= hot, yellow=medium, red=mild (usually) *we usually add whatever we want.. like mushrooms or some (sautéed) celery if we have some on hand.
Okay- so maybe not quite “cities”…. Cope, Anton and Idalia are technically listed as “villages”
I happened to land in Cope in a quirky twist of fate… You see, many years ago, we bought a café sight unseen on a handshake at a football game in Denver. That’s another story.
Cope had a population of 97. We helped grow it to 101.
Now, if you’ve ever lived in a very small rural community, you KNOW that revenue is hard to generate and so is entertainment.
We had the bright idea of starting “Café Racing”one summer. We had a little go- cart, and so did another family in Anton (pop 20) and another in Idalia (pop 115 +/- at the time)
So, we decided that to drum up business for each café in our towns,we would race around the café in Cope one weekend, and the other towns the following weeks… and then repeat. ~you could call it ‘Redneck Revenue’~
It only lasted a few months, but it was fun and did what it was supposed to do.
~Yes~ our little homemade go carts were wildly unsafe… kids strapped in with old back braces screwed to plywood and borrowed bike helmets…. But we all made it safely and the kids still talk about that summer.
Café Racing was a lesson in cooperation and collaboration with other towns. It was the start of “could be’s” Which led to other adventures….and bright ideas
Now I am using over 25 years of gained knowledge to help others get things started in their communities and learn to connect with neighboring towns.
That dang Dinosaur tried to gallop away! Just like in the western movies.
On my way back from a recent trip, I stopped in North Platte, Nebraska. I pulled into the Sinclair gas station right off the highway… and to my delight was “Dino” the dinosaur right at the curb side. With a saddle!!!
It was beckoning me.. taunting…”you know you want to ride me”…
I heeded the call and wandered over for a closer look. Practically giddy because I dig roadside kitsch.
In spite of the fact that ‘Dino’ was wearing a pint sized kiddo saddle, I put my foot in the stirrup and started to haul my self up when all of a sudden ~WHUMP! And I was on the ground. The itty bitty saddle slid sideways.
The first image in my mind was of my dinosaur galloping off into the sunset dragging me off with my foot caught in the stirrup.
So, me nearly hysterical with laughter and hoping nobody saw (except the cars going by!)
In the next second a young man runs over and hollers “Here Lady!! Climb up!” and flings himself down on all fours to make a human stool and his friend grabs the saddle, rights it and says “I’ll hold it”
How could I say no??
They even took a picture of me. And the one fellow had his phone out too… I can only imagine that somewhere, I am now a YouTube sensation!
(you can bet the odds are good I will try it again sometime)
Once upon a time in a far off land (California), my mother decided to go to work. Until this point she was like most moms, a ‘stay-at-home’. Pretty much a slave to my brother and I.
Each year she and Grammy would cook a special dinner for us of all things homemade Italian. We usually had friends over for this event.
Well, when mom went back to work, we were teenagers. And mom said “Feed yourselves after school”. Sighhhhhhhhhhhh.
My brother developed a love for Chef Boyardee raviolis. He ate them every chance he got.
Now fast forward to our favorite big Italian dinner…
Mom and Grammy go all out. The table is groaning under the weight of the food. We all pile it on. And before the rest of us can really get going on it… my brother says to my mother:
“This is ALMOST as good as Chef Boyardee!!”
My mother didn’t say a word. She just gave him The Look. (most of us know exactly what The Look is) and took his plate away.
I was busy protecting mine… all the time wailing “I didn’t say it!!”
She dared us to even try to eat one bite. And she cheerfully informed us that we EVER wanted a hot meal again, then we had “better damn well fix it our own damn selves” because we sure as heck-o wouldn’t be getting one out of her ever again. Period. End of discussion.
To this day, we have NEVER had a meal cooked by her. If wanted a ‘cooked’ meal, we either fixed it ourselves, went to Grandmas or took mom out.
My “Mutha” wasn’t messing around.
It is getting harder and harder for many small towns to hang on. State and federal funding is drying up, resources are disappearing and people have become complacent. By working together, small towns can revive themselves and head in a new direction. Though there are many, here are my reasons small towns should think regionally.
1-None of us are getting any younger. Things happen. Ask yourself What IF? What if you couldn’t just hop in the car and drive 50 miles to market? Wouldn’t it be nice to walk down the street and grab a birthday card or a gallon of milk, or meet your friends for coffee? Or to just go the 10 miles to the neighboring town that has what you need?
Ask yourself, If you couldn’t just drive into the city, is it a reasonable expectation to have your child or friend take an entire day off of work, come from the city to get you, take you back to the city to get that handful of items you had to have, and then drive you back home and head right back? That would be an entire day and over 200 miles of driving.
Just because you CAN drive in, doesn’t mean you need to or even want to. And we all know someone who really shouldn’t be behind the wheel to start with!
2-Shared resources. One town has the lake, one the hospital, one has a huge yearly event , one a cafe, one the lake, one a motel. How can you use your neighbors resources to enhance your own?
You could advertise your motel at the same time the next town is having AppleFritter Days.
The tiny town of Aladdin, WY (population 15!) has a 100 year old store. And that’s it. Aladdin is 20 miles from Belle Fourche SD. They have built their business around tourism to Belle Fourche and Sturgis and Devils Tower. Aladdin uses the simple principle of Buy, See & Do to capture their audience. Aladdin uses the nearby towns resource of people, hotels and more.
If a town of only 15 people can do it, so can you!
3-Events~ events draw people from all over. Take advantage of it. Even tiny events provide an abundance of trickle down economics. When they drive to your town, people will stop to fill their tanks before leaving, they will spend money in your café, gift shop, roadside stands, etc.
It doesn’t matter if you have a cartwheel contest, a parade, a farmers market or some huge event. Just do something. Once people know that your community has events, they will spread the word bringing more people the next time.
4-Small towns are inter-connected by family ties. Most everyone who lives in small towns is connected to other nearby communities by family. This means traveling back and forth. Shared knowledge and histories. Capitalize on it.
Make a traveling history exhibit featuring the townspeople, host a Cousins Day or something else crazy.
When Aunt Dorothy comes to your town for little Jr’s birthday party, dimes to dollars she will stop at the local store to grab a gift or a bottle of wine.. Just like when you go to that pot-luck the next town over, you’ll probably stop in their market and get some of that potato salad to take with you.
5-Small business succeeds. When a small town thinks outside of its borders, businesses grow and thrive. By sharing and collaborating with other nearby communities, you grow your customer base.
When you grow your base, more people hear about you. The more they hear about you, the more excited they get to find out what’s new in your community. With more people coming to town, the more the possibility of a business being able to expand or hire someone or for a new business to start. How exciting would that be?
What ideas do YOU have to think regionally?