Tag Archives: League of Their Own

Respect must be paid: The best of Jimmy Dugan

We are deep into our Oscar viewing leading up to the Big Gold Statue Night, which is right up there with the Super Bowl (especially with my 49ers, again, a play short… they were never short under Sourdough Joe… sigh) Columbus Day and The Fourth of July as the most underrated holiday celebrations (I sense a new list coming).

As The Bride explained, The Big Gold Statue Night is a must on the calendar. It has as much lead up, preparation and planning (I mean you have to watch the movies!) as the lead up to  Christmas.

This year I’d like to see a Effin Artist lifetime achievement award to the greatest actor of our generation, Jimmy Dugan. What other great baseball player and championship women’s league manager, could also win back-to-back Oscars for best actor?!

Now Sean Penn has to be in the conversation of true Effin Artistry, with a range from Harvey Milk to Sam to Jeff Spiccoli. He’s number two. And as for the Daniel Day-Lewis sycophants, he is on the list, but he doesn’t make the final cut. He acts in rolls tailor-made for Oscars. But where’s the humor? Where’s the surprises? No, he may lead the Oscar awards, but he doesn’t match Jimmy Dugan.

Jimmy Dugan is our generation’s sage. Who else could come up with such dynamic wisdom as both:

AND

Brilliant. Just brilliant. I’m rendered speechless by Jimmy Dugan. I assume he spoke a bit weird (as shown in this clip) later in life because of all the alcohol.

If that wasn’t enough Jimmy Dugan was also a war hero:

And the work on this movie was so far ahead of its time it still seems current. At the very least it shows how far we’ve come as a society in just twenty years.

And if you’re still not convinced, just allow two packed minutes of simple comedic artistry wash over you:

Amazing stuff! I can’t chronicle all the wisdom here… but where else would you get,

“Perhaps you chastised her too vehemently…”

“Did anyone tell you you look like a penis with a little hat on it.”

Hanks

Genuis. Jimmy Dugan, a man for the ages and first winner of the Effin Artist Lifetime Achievement Award.

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Cyber recipes come up short compared to grandmothers

Dough is my thing. The more I mess with it the more I am enthralled by it. I have painfully neglected my pursuit of chocolate art this last month at least in part because I keep circling back to dough.

But like chocolate, I have a lot of hits and a lot of misses when it comes to dough. That “something,” that fine line between a great dough and a blob, is what keeps me coming back (not to mention the eats afterward– even the blobs taste pretty OK).

In all my kneading I learned something vitally important: All those helpful hints and videos and pins and such don’t do justice to the art of truly creating beautiful food, especially things that require a veteran touch like dough.

I realized this when my dough pursuits wandered off the familiar territory of my Italian heritage and explored working with Hispanic dough’s — tamales and tortillas.

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The methods are similar. Dough is dough at “the root of the root” as the poet said. But the finished product proved to me I have a lot to learn. Second and third tries taught me it wasn’t a measurement or a better recipe, but the deft art of know how. I have it working with things my grandmother taught me. I don’t have it — yet — with things I’d have learned if Nonie was my Abuela.

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We never made tamales when I was a kid. I lack the expertise, the hands-on experience with a true expert who made them so often she didn’t even realize how exceptional they were. Grandmothers cooked in a different time, long before such things made them celebrities. They made food so we could eat and seeing us enjoy it was all the star-power they needed. Nonie made us sauce and ravioli and apple rings and fried bread, things I make with a confidence that comes from seeing her, watching her and eating her creations.

I didn’t have that training with tamales and tortillas and frankly the results prove it.

Don’t get me wrong. I had fun and the product of my labor still ended up getting consumed.

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But the artistry remains elusive, which when you come to think about it, is thrilling! If the art of truly cultural food could be captured in a five-minute YouTube, would it be special?

Remember our favorite sage Jimmy Dugan (“that’s good advice!”) who sums up Effin Artistry when he said: “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard everybody would do it. It’s the hard that makes it great.”

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It is the hard that makes it great. I want to discover the great as if I had an Abuela to teach me.

Back to the masa grind stone.

It’s the hard that makes it great

If you saw Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own you’ll likely recall this line. Sobering up for the women’s baseball championship, caught up in the team as it battles for a place in history, Hanks character Jimmy Dugan tells his best player Dottie that she shouldn’t leave to go home to conventional life as a farmer’s wife.  She would miss it he predicts. Dottie shakes her head and says that it was all just too hard. Dugan’s line has stayed with me all these years.

“Of course it’s hard. If it wasn’t everyone would do it. It’s the hard that makes it great.

How often I have thought this to myself as I struggled with whatever life doled out in that moment. It helped me develop a pit-bull’s bite of tenacity once I get involved in something. Even when I should be discouraged, I tend to grit my way through, the mantra in my head, “if it was easy, everyone would do it… it’s the hard that makes it great.

One of our Christmas presents this year fell into this category. We wanted to make those trendy signs we’d seen in all the boutiques, with big words painted on rough wood. Typical of me, I wanted really rough wood. I wanted recycled wood. I wanted to make signs and reclaim something off a scrap pile at the same time.

 

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I made it much harder than it had to be.

This is not one of those tutorials on how to make signs. Those all start with the cheery encouragement of how easy it is to make the signs. Not this one. It’s EFFin hard.

I choose a dark background paint that made it much harder to make the letters more visible.

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After making my stencils (I chose an elaborate script and a Serif font instead of wide blocky letters that would have been much easier to paint), we couldn’t successfully transfer them to the rough, ridged wood. I ended up carving the words in with an razor blade for about eight long hours leading up to Christmas. My bride then had to paint those letters, another eight hours.

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But when the kids unwrapped them, each one with a different part of our favorite family poem “Desiderata,” which has hung on our wall since they were small, it was well… great.

And that made it all worth it. Because it’s the hard that makes it great.

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Pumpkin Empenada- It’s the hard that makes it great

This week’s exploration of all things pumpkin presented a terrific challenge in the test kitchen last night. The challenge of taking what is basically a dessert idea of pumpkin empenada (really it’s a pumpkin turnover) and making it into a main course that is savory, not sweet, seemed like a great idea…. right up until I started making it. but just thirty minutes in and I cringe to admit, I was intimidated. So much so that even as we sat down to eat, I had more than a half a bowl of filling that I wasn’t even sure if I would save. Throwing out anything pretty much causes my inner coding to crackle neurotically like an over-juiced overhead power line. I use the chicken gizzards and hearts in my meat sauce, turkey gizzards in my stuffing… I’m basically a permanent hock to jowl kind of guy (just ask my wife’s hocks and jowls… poor dear is a saint with what she puts up with!) in everything I do.

So to think I’d throw a massive bowl.. OUT… well, I’m simply ashamed to admit it. But my commitment to disclosure is not the same as the Obama administration, so I readily begin this post with this full omission: I began to doubt if I would even write about this strange project. Talk about breaking the very code of Effin Artist… sigh… my inner talk must be quieted: Repeat after me: “I am the acorn that becomes the oak…”

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Anyway, it begun chopping into the organically grown orange globe. I used Painted Hills beef and farmer’s market vegies, so this one was pretty local and small footprint and all that good stuff. But just one big slice with my knife and I suddenly realized why the grocery stores are largely out of pumpkin BEFORE thanksgiving. It’s EFFin hard to chop up and prepare a fresh pumpkin! But then I recalled the wise sage, Jimmy Dugan from A League of Their Own, (we know he’s wise: he told us. Remember this: “Avoid the clap…. HEY, that’s good advice!”) who said, “Of course it’s hard. If it was easy everybody would do it. It’s the hard that makes it great!” Still, that whole can opener thing seemed kind of appealing in this moment, but I powered through. The old “forcer” demon within in me, that I’ve worked so hard to banish through yoga, peace and love, reared up from the depths and proved effective.

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As the pumpkin steamed, I made the crust. I took a Bon Appetit recipe and cut the sugar in half. I added some cinnamon to bolster its flavor a bit. There’s only so much you can do with dough. As it did its thing in the fridge, I focused on the filling.

The filling started very promising. I put my own EFFin Artist meat rub on a small piece of flat iron steak. I grilled it up and chopped it fine, then put it in a bowl with cilantro and sun-dried tomatoes. This I seasoned with a bit garlic (always the garlic… always the garlic). It looked great, I was hungry and I thought, “screw the pumpkin.” But the spirit of Jimmy Dugan urged me on.

Soon I was mashing and pureeing and thrashing about with my pumpkins. I tossed in the meat and tomatoes, and started working the spices a bit, a little at a time: cinnamon, a small amount of brown sugar, cumin. I reached for the coriander and nabbed CURRY, which I noticed just a moment too late. When that signature smell rose, my spirit sunk in like a captive in Ursula’s Sea Garden in the The Little Mermaid. At this point I got weak-kneed. That damn curry would ruin me. I tasted.

“Son of a…” sigh. I added a little more brown sugar to mask it.

Now it was decision time. Leave the filling a little gritty, with chunks of stuff in it or make it a puree. I just couldn’t decide. I thought maybe the rustic chunky-ness would work, but eventually opted for a puree. A healthy splash of heavy cream and some serious wrist curls with the immersion blender chewed my creation into baby puke.

With a sagging spirit I rolled out eight dough balls and filled them with the puree. I brushed the tops with egg whites and put them in the oven. As they cooked I made simple vegetable medley, seasoned with plenty of chili powder and other spices. I broke out a jar of EFFin Artist salsa, thinking I’d need it to mask the damn curry or even make the empenada palatable.

Here’s the final result:

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So, after all that…

These were EFFIN AMAZING! I gotta tell you, I’ve never been so surprised. The complexities of flavors danced on the tongue. The vegetables were spicy and delicious. We could barely detect the curry. We didn’t even need our own salsa, which is a first. The four extras went into the fridge, the bowl of filling went into the freezer and I can’t wait to have lunch so I can have more (in fact, It’s long over due for lunch. I’m out. Gotta eat!)

If you are feeling adventuresome drop me a note and I’ll send you my recipe (I don’t really get into the whole recipe thing like food blogs, but what the heck. This one I’m proud of.) Just don’t use curry!