(Leon Youngblood lives in Texas but says his heart is in LeFlore County, where he owns land and plans to move in a few years. His stories are a mixture of fiction and non-fiction involving people and events in and around Briar Circle, a community in the Ouachita mountains in Leflore County. The names are changed to protect the innocent and guilty alike, and to prevent my reputation from being soiled by associating with some of them. His column appears on Wednesday. He can be contacted by email at [email protected])
By LEON YOUNGBLOOD
Knowing I would be in their vicinity, some college boys invited me to drop by and sample some things they were preparing for a dormitory “potluck” holiday dinner. They had been assigned the appetizers. I readily agreed, and agreed to give them my opinions, which, though not “expert,” were pretty broadly experienced. We met in a dormitory kitchen. The first concoction I sampled was “Holiday Punch.”
“This is an interesting punch,” I said. “What are the ingredients?”
I’m not going to try to keep up with the names, but one of the young men handed me a photocopy of a handwritten recipe: “1 1/4 cup sugar; 3 teaspoons whole cloves; 3 teaspoons allspice; 4 sticks cinnamon; 1 cup red-hots; juice of 12 lemons or 2 cans lemon juice; 9 cups boiling water; 4 tea bags.” These were the ingredients and the brewing instructions followed.
“The ingredients do not seem to coincide with the flavor,” I commented. I paused, took a sip – “Is there garlic in this?”
One explained, “Well, yes. The recipe called for three teaspoons of whole cloves. We didn’t have any garlic cloves, so we just used three teaspoons of garlic powder.”
“Hmm. I see. Next time, find a clove of garlic and mince it. Now, what about this allspice?”
“We weren’t sure about that, but we did like it said. We mixed up three teaspoons of all the spices we had. It didn’t seem right, but that’s what the recipe said to do.”
“Okay. What spices did you have?”
“Just common spices: Salt, pepper, parsley, Cajun seasoning, hamburger seasoning, chili powder – stuff we had or borrowed from around the dorm.”
“Well, that’s good. I think I even noticed a hint of curry. Did you know allspice is an ingredient in pumpkin pie, too?”
“Really?” This surprised the boys. One said, “I didn’t know that! I never saw any parsley or red pepper flakes in pumpkin pie!”
“Well, that’s probably because it’s ground up pretty fine. Now, these red-hots – I can taste the red-hots, but the punch seems a little hotter and redder?”
“We added Tabasco sauce and extra paprika to the allspice.”
“That’s good. Louisiana pepper sauce is the only thing invented by the Devil that will be allowed in Heaven. I’m not sure about it as an ingredient in Holiday Punch, but somehow, this works. Now, the lemon juice? It seems a little strong.”
“We didn’t have lemons, and it apparently doesn’t come in cans, now. It comes in plastic bottles. I guess we added about a quart.”
“That’ll do. Maybe just half a pint, next time. And you added tea?”
“Leftover tea. About another two quarts.”
I sampled the punch a last time, and commented, “Boys, I wish the Congress, Senate and President were served punch like this at every meal! What else do you have?” They produced the next sampling, and I asked, “What are these?”
“Baloney Roll-ups. They’re easy. Just take some room-temperature cream cheese, spread it on Lebanon baloney, roll it up, cut it up, stick a toothpick through it, and it’s ready.”
“This doesn’t look like Lebanon baloney.”
“That was kind of expensive. We got the ninety-nine cent store brand of baloney.”
“All right. And this doesn’t taste like cream cheese. Is it?”
“Uh, no, sir. It’s the store brand cheese from a spray can. It’s kind of foamy, but it’s okay, isn’t it?”
“Well, boys, I’m keen on following recipes more precisely, but y’all are doing good enough, for now. I was in college myself, a hundred years ago. I know where you’re coming from. What else do you have?”
Here, they absolutely seemed to shine with pride. “Aunt Bee’s Sandwich Spread!” I was told, as one offered a sampling of a broiled something-or-other. “It’s a can of Spam, eight ounces of Velveeta, a minced onion and chopped up dill pickle. You grind it ’til it’s a mush in a blender, spread it on a hamburger bun, slather it with ketchup, and then broil ’til it looks right!”
I don’t know Aunt Bee from Adam’s jackass, but her appetizer wasn’t bad at all. “This is Spam?” I asked.
“We didn’t have any Spam,” I was informed. “This is Vienna sausage and a few leftover hotdogs.”
“Don’t tell Aunt Bee,” I suggested. “Is there anything else?” I asked. Thankfully, there wasn’t. I had to complement the boys. “Boys,” I complemented, “I can honestly say, I haven’t tasted food like this since I left college. I think you will do all right at the dinner!”
They smiled proudly at each other, shook hands and hugged. They thanked me, and one asked, “Sir, do you have any suggestions?”
“I do, in fact,” I said. “Do you kids open these potluck dinners with prayer?”
“No, sir. I’m afraid they aren’t usually done that way.” This was said humbly, and with embarrassment. I understood.
“It’s all right, boys.” I said. “There will be prayers enough, after the dinner. And they’ll be sincere, too. The dinner’s next Tuesday? Let me know how it turns out!”
They said they would, if anybody survived.
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