Mexican life

Work and solitude

WHEN WE first wed years back, I was the primary cook and dishwasher. I remain the latter.

But I tapered off on the cooking, mostly due to shiftlessness. It’s not that she took over so much as we just prefer the easy route. Quick stuff, takeout, restaurants, etc.

I used to do other work too. Decorative painting on the Hacienda’s walls. I’ve stopped. Too much effort.

Due to feeling increasing shame recently for my laziness, I’ve begun fixing more meals. I have some old standards. There’s jambalaya and gumbo. Jambalaya is lots easier than gumbo, so gumbo hasn’t returned to our plates just yet.

Maybe it never will. It’s not a quick meal.

I prefer easy fixings. I do a nice 15-minute minestrone. And there’s a pasta dish on which I dump steamed broccoli and garlic. Just today we’ll be having meatballs that I made yesterday in a crockpot.

And I’ve decided to work more in the yard, easy stuff. And wash the Honda more. I’ve been letting carwash guys on the plaza do it because it only costs a bit over two bucks.

Paying anybody to wash the car in these parts from June through October is akin to burning cash since it rains every single day. A clean car lasts about an hour.

But you gotta do something or, come November, you won’t even remember the color of your car.

So I’m working more now. Cooking, gardening, carwashing. It’s good to keep fairly busy, I think.

* * * *

The hermit life

I‘m reading a fascinating book called One Man’s Wilderness: an Alaskan Odyssey. A writer named Sam Keith used the journal of Richard Proenneke to construct the story of a man who moved alone at 51 to the Alaskan wilderness in the 1960s where he erected a cabin and lived solo for 30 years.

Proenneke’s talents with his hands and mind were awesome. He wasn’t an actual hermit because he received occasional guests, which he enjoyed, and, now and then, he returned to the Lower 48 for brief visits with relatives and amigos.

The book spoke to me perhaps more than to most people due to my longstanding hermit inclinations. Were it not for my love of womenfolk, perhaps I would have been a Proenneke. But I would have needed to hone my handyman skills first.

As a youth, I dreamed of living alone in an underground home on the bank sweeping down to the pond among cypress trees that rested on my grandparents’ Georgia farm.

Decades later, my hermit dream was to live in a half-buried school bus in the desert near Big Bend National Park. I read of a woman who did just that. I was flush with envy.

One wonders what a psychiatrist would say about those two dream homes being half buried beneath ground level?

I would have required a hermit woman, but doesn’t that negate the concept of being a hermit?

New ImageI would have cooked her gumbo in the school bus. And I would have washed her dishes. And maybe I’ll fix gumbo at the Hacienda again one day.

One must be kind to women.

28 thoughts on “Work and solitude

  1. I enjoyed this very story in the format of a Public Broadcasting documentary a few years ago. Thanks, I think I’ll get the book and enjoy the story again!

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    1. Perry: The guy was incredible. He not only built the cabin single-handedly, he even made many of his own tools after getting there. He apparently could do just about anything at all. I’m only about halfway through the book at the moment. There is also lots of information online about it, especially on the website of the National Park Service which now maintains his old place for visitors to see. He built his own outhouse too though he said he usually just obeyed calls of nature in the woods and maintained the outhouse mostly for visitors. He didn’t want to have to dig outhouses anymore often than necessary.

      Temps were often.minus-35 in the winter. Instead of just hunkering down in the cabin as normal people would do, he would be out and about exploring in multiple layers of clothing, checking on wildlife, etc. He made videos and took photos that are still available. All incredibly impressive.

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      1. Just ordered the Kindle version. One of its Amazon reviews stated that he built the cabin for $40.00! Thanks again for the inspiration.

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        1. Perry: No problem. I’m here to serve. I’m reading it on Kindle too. Paper books nowadays are exclusively for dinosaurs who walk on two legs. They will die out soon, taking their paper books with them.

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  2. I hermit well. I have a “social” coffee in the mornings with old baseball buddies, lasts about 3/4 of an hour. I abhor negativity and avoid it at all costs. It brings you down and the papers are full of it. TV is no better. I work around my house a lot, just do little things. I’m an Old Farm Boy. I like the gardens. It’s quiet out there. I have a lady, and when she is here from Mexico, she is all the company I need. She likes quiet and old Country Music. She is a cancer survivor and appreciates every day she has. Cancer will do that to you. She is young, and very beautiful. We are Beauty and the Beast. I cook for her. She loves my 8-hour slow-cooker spaghetti sauce. She has the most beautiful smile. and we sip red wine.

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    1. You are an inspiration, Bob. “I hermit well.” I like that. I am delighted you found the lady friend. And while your spaghetti sauce takes eight hours, my meatballs only took six.

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      1. I love love love meatballs. I make an Italianate recipe, in the oven, then simmer them in homemade tomato sauce for less than an hour. They are great on pasta, of course, but also as a sub sandwich, with cheese. I use locally baked, crusty telera or bolillo rolls for the bread.

        También, quiero mucho las albóndigas, como en Sopa de Albóndigas o en Albóndigas al Chipotle.(Zapata translation: I also love meatballs in meatball soup or with chipotle sauce.) We have a gringa friend who makes great Swedish Meatballs, which I’ve so far been unable to duplicate.

        At the moment, we have no meatballs and I must soon go to our carnicería (Zapata translation: butcher shop) for the raw ingredients.

        Thanks for your inspiring posting.

        Saludos,
        Don Cuevas

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        1. Busy hands are happy hands, Mr. Moon.

          Oddly enough, Don Cuevas, finding meatballs served in a restaurant in Italy is hard to do. When we did, they were not served with pasta.

          My wife makes delicious albóndigas, both Mexican and Italian style, (which are mentioned in the order I prefer). A steaming bowl of savory albóndigas served with fresh, handmade tortillas right off the comal makes a great meal on a cool, rainy day. Whether you´re a hermit or have a table full of people.

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          1. Clete: From what I’ve read — I’ve never been in Italy — finding a pizza is hard to do there too.

            And yes, busy hands are happy hands. It’s almost time to go out and wash the car.

            So far this morning — it’s a little after 10 — I’ve done my power walk around the neighborhood plaza, washed the dining room window, which is size of a football field, plus picked up and discarded fallen pears and peaches from the grass.

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            1. I am not sure what you have read on the subject, but it´s as easy, if not easier, to find a pizza in Italy than a taco in Mexico. Curiously, Domino´s opened a store in Milan this year. If they serve the same style of pizza they do in North America, they´ll soon be out of business.

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        2. Señor Cuevas: I use a meatball recipe I found years ago in a crockpot cookbook. It uses chili sauce and pineapple jelly!

          The word albóndigas, which is Spanish for meatballs, always reminds me of my first encounter with the word in a restaurant in the state capital during my first year in Mexico. I had no idea what albóndigas meant, and I didn’t even know enough Spanish to ask the waiter or, more to the point, understand any reply he might have given me. So I just ordered albóndigas for the heck of it. They were meatballs! And they were pretty good. Mine are better.

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    1. Bliss: Most women seem to love men who cook and/or are generally handy in the kitchen. I am that. Thus, I am a saint.

      Yes, my child bride finds a nice, big salad waiting for her every evening when she gets home either from the gym or jawing with her sister.

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  3. My first wife could only fix two meals, French toast, and god awful meatballs. I prepared everything else. Thus, I am a survivor.

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    1. Andrés: Your mention of French toast reminds me of this: There are two things you should never order in Mexico: One is French toast and the other is paella.

      Every time I’ve ordered French toast in a restaurant here, I’ve been bitterly disappointed in the crap placed in front of me. I’m not ever going to order it again. The most recent was in a restaurant in San Miguel that hyped its French toast on the menu. It was abysmal and served with bacon that could have passed for shoe leather.

      The only paella I’ve received that wasn’t dreadful was in a restaurant in Ajijic. And even that was just an inch above mediocre.

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  4. Having some routine tasks is important to keep you from getting lazy and boring. But not so many that you become boring. I just quit my part-time job because it was taking up too much time, and it was making me boring.

    Happy to hear you’re returning to being a bit industrious.

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  5. Shiftless. That’s a good pastime if you do it well. And now I’ve got a hankering for meatballs; I’ll have to decide between pasta, or putting them on a bolillo.

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  6. An underground hermit, eh? Sounds like at one time you could have been a candidate for one of those “Earthships” near Taos, NM. Made mostly from recycled materials. Self-contained and off the grid, with solar panels, recycled water for the indoor vegetable, fruit and herb gardens and fish ponds/

    Meatballs of either variety do sound good, I’ve not made a Mexican version, but for Italian I prefer beef, pork and veal with bread soaked in milk, parsley and Romano cheese. With pasta or on a roll.

    However, if your Gumbo is like the photo you posted I would be at the head of the line (ladies first, of course).

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    1. Scott: Those Earthships contained other people, so that would not have worked out for me.

      As for the gumbo, I make a pretty good version if I do say so myself. However, that photo was just grabbed off the internet. I did not make it.

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