Monday, November 1, 2010

Trick or Drink

Dear Ones -

Last night for Halloween some of us made apple and sweet potato pies, under the tutelage of culinary chef/artist Teresa

Booth Brown of Longmont, Colorado.
(Sexy town slogan: "Be Alive in Longmont.") Sure beats being dead!

It was a sweet time and I think I know what I've been doing wrong all those years with my pie crusts (sawing at that dough instead of stroking it gently like a baby's freshly powdered bottom).

True confession: Until last night, I had never eaten sweet potato pie! Teresa makes a killer sweet potato pie, as well as a no-fail recipe for Pate Brisee Fine (AKA pie crust). I'll post the recipes at the bottom of this blog.

A friend who works here said that one Halloween a couple of years ago, residents dressed up like the wives of former U.S. presidents and went knocking on the door of Ucross's facility manager, a friendly guy whose house abuts the Ucross property. Instead of saying "Trick or Treat," they said, "Trick or Drink." I'm told they were invited in for some liquid "candy." Compared to them, we were downright saintly last night.

Today is Monday. In just a couple of days I'll be leaving Ucross and making the two-plane trip back to Springfield, Ohio. I have very mixed feelings about that. Back home, there are people and pets I need to do some serious cuddling with, yet I will miss Wyoming's ever-changing big, wide sky.

I realize this sounds like a terrible cliche but in many ways I feel like I just got here. At the same time, I have absorbed this place's rhythms, learned some of its spoken (and unspoken) rules, and gained confidence and momentum with the story I've been trying to get down. I've been given the gift of time, undisturbed time, and I have tried to make the most of it. I have met kind, talented artists, and I have been taken care of in the most loving and conscientious ways imaginable. I am so grateful. Thank you, Ucross Foundation!

I had hoped to finish a complete rough draft of this book before leaving on Friday. I don't think that is going to happen, but I'm closing in on page 200 (okay, page 180 but it's only Monday) and I have a very clear idea of what the book is about and how it's going to end. (Which I didn't have a month ago.)

My characters have escaped from the tidy margins of this story and gone off on their own (like sheep without a Basque sheepherder!) and at some point, I will have to gather this unruly flock and herd them into the barn. There, I'll have to get out my extra-strength clippers and do some serious shearing. It's not quite time for that yet. Right now they're out in the tall grass browsin' and carousin'.

I remember writing to you a couple weeks ago about how scary Buck's cabin felt to me. I'm sitting here now writing in his cabin and I've got to confess Buck's ghost is about as consequential as the fly buzzing at the window.

Oh, and remember those bugs that were disturbing my sleep a while back? They're box elder bugs and I've gotten somewhat used to them. On Saturday morning I woke up to one of them crawling on my lip. Whatcha gonna do? I flicked it off and the thing went sailing.

"Trick or Treat"?

In a pig's eye!

Try "Flick or Treat."

Sometime this week we're going to have a "salon" where we will share our work. I will read the first chapter of the book. I hope people like it. It will be strange to have an audience after living alone in my head for a month.

Thanks for checking in with me. Save me some of that Halloween candy, will you?

Teresa Booth Brown's recipe for pie crust:
(makes two crusts)

1 1/2 cups of white flour
1/2 cup of cake flour
1 tsp. salt

Mix these ingredients together,
then add in a food processor or mixing bowl:

2 oz. shortening (like Crisco)
6 oz. cold butter (have butter cut up in small pieces)
Add these ingredients to the flour mixture in a mixer with a bread paddle on a low setting just until the mixture begins to clump together. Do not over mix.

Then add (very slowly) 1/2 cup of ice water, mix on low with your food processor. Then work the dough lightly with your hands. Again, don't handle too much!

Refrigerate dough for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator.

Here is Teresa's recipe for Sweet Potato or Pumpkin Pie. Yield: two pies

6 eggs
4 cups of cooked sweet potato, pumpkin, yam or a combination
1 1/2 cups of cultured cream
1 cup of buttermilk
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cloves

Hint: Teresa scrubs her sweet potatoes real well and then oils them up so they can really caramelize in the oven. She bakes them at about 425 degrees until they're cooked through.

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