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From Stygian caves to hamburgers

Many years ago, some 65 or so, I was in bed with pneumonia and my mother was for ever running to the library to accommodate my avidity for reading books. At the time, it could be satiated only with Biggles, a fictionalised World War 1 British flying ace, but I had read all those they had in the local public library in the part of England in which we lived.

However, a best friend, Joyce, was a girl year older than I (oh, no, I had my eye on another girl, an auburn-haired beauty), but Joyce had an older brother, John. To me, John was a real man-of-the-world and he liked the same music I did, such as Borodin’s Polovtsian Dances and other classical music. So, when he suggested I read Zane Grey‘s books, my mother went back to the library. I read every Zane Grey in the library. And have never looked at a Zane Grey since. Until a couple of days ago……

I received a Kobo from My Beloved aka The Treasurer as a Christmas present, Kobo being the Canadian Kindle or Nook eBook. This purchase was rationalised by The Treasurer saying that as we are planning to downsize and move into a condo or something smaller and in town, purchasing more paper made no sense whatever. What The Treasurer did not realise, however, was that I do not have to wait until we go to the shopping mall to be able to buy a new book. Wow! How simple it is. The world of books is at my fingertips.

So, back to a couple of days ago, I had been spending up to $15 for a new James Patterson’s Alex Cross or Peter Robinson’s Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks – still a bargain compared to the hard copy of a new book. So, The Treasurer suggested that I might be able to find some reading material at a somewhat lesser price, which suggestion sent me to the Kobo store. There, among books categorised by price,  I saw a Zane Grey compendium of 18 of his books – in one download for only $1.99.

Yesterday and today, I have been reading Westerns. What I did not remember was how well Grey wrote. In my estimation, but who am I to know, it is beautiful and riveting prose, albeit dated. But so is Shakespeare’s writing, but who naysays him. The first of the 18 volumes, The Last of the Plainsmen, is a fictionalised version of one of Grey’s actual travels with “Buffalo” Jones, a well-known hunter and guide at the beginning of the 20th century. At one point when they are about to enter a huge cave, in response to a friend’s comment about the size of it, he says, “Oh! Dark Stygian cave forlorn,” a quote from Milton’s L’Allegro. And in further describing the cave, Grey writes, “Thousands of devilish voices rushed at us, seemingly on puffs of wind. Mocking, deep echoes bellowed from the ebon shades at the back of the cave, and the walls, taking them up, hurled them on again in fiendish concatenation.” I found that I was quite entranced with Grey’s story and I have difficulty in putting the Kobo down, all the while thanking John for introducing me to Zane Grey those many years ago.

Before leaving the subject of my Westerns reading, for another $1.99, I discovered a female Western writer and bought a compendium of 26 of B.M. Bower‘s books. The first one I read was Cabin Fever, written in 1918 and it kept me turning page after page. I had no idea that a woman had written any Westerns and, if Cabin Fever is any indication, extremely fascinating ones.

But what would one of my Scribblings or posts be if there were no mention of food. We are, for just this week, staying with Tara, Mike and their three little girls (7, 6,and 5 years) in Vacaville, a 7- to 8-hour drive north from our rented winter condo in Palm Springs, California. So, tonight, with both Mike and Tara returning from work around 5pm, Mike wanting to go to the gym and Tara taking middle-child, ShaeLynn, to Daisy Troop meeting (little Girl Scouts), we had to have an early and quick dinner. Hamburgers, I suggested. Not a particularly healthy meal, but since My Beloved and I eat a hamburger, maybe once every five years, it did not seem too bad an idea and was welcomed by all. The eldest little girl, Falin, was very pleased she had opted to give up chocolate instead of the cheeseburgers she had originally thought she would give up for Lent! Which, of course, started yesterday.

So, I put my memory into reverse gear and tried to remember how I used to make hamburgers. I remembered I had to have ground beef. That was a start. Tara had 5lbs in the freezer, which were taken out to thaw last evening. That was an even better start. I sauteed several onions until caramelised and chopped half a dozen garlic cloves finely, which were sauteed and mixed in with the onions just before serving. I crisped four rashers of bacon and made bacon bits. I mixed a couple of eggs in with the meat and made fourteen patties (I was told that was way too many) with an indentation in the centre of each, reserving about a third of the meat. I cut bouillon-sized cubes of Velveeta and inserted them in the indentation, placed some of the bacon bits on them. The remaining quarter of the bacon bits were mixed in before serving with the onion and garlic mixture. I then took the reserved meat and made a lid covering the Velveeta and bacon bits. After barbecuing the hamburgers, a good spoonful of the onion, garlic and bacon bit mixture was placed on top of the burger, and it was up to the eaters to choose whether to add a slice of Colby-Jack cheese, tomato slice, roasted red pepper slice, sweet relish or ketchup with a spear or two of dill pickle. They were s-o-o-o juicy and lusciously tasty. And those adults who had said they could not possibly eat two hamburgers, all had two each. I guess they were really juicy and flavourful. Wine? Of course.

And I’m finishing this post while still drinking a glass of Merlot. Or is it my third?

Your friend,


My Beloved (wife) since 1955 and I are retired from our own Risk Management consulting business and, with our few funds saved during our business years, we love to experiment with foods and wines, either cooking them ourselves or dining out, and travelling throughout North America or other countries. We are also greatly involved in our Anglican church and choir both here and where we have wintered for near 20 years in Palm Springs, CA, USA.