Y’all, let me begin by saying: I do not hanker to “V” words. Some of my choices today were:
varicose vein, vacuum, venerable, vicious, venereal, vindictive, Vatican, vacillation . . .
Also, let me say that I have been knocked sideways into my own little dystopic, Twilight Zone valley this past week and pounding the keys is not exactly my preferred method of therapy right now. (Now, don’t ask. I can’t tell you yet, so just sit tight. No one died.) As I am unable to chew the fat with y’all on this one, my impulse is to discuss valleys and how they are somewhat misunderstood. Maybe in the bargain, I’ll get ahold of myownself.
I spent ten gut-wrenching, uneducated, lonely years in a “valley” called Scottsboro, Alabama. Surrounded by Crow and Sand Mountains, as well as a few other unknown little mounds, this particular cut-through in Jackson County is a stunning slice of peach cobbler. I remember thinking, driving towards my decade of babies, blood, divorce and right-near suicide in 1985: why, this is the hand of a god. Prettiest damn thing I’ve ever seen in person. And, even as I drove out of that valley and my own time in hell at thirty, it hit me again. The county road cut-throughs deep within mountain flesh were crowned with spruce and pine and circles of hawk, the river down Langston road crawled with catfish and shimmered against an un-electric sky that echoed in caves so deep that most men camped around them rather than in them. It was, and I reckon still is, someone else’s heaven stomp in North Alabama. It was, and I reckon will always be, a level of hell unrivaled in my forty-six years made only more anguishing by its unrelenting, belligerent beauty. Scottsboro, the valley of my twenties.
Friday evening, I was skipping right smart through my forties with a glass of wine and two weeks of Pagan gatherings under my belt when my foot slipped and I landed in a valley, nice and deep. Now. Thisun’ is not so spiffy to gander at: it’s all dark, gory, and moldy with my own personal boogeyman’s excrement and haunted with old dreams that have wasted into nightmares and fear. I have survived, recently, fears of homelessness (that turned into home) and joblessness (still keeping a wary eye on that one) and one full-tilt-boogie of a midlife crisis. Last I looked (about Thursday week), my feets were firmly planted on a mountain of a spirituality more firm, more tenacious than I’ve ever had the pleasure of resting upon. Last I knew, I was kneeling in total abandon by my altar on stable, fertile ground. Last I heard, Big Momma was whispering in my ear: I’ve got you. Don’t look down.
Uh huh. Right. (Very funny, Big Momma.)
Then: valley. Nary a mountain in sight, or at least, not one I can reach for . . . a spell. Yeah, that’s it. A spell. Let’s just say, ain’t worried about that midlife mess anymore, nope. And, in true kitchen witch style, I picked up my wooden spoon. (Y’all should have seen the Southern Fried Hubby, not knowing whether I had determined to use it on him or the potatoes. Poor fella.) I want so much to reach out to y’all and let you in on the deal: but I know betta. So for right now, here’s what:
I know we see folks all the time asking for energy, love and all that sparkly gush to be sent their way. As an Aries, my pride has worked wonders on keeping me silent when I needed a bit of magic work. So, let’s barter. Imma teach y’all how to make a french potato dish from last night’s wailing in my kitchen, and y’all can fetch yor’ athames and candles and send me “fortuitous” energy. Deal?
I’m assuming that’s a yes. Alrighty, then.
Valley French Taters (aka Tartiflette, Southern Style)
Four or five good-sized Buttery Potatoes (or more if you’re hungry, sliced in thin rounds)
Whole head of garlic
Half a package of GOOD Bacon (maple iffin you’re Southern)-chopped into cubes
Two yellow onions (sliced thin)
Smoked Brie (I might even try smoked mozzarella here, but make sure it’s soft cheese)
Honey or Brown Sugar Ham Cubes
Salt, pepper, nutmeg
Mexican Crema (or sour cream)
White Wine or Brandy
Salright. Start by preheating your oven to around 375. Slice the top of garlic head, drizzle with olive oil and roast in oven about ten minutes or until soft. Boil those taters just till tender in a bit of chicken bouillon and a touch of salt. Don’t let them lose their shape. Drain and set aside. Now then. Fry up those bacon cubes in a pat of butter (do hush, now. This recipe is not for the fat-free variety.) Slide in the onion slices and sauté until just clear. Drain the whole shebang on a paper towel and tell it to wait. (Weez gonna put this plop of heaven in a bowl when rested.)
Since this is work, sip some wine. I enjoy listening to Little Big Town when doing potato magic. Bare feet or house shoes work best for stabilization–cut offs or pjs work best for booty shakin’.
Butter up a casserole dish–or even an iron skillet if it’s a big one–and layer half the taters on the bottom. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Squish all that roasted garlic into a small bowl, then stir into the bacon/onion-ness. Scatter ALL that bacon/onion-ness on top and sprinkle with a small glass of white wine or (in my case) a small snifter of brandy. Bed the rest of those taters on top and dot with creme and ham cubes. Slice cheese across the top of the whole heart attack and bake until crisp around edges (the more the better, here.)
I plopped a piece of tin foil lightly on top for a bit, then whipped it off to brown the top. But, whatevs. Feel your way.
All mine got gone before I could take a photo of it, but it should look a little bit like:
The premise is assuredly French, but the process is downright Southern. (As is the extra pig on top.) Y’all can substitute all types of soft cheese for the top–you can even skip the bacon (although, wtf?) but by all means, play with yor’ food.
As I am still traversing my own personal haunted valley (just in time for Halloween), I reckon I best hang up my blogging hat for the day.
Don’t forget. We had a deal. And, one way or the other, I’ll be back. I’ve seen some fine-ass-looking valleys turn to purgatory . . . mayhap this black pit looking thang is heaven. Time will tell. In the meantime, there’s always bacon.