A Cook and Two Books Blog #2: Light It Up
I am so lucky to do what I do for a living. It is as far away from having a “regular job” as I can get, and that has been my goal for many years–actually since Junior High School, but that is another story. Recently I had the opportunity and privilege to work again with Toni Streckert at the Monona Public Library and Joanne Berg owner of Mystery to Me, the awesome bookstore on Monroe Street, on a truly unique event called “A Cook and Two Books” on April 11, 2018. Thanks to them for creating such a wonderful event. Thanks also to Samara Kalk Darby for writing a wonderful article that appeared in the Wisconsin State Journal on Easter Sunday on the front page of the “Sunday Best” section. Please check it out (HERE) as it gives a really good idea of what the event was all about. Briefly, the premise was that I would read two books and come up with a dish or two inspired by each of the books which I would prepare and then serve to the folks who attended the event.
What follows is what I wrote about one of the books, Nick Petrie’s novel Light It Up. (My last blog was about the other book, Teresa Dovalpage’s Death Comes in Through the Kitchen, and you should check that out, too!) Light It Up, which I totally recommend reading, is set in the present on Colorado’s Front Range. It is about the modern-day Cannabis industry and the theft of an enormous amount of cash and is action-packed, fast-paced and riveting to read. As I read the book, so many memories came back to me of the time I spent on the Front Range. I had so many interesting experiences in such a short span of time! I used to get asked all the time if I skied a lot when I lived in Colorado. Ironically, I did not. I was too busy living. Thinking about this makes me want to pull out all of the old pictures from my era in Colorado. It will be fun to see if my crazy memories actually match up.
It seemed a no-brainer to make “pot” brownies as the culinary inspiration from Nick’s book. There were not many food references in the book as the main character was so busy whuppin’ bad guys that he didn’t have time to eat much or even think about food. So I went with my brownie concept. The Cold Coffee Sauce is a nod to the main character’s penchant for “Combat Coffee,” which is a packet or two of instant coffee washed down with a swig of sun or jungle-warmed bottled water. Believe me, it works, especially if you like your coffee black and strong.
Here are the musings and recipes that I prepared for the event. Enjoy!
My Book-Inspired Musings:
My friend Tom and I had it all planned. We had dreamt, discussed and even diagrammed our plan to move to Colorado together after we each graduated from college. Then the summer before our senior year I was honored to be asked to be a groomsman in Tom and Mavis’s wedding. Upon graduating, I didn’t even bother to ask if the three of us would be moving to Colorado, I just moved there myself. I ended up at the Holiday Inn in Boulder on my first night. I picked up a Boulder Daily Herald, found myself a beer and circled some possible classified ads to call in the morning to find a place to live.
The least expensive places for rent were in a small town called Nederland, which is above Boulder, literally 2798 feet above Boulder. The panoramic view of Mt. Evans and the surrounding peaks when I rounded the corner in my 62′ Chevy II at the Barker Dam was beyond breathtaking. (The altitude may have had something to do with it.)
I saw a phone booth and proceeded to turn around in the dirt parking lot of Whistler’s Cafe. One pot hole later, I had ripped my muffler clear off. I parked the car and walked to the phone booth with the classifieds in hand and found a place to rent. I was home.
That was a crazy time period to be living on the Front Range of the Rockies. So consequently it was a crazy time for me. I first found work in Boulder selling cars of all things. The problem was, I didn’t have quiet car anymore. So I used to ride my bike (as in bicycle) the 21 plus miles to Turnpike Ford and Subaru. It was a ride like none other. I was once clocked at 56 mph going down the steepest part of the ride called the Narrows. I never rode up the mountain to get home, but that is another story. I didn’t sell many cars (not my fault, but that’s another story, too). So that job ended unceremoniously (and there is a story there as well)!
Leaving car sales was the best thing for me. The day after I left I landed a job managing the Nederland Liquor Store and after that was sold, I tended bar at the Pioneer Inn. During that time period the adult beverage clientele consisted of summer tourists/fall sightseers/winter skiers, celebrities (who had exclusive and reclusive mountain homes), hard rock gold miners (who descended over a thousand feet in shafts then chipped rock by hand looking for gold), drifters, real Outlaw bikers, really hard core drug dealers (often the same), and music artists that spent time recording at Caribou Ranch.
Like most really cool and beautiful locations, things have changed immensely since I lived there. Most significant is the legalization of marijuana. For good or bad a lot of the quaint mountain towns on the Front Range and elsewhere in the state have become boom towns with the new economy. However, I still have my fond memories. For the bulk of the time that I lived in Colorado I resided in a log cabin in the small town of Eldora. I heated with wood and I was the one who put the r-u-n in running water. I did a lot of wood stove cooking and actually made the following recipe a time or two. These are pot brownies you can serve to anyone and everyone. And yes you can just eat one.
4 ounces butter
2 ounces dark chocolate
1 cup sugar
¼ cup flour
¼ teaspoon salt
Method: Arrange a nice pile of coals on the side of the woodstove or fire pit or preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a medium-size fire-proof pot or small cake pan or (in the case where you want folks to get a taste but don’t want to give them too much) a mini-muffin pan. Melt the butter and chocolate together in a bowl sitting over another pot of simmering water, a double boiler or “bain marie” (you decide). Heat until the chocolate melts, stirring occasionally. Take off the heat and cool a bit. Meanwhile cream the sugar, eggs and vanilla together until smooth and creamy in a separate bowl. Add the melted chocolate, butter, flour and salt and stir until combined. Scrape into the pot and flatten the top a bit. If baking by campfire, place a cover on the pot and put coals on top of the pot and some around it. Bake 10-15-20 minutes until done. Time will vary depending on the pot or pan. These are chewy, gooey brownies. Perfect for the munchies.
Cold Coffee Sauce
(This sauce is good on Ice cream or add some to boiled milk for a tasty treat)
1 cup water
1 ½ cups sugar
2-4 teaspoons good quality instant coffee
Method: Heat the water and sugar in pot stirring until the sugar has dissolved. There is no need to boil it. Add the amount of coffee you wish, then stir. Cool and use as desired.