It is the first day of hemp fest and Jennifer has out down herself. First thing this morning, she passed out tie-dyed tee shirts, fringy leather vests, sandals and beads. Once we were in our uniforms, she passed around a box of buttons promoting peace, love and cannabis. Frank wondered if it was strictly necessary to look like a bunch of flower children.
"You should feel at home in these clothes," answered Jennifer with a smile. "I based the outfit on a picture of you at some kind of protest back in the 60's."
"Oh god!" roared Frank. "Those ROTC bastards couldn't take a joke! They turned a perfectly nice protest into a violent riot."
Cook grunted to cut Frank off before he got up to full ranting speed. "We're going to be walking around, yes? We'll need something we can eat with our hands."
When I was growing up my brother and I returned from a camping trip proclaiming that everything tastes better when it is cooked on a stick. We repeated this so often that it became a catch phrase to be hauled out whenever we were given a choice about what to have for dinner.
"Something on a stick?" I asked unable to help myself. "Everything tastes better cooked on a stick!"
"Not pudding," grumbled Frank who was having trouble tying a bandana around his unruly crop of grey hair. The best thing to do when Frank gets like this is to ignore his cranky sarcasm and let him and his daemons fight it out by themselves. Cook, an expert at deflecting Frank, waved us all out of the room.
"Sticks it is," he said when we were all gathered around the kitchen. "Leslie, get all the chopsticks you can find. Jennifer, heat the peanut oil to 375 degrees. Gary, get the hotdogs." He was already pulling a large mixing bowl from the cupboard. One thing I should clear up - we don't have hotdogs in the Stoned Soup kitchen. Not only does Cook abhor over processed ingredients, no one in the house enjoys eating them. A few days ago, I found a deal on duck eggs. At the farm where we collected the eggs from a flock of very plump and happy Chocolate Muscovy ducks, we were accosted by a teenage boy who insisted that we try his hotdogs. I tried to ignore the kid, but he was insistent. Before I could say anything against it, there was a meat filled bun in my hand. Seeing no way out, I took a bite.
I was shocked to find my mouth full of rich meaty flavor without the overwhelming shot of salt that I expected. I took another bite. The spicing was subtle. I got a hint of sage set off by the tang of mustard seed. The texture of the meat was more rustic that a store bought dog and was contained in a casing that kept it juicy.
"Henry raised that pig himself," said the proud duck lady. Henry beamed and informed me that he had a box for sale. I stuffed the rest of the hotdog in my mouth and wiped my hand before shaking on the deal. Cook was skeptical at first, but after I told him the story he shrugged and promised to find a dish to use them in.
Whatever the dish was, it involved most of the stuff in the pantry. Cook had flour, corn meal, baking soda and baking powder, salt and cayenne pepper. While he stirred these together, Frank came in with a big bud of Matanuska Tundra that cook ordered ground and boiled in buttermilk. The infused buttermilk and a can of cream-style corn went into the mixing bowl to make a thick batter.
Jennifer laid out a plate full of corn starch, the batter the chopsticks and the box of hotdogs on the counter next to the stove. She shoved a stick up the end of a dog, rolled it in the corn starch, dipped the dog in the batter and slid it carefully into the hot oil. She managed to get three dogs into the pan at a time, cooking each until it was dark brown before taking it out and laying it on a pad of paper towels where Leslie salted each one.
Before long we had a box of gourmet corn dogs that cook packed with a six pack of beer and four different condiments into a canvas bag. Jennifer grabbed the bag and led everyone out to the van.
If you find that there are no Peter Max psychedelic stickers available in a store near you, I have an explanation - every last one of them is glued onto the van in an explosion of color a swooping bubble shapes. I am not looking forward to the next time it rains, but until then, we have the perfect ride and the perfect meal for hemp fest.