It’s Michigan Week! (II)

I would call the rivalry between Ohio State and Michigan during the week of The Game a friendly rivalry — except it really isn’t.  Deep down, every Buckeyes fan wants to crush Michigan like a cockroach.  We want to punish them, humiliate them, and leave them wailing forlornly to their misbegotten gods. Michigan fans share this perspective.

But, since we aren’t fighting with broadswords, we need to make do with humor.  When I was a kid, and Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler were fighting the 10-Year War, the battle was waged with bumper stickers.  I remember one of the Michigan bumper stickers said:  “Save Fuel.  Burn Woody!”  And I thought — boy, Michigan fans are about as funny as, say, Jerry Lewis during the MDA telethon.

The Ohio side of the humor equation, however, isn’t appreciably better.  Consider these two representative efforts:

1.  “A University of Michigan fan walks into a doctor’s office and removes his hat to reveal a frog sitting on his head. The doctor asks, ‘How can I help you?’ The frog replies, ‘I was wondering if you could help me get this wart off my butt.'”

2.  “Two University of Michigan grads are laughing it up on their way into a bar.  The bartender asks:  ‘Hey, why are you guys so happy?’  One of the Wolverines says, ‘Well, to be honest with you, we’re proud of ourselves.  We just finished a puzzle in a week, and when we were done we noticed the box said 4 to 6 years.'”

In Ohio, we try to make our statements on the football field.

Hugo’s In Houston

IMG_5483I like your basic Mexican restaurant.  I like the never-ending basket of chips and salsa, which I could eat until I explode.  I like the Mexican beer.  I like figuring out the combo plates, choosing between the various forms of tacos and enchiladas and burritos, always with refried beans (yum!) and Spanish rice (yuck!).

So, when I came to Houston and was invited to dinner at a place described as offering high-end Mexican fare, I was intrigued.  And after I finished my astonishingly fine meal at Hugo’s, I realized that my Midwestern understanding of Mexican cuisine was completely, horribly, grotesquely stunted.

The menu was extensive, and not a combo plate was in sight.  We began our feast with an excellent, reasonably priced bottle of wine and three dishes to share:  lechon, with pulled meat of suckling pig, tortillas, and habanero salsa; pulpo al carbon, grilled octopus with onions, peppers, and chipotle tomatillo sauce and tortillas; and carnitas de pato, duck tacos with tomatillo sauce.  All were excellent, but the duck tacos, with their killer sauce, were my favorite.

For my entree I took the recommendation of our waiter and tried the callo de hacha — pan-seared scallops over sweet corn bread — and suddenly I was extremely glad that we stopped sharing after the appetizer course.  The scallops were plump, tender, and perfectly prepared, with a nice crust; the cornbread and rajas con crema sauce were the perfect complement.  It was one of those meals where it was almost impossible to fight off the urge to start drooling and groaning like Homer Simpson after being presented with a platter of Lard Lad donuts.  It was just an incredible meal.

There’s lots to learn about the scope and extent of Mexican cooking.  I plan on continuing my education at Hugo’s the next time I’m in Houston.

The Thanksgiving Pageant

It was Thanksgiving week at Rankin Elementary School, and there was great excitement among the second-graders.  Our teacher had been telling us for weeks that we would put on a Thanksgiving pageant, and preparations were underway.

Construction paper, crayons, and blunt scissors with rounded edges were put on every table.  Pots of paste and Elmer’s glue left a distinct tang in the air.  Pilgrims hats and bonnets and Indian headdresses needed to be made for the boys and girls.  We worked hard to cut out yellow buckles for the hats and colored feathers for the Indians.  It was tough to make a hat that fit and didn’t rip when you tried it on.

Most of the boys wanted to be Indians.  The members of our tribe had brought in empty Quaker Oats containers, which made perfect tom-toms when decorated with paper and crayons and even sounded like a drum when you tapped the top with your hand.

Our worried teacher had written the script and done the staging.  A few students had a line or two, but most of us would just don our Pilgrim or Indian garb and stand there while Squanto and the Pilgrim fathers gave stiff speeches about friendship and Plymouth Rock and being thankful for the harvest.  Eventually one of the girls wearing a white Pilgrim bonnet would bring in a turkey made of Play-Doh and the show would end.  When the big day came, the show went off without a hitch.

Of course, there was no pretense of historical accuracy or political correctness.  We didn’t know whether Squanto wore feathers and carried a tom-tom, or what the Pilgrim fathers said on that first Thanksgiving, or even whether they ate a turkey for their meal.  But it was fun to make things with my classmates after long weeks of spelling and arithmetic, we got to work together as a class to put on our little pageant, and we learned something about Thanksgiving, and each other, and the tensile strength of construction paper and the edible properties of paste in the process.

Do they put on Thanksgiving pageants in schools anymore?