Issue #5 March 31st - April 13th, 2006

Rosemary Potatoes
Texas Johnson & Phisch

Birthdays are like celebrity deaths - there isn’t one for months, then two that you hear about in one day, and then one that you don’t hear about until it’s too late to even seem like you care.  Those are always the ones you really did care about.  Just like deaths, birthdays always seem to come in threes. Ask any waiter that ever had to sing one of those damned “Happy-Happy Birthday” songs.  You know, either set to a familiar old tune, or such a completely tuneless cadence that it might have been written by a six-year-old.  More often than not, the attempt at the former will end up as the latter.  But the point is that if you are ever required by an employer to humiliate yourself this way, there will be weeks when you can almost forget that droning “melody” and believe your $2.13 per hour isn’t such a bad gig.  Then the birthday song rears its ugly head and you can bet you’ll sing a trio of times.

We don’t usually do the chain-restaurant birthday dinner.  Instead we have a tradition of cashing a paycheck into singles, and spending them like sailors in a gentlemen’s club.  What it lacks in class, it makes up for by the dignity allowed to our servers.  Some of you may find it odd to say that strippers get more respect than wait staff. Most people would say exotic dancing is their definition of a demeaning job.  Really, it is hard enough to decide what you’d like to do for a living.  If it isn’t illegal or immoral, you should be proud making money and supporting yourself and your family.  Taking your clothes off for money is embarrassing only if you are embarrassed.  Lots of people like to be looked at in the nude.  It’s natural to feel good when someone let’s you know you’re sexy, and if it provides mad cash all the better.

Whether you would do it yourself or not, you can imagine someone wanting to dance for a living.  You can also understand wanting to be a waiter. People come in hungry and tired and leave happy and satisfied.  But can you, valued reader, imagine anyone thinking  “I want a job where my coworkers and I can embarrass ourselves to the William Tell Overture.  Each in our own key, of course.”

Well really this rambling introduction was just a way for us to admit that a recent round of birthdays has left us a bit strapped for cash, so here’s an economical recipe that will blow you away.  We served these potatoes with some tangy pork chops and crab stuffed mushrooms, but the potatoes stole the show.

Here’s what we used:

5 lbs. Red potatoes (washed and quartered)
8 oz. Feta cheese (crumbled)
2 med. Red onions (quartered)
1 whole garlic (minced)
3 oz. fresh rosemary (minced)
Sea salt
1 cup olive oil
Cheap blush wine
Black pepper

Here’s what we do:

• Prepare and combine all ingredients, except feta and wine, in a large baking pan pouring oil over last.  Fill the pan with wine and start drinking the rest of the gallon.

• Grill over a medium to low fire until potatoes begin to soften. Eat one. It should lose the “apple” texture of a raw potato, but still be firm.

• Next add ½ of the feta and salt or pepper to taste.

• Cook until potatoes are soft. You may need to add a little wine towards the end of the cooking to keep the bottom from drying out.  If you have to open another bottle it’s all right with us, but be careful not to add too much. No one likes a soggy potato.

• Finally, when the potatoes are soft, crumble the other ½ of the feta over the top of the dish and let sit over the fire for a minute or five, then serve.

So remember, do what you want to make what you need.  Tip often and tip well, it feels good and it makes them feel good.  Spend your birthday doing what you enjoy.  Really if you want to degrade someone in honor of your aging, then hire a clown.  But if you see someone singing birthday songs in a bistro, wait for the third verse (yes, it will be the same as the first,) and tell him you feel his personal pain.

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