Real Cooking

There are 1,241 people living in Chapman and 3,542 dogs. Oh, and three burros.

The population statistic comes courtesy of my new Rand McNally 2003 road atlas. The number of canines is really just a rough estimation based on my keen observation skills that were put to use over this past weekend during a trip for a softball tournament.

I did, however, personally count the burros.

I had never been to Chapman before. As you may know, it’s a small town located between Abilene and Junction City. What you may not know is that besides having a seemingly high dog population, the town has an enormous grain elevator with rows and rows of school buses parked next to it.

I became aware of this because for two days I sat facing the grain elevator that towered over the ball diamonds where Meg and her teammates were playing.

The elevator was surrounded by huge storage bins that shone in the summer sun and with the brilliant green grass of the ball diamond in the foreground and the bright, yellow school buses to the elevator’s immediate right, it made a striking visual impact.

I couldn’t help but think that it formed a picture that would be quite fitting for a farmer calendar. You know, the kind that comes from the co-op or the tractor dealership at Christmastime.

I mentioned this to Keith when I got home on Sunday night-how I thought it made a pretty picture. He said I had been in the sun too long. I don’t know about that. Maybe I’ve just been married to a farmer too long.

Sunday marked our 24th wedding anniversary. Keith stayed home to look for a lost calf and to take Alex to ball practice while I went to Chapman with Meg. So, except for a brief acknowledgement of the occasion, our anniversary went by chiefly unnoticed.

Except, of course, by Tina King. We generally ride together to ball tournaments, so when we left town that morning on our way to Chapman, I mentioned I was celebrating my 24th anniversary.

Tina, being ever so quick, made a rapid calculation. Knowing that I’m 48 years old, she turned to me and said, “Do you realize you’ve been washing that man’s underwear for half your life?”

Wow, I never thought of it that way. But it’s oh, so true. I had to laugh.

But even though I reached my 24th year of wedded bliss, that wasn’t the highlight of my weekend. No, that came when the cops were dispatched to break up the wild party that we were having in the parking lot of the Chapman sports complex.

OK, it wasn’t really a party, we were just having lunch. But Gary Andrews, that rabble rouser, was in a party mood when he turned on the music in his vehicle so the softball girls and their parents could have some tunes playing while we tailgated.

Imagine our surprise when one of Chapman’s finest men in blue showed up to ask us to turn the music off. Someone in a nearby trailer park had called to complain of the noise.

Why the offended party hadn’t just stuck his or her head out the door to ask us to turn down the music…well, whatever.

“Sorry officer, but it’s the Doobie Brothers. You just have to play the Doobie Brothers loud.”

That Gary.

The officer was very nice, almost apologetic, as he handed out stickers to the little kids who were in our group. We turned off the music, but we had a good story to share and tease about for the rest of the day. Those poor girls just can’t take their parents anywhere without something happening. Someday maybe we’ll learn to behave ourselves.

But until then, we’ll keep having fun. And I’ll keep doing the same man’s laundry. I’ve been doing both for at least half of my entire life.

* * *

After eating with my breakfast group last Wednesday, we took a side trip from our usual stop in Durham to visit the greenhouse operated by Troy and Marla Wiebe. There we viewed row after row of giant tomato plants growing hydroponically. I hadn’t seen such a set up since we last visited Disney’s Epcot Center. Quite interesting.

Of course we all purchased some of the Wiebes’ marvelous fresh tomatoes. I cut some into a salad that day and the next, and then sliced the rest to eat with grilled hamburgers when I took a meal out to the field for our harvest crew.

My friend Donna Jost has been growing herbs in pots this summer, so I thought of her when I came across this salad recipe. Fresh ingredients make such a difference in cooking. I’ll bet some of those great tomatoes would be a good addition to this dish as well.

Fresh Tortellini Salad

16-oz. fresh cheese filled tortellini, or a combination of spinach and cheese filled tortellini

1/2 green bell pepper, chopped

1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced

1 small onion, thinly sliced

1/4 cup pitted black olive pieces

1/2 cup light olive oil

1/2 cup white vinegar

1 tbs. each chopped fresh basil, mint, and parsley

3 tbs. lemon juice

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

Dash of Tabasco

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup crumbled Feta cheese

2-4 tbs. grated Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to directions on package. Combine vinegar, olive oil, herbs, garlic, lemon juice and Tabasco. Blend well until all components are emulsified. Season with salt and pepper. Combine pasta, peppers, olives and onion in a large bowl. Pour dressing over salad and toss to coat. Cover and chill overnight. Before serving, add cheeses.

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