Calling Up a Bluegrass Festival

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Kiwis, orange sherbet, and Earl Grey Tea, what do these have in common?

When I was a couple months pregnant with my son, I had the usual malady—morning sickness. It’s the kind of icky sensation where you feel like there would be some sort of flavor, some kind of tang, some type of tart food that would make it all better. I’m positive that is where the “pregnant women craving pickles” idea came from. Along with kiwis, orange sherbet, and Early Gray Tea, I tried pickled cauliflower mix, pickled wax peppers, lemonade, and Sprite. The pitiful thing is, none of it really works. The one thing that did come out of it was that I cannot eat kiwis, orange sherbet, or Early Grey Tea without feeling a little queasiness.

Science knows that aromas (and flavors are mostly aromas) bypass the common sense part of your brain, hitting the expressway straight to the emotions. That’s why a particular perfume can jerk you back to an old romance, a pungent cooking smell to a childhood experience. We let this happen to us by accident all the time. Pumpkin pie just usually happens to be baked at the holidays. A whiff of it baking can make us feel the warm glow of Thanksgiving or Christmas. Smell some wood chips burning and you may instantly be transported to camping trips. Just a taste of Jolly Rancher Watermelon Stix and I’m back in high school hanging out with my friends.

Last week, while getting ready for the Bluegrass Festival at Plymouth, CA, I was thinking on the feeling tones of aroma and flavor. What a great thing it would be to purposefully introduce a food that I could associate with a Bluegrass Festival later on! This unknown food item would unlock all those great feelings of being around friends, jamming all night, meeting new people, hearing great music. All I had to do was come up with just the right food.

The biggest considerations: it couldn’t be something I already made on a frequent basis, it couldn’t be connected with something else, and it had to be really good.

To understand my first attempt at this, you have to understand how much I love cinnamon rolls. I love the big fluffy yeast ones, with dripping cinnamon sauce and drizzled white glaze. I love the crispy-edged ones my mother used to make from sweet biscuit dough on Sunday mornings. I even like the canned ones, but have rarely made them. So I assigned canned cinnamon rolls to be my festival psyco-food.

No oven? No problem! Even better, since cooking them in an oven is common, would be to fry them in butter. My daughter was my accomplice. This is the same daughter who, in our desperation for a dessert at the Old Time Campout, helped me create the birdseed-trail mix- applesauce late-night goody. We both like to eat healthfully, so we carefully avoided reading the list of ingredients on the tube of cinnamon rolls. At least butter has only one ingredient—butter. I heated up a cast iron skillet and melted a pool of butter. I peeled off each poof of spiced dough and dropped it in. As they sizzled and browned, I knew I’d made a mistake. They were so thick, they would take awhile to cook, but the dough was so sweet and light, they were browning out of control. For the next 10 minutes, I kept trying to turn down the flame, lift the skillet up and down as a sort of thermostat, turn the rolls from side to side and edge to edge to edge so they would be a uniform shade of black, all the while dropping pats of butter in the pan to keep them from marrying the bottom of the skillet. Melinda was my tester, since I was too busy juggling with both hands. Finally she pronounced them “not too doughy.” We each had 4 apiece, dunking them in the little plastic cup of glaze included in the tube.

Surprisingly, they weren’t too bad. That is, until we had each eaten all 4 of our portion. The most common sentence heard in our camp for the next 2 hours was, “I’m REALLY full!” So now I fear that a tube of cinnamon rolls is going to be something that reminds me of buttery gluttony instead of a Bluegrass Festival. But I have another chance. Hobbs Grove Bluegrass Festival is going on this weekend, and I am anxious to see how my next experiment works with Calling Up a Bluegrass Festival.


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