02 May 2009

Trying Again

I dashed out today and got dog food (we were down to the last dishful and Gordo was looking worried), the mail, and more russet potatoes. I'm bound and determined to get this potato cooking thing to work. I mean, really, how hard can it be to cook a potato correctly? I guess I'm going to find out, aren't I?

I also picked up a pair of ham hocks and a pound of navy beans. Years and years ago, back in the early days of the HL-20, when the engineers at Langley were putting it together with little bits of time here and there, I went back there with two test pilots to fly the Differential Motion Simulator with a high-alpha cockpit display.

The reason I know it was in the early days of the HL-20 was that one of my test pilots was Bill Dana, at that time the last lifting-body (and X-15) pilot still flying research aircraft. Well, we ran into one of my friends at LaRC, one of the guys working on the HL-20 simulation, and I, of course, introduced him to Bill and Ed. His eyes got kind of wide, meeting the legendary Bill Dana. We went back to the DMS and I got a call from my friend about twenty minutes later, asking me if there was any chance that Bill might possibly be interested in flying the HL-20 sim, if only for a few minutes and entirely at his convenience, to give them suggestions. Fortunately for the HL-20, the DMS had just developed a small mechanical problem (a small hydraulic leak, I think) and we were just sitting around wondering what to do until the system came back up. So we all joined my friend and his test pilot at the HL-20 simulation and flew it for hours and a good time was had by all. To this day, my friend still thinks I'm a miracle worker, offhandedly producing a renowned lifting body pilot to fly his simulation.

So what does this have to do with ham hocks and navy beans, you ask? They're inextricably linked in my mind. Every Thursday the Langley cafeteria served navy bean soup and we were there on a Thursday and I had the soup and it was wonderful. It was a cool, damp day and the warm, succulent soup, with the grace note of smoky ham, was absolutely perfect. Warm, tasty, comfort food. So I've been making and eating navy bean soup since then. The canned stuff isn't really good enough, if you ask me, but it's quite easy to make. Pressure cookers are supposed to be wonderful for cooking beans, so I'm going to give it a try, right after I take on the potatoes again.

Then there's a Swedish yellow split pea soup, flavored with marjoram, that I made back when I was in college that I want to try again. I'd subscribed to the Time-Life Foods of the World series when I still lived in the dorm (I like to read about cooking almost as much as I like to cook) and this was one of the recipes that caught my eye. When I moved to an apartment for my senior year, this was one of the first things I cooked. It was better than I thought it would be, too. Obviously this was a while ago, in the late '60s. It was so long ago that cookbooks noted that corn tortillas could be purchased in cans at gourmet stores. This was mind-boggling to me, as I'd lived in the CA Central Valley and in SoCal since 1953 and I thought every store in town sold fresh tortillas, both corn and flour, even the 7-11 stores.

It's late afternoon here, about time for me to go start dinner. I guess I'm hungrier that I thought I was. I only meant to mention that I was ready to try again on the potatoes, but I've digressed to lifting bodies, test pilots, and a lot more about food. Hmmm....

No comments: