His red bandana was the first thing I saw.
We rolled down the rural highway at the posted speed, big diesel engine churning under the hood of the truck. Towering pine, and hardwood trees on both sides made a cool, tunnel of green for the ribbon of smooth pavement unfolding before us. Topping countless hills, our views were breathtaking. Punctuating the vast stretches of forest were what looked like random patchwork quilts, but in reality were dozens of acres of wheat, hay, and corn. Mist and low-lying clouds settled into undulating peaks and valleys, painting an almost sentient picture of light, color, and depth.
The red bandana stood out next to all the natural beauty. Popping up over a crest in the road, it was attached to a large man riding a big, black motorcycle. Knowing almost nothing about the vehicle, I categorize motorcycles under the sub-headings of Big, Fast, and Almost Practical. This one fell under the Big listing. Perhaps a Harley-Davidson, it had handlebars that seemed to rise 2 feet away from the body of the bike, forcing the rider to reach absurdly high to grasp the controls. Combined with the blackness of the cycle, which melted into the black leather coat and pants of the rider, the effect was of a massive spider hurtling toward us at breakneck speed. The red bandana was incongruous to the point of comical, but also shocking. Where was the guy's helmet? Was it wise to jockey 60 or 70 horses with no skull armor? Then I remembered where we were.
Live Free Or Die, baby.
I chuckled and turned away from the giant speeding spider, returning my gaze to the epic scenery rolling past my passenger side window. New Hampshire is one of my favorite states, for many reasons. Home to many excellent colleges and universities, New Hampshire is a social and seasonal equal-opportunity playground, catering to sports enthusiasts as well as art, antique and nature lovers. The Granite State harbors countless crystal clear ponds and lakes around which cluster both full-time, as well as vacation homes. Folks from around the country relocate to New Hampshire for it's fertile soil, gentle growing season climate, and supportive farming communities. Magnificent historical homes dot the landscape, and there is no shortage of fixer-uppers for every level of DIY ability. For those who are weary of mind-numbing big box stores peddling cheap, Made In China, cookie-cutter products, the Granite State is packed with small operators, Mom's 'n Pop's, and co-op purveyors selling small-batch, artisinal, one-of-a-kind, mostly local items . There's something for everyone in New Hampshire, but if you're going to live there or visit in the winter, you'd better like snow.
Nearing our destination, we slowed enough for me to admire some roadside gardens and yards. One barnyard in particular caught my attention. Tidy, with deep flower beds bordering broad expanses of lawn and pasture, a small red barn had an enormous American flag tacked to the side with the words Buy Local painted in white underneath. Fat black hens scratched at the end of the dirt driveway, next to the mailbox, which was assembled from a rusty metal mailbox, attached to a hand truck with packing tape and bungee cords. I guess the New Hampshire Postmaster makes allowances for mobile receptacles. Near the mailbox-on-wheels was a dear little doe-eyed Jersey cow tied to a pine branch that'd been rammed into the dirt. It was a relatively ordinary pastoral scene, but the thick leather collar decorated with brass fittings, and the flower crown woven around her nubby horns elevated the whole vista to a different level.
Live Free Or Die.
New Englanders in general are a stalwart group. Brown bread and beans is a ubiquitous meal of the region. The population is now peppered with many diet lifestyles, but meat continues to be an important protein for main dish plates. Today's recipe is a quick-make version of an age old standby, the Pot Pie. Savory pies originate in some form from many cultures, but each global province makes the dish it's own based on available ingredients. Meat, cheese, vegetables, and grains are fair game when fabricating a pot pie, An out-of-the-box thinker might even turn this iconic meal into a dessert, using fruit, sugar, and cream. In my wildest dreams, I suspect there are even vegan pot pies bursting with tofu and seitan. But hey, no judgement, it's all good. Food is love.
Live Free Or Die, baby. Live Free Or Die.
1 tablespoon oil
3 carrots, sliced
1 box (10 ounces) frozen cut green beans
1 purchased fully cooked pot roast (2 pounds), cubed -(EGADS! This is the recipe...I say make your own)
2 cups frozen steak fries, halved
1 can (14 ounces) beef broth
1/2 cup red wine
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 box (11 ounces) piecrust mix (Gah. They're killing me here... again, make your own, if you can.)
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/3 cup cold water
1. Heat oven to 400. Heat oil in large pot over medium high heat. Add carrots; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add green beans, pot roast, steak fries, beef broth, wine, Worcestershire and 1/2 teaspoon thyme. Bring to a boil.
2. Mix water, flour and cornstarch in bowl. Stir to boiling mixture; cook until thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Cool slightly.
3. Mix piecrust mix, roasemary, remaining 1/4 inch thick into either 6 rounds to fit six 12-ounce ramekins, or two rounds for two 6-cup souffle dishes.
4. Bake in 400 oven for 25 to 27 minutes, until golden and filling is bubbly (same baking time for either ramekins or souffle dishes)