An Evening of Bluegrass and Banjo

In August, I bought tickets to see Steve Martin in Spokane, at the Fox. Silly me, I thought it was an evening of Steve Martin the comedian – wild and crazy – or some variation thereof. A few hours before we (Paula, Doug, and I) leave for the show, I check online and find out that it’s actually an evening of bluegrass and banjo, and joining Steve Martin on stage is The Steep Canyon Rangers. He’s on tour to promote the release of his first bluegrass album, The Crow: New Songs for the Five-String Banjo (Rounder Records). The album was released in May 2009, and reached #1 on the Billboard Bluegrass Album chart where it stayed for 12 weeks. But it’s still banjo music.

I was a bit disappointed. I send my brother an IM to let him know just in case he was looking forward to a night of Funky Tut and Cruel Shoes. He already knew. And Paula heard Martin interviewed on NPR. And…we’re still going. ¬†Banjos. Seriously? Banjos? I’m not sure I can do it. I throw a bottle of aspirin in my purse.

It’s a lovely theater. Our seats are dead center stage and very, very high up. Paula leans over to me, motions to the ceiling and says, “Watch your head.” Austin and Laura Storm come walking up the aisle and end up sitting next to us. Laura knows it’s a night of banjos, too. How did I miss this important fact? I say to Paula, “Do you think all these people know it’s banjo music?” She laughed and reminded me about the NPR interview. I look around at the crowd and wonder if they are a sampling of an NPR audience.

Well…shut my mouth! It was a fantastic evening of great music. The Steep Canyon Rangers , from Asheville, North Carolina, are very, very talented musicians. In addition to Steve Martin on the banjo, the Rangers are: Woody Platt (guitar and lead vocals), Graham Sharp (banjo, harmony vocals), Mike Guggino (mandolin and harmony vocals), Charles R. Humphrey III (bass and harmony vocals) and Nicky Sanders (fiddle and harmony vocals).

I’ll admit it. I was totally surprised by how much I enjoyed the music. The instruments and vocals blended flawlessly. The performers wore beautiful suits – no overalls, and not a jug, saw, or washboard was played. Steve Martin managed to weave his comedy throughout the performance. We laughed and clapped for eighty minutes. And, after three curtain calls, Steve graced us with King Tut. Born in Arizona, moved to Babylonia, King Tut. He was buried in his jammies.

Unfortunately, the tour is over. If you didn’t get the chance to see Steve Martin in concert…you missed a great evening of entertainment. You can check out his website here. And thanks to lala, you can listen to the album on that little gadget below. The album is good, but the live performance was priceless. I’m happy to report I lived through a night of banjo and bluegrass music, and I’d do it again if Steve Martin or The Steep Canyon Rangers were on stage.

The Crow – New Songs for the F…

Eat Like A Greek

I wasn’t raised in a traditional Greek family, with two Greek-speaking parents; nevertheless, my Mom and her family made it their quest to infuse us with a love for all things Greek. My Dad graciously allowed it to happen, although, over the years, he’s made every attempt to stick a Scottish label on us, but not much sticks to Greece (pun intended). Somehow, I managed to make it through thirty years of life before I realized my “Greek” family originated from Italians. So four generations ago, the grandparents of my grandparents left Italy and made their lives in Greece. And so, I willingly embrace all things Italian.

My Mom did a good job of incorporating American food in to our lives. I’m pretty sure she did it so my Dad wouldn’t starve. And though he loves her cooking, he doesn’t fully appreciate the more colorful aspects of Greek cuisine. Thankfully, I inherited my Mom’s palette and have no food fears. Well, except for lima beans, and badly cooked okra. Oh…and liver.

At an early age, I learned to eat first and then ask, “What is that?” When a plate was set in front of me, regardless of the smell, texture, or look of an item, I was required to take a bite. This small obedience was, as I look back over my life, one of the best gifts my Mom gave me. If not for that little rule, I would have missed out on so many wonderful and exciting flavors from many different cuisines.

When I was eighteen, my family, in different variations, spent the summer in Greece. We lived many days on the beaches of Glyfada, Tolo, and Vouliagmeni, only coming out of the sea for a few hours to eat a delicious lunch. We ate fresh fish, village salads, crispy potatoes, slabs of cheese, lemony horta, and loaves of fresh bread. With wet hair and wet bathing suits, sand between our toes, and sunburned skin, we took pleasure in eating the simple but scrumptious food. Bread was for dipping, lemons for squeezing, fingers for licking, and forks were, well, forks were optional.

The other night I saw an episode of FoodTV’s Chopped: When Chefs Collide (Episode 3.1). In the appetizer round, the chefs were tasked with creating an appetizer out of Manila clams, kumquats, and croissants. The Greek chef, Peter Giannakas, Chef and Restaurateur of Ovelia Psistaria Bar, New York, NY., was eliminated in the first round. He created a dish that, according to the judges, was difficult to eat. They also commented about the flavors of his dish; however, since they were too afraid to get their hands messy, I question whether or not they actually tasted the dish. As the chef was eliminated, he said to the judges, “Don’t be afraid to eat.” I laughed so hard I nearly cried. My Mom would be proud of him.

Thanks to her, and the generations of Greeks who came before me, I am not afraid to taste – even if it means getting messy or trying new flavor combinations. I believe my love for cooking is in the genes, seasoned by my Mom, and whipped in to shape by hours of practice. For that I am thankful and, Lord willing, I will have many more years to eat like a Greek.




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