Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Monday, January 9, 2012

A Recipe For Life

As a student of storytelling, whenever travels have taken me to a new city, I have always made a beeline to the public library wandering among their 398.2 collection to see what new tales could be added to my repertoire.  In that manner that I have acquired numerous variants employing a common motif, each a reflection of the culture from which they came.  It is an excellent way to introduce students to various ethnic groups, historical time frames, and countries pointing out, despite differences, there is a commonality among people.

Served up in the setting of the Wild West is a new mouth-watering adaptation on the notable folktale more commonly known as Stone Soup written by David Davis and illustrated by Ben Galbraith, Fandango Stew (Sterling).

A couple of cowpokes, Slim and his grandson, Luis, ride into the town of Skinflint as hungry as can be and flat broke.  As they stop to water their horses the feisty, no-so-friendly sheriff informs them they best be on their way; Skinflint is no place for freeloaders.  Slim replies cheerfully that all they want to do is cook a big pot of fandango bean stew for the good folks of Skinflint.

Pulling a single bean from his vest pocket, Slim sings:

"Chili's good, so is barbecue,
but nothing's FINER than

The sheriff, mayor and owner of the general store scoff at the very thought but are willing to loan them the requested iron pot rolling it out to the center of town.  Adding the bean to the now boiling water Luis and Slim sing the catchy tune again in two-part harmony.  The contents of the pot grow as the two crafty but wise vaqueros cajole and count on the pride of the townspeople, the bank president, the blacksmith and his wife, a lawyer, sheriff, the school teacher and her students and the Skinflint Culture Ladies Club, to provide.

Provide they do as spices, a purple onion, potatoes, peppers, peas, cabbage, asparagus, squash, carrots, okra, brown rice and heirloom tomatoes are willingly added.  Before long the makings of a real shindig surround the pot, tables, chairs and paper lanterns.  No one went to sleep that night hungry; even the nasty varmints in jail supped on this gastronomical delight.

As grandfather and grandson ride off into the next day's sunrise the entire town waving goodbye, in response to a question about the availability of fandango beans Slim replies:

"Any bean makes a fine fandango stew,
Just add generosity and kindness."

Hats tipped in farewell the upbeat notes of the duo's signature song drift back to the citizens of Skinflint.

A Texas native, Davis adds seasoning to the already savory sauce by including Spanish terms within the lingo spoken by his characters.  Most readers will be able to discern their meaning based upon the context in which they are used.  Quick, sharp, emotion-laden dialogue clearly defines the characters; readers will be rooting for the newcomers to town as they win even the grumpiest to their way of thinking.

"This stew is muy bueno, " he said.  "But, if we added a little salt and pepper to season the fandango bean, it would be truly magnifico."
The banker chuckled.  "Shucks, I can lend you a little salt and pepper."

Oil paints, found objects and digitally scanned textures stir up the wildness that was the West; barn siding cover with lasso framing, endpapers clothed in red bandanna print and a townscape that could be a set for a Gunsmoke episode.  Ben Galbraith's attention to detail coupled with the subtle humor injected into his illustrations is the perfect ingredient in this recipe for fun.  An armadillo, vulture and rattlesnake are frequent visitors wandering, perching and slithering about the dusty streets.  Expressions on the horses of Slim and Luis mirror the events; seeing them peeking out the windows on the second floor of the building next to the saloon during the meal is hilarious as is the instruments poking out the windows of the jail.

David Davis and Ben Galbraith have rustled up a right fine feast in the form of Fandango Stew giving new flavor to an old favorite.  Read silently this is excellent fare; read aloud this is delicioso!

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