Confession No. 83 — Tell me, Duckie … How are you unlucky?

To steal part of a line from the late Lou Gehrig, I consider myself to be a lucky guy.

Very lucky.

I’ve neither won a lottery nor learned that I was the sole heir to a long-lost billionaire relative’s fortune. I’ve only picked the exacta once — it was an off-track quarter-horse race. And I’ve never come out ahead on hardways bets. Yet, I’m still lucky.

And so are a lot of other people.

‘When you think things are bad,
when you feel sour and blue,
when you start to get mad…
you should do what I do!
Just tell yourself, Duckie,
you’re really quite lucky!
Some people are much more…
oh, ever so much more…
oh, muchly much-much more
unlucky than you!’

Dr. SeussDid I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?

As I read to first-graders this past Friday — during Read Across America Day — I was reminded of just how lucky I really am.

I still recall the first time I felt … unlucky.

On June 9, 1976, Ware Elementary School had been out for summer for more than a week. But, the invitations to my birthday party were passed out with plenty of time to spare.

The lawn at 1100 Berry Lane had a fresh cut. The games — inside and out — were set up and ready to be played. The green frosted chocolate cake made a nice centerpiece … surrounded by goodie bags for the guests. My 6th birthday marked the first party I ever had and I was the man of the hour.

Then, it didn’t happen.

Neither did some sort of catastrophe nor violent early June thunderstorm result in a cancellation of the festivities. The cake didn’t collapse. The ice cream didn’t melt. Rather, it was the passing time. Start time came and went. So did wrap-up time. No one from my class showed.

Woe was me
Feeling unlucky was a regular thing with me during my childhood.

I regularly felt down on my luck when my peers went on long vacations — and took jet airplanes to get there. That they’d come home wearing puka shell necklaces with stories about emerald-green water and helicopter rides only made me feel less fortunate. After all, our family only traveled to South Padre Island — by car. And my annual getaway with my dad was a mere hour’s drive to Tyler State Park, where we’d fish, ride bicycles and cook on the Coleman stove.

I vividly recall my father parking his old car near the Lions Club to pick me up from Judson Middle School in the afternoons. I’d asked him to remain out of sight, since we weren’t lucky enough to have a new car. He obliged me.

More than once, I felt cursed because we had burgers on the grill, or homemade fried chicken — while my peers’ parents were taking them through the McDonald’s or Kentucky Fried Chicken drive-thru.

And then, there was our swimming pool. Oh, it was nice. But, I had to help clean it. I also had to mow and trim the soft carpet of St. Augustine grass that surrounded it.

Yeah, right. Woe was me.

‘Be grateful you’re not in the forest in France
Where the average young person just hasn’t a chance
To escape from the perilous pants eating plants
But your pants are safe, you’re a fortunate guy
You ought to be shouting how lucky am I’

— Seuss

Lucky. All of us.
Before I began reading to the class, I introduced myself and posed a question.

‘So, how many of you are going somewhere during spring break?’

The hands all went up.

‘I’m going to Dallas to help my auntie … and shop … and have fun,’ a little pigtailed girl said, with a smile.

‘We’re gonna go to the swimming pool down the street,’ a little boy told me.

‘I’m going to sleep a lot,’ a young man named Jamaal announced.

And then I told them of my plans and how my own children feel … unlucky. My spring break will be at home with the family. I plan to prepare the gardens, replace a rotting soffit board overlooking the front porch and write. Maybe I’ll read too.

‘You ought to be thankful a whole heaping lot, for The places and people you’re lucky you’re not!’

— Seuss

I also mentioned that we might go camping for a day, or two; wash and wax my 10-year-old truck; and maybe invite my dad over for homemade hamburgers on the grill.

And continue feeling quite lucky.

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Several years ago, we were looking for Mexican (or Tex-Mex) food in New Jersey and the closest thing we found was a spot in Middletown. Their specialty — Shrimp & Scallop Chimichangas. After moving back to Texas — Tex-Mex Mecca — I realized just how good that New Jersey restaurant really was. This is my attempt at recreating my favorite dish there.

Seafood Chimichangas w/ Ancho Cream

Seafood Chimichanga

Pure Mexican bliss: Succulent seafood enveloped in a crispy tortilla, then smothered with cheese and ancho cream.

Chimichangas
1 lb – Extra Large Shrimp (16-20 ct.), peeled & deveined, tails removed
1 lb – Sea Scallops
2 TB – Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 – Large (or 2 small) Avocados
1/4 cup – Cilantro leaves, chopped finely
1 TB – Meyer Lemon juice
1 tsp – Kosher salt

5 – Burrito-sized flour tortillas

Ancho Cream
5-6 – Small Ancho chiles, stems and seeds removed
5-6 – Fresh Cilantro sprigs (stems and leaves)
2 TB – Mild Salsa
2 – Garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp – Ground cumin
1 tsp – Mexican Oregano (Italian Oregano may be substituted)
1 tsp – Kosher salt

1/2 pint – Heavy Cream

Vegetable oil spray (I use EVOO in a pump spray device)
1 lb – Mexican melting cheese (Asadero, Queso Quesadilla, Oaxaca, Manchego), shredded

Prepare the Anchos
In 2 cups of hot water, soak Ancho chiles until softened, about 20 minutes. (Reserve the soaking liquid.) Place softened anchos, cilantro, salsa, garlic, cumin, oregano and salt in a blender or food processor. Add about 1 cup of the soaking liquid and process until smooth. — Mixture should be thin and soupy. Add more soaking liquid or water, if necessary.

Place mixture in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. The mixture should reduce somewhat.

Prepare the Chimichangas
Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Dice avocado(s) into small chunks. Toss with lemon juice, cilantro and salt. Set aside.

Heat a large skillet to high. Add olive oil. Add shrimp and scallops (don’t overcrowd pan); Cook for about 2 minutes. (We are not cooking the shrimp and scallops all the way through at this point.)

Line center of flour tortilla with seafood mixture and avocado chunks. Fold in the sides of the tortilla, then overlap sides by folding up the bottom. Roll until sealed. Repeat.

Place chimichangas, the sealed side down, in an oiled baking dish (or large cast iron skillet). Spray the top and sides of each chimichanga with oil (to promote browning and crisping).

Place in preheated oven for about 20 minutes.

Make Ancho Cream & complete dish
Ancho mixture should be reduced by about half by now. If not, raise the heat slightly. Once reduced, remove from heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes, or so. Add heavy cream and mix well.

Remove chimichangas from oven and place, sealed side down, on plates. Top with a handful of shredded cheese and Ancho cream. (The heat from the chimichanga and Ancho cream will melt the cheese nicely.)

Makes 5 Seafood Chimichangas.

Comments

  1. Taking On Magazines says:

    Oh man. There was a Tex-Mex place in the Chicago area the BEST Seafood Chimichangas I’ve ever eaten. It was creamy and delicious. This one looks amazing, especially that ancho sauce. Bookmarked!

  2. OMG! You are not helping my Mexican addiction at all. I can’t wait to try this! That ancho cream looks amazing.

  3. Looks delicious, I bookmarked this recipe! Hope to try it very soon!!

  4. Lucky man. A blessing having your writing talent,
    Nice Mexican too.
    Best,
    Conor

  5. I feel so bad that no one showed up for your party!!! :( I saw these on Facebook earlier and now I’m trying to talk my husband into going out for Mexican tonight. Unless of course, you want to pop up here & make these for us? :)

  6. well Adam, you have done it again, you simply never fail to blow me away with your depth of feeling in your writing…and your food is always magnificent…keep on keeping on!

  7. Oh, my precious Adam…this is such a poignant post, yes, w/humor, but an even more powerful message about life…I grew up w/nothing, there was NEVER a vacation, no luxuries, life was meager, we learned early great resourcefulness and resiliency and respect…those were our 3 Rs…these seeming ‘unlucky’ twists in life for many, me included, are, no doubt, the damn luckiest I could ever imagine…they’re roots and reality that ground us and make us value every little thing we’ve worked our arrssess off to have/get…here’s a wonderful short film ‘The Perfect gooseys’…it’s creator, director, writer, producer is a dear friend of mine (I’ve appeared in one of his MTV music videos)…the message you’ll derive in the end will be heart-warming (well, hopefully) and uplifting…once again, my sweet friend, you’ve written a thought-provoking post!! xo Ally https://vimeo.com/15210981

  8. Ahhh…a blessed man is one who knows he’s blessed indeed!! Great post!

  9. Adam, what a great thing you did, reading to first graders! I suspect you had as much fun as they did. :) Whooo boy, what a post as a result though. Simultaneously wrenched my heart and made me feel grateful. No… lucky to have met you. Terrific writing.

    • Aww, thank you Kim. I got more of a thrill reading than they did, I’m sure. It’s funny how something as … childlike as Dr. Seuss can make one reflect. I am truly blessed.

  10. Your childhood sounds much like mine – I loved going to “The Dells” every summer as a kid, and camping, and going to the local speedway. We didn’t go to Disney Land every year, or go on cruises or anything fancy. What we did, was make memories, and those were priceless. I look back on my childhood as blessed and full.

  11. very lucky, well fed too!! c

  12. Your writing is always so fun to read! How lucky we are to read that you found your luck in being unlucky! My family theme this week is to appreciate what we have and not covet what we don’t, I will share it tonight after dinner! Your dinner looks outstanding, definitely a recipe to try!

  13. And I consider myself lucky to have such a wonderful blogging buddy as you Adam. I think of the things I never had as a child compared to what kids today expect and wonder if kids realize how lucky there are. I think each generation wants to provide more for their kids but in order to do that, family connections somehow gets lost. I would have come to your party for sure but I would expect you to overlook my cheating at croquet.
    Now that meal looks like you made some of your own luck.

    • Thank you, Diane. I consider myself lucky to have you as a friend too! And, no.. I don’t believe many children realize their true fortune. Just as I didn’t. But I feel very confident that our younger generations will realize it sooner than me.

  14. I fell lucky too. After all it has been decades since I have gone to bed hungry. I can’t remember the last time i did not have any money in my pocket. And most importantly i cannot remember the last time I have felt alone.

    Oh yeah, I am an expert in the field of good Mexican food and I live in Jersey. You did something amazing if you found good Mexican food here…

  15. Arghhhh … Now I am hungry :/

  16. I can relate to your description of childhood angst. However, as I look back on childhood, I realize I was lucky, just as you describe.
    Chimis look awesome, especially the ancho cream.

  17. These look delicious, and Lenten compliant! Maybe my husband will actually eat some scallops if I put them in a chimichanga….

  18. Ancho chiles make me swoon and get all weak in the knees… put them with seafood and I might do things that I shouldn’t leave public comments about. Umm… yeah.

  19. Very fancy dish and I can imagine its great taste! Thanks for sharing. :)

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