Is it really Tomato Art Fest time again? To quote the great Phil Rizzuto, “Holy cow, unbelievable!” Where does the time go? One year ago, I told you the story of my family’s tomato sauce recipe. From Brooklyn to Queens to Long Island to Nashville it has traveled. Have you tried it? It’s amazing with fresh tomatoes.
“Hags, cooking? Really? What gives?” I know it’s out of character, and it has come to my attention that some of you are concerned about the lack of vitriol in my observations of late. More than one of you have said to me, “Hey, man, you used to be funny. What happened?” I don’t know. I’m a little concerned myself.
I’ve been meditating, self-actualizing, exercising. I’m feeling good. I can’t help it — I just can’t complain. In fact, the powers that be here at The East Nashvillian, sensing my new lightness of being, have hired a new curmudgeon, Stacie Huckeba, who is knocking it out of the park with an indignant bat.
What can I say? It’s summertime. The scents of honeysuckle and charcoal are in the air, and it’s sundress season (cue Al Hirt’s “Music To Watch Girls By”). Whatever it is, East Nashville, you have my apologies. I’ve made peace with bulldozers, cranes, traffic, and artisanal everything.
In honor of the festival, as well as the tomato itself, I would like to share with you what it is that I love about cooking. To me, it’s a metaphor for life. You get back what you put in. If you use good ingredients, fresh herbs, fresh vegetables, good meats, you get delicious, tasty, vibrant, nourishing food for body and soul. If you put crap in, you get crap out and a stomachache, like at McDonald’s.
It’s like music. Some of it is art and some of it is product. It’s up to you what kind you make and consume. You could listen to Nat King Cole or Florida Georgia Line. You could have a great homemade gazpacho in no time or you could have tomato soup from a can. I’ll take “Unforgettable” and gazpacho every time.
Being a musician on the road and in the studio has allowed me to sample all manner of take-out options. But when I’m home in my own kitchen, with my own pots and pans, I like to go in there and get it on. Lately I’ve been eating a lot of fish. I figure the Japanese have figured a few things out, diet-wise. They smoke three packs a day, party all night, eat sushi, and live to a wizened old age. That jives with my sensibilities. Fish and rice with vegetables in a wok is my new favorite thing. I’ve been making my own almond milk, too. It’s easy. All it takes is a cup of almonds and four cups of water, throw in some vanilla and dates for flavor, blend it, and strain it. For a nice sauce, toss it in the iron skillet with some shallots, garlic, and habanera.
“Hags, what’s become of your grumpiness?” I don’t know. It’s lying dormant, docile, pacified with mantras and regular cardio. What’s next for me? Linen suits and Yanni concerts? I’m as concerned as you
Have no fear, I’m sure that come winter my inner Matthau will resurface. When I’m freezing and bummed out, he will break free from the ice like Godzilla — Hagzilla, if you will. A scaly, green, angry monster named Walter that skewers hipsters and developers with fire-breathing fury. Like an angry Lou Ferrigno, I’m sure I will be back hurling figurative, flaming mustache wax at the teeming homogeneity with the flick of my massive tail (pen).
But in the meantime, while the sun shines, I’ll be taking time to smell the roses, cook up a fragrant gumbo in the sonic soul kitchen, and watch the girls walk by, dressed in their summer clothes.
Happy tomatoes, friends and neighbors. See you at the Tomato Art Fest!
Hagzilla is a part-time bon vivant, monster icon-about-town, and contributor to The East Nashvillian who earns his keep as a full-time bassist extraordinaire. He can often be seen while summering off the islands of Tierra del Fuego. At his nighttime day job, Hagzilla enjoys using his tail to sweep guitar players off their feet, preferably while they’re soloing.