March 2010

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My neighbor the Scot joined me for dinner this evening. It was decidedly un-Mexican outside, with epic rain, but we crowded up to the grill and toasted off some meats to enjoy in some righteous little burritos.

Having recently endured several rounds of sub-par restaurant “gourmet Mexican”, I felt that I had to remind myself of just how good simple fresh burritos can be when prepared with love and attention. Here’s the run-down:

  • 2 cheap thin-cut beef steaks. Seriously cheap (I paid $2 each for mine). Fork ’em good, and soak (overnight) in:
  • 1 lime, juiced and pulped
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne powder
  • 4 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dried or minced fresh cilantro
  • 1/tsp ground cumin

Now break out the beans. I completely cheated and used:

  • 1 can refried black beans “with a touch of Jalapeno!”
  • dash of Tabasco
  • shake of salt, grind of pepper

If you can make the Pico de Gallo a little in advance, it’ll only help it to sit and stew in its own lovely funk awhile. I find that the most dead-simple, few-ingredient, off-the-cuff version is best:

  • 1 small yellow onion, fine diced
  • 2 roma tomatos, fine diced
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • 1 shake chili
  • 1 pinch dried or minced fresh cilantro
  • 1 weak shake salt
  • 1 mellow grind pepper

Just two more keys to the party-time that is about to get fired up in your mouth:

  • 1 lump real honest Queso Fresco. Not always easy to find for everybody, but worth it.
  • 1 pack of real honest masa de harina corn tortillas. Again, not easy to find for everybody, but worth it.

As luck would have it, there’s a bizarre catch-all five-and-dime a block from my place that keeps both these gems in a cooler back beyond the no-name canned cat-food and racks of plastic flyswatters.

Fire up a HOT grill (even if it’s raining). Warm up the beans, using whatever method pleases you (I nuked ’em). Warm up the tortillas as well; I wrapped them in a barely-moistened tea-towel and nuked them as well. Once the grill is smoking, pull the flat steaks out of the marinade and drop directly onto the grill. Flip once or twice, but stand-by; they’ll overcook in an instant!

Once the meats are done, let them rest on the block until cool enough to handle bare-handed, then slice across the grain into narrow strips. Toss the strips in a bowl with any meaty-juicy-runoff, another quick dust of cayenne, and another pinch of cilantro.

Assemble just so: a tortilla, a smear of beans, a hearty crumble of queso, a few meat-strips, a tsp of pico, roll and sloppily consume. Compared to the gallons of salsa, oversized flour tortillas, and mounds of shredded lettuce and cheddar you’ll find down at the “gourmet”, it almost seems to be too small, too simple, too unsophisticated. That’s the point: cheap, direct, simple, flavour-packed, and  awesome.


Here’s my current A-1 go-to power-snack. Everything organic, if you can find/afford it:

  • 1 whole cucumber, washed (not peeled) and medium-chopped
  • 1/4 cup raw almonds
  • 3 tablespoons non-fat plain yogurt
  • 1 shake cayenne
  • 3 shakes chili
  • 1 shake cinnamon
  • 1 shake ground coriander
  • 1 shake salt
  • 1 squirt cold-pressed flaxseed oil

Toss/mix in a bowl and eat. Protein, beneficial oil, vegetables, and the benefits of chili. Yum!

After several Facebook “friend requests”, and subsequent denials, this recent exchange:

Subject: “Denied for a third time and I’m out!”

Wow. you are something. I’m not really sure why you don’t want to even remotely talk to me anymore, but I guess you have your reasons. Hope all is going well with you.

I thought about this for about as much time as it had taken me to ponder the different aspects of having hit that “ignore” button those three times, and replied:


I’m not “not talking to you”; I’ve simply made it my policy to limit my Facebook friend list to people whom I have actually met, know, and have a real human connection with. I have other internet “pen-pals” who are likewise not on my Facebook feed.
Please recall the entire month I spent in [the city], making myself available to you at every possible opportunity, and how you remained too busy to meet with me in person.
My real human friendships are extremely important to me; please respect that I choose not to dilute them with casual, flippant, or temporary acquaintances. I am not a “friend of convenience” who exists to increase some Facebook statistic or provide idle entertainment.
I am a real, vibrant, living, breathing human being, who puts vital effort into friendship, and expects the same in return.
Can you really honestly say that you’re offering me the same?



Does that sum it up accurately? Was I too harsh? It’s not a good feeling to shut someone down like that, especially someone with whom I’d once enjoyed a lively correspondence, but neither does it feel fair and reasonable to perpetuate an otherwise shallow and baseless relationship for the sake of simply being able to.

I’m putting together a new website for dirty yardrat D.I.Y. sailors. The goal is to provide a community resource for experienced and inexperienced alike, a place to trade ideas, find help, and get motivated.

I started out being a boatyard pest myself, long on enthusiasm and short on experience. Now I’ve become one of those grubby jaded shipwrights who rolls his eyes when I see just such a greenhorn coming with questions of their own. The new website will, hopefully, be a forum to bridge that gap.

Leave a comment if you have ideas on how or if you think this might help you or your friends with their own projects.

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