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I Conquered Menudo!

Early on in this pandemic, I wrote about how much cooking I had been doing since I committed to staying at home, other than for essential tasks (work, groceries, family errands). It’s safe to say that, other than a couple of hamburger pick-ups at Jack in the Box, my kitchen skills continue to get honed during these days.

This weekend, I decided to conquer that Chicano (and Mexican) delicacy–Menudo! Some non-brown folks will automatically respond with, “Isn’t that for hangovers?” Kind of annoying, actually.

While its medicinal value after a night of drinking has been documented by various drunk uncles (me, included), the fact is that it is something that many of us actually enjoy eating every now and then. And while the thought of eating the stomach lining of a cow may gross some people out, it is actually pretty good when made right. For the most part, unless it was made by our mothers, actually ordering at restaurants was something that required research (mostly word of mouth) about how good a particular restaurant’s menudo was. Not all menudos are equal; in fact, some really suck. One local place that has some pretty good menudo is Andy’s Home Cafe in the Houston Heights. And the Ruchi’s on Richmond/Sage has been known to have some good stuff. And Balderas’ Tamales in Cypress, too. But, as is always said, homemade is best.

For years, I would see Flo (my Mom) make this stuff on special occasions. Or, sometimes, just a regular late Saturday night so that it would be ready for Sunday morning. As a kid, I was grossed out when seeing her washing and cutting the main ingredient–honeycomb beef tripe. The smell wasn’t all that great, either. Usually, one would have to go deep into the local meat markets to find the stuff. Nowadays, you can find it next to the ham hocks at HEB, though, my find was different: Beef scalded tripe–a 5 lb package, though not honeycomb. It’s all they had, so I bought it, since most menudos aren’t 100% honeycomb tripe.

What did scalded mean? It means HEBs butchers will scald (parboil) it in hot water before packing it. So, while the usual directions for honeycomb tripe will have you cutting larger chunks to make up for any shrinkage in the cooking of it, the scalded one seems to have little shrinkage, little fat, and little gaminess. After washing, cutting into bite size rectangles with kitchen shears, and then washing again, I marinated the chunks in lemon juice. This helped to tenderize and also get rid of any gaminess that lingered. After 30 minutes to an hour, it was ready for one more washing before heading for the stock pot.

I placed the chunks of the tripe into the pot and added enough water to cover it. Also, one cannot forget the pig’s feet. After a long while to get the pot to a boil, I covered it. And then began 4 or so hours of boiling the tripe. In between, I added some crushed pepper (for a kick), a couple of bay leaves, a medium onion, and 4 cloves of garlic. I may have thrown in some oregano, though some only use it as a garnish. The smell of goodness started filling the air.

While you wait is a good time to make the red chile paste, as I prefer red menudo to green. After de-seeding, de-stemming, and cutting and washing a couple of packets of dry chiles anchos, I brought them to a boil and let them sit for 30 minutes. After adding some salt and another garlic clove for good measure, I pureed them in the blender throughly.

Once the tripe is cooked and soft, you add the puree to the boil, along with a couple cups of water. I, then, added a couple of 16 oz cans of white hominy. Of course, I forgot that my family loves hominy in their menudo, so an extra 32 oz can was added later. Cook for another 30 or so minutes and it was ready.

I remembered Flo usually skimming whatever grease happened to move to the top of the boil, but, to my surprise, no skimming was needed in mine. Sure, it was there, but nothing to really skim. After tasting a few pancitas (the tripe), the soup, and ensuring the softness of the posoles, I deemed it ready for consumption.

Garnishes like diced jalapeños, diced onion, and oregano go quite well with menudo. Some have corn or flour tortillas with it, while others have bolillos (or my brother-in-law-made sourdough bread) to dip in the soup. When I order it, there’s usually an auxiliary taco or two, but I gave all my time to the menudo-making. It’s all good, as long as the menudo is piping hot.

I think I made my Mama proud with this first attempt at menudo. At least, I think it would be “someone else’s” menudo that she would actually enjoy. It also brought some good memories of seeing my Mom and Pop in the kitchen working together creating whatever we were eating during the holidays.

Coming soon: Tamales! But, first, a bowl of re-heated menudo!

Los Blogs de Tejas – TPA Round-Up

The Texas Progressive Alliance has enjoyed all the headlines about Trump losing again (and again and again and again) as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff looked at recent Presidential results in the counties around Travis and Bexar County.

SocraticGadfly had two snarky Thanksgiving-related posts to offer. First, he came up with a list of suggestions for new names for the Washington Football Team. Second, he gave a good smackdown to the cult of Whataburger.

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And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

The Texas Lawbook reviews the appellate court races for the Houston area.

The Great God Pan Is Dead revisits some favorite artworks.

Reform Austin looks ahead to the next elections.

Therese Odell has some fun with Trump’s tiny desk.

Carlos Mendoza mocks Dan Patrick’s affinity for offering dumb rewards.

Performing Artists Take Multiple Hits During COVID-19

Los Texmaniacs at Heights Theater, Christmas 2019

Writing and reading about Grammy-winning performer Max Baca’s fight with COVID-19 had me thinking about the multiple hits (health and financial) artists and performers are taking during the pandemic. An article in the San Antonio Report about Baca and other musician’s struggles really hit me with this reality.

During the pandemic, Baca took care in keeping himself safe–virtual concerts on Wednesdays to make a few bucks via Paypal donations, and mostly living off of his savings. Eight months later, with savings depleted, Baca hit the road again to pay the bills and ventured into danger.

Trump’s promises that the pandemic was a temporary thing that would disappear were outright lies that fed into a disinformation campaign to keep people confused and acting stupidly; but, the reality is that it is long-term, cutting into most performer’s ability to make money and pay their bills. And that included Baca’s band Los Texmaniacs.

After whittling down his life savings trying to stay afloat while the coronavirus pandemic brought his live performances to a grinding halt, Baca knew he needed to look outside of his hometown of San Antonio for gigs to pay the bills.

That desperation took the guitarist and vocalist to Lafayette, Louisiana, where he found a few paying gigs playing with a stripped-down version of his Grammy Award-winning band Los Texmaniacs.

“I still gotta pay my mortgage because there’s no such thing as a deferred payment” from his lender, Baca said, noting that all his bills were urgently coming due.

It was a decision that has now put his career in jeopardy.

San Antonio Report, 11/22/2020

Baca contracted COVID-19 and has spent almost a couple of weeks in ICU recovering.

Another reality is that federal CARES funds that helped many small businesses stay afloat during the pandemic were quite complicated for musicians and performers to apply for and receive. The competition was fierce for the funds, not to mention that they were limited. And Baca, unfortunately, did not receive any funding. Now, he’s fighting COVID-19, on top of no performances, no health insurance, and the extra $600 in unemployment payments about to end.

For many performers, the gigs are their livelihood, and we have seen a recent uptick in live performances at clubs and event centers around the state. And all of this during the current COVID-19 surge. Are these the next super-spreader events that we are not hearing about in the news?

Because that is the reality: Crowded performances mean more infections if CDC protocols are not followed. And it seems the maskless and easily offended by the CDC always win in Texas, thanks to Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick. Still, venues and performers have a responsibility to enforce CDC protocols, including testing before performances–even requiring it for attendees of these indoor events. There is very little (or none) of this happening.

Houston recently announced a program dedicated to helping musicians and music venues get through the pandemic. Musicians are eligible for up to $5000, while venues are eligible for $50,000 to $100,000 depending on budget size. Unfortunately, we’re only talking about $3,000,000. But it’s something.

Some bands have built a good infrastructure to continue despite COVID-19. Unfortunately, many of them did not have the ability (or maybe confidence) to create a strong virtual presence. Bands like The Mavericks have taken to pay-per-view concerts based on a loyal fan base willing to pay the virtual door fee. Intocable were one popular band that were able to do a mini-tour of outdoor parking lot concerts in various parts of the state to some success.

And there are others in the Tejano industry who have done Facebook Live gigs asking for donations. Unfortunately, virtual gigs don’t give a band the feel of a live show with an energetic crowd. Still, it’s an opportunity that some of these Tejano bands have not fully utilized and that fans have not fully appreciated (through good donations).

There doesn’t seem to be much of a solution and as long as COVID-19 surges, there will be an eventual shutdown–or more limits on attendance. It is easy to tell these bands and venues that they have a responsibility to keep people from attending super-spreader events, but somewhere along the way, musicians were left to fend for themselves with little to no help. Thus, some are back on the road with no CDC compliance and a fan base that feels invincible to the disease (until they find out they aren’t). It’s a vicious circle.

While the HEROES Act passed by the Democratic US House sits in limbo because of a vindictive Republican US Senate and President, at the very least the $600 of extra unemployment benefits must be extended beyond Christmas. A better solution would be for Republicans and Trump to get off their asses and pass/sign a HEROES Act that takes care of gig-to-gig performers and artists whose talents have always been taken for granted.

Wear a mask. Wash hands. Stay home. And if you must work or be out and about, wear a mask, wash hands, and physically distance yourself from people outside of your home circle.

UPDATE: Los Texmaniacs report that Max Baca is now recovering at home. This is great news!

DC Wishes Max Baca of Los Texmaniacs a Speedy Recovery

Max, Me, Josh

After Los Texmaniacs reported that their leader Max Baca had contracted COVID-19, I was really worried. Sure, he’s a Grammy winner and an accomplished bajo sexto player, but he’s also a really nice guy and always willing to have a conversation about his craft so people like me can write about it for posterity. Thankfully, good people like Hector Saldana at the Witliff Center at Texas State University kept us posted on his own FB feed after actually speaking to Max.

Last night, there was a bit of relief when Texas Public Radio posted an interview transcript which described what Baca has gone through over the last couple of weeks. Yes, it was pretty scary.

At this writing, Baca’s been in the ICU for a grueling 10 days. He says when he was admitted, his blood oxygen level was critically low. Healthy lungs keep blood at about 95%.

Max Baca: “I got here and my oxygen level was 70%. And so now due to the breathing exercises that they have me do and then they have the therapy and treatments have been able to breath 95, maybe 97 on my own.”

As a measure of how sick he got, he spent several days on a ventilator.

Max Baca: “I was on for a little bit, for three days. But thank God (now) I’m able to talk and I’m able to breathe. And you know, thank God for the medical facilities and all the doctors and nurses and everybody has some blood transfusions, things that other patients have made it (through COVID-19), was able to help me out with that a little bit.”

“And also, you know, it’s kind of sad here in the E.R. You just hear people coughing and coughing all around you. And then all of a sudden they stop coughing and then they roll them out on the bed with a blanket over the face because they didn’t make it.”

Texas Public Radio, Nov 20, 2020

¡Hijole, que susto!

Here’s hoping the worst is over and that Max heads home soon to fully recover and rest after this ordeal.

This is just a reminder that COVID-19 is real. I’ve seen a lot of musician friends head back on the road for shows, since the work provides for their families. Some practice safety protocols, others not so much. The crowds at these shows don’t seem to care much about masks, though. As much as I love live music, I’m fine watching a livestream from home and I’m even happier to give a donation through their paypals, venmos, etc.

Whether you’re a musician or a fan: Wear a multi-ply mask! Wash hands! Stay home! And if you really need to be out and about (or working) practice safety protocols to take away any opportunity to get infected.

UPDATE 11/23/2020 – Los Texmaniacs report that Max Baca is now recovering at home. Great news!

Los Blogs de Tejas – TPA Round-Up

The Texas Progressive Alliance urges you to vote if you haven’t already as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff summarized the record breaking early voting in Harris County.

SocraticGadfly provided some updates on coronavirus-related boycotts and semi-boycotts of stores.

DosCentavos posts Dr. Varon’s answer as to why COVID numbers are increasing: Stupidity.

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And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Therese Odell fortifies herself in advance of Election Day.

Steve Salyer had his faith in humanity restored by working at a drive-through voting location.

John Coby calls out the Harris County GOP for hosting a super-spreader event.

Paradise in Hell does a little time traveling.

Lew Moorman worries about the cost side of inequality.

Peter Holley meets a few of the people who voted after midnight in Harris County.

Grim Reminder That COVID-19 Is Still Out There

Like a few other folks from Houston (it seems), I was ecstatic after watching Culiacan, Sinaloa’s own Julio Urias strike out the last batter as the LA Dodgers won the 2020 World Series this week. But my own celebration was tamped down by the revelation that Justin Turner had tested positive for COVID-19 and was taken out of the game in the 8th inning.

How do you get COVID-19 when you’re enveloped by the professional sports bubble? And why, after Turner’s first test was inconclusive (or positive?) was he even allowed on the field, anyway? And, why, after being taken out, was he allowed on the field for the celebration and team photo? The story is he forced himself out there despite efforts to stop him.

Turner’s comment that while he tested positive, yet, that he had no symptoms and felt fine, shows the ignorance that is still rampant in America about COVID-19. You can still spread the disease when you feel fine. Feeling fine isn’t enough. You must quarantine and not get back to your daily duties until you have finally tested negative.

No doubt, most COVID-19 infections have happened because of either carelessness or irresponsible behavior. So, it shouldn’t surprise any of us that a scene of maskless (or masks pulled down) fans celebrating in LA is now making the rounds in the media. In the latest COVID Hunter vid, Dr. Joseph Varon gives us the best reason the numbers are climbing: We are stupid and not following simple steps–wearing masks, distance, wash hands.

Meanwhile, in the real world, COVID-19 is still rampant and on the rise again, especially here in Texas. Yet, schools are open, restaurants are filling up, and people continue to shirk their responsibilities by not wearing masks (or not wearing them correctly) at small and large gatherings.

But, that’s OK. We have a dismal presidential and Texas gubernatorial administration who have set the example by forcing open school, bars, businesses, and encouraging the nonchalant attitude that endangers us all.

Anyway, here’s the latest COVID Hunter video. It’s quite informative regarding mask use, the latest attempts at vaccines and therapeutics.

Los Blogs de Tejas – TPA Round-Up

The Texas Progressive Alliance urges you to vote if you haven’t already as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff tries to make sense of some recent polls that show Joe Biden with a slight lead in Texas.

DosCentavos is worried about COVID-19, so, he posted a good Q&A with COVID hunter, Dr. Varon from UMMC.

Doing his Weird Al Yankovic schtick, SocraticGadfly taps his inner Blue Öyster Cult and offers up the lyrics for “Don’t Fear the Virus.” After all, “Donaldine and Melania ARE together in COVIDity.”

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And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs. Reform Texas is amused by John Cornyn’s delicate ears.

The Texas Signal notes that we’re still a state that does its damnedest to make it hard to vote.

Paradise in Hell sampled reactions to the last debate.

Jim Henson and Joshua Blank look at how independent voters have shifted away from Republicans in recent Texas elections.

The Texas Living Waters Project tries to imagine what our state would be like without water.

Matt Mohn marvels at the extreme variance in polling preferences of Texas Latinos in this election.

Los Blogs de Tejas – TPA Round-Up

The Texas Progressive Alliance urges you to get out there and vote as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff interviewed Rep. Lizzie Fletcher about her action-packed first term in office.

SocraticGadfly says that at least in his personal experience, Gov. Strangeabbott’s coronavirus safety protocols for events to be held are basically Kabuki theater.

And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Michael Arceneaux explores the visceral loathing that older Black folks have for Donald Trump.

Jen Rice categorizes Harris County drive-through voting locations by their fast food counterpart.

Schaefer Edwards looks at a Houston plan to fight flooding and climate change by planting a ton of trees.

Paradise in Hell once again channels Donald Trump.

Ed Espinoza shows how Texas added nearly two million registered voters since 2016.

Have You Watched COVID Hunter?

We see the daily attacks and debate regarding Dr. Fauci. We sometimes see local vaccine authority Dr. Peter Hotez giving us his knowledge about what is to come regarding a vaccine. But have you watched UMMC’s Dr. Joseph Varon on his youtube and facebook Q&A show, COVID Hunter?

As COVID-19 enters a new surge in Fall 2020, these informative shows by Dr. Varon will help us get tips on avoidance, prevention measures, and the latest ways that he and his team at UMMC are treating patients with COVID-19. Further, he pushes away at myths about the pandemic that you may see on social media, or that come out of the mouth of Trump.

I caught his Episode 9, which he offers half in English and half in Spanish. Among the questions answered and expert comments offered were:

  • The 2nd wave of COVID-19 is definitely here and will probably last longer than the first, and even be worst that the first.
  • Varon believes schools should be closed and taught online to prevent community spread. He states that even though half of children may be asymptomatic, they are still able to spread it. If they catch it at school, they will spread it to family members. As families are more and more multigenerational, this could be catastrophic.
  • As far as avoiding COVID-19, the best way is to WEAR A MASK, physically distance from others, and sanitize (wash) your hands. Stay home as much as possible, but if you must be out and about or at work, then mask-up.
  • Other preventative measures include eating healthy, take Vitamins C, D, and Zinc to boost your immune system. And if you are among those who have underlying conditions, maintain your treatment and healthy nutrition.
  • If you do get COVID-19, he states that it must be treated early, rather than waiting for the symptoms to worsen. He added that treatments such as Remdesivir and others work when COVID-19 is in the first week after transmission as the meds try to tamp down the virus. Worsening symptoms, such as inflammation, pneumonia, and blood thickening are treated through other clinical means.
    • If you are wondering about Trump’s outcome, he was treated early, sent to a hospital early, and was given the drugs to tamp down the virus.
  • Finally, he stated that his hospital, United Memorial Medical Center (UMMC) on Tidwell will treat all COVID patients regardless of whether they are insured. But, go early in the symptomology for treatment as one has a better chance at beating this thing in the early stages.

Dr. Varon is one of the most informative docs out there as he is on the front lines treating patients everyday. We need the best information that can be disseminated to the people, rather than hair-pulling debates on the cable news channels. Thanks to Dr. Varon for offering his perspective.

We Are Entering Another COVID-19 Surge

Numbers do not lie. There is an uptick in COVID-19 cases around the country. While Houston was able to get its positivity rate to 5% thanks to a mix of local policy and cooperative residents who social distanced and masked up and stayed home and tested, Trump and Greg Abbott’s race to re-open the country is already starting to turn back any gains that have been made.

As I’ve stated from early on, the people will follow their leaders if it means they are told that there is no threat, and Trump playing down COVID-19 despite his own infection, and Greg Abbott’s re-opening policies are telling people to not worry about COVID-19.

Thus, all one has to look at are photos on social media of people returning to restaurants with increased capacity, nightclubs and concert attendance surging, and family gatherings, weddings, and events on the increase, as well as the daily superspread that occurs with local football/volleyball games and school attendance, and we should not be surprised that we are entering another surge. Add to that the continued irresponsibility of not having a mask mandate at the state and federal level and it is obvious that Republican inaction on COVID-19 isn’t about incompetence, but about indifference regarding your sickness and death.

The big news this morning is that COVID-19 positive individuals on two Houston school campuses have already closed them down after one day back. It has even happened in the smallest towns in South Texas. Students, teachers, and family need consistency, and closing down one day after re-opening because of COVID-19 exposure does not provide that consistency.

We cannot stop idiotic republicans from forcing a re-opening of schools, activities, and business, but we can at least show some effort by requiring masks and physical distancing policies if people feel the need to risk themselves and others. Not suggestions, but actual mandates with consenquences. I don’t want others’ idiocy to be the cause of death for myself or people I love.

Those of us who are being responsible by wearing masks at stores, activities, and even at work should not be put at risk by republican policies of indifference.

And, remember, there is an election going on. VOTE! Mask up, follow the distancing rules, sanitize your hands, and show up to vote. It’s the only way we get leaders responsible enough to do the right thing.