They call it the graveyard shift or gravy for short. All-nighter at the studio. It’s the cheapest time on the clock. Midnight to 8 in the morning. Just me, the engineer and the click track hour after hour. It can make you crazy. The drum machine playback in the headphones. Like getting boxed in the ears 120, 140, 165 beats per minute. I’m humanising. What’s that? Well, its when they need a human to play percussion over a machine drum line to give it some life. Been giving life all night and now I’m dead. Beating on the kit till my arms fall off and my heads been jack hammered to mush. I’m punchy, I feel drunk. I don’t see straight.
I’m starving hungry too.
The over-bright fluorescent tube lights in the store burn into my head after the cave-like gloom of the recording booth. I’m staggering under the weight of my cymbal bag, percussion box and snare case. Yeah! Thinking maybe my mum was right when she sent me for violin lessons when I was 5 years old.
Wow!, they’ve got everything in here, but what do I want? I grab some red chillies, limes, cilantro and a pack of fresh chicken breasts. I’ve got cooked rice and beans in the fridge at home. Got onions, garlic and olive oil too. Just need a can of those lovely little cherry tomatoes. I bend down to reach them off the bottom shelf then stand up too quickly. The aisle bends and warps. Sudden white noise hissing in my ears. My eyes flicker out of focus and the floor rushes up to meet my teeth. A cascade of cans rains down, clattering and chasing each other across the floor. They sound like wind chimes in a thunderstorm on race day. Vague shapes move and mumble, far away I’m sinking.
“Hey you!”, barks the Mexican army general. His horse steps lazily back a step and I can hear trumpets far off and soldiers rolling cannons into place. “You there! What is your rank? Where is your mafrazzzarryshooplegwaaz?” Something about the horse is out of place and the general’s moustache is trying to escape his face into a nearby stack of breadsticks. A strange bird lands on my nose and pecks my ear. The sun blazes. I squint into the light worried I’m late for something.
“My shooplegwaaz? Mafrazzarry? Did you say?” “Yeah! I got it right here, sir!”
“Hey amigo!” “ Estas bien?” “You ok?” Lying in a heap of cans and packets. It’s the general looking down at me. Wait. No. Its my mate Raul. I’m in his shop. “whoogh” “sorry man, I took out half your shop” “Er, where’s yer horse?”
“Dave man” “No tengo un caballo macho!” “I don’t have a horse” “Are you drunk man?” “Its 8 o’clock in the morning, you late or early?” He helps me up and I help him restack the shelves. “Sorry Raul, it’s the late shift. Time for breakfast.”
“Dave man” You don’t look so great. Use my kitchen at the back of the shop” “What you making anyway?”
This is what I made…
- 2 or 3 fresh chicken breasts
- 1 small onion
- As much garlic as you like
- 1 or 2 red-hot chillies and some dried chilly flakes
- 1 can of lovely cherry tomatoes or crushed tomatoes – A big handful of fresh cherry tomatoes or any fresh tomatoes will do
- A handful of asparagus
- Big splosh of extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and black pepper
For the Salsa verde simply chop a bunch of fresh cilantro (coriander) very finely and mix with the juice of two limes and a half cup of olive oil…
and a big spoon of honey or just a little brown sugar.
It’s the easiest stuff to make.
Heat the oil in a skillet or earth ware crock pot, add the chopped onion, chopped garlic, fine cut chillies and chilly flakes, cook for a few minutes then add the cubed chicken breast…
and cook it for a few minutes more on max heat.
Add the tomatoes, and turn it all down to simmer for about 30 minutes.
Give it a stir once in a while.
Gently fry up some asparagus for some colour and some crunch.
Serve all together, with the rice and refried beans. Yum!
So that was it. I got as far as the shop. Cup of tea, got my head straight. Cooked up my TexMex chilli Red chicken right there. Had time to pop home for my rice and beans while it simmered and Raul and me snarfed the lot. Breakfast. Most important meal of the day.
Not enough to feed an army. This is enough for 2 or 3 hungry shopkeepers or one hungry horse.