“Mink Hollow Muse” – A Story and Cornbread Vindaloo Recipe
From, “Give Them Love, Give Them Bread”
An Anthology Of favorite Recipes, In Tribute To The Works Of Todd Rundgren
Some wonderful, vivid memories come to mind when I think of the 6 weeks during a typical New York winter in 1986 that I spent with the colorful, eccentric, unpredictable Todd. I was recording the “Dreams of Ordinary Men” record with the Australian group Dragon, or confusingly, Hunter, as they were named everywhere else in the world except Australia! Todd was producing, playing some guitar and doing some co-writing with the band. We were great admirers of his work and glad that he was interested in working with the band.
He lived at the end of a long, winding road on the top of a hill, in what can only be described as a landed UFO. It appeared to be circular in nature and of indiscernible size, and it took on an entirely different look at night. The studio was halfway down the hill and below that was the house in which visiting musicians stayed. It had a somewhat mysterious history which seemed to be revealed to us in gradual installments as each of us began to have otherworldly encounters with presumably, some of its previous occupants. We discovered that the two ladies who worked there, cleaning and cooking, did not like being there on their own and one of them flatly refused to even work upstairs. Don’t believe me? Ask XTC, who were there after us recording “Skylarking”.
Todd, of course, took this all in stride, and probably encouraged the “old residents” in their habits, perhaps in the belief that this would elicit more exciting, electric performances from his charges. Hmmm…Eventually, one of the band members became quite disturbed with these unwanted and dramatic encounters from the beyond and decided to leave early. At the end, I was the only one left.
Todd would often show up for work in the morning in what looked suspiciously like sky blue pajamas with various cartoon characters printed all over, although that look was counterbalanced by the leather jacket he wore on top, which was a striking contrast, to say the least. What a sight, to see him trudging through the snow in his cartoon PJ’s and leather jacket. Not a lot of people could pull a look like that off!
During the mixes, I would often sit in the control room with him, amazed at how he could work so quickly putting a mix together. There was a very colorfully painted Gibson SG in the corner which he had played very nicely on a couple of tracks and which I used to occasionally pick up and quietly play, as I listened to him mix. It seemed to have a slightly familiar look to it but I couldn’t quite place it. The psychedelic Day-Glo homemade paint job on it was definitely the work of one of its owners and it struck me that it was probably done while the owner was in a highly elevated state of mind. It probably looked great while he was painting it but up close and back down on earth it was a different story, although it has to be said that standing 15 to 20 feet away, it did look pretty cool. One afternoon as I was noodling away on it, I asked Todd where he acquired it. “Oh, that was Eric Clapton’s Disraeli Gears guitar”, he replied. YIKES!!!! I put it down as I felt its strings singe my fingers. I am not a guitar player and after that I never picked it up again, feeling entirely unworthy of its historic, illustrious lineage that led from Eric to Todd. Todd just laughed.
Looking back, I have to say that it’s one of my favorite records which I’ve had the pleasure of working on and the added perspective of time has given me a deeper appreciation of everything he brought to it. You’re one of the greats- thanks Todd!!!
I didn’t do much cooking while I was up there, thanks to our two lovely housekeepers but if I had been allowed, I certainly would have made this. Good in winter or summer!
DOANE PERRY’S CORNBREAD VINDALOO
With or without butter, hot pepper-spiced cornbread goes very well with any hearty stew, soup, salad or grits! For those of you with a spicier disposition and palate, Tex-Mex Chili Habanero is the iron-man dish of choice.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal, preferably yellow
3/4 cup grated extra sharp Cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, OR for more adventurous individuals up to
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper OR if you want it REALLY HOT-blended cayenne and habanero peppers-half and half. Be careful! Add to taste. Habanero is a powerful, mind altering, nearly hallucinogenic pepper, but a delightful experience in the right hands!
1 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil or melted shortening
1 large egg
1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease 8-inch square metal baking pan or, better yet, an 8-inch round cast iron skillet. Place pan or skillet in oven while making cornbread.
2. In a large bowl using a fork, whisk together flour, cornmeal, grated cheese, baking powder, and cayenne pepper to blend well. In small bowl using same fork, beat milk, oil and egg until well blended and foamy.
3. Pour liquid ingredients into dry ingredients and, using a wooden spoon or large rubber spatula, mix until well blended. Batter will be slightly lumpy. The trick is not to over-beat the batter otherwise the cornbread will be tough.
4. Using an oven pad to protect those delicate extremities, remove hot pan from oven and place on heatproof surface. Pour cornbread batter evenly into pan. Return pan to oven and bake cornbread 25 to 30 minutes. Check if cornbread is done by piercing deeply with a wooden toothpick; pick should come out clean with no crumbs sticking to it.
5. Cool cornbread in pan 5 minutes. Cut into sixteen 2-inch squares or 8 wedges, depending on the type of pan used. The bread is best served warm with butter and honey on the side. Makes 8 servings.