Tuesday, August 2, 2011

All Dressed In Romano

So, as you may know, I've been plinking around on a ukulele lately and have consequently discovered where all the olde-timey songs have gone... they're in ukulele instruction books. Gems such as Buffalo Gals, My Darlin' Clementine, and Polly Wolly Doodle... just to name but a few.

Depressing doesn't fly on a ukulele
Many of the old songs are of the folksy "bad-dudes on their death-bed" genre, lamenting the imminent final reward for someone who's lived a less-than-law-abiding life. Songs like Tom Dooley: depressing enough lyrics until you delve into the history (at which point you'll probably want a hot bath and some penicillin). And then there's The Streets Of Laredo, about a nameless young cowboy's last dying moments, apparently already dressed for his coffin. What's his story? Who knows. He no doubt "done wrong" though... and again, it's a real downer. 

The Streets Of Laredo was good for practicing certain chords and chord-changes* though, so I reluctantly added it to my notebook. It wasn't long before I found this version of it tucked at the end of a YouTube video. After I stopped laughing, I added the "new" lyrics to my notebook. Now I smile each and every time I practice it.

The Territory Ahead
When I recently put my uke down for a few moments, I decided to make farrotto. It's a risotto... but with farro instead of ris (rice). Totally experimental for me. Completely new territory. I've never even made a traditional risotto before. What was I thinking?

So near, yet so farro
I had also never heard of farro before. Turns out it's another of those ancient super-grains, but at $12.00 per pound, it falls under the "luxury item" heading in my book. Not exactly what I'd call a staple grain. A couple of bins over was the spelt. They looked identical. They're not - and I knew that - but I bought it anyway. I just hoped it wouldn't be the basis for a depressing folk song...

Ode to the legend of a dish called Speltotto
I'm going to write a folk song about the perils that befall heedless young women who flagrantly substitute whole grains they know nothing about, in recipes they've never made before. Yep, the "speltotto" was mostly a fail. I say mostly because we did eat it for three days in a row, but after that, I couldn't bear the sight of it. It had good flavor and an interesting chewy-nuttiness, but only up to a point. Now, I abhor wasting food (and don't think I'm over the guilt for one second), but I just couldn't stomach another forkful and it wasn't getting any fresher sitting in the fridge. You can probably guess the end to this sad tale... 

All that wasted cheese, grain, stock, time. It's awful sad. And that, my friends, is a song that should never be played on a ukulele. Maybe an oboe or a lap-steel. But never ever on a uke.

*This is a term used by real musicians. Sounding like a musician means talking like one too. Gotta get the lingo down.
Correction: Streets Of Laredo sounds downright perky here sung in Swedish.
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  1. OOOH, I love farro as a cold salad with tomatoes and mozzerella! I think the price is a bit cheaper at Costco, but I still haven't bought it in ages. BTW, I have the Streets of Laredo in my new mandolin book! We'll have to "jam" sometime ;) Oooh, more lingo!

  2. @Heather: Seriously... at Costco? They never cease to amaze me! I would LOVE to jam with you on the Streets Of Laredo... we could follow it up with a chorus or two of Tom Dooley (or even Miss Otis Regrets)! :)

  3. Ha ha! You are always so good and so fun! Streets of Laredo is definitely not a child's bedtime song, but somehow it was one of mine and I remember it fondly.

  4. @mayaluna: I DO love the tune! My parents were BIG Kingston Trio fans. But I've been finding out that many of my favorite old folk tunes have lots of depressing verses I never knew about.


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