Last summer Greg Gorman and I stopped through Kansas City – as you will recall - while shooting the Portraits of America gig for Disney. We had a good bit of wine and excellent food and interesting company. Greg grew up with all these cats there in KC, ran around with Jimmy Hoffa's kids, and nearly everyone we met had a father or brother arrested at Appalachia. It was one eye opening good time and I learned a few things I dare not repeat.
As we continued on throughout the country, I often revisited my memories of Kansas City – being hosted by, well, the family - eating the very best, personalized Italian food and some of the best Barbecue - although we have some pretty good bbq down here in Texas.
So – I thought for a long time what I could do to send my thanks or to demonstrate my heart felt appreciation for having been included with my friend Greg and these historically significant people. I knew way back then what I thought would be appropriate and noteworthy. Having known a few Chefs in my day and folks who like to eat, all of them appreciate some new thing, a new combination, a new spice with which to concoct a meal. Mexican Oregano I thought – home grown in the Trans Pecos Mountains of West Texas – and it was something I could get my hands on.
Alas, the weather has been strange of late – last year dropping a flooding 44 inches where there is a usual 8. This year, nothing from the sky but lightning – and fire. But in the last few weeks of August, regular rains blessed the rocky landscape and the wild Oregano returned.
To make a long story short – I harvested fifteen pounds of Oregano from the cap rock over Spring Canyon – filling the back of my blazer. This is in Pandale, Texas on the Pecos River about 40 miles from our border with Mexico. So picture this – I drove the 305 miles back home with about a hundred spent .223 casings in my console and rolling around on the floorboard, a 9mm Sig next to the seat, my M4 in the back seat with a few cans of ammo – and a full trunk load of skunky Oregano. Had I been stopped in lets say, Junction, Texas – I’d probably still be there while they waited for a lab test from DPS. "I swear officer, it's Oregano". None the less, I made it home safely. I air dried all of it – spending an entire Saturday plucking leaves and grinding them finely in my Cuisinart.
This spice – here known as Mexican Oregano, as the Mexicans harvest it here for cooking – is a bit stronger and more fragrant than our more common variety. It is used here for sauces and chili. And so, I sent a large jar to Kansas City, to the Restaurant, and to the Chef - and then he called.
Carl he says - I want to thank you for the Oregano. I loved your letter too. We had some important friends in last night from Sicily and I thought all day what special dish to prepare for them. What better surprise than to use your Oregano - and they raved about it. He continued with details and that my letter - which had accompanied the jar of spice - was now posted on the wall of the restaurant.
There is a website for the ranch where this Oregano grew. I did the website and it has a lot of cool pictures on it – which you might find interesting. http://www.westtexaswhitetail.com/
I sent regards to the brothers - all of whom had been so gracious when I visited. I have sworn to my closest friends here that some day, we will all pile onto an Express Jet here in Austin and go have dinner in Kansas City. I’ll be sure to remember to take my ball cap off next time.