Manifold Meals

I have a great hamartia. When something gets stuck in my head… It will be like a thought squirrel, running around in my brain… Driving me crazy. When its a good idea, it can be a strength. When its a bone head idea… Hi-jinks will ensue. One such thought squirrel I was possessed of at the beginning of this homeless adventure of mine? Manifold Meals.

When I was a kid, growing-up in Nashville, I did not know it at the time… But my circle of friends were, largely, red necks. The term “red necks” in a modern parlance means, ignorant, backward, racist, white-trash… Insert your favourite derogatory term here. Trace the etymology tho… “Red neck” refers to a poor white farmer, signified by a sun-burnt neck. Hence, red neck. The implication is that the person is hard working. No derogatory meaning was implied… Only, possibly from a class standpoint is there a negative connotation, depending on where you stand in that dynamic. For me, red necks are good, hard working, resourceful, fun, fun, salt of the earth people. Bocephus (Hank Williams Jr.) has a wonderful “red neck” anthem, “Country Boys Can Survive.” This is how we see ourselves. I’m including myself among this group, not that the term is, completely, applicable to me, but because I love and identify with them.

I don’t know who invented the manifold meal, but I imagine it was a red neck. Cars began as a luxury item. When Henry Ford democratized them, I imagine a resourceful red neck noticing that the engine gets really hot and suddenly getting a “thought squirrel” of his own. What is a manifold meal? Simply, it is a meal that is cooked by the heat given off by a car’s manifold. To be precise, an exhaust manifold. The word “manifold” comes from the Old English word manigfeald (from the Anglo-Saxon manig [many] and feald [fold]) and refers to the folding together of multiple inputs or outputs. So, the hot gases exiting an engine are collect by a manifold and piped out and away through a muffler. This manifold gets really, really hot in the process. If one were to attach a metal container to the exhaust manifold of their automobile, then one could put food in that container and cook a meal by driving.

I know, bone headed. But hear me out. Cooking a manifold meal is one of my fondest memories, growing up. I don’t remember which of our group thought of it… But once it was mentioned the idea caught fire. My vehicle was an old VW bug. Unlike the Novas, Chevelles and Mustangs of my friends, whose V8s and inline sixes created a great spot on which to attach a bread pan, my VW Bug’s exhaust manifold was mostly inaccessible on either side and under the engine… Not alot of room to cook anything substantial. Not to be a slouch, I managed to cook a packet of hot dogs and made-up for my meager offering by, also, bringing a vodka spiked watermelon.

Unlike where I live now, in Nashville everything is far from everywhere. We made our plan, coordinated who was cooking what, and on the appointed day we all drove separately to Percy Priest Lake and had a picnic. From Goodlettsville, Tennessee (where I lived at the time) to Percy Priest Lake (just outside of Nashville) is a little over 20 miles. The distance afforded plenty of time for our food to cook. In Santa Barbara, I’m about three miles away from everywhere (not far enough away to cook anything, as it turns-out). So, this idea was a big fail. I have, since, removed the cooking device from my car, even tho I know the concept to be sound.

I am not a, particularly, practical person as you may deduce. Sometimes this is a strength, and sometimes it is a weakness. I share this little misadventure with you because I have faith in my eventual success, and I want to show other bone headed people just like me that the traits of impracticality need not be a barrier to a good and prosperous life. I hope this blog inspires whomever is possessed of a dream to go for it.


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