There are certain things that I make that Josh loves so much he requests the recipe. Which is sort of odd, really. Perhaps he is plotting to leave me, but he can't bear to live without, for example, chocolate pie, so he has to be able to make it for himself while he waits for the next poor sucker to fall for his blue-gray eyes, dazzling smile, and impressive command of the English language. Each time he gets ready to go, his duffel bag all packed for the road, a note telling me where I can send his books, I go and make one more dish that he can't live without now that I've brought it into his life.
He is generally interested in the cooking process. Sometimes he helps, sometimes he does most of the work while I direct, sometimes he asks what's in it while he eats it. But then there are times when he wants to see the actual recipe, wants to do all the leg-work, making mental notes about baking times and measurements. It would be easy for me to just make it, but he is there, insisting, like a little kid who is aching to be in control of his own milk-pouring destiny. I've not figured out the difference between the things he wants to be able to make for himself and the things that he wants me to make for him over and over again. There is something special about his I-do-it recipes, something to do with the crossroads of yumminess and snackiness. The good thing is that once a recipe goes into that category, it is his forever. He is in charge of pizzas and french fried potatoes in our house. I could still make those things, of course, but he's got the steps all memorized. I'd have to go look it up, and the cookbook is all the way across the room, and honey, why don't you just do it?
All this brings me to a couple of weeks ago, when I called him after work. The band was in Kentucky, staying at a friend's house while in between shows in Knoxville and Cincinnati. At some point, he said he had to get off the phone, because he had to "go make more poppers."
"Poppers? Like we make here?"
"You made them for everybody?"
"You are so cute." I mean, really, isn't that kind of adorable? Am I the only sucker in the room?
Poppers are the most recent of the I-do-it recipes. It is a Pioneer Woman recipe, and it has three ingredients. The recipe in her cookbook is different from the one on her website. She adds cheddar and barbeque sauce and suggests some other variations. I'm going to make them that way one day, I promise. Out of respect for the Pioneer Woman, I will try each and every variation. But when we decide that we want poppers, that all seems like too much work when the recipe we know is so simple and so good. The first time we made them, it was as an appetizer to a bigger meal. But then we ate all the poppers and none of the meal. Then there were tummyaches. Delicious, bacon-wrapped tummyaches. Since then, we have managed to make them and resist the urge to eat them all. They store well in the fridge and are good cold the next day. If ever I am invited somewhere where I might be required to bring an appetizer, then, my friends, it will be Popper Time, which is like Hammer Time, but stuffed with cream cheese and wrapped in bacon and without parachute pants. Okay, fine, it's nothing like Hammer Time at all. But it could be.
Obviously, there is a hotness factor, what with the jalapenos. But you can find mild peppers. We get ours in a big pack at Aldi, where the hotness varies wildly from one pepper to the next. When I eat one, I first take a tiny lick on the pepper part to verify the spicy level. If it's too hot, I put it back on the plate, say it's for him, and then try the next one. He must really love me, because he's bringing his blue-gray eyes and dazzling smile, and I'm making him eat things that I have pre-licked. He's probably not planning to leave me. Phew!
I do not like the name "poppers." Even the Pioneer Woman doesn't seem to know what to call them, referring to them as Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeno Thingies. Surely we can find something better, something that doesn't take longer to say than to make the dish and yet doesn't sound like something that might be brought to you by a guy wearing 37 pieces of flare. I am open for suggestions.
But for now, here is the recipe. Now go make yourself a tummyache. Then teach a man to do it, so he can be in charge of his own tummyache destiny.