“Anyone over 60, raise your hand!” I looked up to my husband and said, “That’s you!” And then after a moment, I realized, oh wait, that’s me too! Ack!! I still don’t think of myself at a 60-plusser. Our hands shot up along with almost half the group, and we were all waved over to join a stocky Hawaiian in non-descript baggy pants.
His shaggy dark hair whipped around him in the wind as he belted out his questions. “Have any of you had any recent surgeries? Any bad backs? Disc issues? Knee or hip problems? Be honest. This isn’t Disney. It’s a rough ride, and my insurance carrier is getting upset by all the claims.”
Hubs and I exchanged an uncertain glance. We were about to board a bare bones boat on a red flag day in Hawaii. By red flag day, I mean small craft warnings, 7-foot swells, and very very windy. Most beaches were closed for high surf and rip tides. We were here to ride down the coast of The Big Island, to see volcanic lava from Kilauea pouring into the ocean. We’d seen the steam rising from a bazillion miles away, but wanted to see it up-close and personal. We wanted to smell the sulfur, and feel the heat.
A few people quietly dropped out, and the rest of us 60-plussers climbed a ladder in the parking lot to board the boat. Everyone else boarded, and after a lot of musical chairs, a truck hauled us through a short uneven parking lot to the choppy water.
We all cheered as we dipped into the first deep troughs and climbed up over steep crests. I began to hum the theme song from Gilligan’s Island and hubs blurted out, “This isn’t a 3-hour tour you talked me into, is it??!”
My Dramamine had kicked in, thank God. We tilted across the waves, powered by 4 high-power turbo-charged engines, and sheets of water sprayed into the boat with each wave – mostly soaking my husband and a guy behind him. Hubs, not the shy retiring type, keep yelling “Are you kidding me???!!! I’m getting drenched! I’m sitting in a puddle of water!” Twenty times, I swear to God, we all heard “Are you kidding me????!!!” We couldn’t stop laughing.
And then magic. The boat edged closer to land, and we saw lava tubes opening into the ocean. Suddenly we came around a bend to spy clouds of steam billowing out from a sheer cliff, viciously tossing ink-black basalt shards in the steam. It was like coming upon a battlefield. We felt the warmth of the steam on our skin. We saw embers of the hot molten lava, and pieces arc into the water and instantly harden, leaving a stream of steam. Occasionally we even caught a glimpse of the glow of lava through the steam.
I wish I could say we saw a lava stream spouting out into the sea. But witnessing this is like buying a lottery ticket. You might get lucky with all the weather conditions and how the lava is flowing at that particular moment, but probably won’t. I can assure you, our excitement was the same.
It was about being there. We could feel it, smell it, and see glimpses of this monster roaring into the ocean. It was the act of witnessing a small part of this earth being created that was so magical. And fighting through the rough seas and high winds was part of what made that experience feel special. It was powerful and glorious. Nature is my church, and church was in session.
What does that have to do with this recipe? Or Super Bowl?
Part of why I love Super Bowl Sunday isn’t just the football. Anyone who knows me can attest that I really don’t understand a great deal about the game. It’s the total experience of the buildup with all the eliminations, the party, the people, and the food. It’s the act of being there in front of the TV, and sharing that experience together, that makes Super Bowl Sunday so special. Not just seeing one touchdown.
And the recipe? Cheddar cheese all by itself is good. Nothing at all wrong with it. But when you melt it into a bath of warm, creamy, spicy, garlicky goodness, you get a little magic. Like liquid lava.
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- ¼ cup minced jalapeño
- 1 tablespoon grated white onion
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic (or use Gourmet Garden Stir-In Garlic Paste)
- 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt (or ⅛ teaspoon table salt)
- 3 ounces half & half milk
- 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
- ½ cup grated Pepper Jack Cheese
- 2 tablespoons your favorite chunky salsa
- ⅛ teaspoon arrowroot (optional)
- coarsely chopped cilantro
- Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the jalapeño, and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the onion and garlic, and cook another 2 minutes.
- Stir in the flour, paprika, and salt for 3 - 4 minutes to cook the flour.
- Whisk in the half & half for 2 - 3 minutes until it thickens. Add the cheese, one handful at a time. Allow the cheese to partially melt before add the next handful. Continue to stir until melted.
- Stir in the salsa. If you prefer a thicker sauce, stir in the arrowroot powder and cook for 2 additional minutes.
- Serve warm with chips.