My Scottish Side – Comfort Cooking

While I had no idea as a child, I found out over the years that my mother brought two considerable influences to the kitchen: Her mother’s Scottish background and the Great Depression.  These forces collided in a few odd kitchen habits.  For instance, a much enjoyed treat was raw potato sliced thin and sprinkled with salt. Scottish/Irish poor people cuisine, that.  And a treat to Mary and me (and my mother).  A sweet treat, probably from the same depression era, was “bread, butter and sugar.” Merely a slice of bread, thinly spread with butter, and sprinkled with granulated or brown sugar.  My mother’s version of this was sparsely covered. Mary and I covered the bread thickly and then dumped–more than sprinkled–the sugar on. But you had to be quick or you’d get found out and have your slice slimmed back to meagerness again.

There were real recipes as well.  Chop Meat Stew and Lamb and Rice were two filling, keep you warm-and-satisfied meals.

Chopped Meat Stew

(served 4)

hearty-ground-beef-stew-21 pound ground beef (my mother preferred lean)
4 large Idaho potatoes (about 1 inch cubes)
4 Good sized carrots (1 inch slices, longer at shallow end)
Optional : a teaspoon of onion powder.  OR 1 onion, chopped.  This got omitted when I was there, as I had thing again cooked union.  I think my mom added an extra potato and carrot so the meal stretched as far.
2-3 Bay leaves
Salt and Pepper
about 3 cups of water

Instructions:  Break up the beef into the water, stirring so that it makes a thick soup. Bring tot a boil, then reduce, and cook covered on low, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes.  Add the salt and bay leaves, onion/onion powder if used, and simmer about 30 more minutes.  This time is well used scraping the potatoes and carrots and cutting them up.  Add the vegetables and simmer again for about 30-40 minutes until the vegetables are tender.  Ad salt and pepper to taste.   If the stew is too watery for your taste, a bit of flour or corn starch can be mixed with a bit of the liquid and stirred back in to thicken it up.

We usually had some sort of crusty rolls with butter, or just sliced bread and butter. I my childhood days, there was much more hamburger than carrots and potatoes, but in my young adult years, I reverted to the old fashion way of stretching the ground beef with lots of potatoes and carrots, and a slightly thicken sauce for body.

A friend came over one Saturday as I was matching a large batch for dinner and freezing leftovers.  She thought it smelled amazing, and I was a little embarrassed at how basic an(d working class the meal was going to be.  She came into the kitchen and gasped, “Mince and Tatties!!”  Which is how I found out it was from my Scottish forbears.  A classic  with dozens of versions. It echoed her childhood so strongly that her burr picked up intensity and for the first time in our acquaintance she talked freely of living in Scotland during the rather sparse post-WWII years.

 


Lamb and rice is another of my mother’s comfort food recipes. The rich aroma of lamb simmering in its broth had a soothing effect on me.  For years I never would try the dish, just enjoying the benign smells.  Eventually I helped my mother prepare it a couple of time and tried it. It’s now one of my go-to simple winter dishes.  My friend Carolyn, also with a Scottish background in her Western Appalachian family, always looks forward to it.  Again, a deceptively simple recipe.

Lamb and Rice

(Serves 4-6)

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2 Lamb Shanks approx 2 lbs each

cover in cold water with a sprinkle of salt

1 bay leaf

Bring to a boil, turn down , cover, and simmer until the meat pulls easily away from the bone (about 2-3 hours).

Strain the liquid into another pot, adding enough water to cook 2 cups of rice in the broth, leaving a soupy liquid for the cooked rice.

While the rice is cooking, clean the lamb shanks completely, getting every bit of clean meat from the shanks. Trim the meat so there are no unpleasant bits — this one should be able to be eaten blind-folded.lamb and rice

Add the meat back in, simmer a little to meld the flavors, adjust salt and pepper. Serve in bowls, with the requisite bread or rolls.

Sugar Ant Invasion

downloadI’ve always thought the little brown or reddish ants you’d spot at the edge of the counter now and then were pretty inoffensive.  What did I know?  Those were advance guards; now the regular infantry troops are marching through my bathroom, across the door jambs, into the kitchen, and spreading into a shock-and-awe sort of pattern around my sink and counters.

Except for some old fashion American insecticides (Raid! or Defcon!), everyone wants you to know your adversary.  I’m suspicious. I don’t want greater intimacy with something I plan to kill. But the arguments makes some sense.  Watch where they come from and where they go, then you can disrupt their scent trails… …and they’ll all go away?

So by now the river of ants is more of a morning rush hour on the interstate.  I mean, these beasties can move!  And they stick sideways and upside-down, with no lessening of speed or agility.   I’d like to take more time to research and develop military strategies for this battle, but they’re now spilling into the sink like orcs into whatever….

I cut short the development phase and slapped together a multi-purpose spray to confuse, discourage, and finally, even kill the marching hoards.

1 cup water
1 cut white vinegar
6 drops peppermint oil
6 drops eucalyptus oil
4 drops lemon oil
4 drops lavender oil
1 squirt of dish liquid
In a spray bottle.

With worries ranging from my failure to warn about coming ant apocalypse  Continue reading

Onion Tears

We have a family recipe book that I started about 30 years ago — with copies given as Christmas gifts that year. I got my Aunt to help me write-up my Nonna’s recipes, and added my mothers’ and my own.

But today I was trying to remember what kind of onions Nonna used to saute for sauce. And I realized there was no one left to ask. It brought my sister’s death to such poignancy it took my breath for a moment. I’m it now. Three generations of women consolidated in one tired, fairly worn-around-the-edges, nearly 66 year old woman.

And I still don’t know what kind of onions she used for sauce.

On the Other Hand….

This is heart of all that is wrong with America, and until we allow a full and complete reckoning of how we got here, we won’t all have the same full rights promised in the Declaration. It’s not too late, but it’s damn close.

Frederick Douglass’ 1852 speech is (and should be) difficult to read as a white American. But that doesn’t make it any less true.

 

https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/what-american-slave-your-4th-july-frederick-douglass-1852-speech-ncna888736

 

Traditions


Every summer I am again moved by the Declaration of Independence. As a flawed but brilliant statement of human rights, there is no other to compare to it. This fourth it is more pertinent than ever. The list of injustices and usurpations is astonishingly familiar right now.

NPR annually reads the declaration, deeply, clearly, and meaningfully. Here is the site for this year’s recitation:

https://www.npr.org/2018/07/04/623836154/a-july-4-tradition-npr-reads-the-declaration-of-independence?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=npr&utm_term=nprnews&utm_content=20180704

George’s Creek

I started this post 3 years ago. Lovely people have been living there, and in the house they built “downstream” from the first. The creek is practically gone. The clash of values in me and others remains. How to balance the need of people to have homes and gardens, backyards and driveways, versus the birds, fish, snails, and turtles who rely on the remaining bits of nature in the suburbs.

a pensive George

My beloved cat George, who passed away a year ago, regularly brought me fish from the creek across the street. He loved that creek, and often came home wet and muddy up to his belly.

For the first time, I’m glad George is gone, because they are killing his creek. Today they are clearing trees off the lot right opposite my drive, George’s spot for fishing, and the man working there told me they would be putting in culvert — closing up the creek into concrete pipe. Does anyone think fish like living in a concrete pipe rather than an open creek with light and growing things and silt to burrow in?

I’m so sad. Development, progress, whatever you call it, shouldn’t have to harm the small beauties and little lives.

Das Fuhrer Trump?

Okay, I’m now ready to say it outright:

Donald J. Trump is a Fascist.

He’s closely following the Nazi’s playbook from 1930’s Germany. He is a danger to everyone. He is not stupid, he manipulates, lies, whips his followers into a fury, incites violence, has no respect for human life, denigrates women and minorities. In short, in all seriousness, I believe he is looking to become a dictator.

His constant repeating of simple catch phrases, embedded with words and phrases that skew people’s thinking: how we need a strongman as leader, we’re in an economic disaster; we have weak government; the need to do things we’ve never done before. This is familiar turf. So is the scapegoating of a religious/ethnic group. So is telling big lies, over and over, in hopes of making people believe it.

We need to call on the Republican Party (such as it is) to disown and denounce Trump. He cannot be allowed to turn this nation into one made in his image.

He terrifies me. I am far more frightened by Donald Trump than ISIS. ISIS can attack us, Trump can destroy us from the inside out. We have an example of a strong speaker who gathered obscene power to him through fear and atrocities. I believe he’s capable of the same. Donald Trump, Sieg Heil!

Speechlessness

US-POLICE-RACE-JUSTICE-RIGHTS
We say something leaves us speechless when we are moved, or shocked, or stunned to silence.

As a metaphor, it’s pretty powerful, though, as I’m sure some critics will say, somewhat trite.

It’s different though, when something has left one literally speechless.

I have no voice — that’s a terrifying statement to me. It call up visions of powerlessness. Trying to explain, trying to fix, trying to express — all in vain.

Tower-Photo010
Fortunately, my lack of voice is the passing effects of a chest cough. Laryngitis, nothing more. It has prodded me to raise my voice again through this blog. There are things going on that deserve comment and discussion.

My friend Byron calls it Tower Time. I wake in fear, voiceless, trying to cry out against the apocalypse. My son worries about the fall of civilization, of the barbarians overrunning the gates.

We talk, only half serious, about stocking up. We count our assets (water in the creek, a cool crawl space for food storage, half an acre of farmable land, room for fruit and nut trees. In the meantime we could live from my always bursting pantry, and black walnuts, wild berries and dandelions.

Is this merely delusional paranoia or are hard times upon us. We’ve just come through hard times — more than a decade of war, six years of “worst recession ever” (aka, a depression). Layoffs, health problems, strife and loneliness, afflict nearly everyone I know.

But I repeat, There are things going on that deserve comment and discussion. We need to talk to each other, raise our voices in passion and with insight, not insult. Tower Time means it is upon us now: if not the apocalypse, then the responsibility to turn our steps to a new direction, where we can avoid that pit, those broken and bitter foundations, and build a better way.

It’s a new year and a time for new hopes and new resolutions. Let us resolve to make those hopes rooted and grounded in love, to bring about stronger foundations that will not tumble from the carelessness of greed or fear. That’s a resolution worth keeping.

And so it is.woman singing