Delicious Lamb Stew

Ingredients:
Lamb stew meat – cubed
Floury potatoes (I used baking potatoes) – thickly sliced
Carrots – thickly sliced
Onion – thickly sliced
Fresh thyme
Parsely – fresh if you can afford it after buying the thyme, otherwise dried
Salt
Pepper
Wife – irritated and incredulous
Lamb stock cubes
Flour

Prep time: 18 hours
Cooking time: 7 hours

In a large casserole dish, create layers of lamb, potatoes, carrots, and onion, with a final layer of potatoes on top. On top of each layer added fresh thyme, parsley, salt and pepper. Just before you are about to put it into the oven, wife will ring and insist the stew meat will not cook sufficiently in two hours and will not be fit for the dog to eat and besides, since you did not flour the meat it will not yield a stew gravy. She will tell you to put it in the fridge and she will cook something else when she gets home. She will also suggest the meat will probably go off because it has been out of the freezer for two days. Enjoy chicken fajitas.

The next morning, empty the casserole dish into the slow cooker, but pick out the pieces of lamb and roll them in flour before returning them to the cooker. Add the 450 ml of lamb stock that you were just about to make before you got the phone call the day before explaining that you are an idiot. Set the slow cooker to high out of fear that setting it to low will not kill all the food poisoning from the meat being out of the freezer for too long. After two hours set it to medium, because you are not wearing your reading glasses and for some inexplicable reason the settings on your slow cooker knob go clockwise in the following order: high, low, medium. After another two hours, set it to low.

After six hours, you will discover that simply rolling the meat in flour does not magically create stewy gravy. In a measuring jug, add a small amount of boiling water to a stock cube, then add flour and wisk very fast. Really fast. Then add more flour until it is nice and thick. Continue wisking and slowly add water to 450 ml. Wisk again. Pour into the stew and stir it around so it looks like it was always stewy looking.

After seven hours the lamb will be falling apart and the vegetable will be very soft without being mushy. The gravy will both look and taste stewy. Serves two with plenty of leftovers because without tasting it the kids don’t like lamb stew and insist on bean burritos. Their loss.

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Walking Home

Being back in my hometown for Christmas, I got my hair cut at the barbershop where I often had it cut as a child. My dad had dropped me off there and told me to ring him with the mobile phone that my mother has never used. I decided to walk back to my parents’ house instead.

I grew up in a small town, so it wasn’t that far to walk. I crossed the main street through town to the parking lot of the Dairy Queen, where I first remember having a hamburger. If I remember right, the Jiffy Burger was 19¢ – it was a thin patty with a red sauce and a couple of slices of dill pickle. I remember always looking forward to the day when I could have a Beltbuster, which despite its name, was not that large of a burger, except to a seven-year-old.

Just down from the Dairy Queen is the Presbyterian Church. As a little boy, I didn’t know what to think of Presbyterians, because we were Baptist and it wasn’t clear to me if anyone other than the Baptists were saved. That was until we became Charismatics and all sort of people started coming over to our house for prayer meetings, including the new Presbyterian pastor. One of the few times I was ill as a child, he brought over the Chronicles of Narnia for me to read. I’d never heard of C.S. Lewis. I’ve been a fan ever since.

After the Presbyterian Church, there is a bridge over the only bayou in town. Looking up stream, I could just about see where I took up smoking for a few weeks in the summer after the third grade. I had a friend whose house was at the end of my street and on the bayou and he used to steal his parents cigarettes. They used to buy several cartons at a time, so they never seemed to miss a pack. But like Bill Clinton, I never inhaled – I couldn’t get the hang of it – so this was a quickly passing phase. We also smoked grapevine. I suppose you can smoke a lot of things if you set your mind to it, but I never smoked any of those either.

Just past that was one of the yards I used to cut. It was owned by a lady in our church who had once had massive prescription drug dependencies and an extremely depressed outlook. After a lot of prayer, counselling, and what is called deliverance in the charismatic vernacular, she stopped taking all the pills and was a generally happier person. But like everyone does, she got old and now has Alzheimer’s and lives in a nursing home.

Just a couple of houses down from there is where my parents first met just a week shy of 48 years ago. It was my mother’s aunt and uncle’s house then and during my early childhood. About the time I started junior high they sold it and moved to another subdivision. It was bought by some Norwegians who started a travel agency and had a very attractive daughter in my grade, upon who I had a crush and about whom I would eventually write my first song on the guitar. I’m not entirely sure she ever truly acknowledged my existence and I’m very sure she never heard the song.  It was a pretty bad song anyway. She’s a friend of a friend on Facebook, so I’ve seen her profile picture. She is still very attractive and married to a captain in the US Navy. She still doesn’t know I exist. The difference is that now I don’t care so much. The Norwegians moved to the next town and the house has been two or three restaurants since.

I turned there, down the short side of one block (blocks in my hometown are decidedly rectangular, with the east/west running side about half as long as the side running north/south) to my street. I probably spent more time playing on this block than anywhere else in my childhood. On the next corner lived the only friend I knew with a trampoline.  I was mostly scared of it, but that’s not surprising, because I was mostly scared of everything. I never once did a flip of any kind. I know we did other things besides jump on the trampoline, but that stands out most in my mind.

Across and up my street one house was the Baptist parsonage. When I was in the first and second grade, as best as I can recall, I considered the son of the pastor my best friend. The summer I was in the second grade, he moved back to East Texas, as did his father, so the church called another pastor who only had daughters. One of them was several years older than me, but the other was a school year younger. I never considered her my best friend – but then I don’t know that I considered anyone my best friend at that point – but we spent an awful lot of time together. I saw her in Walmart a couple of days ago, because she was down to see her parents for the holidays, and she even remembered things I didn’t. I guess we stopped playing together sometime before junior high (though we hunted deer on the same lease during high school), but much of those middle elementary years was spent at her house, my house, or the block and a half between them.

It would have mostly been one of the houses, because in between was the hospital where I was born. In those days it was half the size it is now and took up an over-sized block, so the street zig-zagged and ran straight up into our driveway. The front of the hospital faced that displaced street with a semi-circle driveway that was the site of my only ever physical daring do, when I tried to go around it too fast on my bicycle, leaned over too far, and took the skin off my entire knee. Now the hospital takes up both blocks and the street is gone altogether, so I had to walk around the entrance to the emergency room, in front of the spaces for ambulances and the reserved doctor parking to cross the street to the house where I grew up.

So most of my life happened within a few blocks. I know you must be thinking (if you can still think after all this – I’m just glad that you are still reading) what about school and church? The elementary schools I attended were two blocks one way and the junior high was two blocks the other. When my dad’s first church moved out of our house, it moved one block away to a storefront on that main thoroughfare through town. For a couple of years it was ten blocks away, but before I left home, it was about four blocks away.

I’ve lived a lot of places since I left home, but the biggest single chunk of my life was spent in this small town on the Texas coast, within a three or four block radius of where I sit now to write this.

Ain’t Nothing But a Hound Dog

Our puppies are now six weeks old. They have been interesting to watch over the last few weeks, as they have found their feet and cut their teeth. Without any sort of instruction or training, they began to fight each other. They will spar until one yields, usually in some sort of pain. They other thing is that they like meat. Again, no one had to tell them to like dead flesh. They will eat other things, but they like meat.

Dogs are predators. They like to kill things. That’s the way they are made. I marvel at the so-called animal rights activists and supporters who do not support the right of dogs to kill. In this country they have ineffectually banned fox hunting and hare coursing. (The hunts continued despite protestors causing criminal damage and sending videos to the police. The police have openly stated they will not enforce the ban of foxhunting, though they still chase hare coursers occasionally.) In the case of fox hunting, fox can be killed after being chased by hounds, but they must be killed by humans. Likewise it is legal to shoot a hare; you just can’t send a dog after it.

This is because there are people who enjoy watching the dogs do what dogs do. It is not the prey that is banned – only the predator. We are supposed to feel that there is something wrong with watching the natural course of predator vs. prey – unless we are watching wild animals on a David Attenborough documentary, of course. So it’s okay to watch an alligator kill a kangaroo or an orca chomp down on a seal, but not a hound chase down a fox.

I also think it is hypocritical to spay or neuter a dog. So many of those who support animal rights also support human reproductive rights (both causes being favourites of the Left). It seems unnecessarily cruel to an animal to take away their reproductive organs merely as a human convenience. If you don’t want puppies, keep the bitch away from a dog.

We breed and sell sighthounds. Many people breed them as show dogs. They try to develop certain qualities in them that appeal to the poncy prima donnas at Crufts and other dog shows, with just the right colour, height, and grooming. We don’t breed show dogs. We breed dogs that can do what dogs do best. We only sell them to people who let them use their natural ability and instinct. They see (with a peripheral range of about 270°), they run really fast (up to about 45 mph), and they kill. And they love it. That’s the way God made them.

I’m Back

I can’t believe I haven’t blogged in such a long time. I have started a number of entries, but never bult up the steam to get them done. It’s not like there haven’t been things happening in the news and in my life. In fact, it is probably because there has been so much happening around here that I haven’t given more time to the insightful news commentary you all so desperately crave.

I’ve been job hunting for a situation I would find more appealing. Time consumed on applications and interviews. I only got two interviews and neither was a position I was inclined to take. In the second one, I was the only candidate and I withdrew.

At the same time, work has been quite time consuming.

Then there was getting ready for a visit from my parents. The Woman has been temporarily working full-time outside the home, so it took a lot effort to get is ship-shape and Bristol fashion. Then there was the visit, which was worth all the effort.  We usually only get to see my folks twice a year.

And of course I’ve been working on the book. It may not sound like much by I’ve got two chapters finished and parts of two others written. I’ve been a bit stuck and doing more research to make them historically accurate.  I thought I knew where I was going with a particular storyline that is key to my first act and then got new information which made it unworkable. It is only today that I think I have found a way around it.

I hope I can (and will) blog more regularly in the coming weeks.

The Importance of Family Connections

It’s hard to believe I have gone this long without posting anything. The run up to half-term break has been busy and when I’ve not been busy with work, I have been distracted by other things.

The last few days I have been absorbed with genealogical stuff as I have been revamping my family history website, trying to account for all of the descendants of my paternal great-great-great-great-grandparents who are over 70 or dead. It is the standard practice on genealogical websites to keep anonymous anyone who is living and under 70.

The downside of all this work is my worry that I am the only one of my surname who really cares about these things, so no one my ever access the site. Just because I think it is important for people to know where they come from and to whom they are related doesn’t mean anyone else does. But the information will be out there for the taking. Perhaps somehow an unknown cousin will be trying to uncover the forgotten past that their parents didn’t care about and find what I’ve provided.

There was a time when more people cared about who they were and realised that they were not simply a single identity.

The same attitude is common in the Church today. Christians reading the New Testament often read the words of Jesus or St Paul when they use the word translated “you” and assume that it is in the second person singular. Sadly, this is often re-enforced by preaching. “Me & Jesus” Christianity is not biblical. St Paul tries to get this across in I Corinthians 12, but sadly most people so many people even read that just to find out what spiritual gift(s) they have.

Likewise in our natural family, we need to appreciate, learn from, and be a part of the extended group of people, both past and present, of which God has chosen to make us a part. We often have no problem realising that family is the foundational institution of society. It was created by God. In wedding ceremonies we usually hear the “leave and cleave” passage from Genesis 2:24 and think of the new nuclear family as its own little capsule of love. However, if we look at the examples of family in the Bible, we don’t see that.

In North America and in some of western Europe, we have lost the sense of extended family that is still evident in much of the world. Somehow we think this loss is progress, when in fact it is regress. Just as in many areas, we have left behind the wisdom of centuries.

One of the things that has interested me as I have been doing research over the last few days is how names are important and passed on. My grandfather, my uncle, and my brother all had the same uncommon middle name and I recently found out that it goes back at least four more generations. Even though I use a pseudonym for this blog, there are a lot of real Solomons. The matriarch of our surname is remember in succeeding generations of Sarahs. Generations were connected.

Prosperity and technology has brought mobility and families have geographically grown further and further apart. I am probably the most extreme example in my own family. Fortunately in these most recent days it has brought advances in communications so that the world can be a smaller place. It has also allowed access to data that would not be so easily shared.

In this regard, I hope I am expended efforts on things that will matter.

Many Years

Today is my mother’s 75th birthday.

May God grant her many years!

Memory Eternal

Today is the 5th anniversary of my brother’s repose.

May his memory be eternal.

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