28 November 2012

My Squirrel Rant

This morning my inbox was stuffed with copies of the Washington Post article entitled, Squirrel: It’s What’s for Dinner in Romney,W.Va.    The article is a rather thoughtful look at an annual squirrel dinner organized in the area.  Not everyone who sent it to me meant it to be received in such a thoughtful manner.  So you must bear with me while I rant a bit, both here and at my other blog…

I’ve eaten squirrel since I was a child.  My first encounter with squirrel came when I was about 4 years old.  My great aunt was very excited that she was going to make squirrel dumplings.  My four-year-old self herd squirldumplin’s run together with Aunt Ruth’s Southern accent and thought it sounded magical.    After being cautioned by the adults at the table, Aunt Ruth gave me a little spoon full of fluffy dumpling, thick cream and flecks of dark, rich meat.   Then she gave another little spoon full and I wanted more.  The third time she dipped her silver spoon into the bowl she went deep and as the gravy flowed off the spoon it reveal something unusual.  With a big smile on her face Aunt Ruth said, “Look, Baby, you got the teeth.”She proceeded to set a perfect set of tiny dentures on the edge of my plate.  At that moment, I realized that dinner was Squirrel Dumplings.  Two distinct and less than magical ingredients.    As an aside, I will confess that I was nearly 13 before I realized that Astaire was Fred’s last name.  I thought Fredastaire was like Liberace or Madonna, but I digress...

My friend, Ann, was coming out for Thanksgiving and given the traffic and afore mentioned Ruby Slippers, I had no idea when she might arrive.  I thought a nice ragu could simmer for hours and be ready at anytime, so it became my Wednesday night menu item.  I went to Kroger’s, the large grocery chain, intent on buying some stew meat for the ragu.   I picked up a small package of stew meat and it was $12.  It was stew meat!  Not strip, not rib eye -- stew meat.  I finally found a package just north of $7 that contained 8 cubes of meat.   

The American Farm Bureau Federation released figures stating that a 2012 Thanksgiving Dinner for 10 people would run the average family $49.48.  I would like to know where they shop. 

Which brings us back to squirrel.   I have spent my life around hunters.  Hunting is one of those topics one should not discuss in polite company.   While there is a fringe of rich old white guys who pay a lot of money to shot fish-in–a-barrel, most people actually hunt to feed their family.  I won’t lie to you, there is ritual and sport in the whole endeavor, but in the end, the animals killed are eaten.  Thankfully, I don’t have to try to feed 10 people for $50.  Thankfully, I can afford $7 stew meat.  There are far more people than one could possibly imagine who can’t feed their family.

As might be expected, the few comments about the West Virginia Squirrel Fest, were of the why-eat-those-little-garden-creatures-hunting-is-so-bad-yuch-nasty vein, with the exception of the people from WV.  While there haven’t been a lot of comments on this story per se, they are the kind of reactions one always gets from these stories.

The same people who are happy to call poor white Southerners eating squirrel "nasty" would never in a million years think of making disparaging remarks about African- Americans eating watermelon, or Hispanic being beaner.  They would be appalled; shocked and appalled. Yet, it seems to be perfectly fine to demean Appalachian Southerners. Ask yourself if Honey Boo Boo would be on television if the child was black.

On Thanksgiving Day, I butchered a deer.  While there may be sport in hunting, actually butchering an animal is hard work; messy, and tough, and at times, disgusting.   You actually look into the eyes of the animal that gave up its life so you could eat.  

 I can honestly say that I am glad I was not at the first Thanksgiving.   While my friends decided that they would definitely want to be in my group during the zombie apocalypse, I am sure we would starve, the same way we would have starved at the first Thanksgiving.  

Which brings us back to Per Se.  If Thomas Keller put squirrel on the menu at Per Se, all the food blogger would be so enamored of the idea.  We would see squirrel recipes on all the food blogs and it would be the “it” thing to eat in Food & Wine and the foodie hipsters would be so excited and telling their buddies that they were the first ones to eat  Keller's Squirrel Dumplings. 

I am a committed carnivore.  I also know where my food comes from.  The next time you eat meat, think about that animal that gave its life for your ragu.

The next time you blog about the $225 tasting menu at José Andrés’ Minibar, remember that there are untold families who don’t have $225 to spend on food for the month.

Next time you go into Whole Foods for $7 of stew meat,  add a bag of groceries to the food bank basket.

And the next time you want to make fun of someone, make fun of yourself…
...seriously, I really thought his name was like  --  Fredastaire Smith. 

27 November 2012

Giving Tuesday


It's Giving Tuesday.  I'm not sure that Giving Tuesday should be stuck behind Thanksgiving Dinner, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday!  Who would have any leftover MONEY.   But it is a great idea.

Harry, like many people who have ever given a dollar, gets tons of requests for charity.  So many we never know which one to give to.  When you give once, it seems they send a notice every other week.   (And I think that makes money for the company that is SENDING the requests and not the actual charity...but I digress.)  To combat this excess, we set aside Harry's birthday as the one day of the year to make ALL his charitable contributions. That way, we know who we have given to and we can throw away all those repetitious mailers.

As for Giving Tuesday, you are probably broke, but here is my favorite charity:  Heifer International

In a survey 79% of Americans would rather have a charitable donation made in their name than to receive a gift they wouldn't use.   Make someone you love or like or whose name you got in the Secret Santa drawing HAPPY by donating to a good cause like Heifer International.

21 November 2012

Not In Kansas...

I was expecting my friend, Ann, to arrive on Tuesday for Thanksgiving.  She called to say she would be unable to arrive on Tuesday as she had to work today.  What could possibly be more important than my Thanksgiving?

"I have to oversee the installation of Dorothy's Ruby Slippers."

OK that is not an excuse one hears too often.  The Ruby Slippers had been waiting in the wings for a new resting place at the Smithsonian and this morning, they were set into their new home.

Kermit the Frog was also set in place.

Those tasks being accomplished, Ann set out for Thanksgiving. 

If you are traveling today, have a safe trip and say hello to Auntie Em.

19 November 2012

Doomsday Prepper

This week on Doomsday Preppers

Kitty Carlisle tries out her new night vision contact lens.

When one attempts to clean up an already cluttered area, why is it that the clutter must become exponentially worse before it gets better?  I believe it is Number 3 in Newton's Laws of Housekeeping.

16 November 2012

Famous Food Friday -- Pippa Middleton

I didn’t want to do it.  Yes I love “entertaining” books but I didn’t think I could bear to buy the Pippa Middleton book.  Of course, I couldn’t NOT buy it, I mean really, Pippa Middleton.  Her Mum and Dad made a fortune selling party goods – paper napkins and balloons – a fortune!!  He sister married well.  She has an extraordinary ass (you can judge yourself, but commentators were quite struck by it during the royal wedding).  

Not just a pretty ass face, Pippa has had a rather prosperous career as a party planner/organizer for high-end corporate and luxury brand events, i.e. she packed the boxes of napkins they ordered, but still…

So it would only seen fair that she should write of book on how to celebrate:  Celebrate: A Year of Festivities for Families and Friends.


Do I sound a bit snarky?  Well yes I do and so does Pippa.  Just read the introduction:

“It’s a bit startling to achieve global recognition (if that’s the right word) before the age of thirty, on account of your sister, your brother-in-law and your bottom.”


Clearly, Middleton understands that most people who grab up this book are doing so because they remember her from her sister’s wedding.  But she does know something about the party business, so let’s jump right in.

First and foremost, there are almost as many photos as there are words in the book.  Food, flowers, decorations, drinks, parties, and dishes are all well documented.   One reviewer remarked that all the pictures were “nauseatingly middle class.” 

There is Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Easter, but also Boxing Day and a great Burns Night.  Middleton states in her introduction, “While some of the events, crafts and dishes may be unfamiliar to an American audience, I am thrilled to share my favorite British traditions and hope you’ll find them as lovely as I do.”

And while Burns Night is typically Scottish, the British still consider all the colonies “British”, even I think, the old US of A, just the northeast, but still…  And I must say, Pippa has an astonishing array of usages for haggis.  Who knew?

Celebrate is a good collection of food and fun for anyone. There are lovely macaroons (which Pippa tells us are difficult to make, so buy them) to Rice Crispy treats that you can make yourself.  There are decked halls, steaming fish pie, and instructions for a tug-of-war.  Celebrate is jam-packed and action filled.  And while there are indeed Rice Crispy Treats, there is also a recipe for Millionaire’s Shortbread.

Millionaire’s Shortbread

Preheat oven to 350F.  Lightly grease a 9 X 13 oblong jelly roll pan.

For the shortbread base, place 2 cups of all-purpose flour, 1/2-cup superfine sugar and 2 sticks of unsalted butter in a food processor and blend together to form a smooth dough.  Press the mixture into the base of the pan and prick with a fork.  Chill for 15 minutes before baking in the over for 25 to 30 minutes until golden and firm.  Set aside to cool.

To make the topping, place 13/4 sticks of unsalted butter, I cup superfine sugar, 3 tablespoons golden syrup or honey and a 14-ounce can of condensed milk in a saucepan and stir over low heat until the butter melts.  Turn the heat up to medium, bring to a boil then cook the mixture gently for 5 to 8 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent scorching, until thick and golden brown.  Pour evenly over the cold shortbread and leave to cool.  Melt 7 ounces of chopped dark chocolate in a bowl over simmering water.  Pour the chocolate over the cooled toffee and place in the fridge to set.  Remove from the pan and carefully cut into squares.

I admit I was skeptical.  Celebrate has been thoroughly panned in England with the most damning criticism being that the book is just to simple.  Well, it was never touted as an elaborate guide to party planning, it was written as a way to make celebrating with family and friends easy.  Seriously, the family fortune is based on selling matching paper cups and streamers, what did they think she was going to write about?  But you know the British press, they are much more snaky than I. I can tell you, if Pippa asks me to a party, I would go, as simply middle class as it might be… and don't lie, so would you!

07 November 2012

Requiescat in Pace -- The Civil Wars

During all the Election coverage last night we were saddened to learn that one of our FAVE bands broke up!  We will not be retuning to Barton Hollow as The Civil Wars is no more. 

01 November 2012

Requiescat in Pace -- Letitia Baldrige

We received a somber, early morning call.   It was not about flooding, or weather, or a close friend, but news that Letitia Baldrige had died.  This is the kind of call we get.  It is important news at Lucindaville when such an arbiter of etiquette has departed this earth.

Her death leaves a gigantic void in a world that seems to be devoid of taste or decorum.  As Baldrige stated in 2007,  “Many people feel we’ve lost all sense of taste. Notoriety is what counts, and what sells. As far as excellence, half the people don’t even recognise it when they see it. ”

 Letitia Baldrige is perhaps best known for her tenure as the White House social secretary to Jacqueline Kennedy. While much of the planning of the elaborate White House events were the result of Baldrige's meticulous attention to detail, she always made sure the First Lady received the credit.

While one might think that being such a doyenne of decorum might leave one beyond stuffy, Baldrige was always quick to counteract such claims.  She told the New York Times that after three years as social secretary to the United States ambassador to France, David Bruce and his wife, Evangeline she returned to America, "thoroughly obnoxious, a big blonde snob, really bad news.”   From her own mistake she taught each new social secretary,  “You are the visible face of the White House, president and first lady. You have to be kind to people.”

After a slight of a Pakistani ambassador she tried valiantly to apologize, finally waring him down with a bouquet of roses.   It became a mantra.  If you screw up -- send roses.  Today we are sending roses out to the memory of the incomparable  Letitia Baldrige.

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