Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Oy Vey Begorra!

Gratuitous photo of Irish Soda Bread,
which has little to do with this post
but looks a lot better, even with the
burnt raisins and all, than the
raw meat pictured below.

On March 15th the Common Household Husband pranced into the house, delighted, and presented me with a beef brisket.  He was very excited. He claimed it was right at the front of the grocery store and that it was so exciting to have one of his favorite meats right there within easy reach.  And on sale! his mother exclaimed from beyond the grave.  

I doubted his story, as whenever I have wanted a beef brisket for Passover I have had to request it from the butcher at the grocery store.  It takes them a good while to trim it, and it is never on sale.

Two food items I don't particularly like:
Samoa Girl Scout Cookies and
raw corned beef brisket.

But it turned out it was a corned beef brisket.  It was at the front of the store in sale-ebration of that Americanest of holidays (third after Superbowl Sunday and Cinco de Mayo), St. Patrick’s Day.

Oy vey iz mir! Corned beef is not Irish (nor Cornish, which would be reasonable to assume) but hails from Eastern Europe.  For those who would like to explore the history of corned beef, I am here to provide: The link.  As the article says: 

...what we think of today as Irish corned beef is actually Jewish corned beef thrown into a pot with cabbage and potatoes.

I have no idea how to cook corned beef.  I don’t even like corned beef.  But by Friday (St. Patrick’s Day) I realized I had to do something with our bovine windfall. I girded my loins and set my face toward the kitchen.

There is no way that a food with that many 
mentions of sodium can be healthful for us.

I looked up some slow cooker recipes.  They are written as if the cook is intending to make corned beef, wants to make corned beef, even to the point of wanting to pick which kind of cut to buy.

Having seen a photo of some meat-n-spices on Facebook I had an inkling that some kind of corny spices would be required to make corned beef.  I imagined I would have to pickle the meat in those spices for several days, but I was wrong.  Nevertheless, we had no set of spices, and no knowledge of what those spices should be.

This photo does not fully
reveal the disgustingness of the
contents of the meat package.

Lo and behold, nestled in the mucky fat-blood mixture surrounding the meat was a “flavor packet”.  I could no longer use lack of spices as an excuse to escape cooking the corned beef, but did have to pause to get over the disgustingness of the beef schmaltz.

The flavor packet, washed in the blood,
and then washed in the sink.

I ended up mostly using the recipe on the meat package.  I put sliced onions in the bottom of the crockpot, put the hunk of corned beef brisket on top, then the spices from the flavor packet, and finally surrounded the meat with water, just like a fleshpot of Egypt.  Other recipes exhorted me to add things like carrots, potatoes, cabbage, and beer, but I had little interest in the outcome so I ignored those suggestions.  I cooked that sucker in the crockpot for about 8 hours.

The result of my travails

The result was stupendous!  The Common Household Husband took one bite and was carried back to the joys of his childhood meals, just like the restaurant critic in the movie Ratatouille (in which the chef was a rodent).  Our corned beef brisket was declared to be Very Good, which is high praise around here.  It did not quite reach the gold standard which is “It’s as good as the steak at Harvey Kahn’s bar mitzvah.”

I remained distrustful of the corned beef but have to admit it was quite tender.  The best part was that it lasted for several days so I didn’t have to figure out what to have for dinner for two more days. I used the extra time to make Irish Soda Bread, which I find much more tasty.

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

First lines: February 2023 edition

Below are the first lines of the books I finished reading in February: four works of fiction and two non-fiction (one memoir which is children’s lit).

I have to add that Blogger was annoying this time around.  Why can't I copy-paste from a Google Doc to Blogger (a Google product) with all the formatting intact?  I had to reformat everything to keep the text from running off the end of the page here.  Not good, Google.

Book 1
Kamunting, Malaya, May 1931
The old man is dying. Ren can see it in the shallow breaths, the sunken face, and the skin stretched thinly over his cheekbones.

Book 2
November 1961
Back in 1961, when women wore shirtwaist dresses and joined garden clubs and drove legions of children around in seatbeltless cars without giving it a second thought; back before anyone knew there’d even be a sixties movement, much less one that its participants would spend the next sixty years chronicling; back when the big wars were over and the secret wars had just begun and people were starting to think fresh and believe everything was possible, the thirty-year-old mother of Madeline Zott rose before dawn every morning and felt certain of just one thing: her life was over.

Book 3
One billion. More than one billion people around the world are disabled. In fact, we’re the world’s largest minority.

Book 4
Part 1: The Disappearance
Chapter 1: Day 1: White Chucks, Size 10 ½
On the morning of the worst, most earth-shattering day of Ray McMillian’s life, he ordered room service: scrambled eggs for two, one side of regular bacon (for Nicole), one side of vegan sausage (for him), one coffee (for Nicole), one orange juice (for him).

Book 5
Mona Moon picked up her dusty knapsack and battered valise, making her way down the ship’s ramp where the New York City dock bristled with baggage porters, dock workers, cabbies, newspaper reporters, police, hustlers, and families welcoming loved-ones with flowers and kisses. There were no kisses and flowers for Mona.

Book 6
A Warrior Tradition
In the old tribal days, a Crow warrior had to perform four different types of war deeds – four coups – in order to become a chief.

The titles and authors revealed:

Book 1
The Night Tiger, by Yangsze Choo.  published 2019. 380 pages.

I liked the character Ren, and learned a little bit about a Confucian philosophical idea, but overall I did not enjoy this book. The plot is very creepy and involves bodily dismemberment of various kinds. I read it for book club.

Book 2
Lessons in Chemistry, by Bonnie Garmus, Published 2022, 386 pages.

This was quite an enjoyable, amusing, and yet infuriating book. What is it like to be “a woman scientist” (as opposed to “a scientist”) in the 1950s and 1960s? Over the top unfair and nearly impossible. Includes a self-aware canine. Splendidly told.

Book 3
Demystifying Disability: What to Know, What to Say, and How to Be An Ally, by Emily Ladau. Published 2021. 176 pages.

I recommend this informative book, which I read as part of my self-education. The initial chapter lays out various aspects of language on disability, which can be a touchy subject these days. For words used to address a person, there is Person First Language (PFL) e.g. “person with a disability” and Identity First Language (IFL) e.g. “disabled person”. The author writes: “Neither of these choices is wrong, though many people strongly prefer one over the other.” The difficulty with language proscriptions is that language changes over time, sometimes quite quickly. That doesn’t excuse us from keeping up, but it does mean, to me, that a certain amount of grace is in order. Emily Ladau has that grace.

Book 4
The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb. Published 2022. 338 pages.

I enjoyed this mystery about a Black classical violinist and his violin. About half-way through, I decided it would be good to listen to some of the music pieces mentioned. I was not disappointed. Just take in The Dance of the Goblins by Antonio Bazzini!

Book 5
Murder Under a Blue Moon (a 1930s Mona Moon Historical Cozy Mystery Book 1), by Abigail Keam. Published 2019. 278 pages.

Mona inherits an estate from her uncle, who died under mysterious circumstances. Mona puts up with guff from no one. The story includes a lawyer with the surname Deatherage,which I could not decide how to pronounce. Deeeth-a-ridge? Death-a-rage? Either one seems to fit with a cozy mystery. Includes a noble manor house which is falling apart, horses, and the Kentucky Derby.

Book 6
Counting Coup: Becoming a Crow Chief on the Reservation and Beyond, by Joseph Medicine Crow. Audio book, unabridged, narrated by Henry Strozier, 2015 release, 2 hours. Print book published in 2006. 128 pages. Memoir; children’s lit.

This person’s life was fascinating to me. I admit that I used this audiobook as a sleep aid – and it worked – but I was interested enough that I went back to listen to most of it while fully awake. The internet reveals that the author, Joseph Medicine Crow, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama. Given the current educational environment I must hope that the story of this scholar and patriot will not be forbidden to students.

I would love to hear about what you are reading these days.