Archive for July, 2007

ORTHODOX CHRISTIANITY

28 July 07

Why am I Orthodox? Why Russian Orthodox? What is this stuff, anyway?

OK, first of all, relax. I’m not trying to convert anyone. Much, anyway. Mostly this is just some background so people can understand why some of my positions are so different from what you might suspect. Fair warning. Some of the positions are gonna make a lot of people mad.

Let’s start with some ground rules: I’m not going to debate whether God is or not. As far as I am concerned, He is. Nextly, Christ wasn’t a good man. He wasn’t a prophet. Either He was the Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, as He claimed or He was a nutcase. No in between. Not going to argue that one either. So we will start with the assumptions that there is a God, and that the Christ was also that God.

I was born and raised in the Episcopal Church. Now in the 1950s we were decidedly the minority in the South. Socially, in the Old South, the masses were Baptist, the middles were mostly Methodist, and the elites were Episcopalians. I really didn’t comprehend the protestants that surrounded us. The Episcopal Church was really big on the branch theory. That theory states that the Church is one only in some mystical sense. The East and the West split into separate trunks, and the Church of England (Episcopalians) split off from the Western trunk, and so on. The Episcopal Church is now firmly protestant. But back in the ‘50s they still thought they were half protestant and half Catholic. The great compromise. We start with Henry. Now history has been a bit unkind. Henry is remembered as a fat guy with six wives who was the eighth Henry. There was a bit more to him than that. Henry was an extremely talented man who composed some very nice music and also won an award for excellence in theological writing from the Pope. He was good and he knew his stuff. So when Henry decided to break from Rome and establish himself as head of the local church, he knew enough to convince the local church hierarchy. It also helped that he had the army behind him. Later, the Americans were mostly all Church of England. Yeah, I know they fed you all that stuff about the Pilgrims and Plymouth Rock and the Mayflower. But really, most colonists were Church of England. After the Revolution, there were many problems. The Americans had no Bishops, and Episcopal means ruled by bishops. Most of the priests had either gone back to England or up to Canada with the loyalists. Eventually Samuel Seabury from New England was able to convince some Scottish Bishops to consecrate him bishop. Thus was born the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of America. What a mouthful. Thus just Episcopalians or sometimes the organization was called PECUSA. This was called the thinking man’s church in the 1950s and was growing like crazy. Missions all over the place for the baby boomers. As the church got more and more liberal and protestant in the ‘60s and ‘70s the inevitable started happening. People began leaving in droves, and splinter churches formed that were throwbacks to the 1950s or to the Anglo-Catholic movement. BTW – Post revolution, most of the South was still Church of England. But — they had no priests. The protestants grew like wildfire during this period. It was a whole lot easier to self-ordain and then start having revivals and such. The Episcopalians insisted on a seminary education and then they had to be ordained by a bishop. These bishops were in sort supply, remember?

Meanwhile, I started studying for the Episcopal Priesthood. Remember that. We’ll come back to it later.

My wife and I tried going to one of these splinter churches and it just didn’t get it. We felt bereft. We called a dear friend who had been an Episcopal priest and asked him about the situation. His advice: look into Orthodoxy.

Now this was some interesting advice, given what I had seen in pre-the. (Preparatory theological). One of the things that I had studied was Greek. Very interesting language, works a lot different than English. One of the nice things is that you get to read the Bible as it was written. Now the King James was/is that which the Southern protestants loved to bang on and quote. And truthfully, it’s not too bad in the New Testament. Translated straight from the New Testament Greek. A few bobbles, but good on the whole. But the Old Testament — oh, brother! To start with, the King James was done using the Hebrew Old Testament. Sounds good. But — there are problems. To wit: the Jews and the early church did not use the Hebrew Old Testament. They used the Greek Septuagint. The Jews of the time didn’t speak Hebrew. They spoke Greek, the international trade language. They also spoke Aramaic. This had been the official language of the Achmenid Empire (read Persian = Iranian, Cyrus & all that). Ever notice that when Jesus or the boys are quoting scripture that it is close, but not dead-on? If you use the Septuagint it is correct. Secondly. There was a movement in Judaism that was called the Masoretes. The Christians had been converting Jews left and right using their own text. The Jews, naturally, did not like this. The Masoretes were kind of like the Gideons of their day. They distributed corrected copies of their text (with the passages the Christians used carefully massaged) all over the world to the various Jewish communities. They also very carefully destroyed the old, “corrupt” text they replaced. The only text that the early Church ever used or blessed was the Septuagint. When the Church adopted Athanasius’ list as the accepted Bible, the Septuagint was what was used. There are several books in the Septuagint that did not make it into Jeromes’s translation or the Vulgate. They also did not make it into the King James since that was from the Masoretic Text, not the Septuagint. The only bunch that still uses the whole Bible as declared by the Church is the Orthodox.

The next thing that bothered me was a book by an Anglican monk: The Shape of the Liturgy by Dom Gregory Dix. This traced the development of the Liturgy from apostolic times to the present. The major thing that kept popping up to me was Dom Gregory would be rattling along about this or that element and would say something like “the Western practice changed in such and such year. But the original practice was such and such, as the Orthodox still do.” I started figuring that if the first Christians did something, we should still be doing it, unless there was a real good reason to change.

The third leg goes something like this: The Episcopalians make a real big deal about Apostolic Succession. This means that they think that the Bishops of today can trace an unbroken line back to the Apostles by consecration, or laying on of hands. I thought about it and came to the conclusion that the original church had to be out there somewhere. I didn’t buy the argument that it had split into all these branches. I wanted the trunk. We all agree (I think) that the Church was founded on the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles and Disciples in the upper room. We can probably agree that the Church was one for at least the first century into the second. Most people will agree that there was only one Church at the time of the conversion of Constantine. So far, so good. It is a historical fact that the Coptic Church in Egypt and Ethiopia broke away from the main Church at the 4th Ecumenical Council — 451. We need not go into the Monophysite Controversy here. The next split was when East and West finally split in 1054. Now who left who depends on which pew you occupy. Rome had been diddling around with things for quite a while. They changed the Nicene Creed to include the filioque (and the Son) in the 6th century without passing it through a council with the rest of the Church. The Romans were also centralizing power into the single Bishop of Rome – the Pope (means father). In the Orthodox tradition, all Bishops are equal, they all have one vote in the council, and the council is the final authority when acting in accord. The Romans were claiming that Christ gave Peter primary power — “upon this rock” and so forth. There was also a claim that Peter was the first Pope. Not so, the first Bishop of Rome was Clement. Wonderful writer — good stuff. Look it up. The very first Church council is not in the list of Ecumenical Councils. It was the 1st Apostolic Council recorded in Acts. Now when you read that, notice that Peter does not get his way in the Apostolic Council. James pins his ears back and Peter loses the vote on Judeization. Next, notice that every single Church mentioned in the New Testament, except Rome, is still Orthodox. So – does the majority leave the minority or the other way around?

So, if we want the original Church, we’ve got 4 choices at the most. The Orthodox, The Roman Catholics, The Coptics, or the Church of India. Huh? Where’d they come from? Well, it’s like this. The Christian Church in India goes slap back to Thomas. You know. The doubter. That’s where he wound up. They are great people. But they were off on their own hook and crook for centuries and never took part in the Ecumenical Councils. They also kinda’ developed a few strange beliefs on the way. But they do have some nifty prayers and services. It is also interesting to compare the practices that they have to the other three. Now you bare bones protestants, here it comes: All these churches have very similar formal liturgies. Check it out. From the beginning, the worship of the Church was all that fancy stuff you hate.

OK, so we have a beginning and a middle church, what about now? My rational: if Christ is God and if the Church is the spotless bride of Christ and His body on earth, then any discontinuity, even for 5 minutes, means that the gates of Hell prevailed for a while. And if that’s true, you are wasting your time. There is no surety of Salvation. You might as well get some more sleep on Sunday. Whew. Sit back and think about that one. If there is no continuity in the Bride of Christ, then this cannot be the Bride. You may get a warm, fuzzy, religious feeling. You may get some good from studying the scriptures. But — you are NOT in the mechanism that was set up by the Holy Spirit to be the vehicle for our relation to Christ and our salvation. The oldest protestant churches go back maybe 500 years or so. Most protestants seem to think the Church was ok up until the time of Constantine and then fell apart until their founder (fill in the blank), somewhere around year (fill in the blank), stumbles out of the woods with the unvarnished truth from reading a King James Bible and receiving the True Word straight from God (or rolled their own — Joe Smith). Sorry. Don’t buy it. The other bull that you get is that the “real” church went underground for x number of years. OK. That’s fine. Show me the historical continuity. How’d it get here?

In America, we know that a new denomination pops up every 5 minutes. We also know that no two protestants can agree on theology. I love the non-denominational guys. Who do they think they are fooling? They are just their very own denomination with no one to ride herd over them. I can’t buy that any of these “roll your owns” are the true and original Church. The protestant myths about the “Catacomb Church” seem to be just that. Yes, the Catacombs were used by Christians, but probably not for services. The layout of the traditional Orthodox Church is exactly that of the standard Roman noble’s house, which looks to be the place most services took place.

Lastly, there is no central authority in Orthodoxy. The Patriarch of Constantinople does not hold any special power. He swings the gavel at a Conference, but he is merely first among equals. Yet — there is absolutely no disagreement among the Orthodox about the services. There is no disagreement about Theology. None. Now the Greeks, Russians, Arabs, Serbs, Japanese, etc. are a contentious bunch. Yet they do not disagree about matters of the Church — for two thousand years. Remarkable. Could only be the Holy Spirit in action. In the South we have an old saying: If there are two Baptists in town, then there are three churches. The one I go to, the one he goes to, and the one neither of us can stand. Now this does not mean that the Orthodox always get along. They don’t. But they don’t disagree about the faith. Amazing.

Now if we decide to check out Orthodoxy, there are some choices to make. There is going to be the investigation to find out what kind of Orthodox there are in the neighborhood. In Atlanta, we have a pretty wide choice. There may be a limited selection in your neck of the woods.
So here’s my rundown at the time:
Greeks. Lovely people. But in Atlanta in the 1970s they were very clannish and did not really like converts coming into their club. This is NOT the case everywhere, and not there anymore. Also, while I like Greek music, I like it in small quantities. That’s just me, others really dig it. Also the services were in Greek at the time. I could read it — slowly and badly, but I never did speak it. My Greek teacher used to despair — “I never heard Greek with such a thick Southern accent!”

Antiocheans. Read Lebanese, mostly. Same comments as above, though their services were in English. But the Eastern melodies grated on my ear.

Russians. Well, here in the South, mostly ROC means Redneck Orthodox Church about as much as Russian. The services are mostly in English. The people are mostly converts. The music is really good stuff. You will think you are in heaven. Think Tchaikovsky, think Rimsky-Korsakov. Think choirs of Angels. They are all there. (The Angels are occasionally off-key). By Russians I mean Russians. ROCOR. Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia. Also known as Synod sometimes.

There is also the OCA. This came from the Russian Church and was granted autocephaly, or self ruling status in the 1970s. There are many fine people here. The services are all English. But these guys have become a bit too Americanized. They think like protestants, not traditional Orthodox in many ways.

The others, Serbian and all the rest, were not in Atlanta at the time. They are now and may be in a neighborhood near you. Investigate for yourself if you are interested. Some of the ethnic churches may be really clannish and unwelcoming. Others will be wonderful. You just have to check each one out for yourself. Fair warning. If it is a real, traditional Orthodox Church there will be no pews and no organ. If you see those, it is a church that has been Americanized and will probably not hold to the traditional faith.

Now. You say to yourself: Self! Other than all that fancy Liturgy stuff and all that incense. What is the real difference with these people?

I’m glad you asked. Orthodoxy is a totally different world view. The Theological bones of Orthodoxy are from a really different animal.

Quick historical rehash. Christ. Birth, Death, Resurrection, Ascension. Day of Pentecost. Peter, Paul, all the rest. Church Spreads and prospers. Church is persecuted. Constantine converts. Empire becomes Christian. Now the next link in the chain is a fella’ named Alaric. You know the one, sacked Rome, split the Empire. Note that it is about this time of confusion, death, and all the rest that the West (Rome) starts twiddling with the Symbol of Faith (The Nicene Creed) and other goodies. The communication network of the West goes into the toilet. The spread of knowledge halts.

A few years before Alaric a real rip-roaring reprobate named Aurelius Augustinus has a conversion experience and spends the rest of his life teaching and writing and repenting. He is usually called St. Augustine in the west. The Orthodox do not regard him as a saint. He is sometimes called Blessed Augustine because of his writings on spirituality. Now Augustine was one of the early proponents of the Filioque (‘and the Son’) that was added into the Creed in the west. He was also one of the guiltiest people on record. The guy felt so guilty it was unreal. He decided that the whole human race was useless and doomed to hell and that Adam’s sin was literally inherited by all. Gloom and doom kind of guy. Only by baptism could the damning stain of Adam’s sin be erased. All are evil. And so on. Now the Orthodox have always thought that Augustine was full of beans. St. John Cassian of Lyon, France corresponded extensively with Augustine. It is instructive to read St. John’s dressing down of Augustine. Basically he tells Augustine that he loves him, and that he appreciate his dedication, but that Augustine is full of beans and goes too far. Western theology is completely based on Augustinian theology. (‘Bout all they had during the dark ages). This gives rise to all sorts of strange doctrine. How about Limbo? Here’s the chain. All humans are evil, and have inherited Adam’s sin. Therefore no human can go to Heaven unless he is baptized. But wait — what about an innocent stillborn baby? This baby has had no chance to be baptized. Therefore it must not go to Heaven. But — God is merciful and would not send this innocent to Hell. Would He? OK, I know, I know! We’ll invent a place in the middle where the innocent go! We’ll call this Limbo, neither Heaven nor Hell. Great, guys. Good use of logic. It works! It holds together! Only problem: This cannot be justified in Scripture, nor in Tradition. It comes out of thin air. Thin air is not sufficient when we are talking about salvation and all that. Now the West was in a hard way for centuries. Another minor problem. According to Augustine, God is so good and Man is so evil that there cannot possibly be any direct interaction. Therefore Augustine postulated little intermediate “energies” that God used to interact with Man. Later logicians realized that this presented some problems. God became Man. Christ is fully God and fully Man. But – God cannot directly interface with this evil creature, so how could God be born of woman? This tied up the western theologians for a while. They finally resolved it with the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. This was first proposed in 1476 and finally became dogma in 1854. Immaculate Conception has nothing to do with the birth of Jesus. It states that Mary was born without stain of original sin. Got them out of one corner into another. Now Mary is a goddess.

There wasn’t much education, and literacy didn’t exist outside monasteries and all that. All Western theology comes from Augustine. Thomas Aquinas later summed it all up in the Summa Theologica.

Now the kicker. No matter whether directly or indirectly: All protestant churches come from Rome. All protestant theology is Roman in origin. But wait! Not MY church. Guys, guys, check the chain. I stand by my premise: All western churches come from Rome. Either directly, as the Anglicans (Episcopalians) or Lutherans. Or indirectly, as the Methodists or Salvation Army. These both are second generation and came out of the Anglican Church. Others may come from third, fourth, or whatever generations. But theology of all western churches comes from Rome. It may be a protest in reaction to some of the bad theology, but it comes from Rome.

OK, so how is the Orthodox East different? The basic premise of Orthodoxy is that sin, sorrow, suffering and death came into the world as a consequence of Adam’s sin. He did not destroy God’s creation. Adam’s sin corrupted it, but did not destroy it. God had created the earth and said that it was good. While we inherit the consequences of Adam’s sin, we do not directly inherit the sin itself. Man is basically good. God’s creation is still good under our corruptions. We do not view Adam as the fully mature Lord of the Earth who fell to the depths of Hell that the west sees. We view him as a rather immature adolescent who foolishly corrupted himself and dirtied creation. From this different perception of the cosmos comes a whole different world view. We are not born with Adam’s original sin. We are born with a taste for sin. We are also revolted by sin. This makes for an interesting time growing up.

BTW — the other bunch that views the fall pretty much the same as the Orthodox are the Jews. Amazing coincidence. We come from the Jews. As another side note: our services are also totally understandable to the Orthodox Jews. Especially Vespers. They know what we are doing. It freaks them out.

The Orthodox view the Incarnation, Birth, Death, and Resurrection of Christ as one continuous action that fully rebuilds creation without disturbing the gift of freewill. We can choose to participate in the recreated cosmos and work on our salvation. We can also choose to stay in the fallen and corrupt world. Our choice.

Other things that flow from these differences of perception. If we look at other people and other cultures, a westerner (Roman or protestant) has a hard time explaining how so many of these people can be good and how so much of the other’s philosophy can be good morality. “Man is evil. These people never heard of Christ. How can there be any good here?” The Orthodox have no problem. “Man is basically good. He yearns for God. He will dimly perceive types and shadows. But only in the Church is the fullness revealed.”

Now we come to one that protestants hate. Growing up in the South, we had a lot of Bible thumpers. OK. You ask them where their church gets its authority. The answer is always “from the Bible.” So, uh, guys, where did the Bible come from? Usually you get the “it is the Word of God!”, rather indignantly. OK, yes. That’s true. But — how did God get it here? There’s usually some mumbling and fumbling about at this point. Sometime you get a mumble about the “St. James Bible”. This is usually from someone without a whole lot of education.

OK, time to be blunt. The fact is: the current Bible came from St. Athanasius list of what was suitable for reading in Church. There were a boatload of books and letters floating about, some of them pretty good, and some just crazy. People were being mislead by some of the nuttier writings. These discarded books and letters are what the west (particularly Americans) are always getting wrapped around the axle about. You know: “lost books of the Bible! Suppressed books of the Bible!”, and so on. Fact is, we Orthodox still know about them. We consider most of them junk and don’t pay any attention to them. But we’ve still got them. Anyway, back to Egypt and Athanasius. His list of “right-on” books was finally adopted more or less intact by the Church. Now, looky here: if the Church was founded on the Day of Pentecost then it did NOT take its authority from the Bible. The Bible did not yet exist. The Septuagint Old Testament existed, but the New Testament had not yet been written or ratified. So, while your Church may think it derives its authority from Scripture, we Orthodox know that Scripture derives its authority from us.

Now, the above should give a thinking human pause. The first reaction protestants usually have to the formal services of Orthodoxy is “that’s not in the Bible!” Of course not, we didn’t put it in the Bible, we put it in the service books where it belongs. Your drab and paltry services are not in the Bible either. That’s because they didn’t exist until recently.

The next thing that drives protestants nuts is the icons. Icon is a Greek word that means image. These are very stylized representations of the Saints, and of Christ. “Thou shalt not make any graven image!” OK — we don’t. You don’t see any statues, do you? The traditional style of the icon came from the Egyptian death paintings popular throughout the time of the Ptolemaic Empire. Check old icons against some of the recently excavated sarcophagi from the 1st century. Same style. The first icon was painted by St. Luke. You know, the guy that wrote the third Gospel. Yes, he was a physician and an artist. Yes, he was trained in Egypt. Other people have noted that portraiture was very popular in the Roman Empire at the time. We even know what that icon looked like. It was of the Mother of God and Christ as a child. It is called the sweet kissing. It looked like this:

kissing1.gif

It is ironic that most of the people who have a hissy fit about icons in the Church have drawers full of photos and their hall wall, and living room walls, mantle, and so on are covered with photos of loved ones. Some of them dead. So, where’s the difference? We love and revere these Saints, who are examples for us to emulate in the life of the Christian. Now the image of Christ. It is true that it is not proper to represent the Father, we don’t know what He looks like, he was never incarnate, so does not have a physical presence. But — God became Man in the person of our Beloved Jesus. We can portray Him — as a human. So — get over it. This is a different custom than you are used to, but it goes back to the first practices of the Church. Eusibeus (2nd century), in his History of the Church, comments that he has seen many portraits of the Savior and the Apostles.

Oh, My God — you people worship the Virgin Mary. No, we don’t. Man — you rednecks are inconsistent. If someone even starts off “Yo mama!” you boys are ready to fight. Now the Scripture says “honor father and mother”. Mary, who we call Theotokos — carrier or bearer of God — is the mother of Jesus. If you love and honor your mother, does He? Second, we don’t worship here. We venerate — as in honor. We ask her to intercede with her Son that our prayer may be granted. Don’t you do what your mother asks? Third, Our Lord was walking down the street. His robe was touched by a sick woman. He knew it and stopped. His followers thought He was nuts. Turned out the woman was healed of her sickness — just by touching His robe. Now then. If someone can be healed by touching a robe — what would it do to carry God in your body for 9 months and nurse Him for a year or two? We Orthodox love the Mother of God, we also love the Saints. Do you not revere the heroes of the past? So do we. Don’t you ask a friend to pray for you? So do we. For the dead are alive in Christ! Therefore the Saints may pray for us.

Modern Americans — don’t let your narrow preconceptions blind you to 2,000 years of tradition! Check out the original and traditional and true Church! The Faith of our Fathers means more than what your daddy did!

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Burger Biggies –

26 July 07

Everyone knows all about hamburgers – or do they? First of all, this business about having to cook them to shoe leather to be safe. Weel, yeah, kinda-sorta. Steaks from healthy animals may have some bacteria or whatever on the outside of the meat. If you cook the outside pretty hot, it all gets killed. The inside can be raw, if the animal was healthy.

Now any kind of ground meat is pretty safe – if you grind your own. You must make sure the grinding equipment is perfectly clean – hot soapy water. You must make sure the outside is clean, trim off a thin slice to be sure. But really, if you are not sure why do you want to use that meat for anything? If you can trust your butcher, don’t sweat it. Don’t use burger from mass producers. The way contamination gets in is from the fact that the outside of the meat becomes part of the inside. If the meat is not clean or the grinder/food handling equipment is not clean, you can get contaminated.

Anyway, if you can trust your meat source, cook your burgers the way that you like. When you make the burger, mix in as little or as much stuff as you want. But don’t over-handle the meat. If you mash it too much, the finished burger will not have as much flavor and the texture will be bad..

Grill, bake, broil, pan fry. Whatever. If I’m going to do the whole bun routine, then I like grilled. Mayonnaise, a little zippy brown mustard (not yellow!), onions, lettuce, tomato, pickles. Very good. Medium at most, thank you.

However, there is another way to have a nice burger. Don’t think burger, think ground steak. Forget the bun. Slice up some onions, just rings or rough chop, whichever you like. Take a big iron skillet or a large griddle, you want big enough to get burger and onions in at the same time. Add enough olive oil to thoroughly coat the bottom and about a pat of butter per burger. Get the heat up to about medium, don’t cook too fast, and ease the onions in. Stir the onions around to get completely coated with the oil. Add a little woostershire sauce and some kosher salt and fresh pepper, not too much. Add a bit more oil/butter if necessary. After the onions are coated and glistening, slide them to the side and add the burgers. Give the burgers a couple of drops of woostershire sauce and salt and pepper. Move the onions back around the meat. When things are about half done slide the onions back out of the way and gently flip the burgers. Add a little more sauce, salt, and pepper. Slide the onions back to get maximum coverage. If you’ve got things right, the onions should be tender and translucent, and the meat should be no more than medium with a nice crusty outside. Do use a light touch with the sauce and spices. Since you add them three times it is easy to get too much.

Now, if you are a proper hobbit (see the Tolkien books, not the movie) you will be nuts for mushrooms. I am (and my toes are hairy). There are a couple of ways of doing this wonderful puffball. Take some sliced and add them to the pan when you flip the burgers. Cook them gently, they should be done when everything else is. If you like a little less done, just add them in a minute or two before the whole thing is done. Of course, you can always just sprinkle them raw on things when you plate. I’m not sure, other than carbonized, that a mushroom can be bad any way.

Now, you can find or think up a million and one things to mix in. Some like chopped onions. Say, if you like onions, try Vidalia’s, in season. They are grown down in South Georgia and nowhere else. Tenderest, sweetest onions in the world. You can also try Walla-Walla’s. Good, very good, but I like the Vidalia’s better. There’s also all kind of other oddments and spices that can be mixed in. Just don’t over-handle the mix. And don’t mash it in the pan. And don’t flip it more than once. There’s a scene in one of the Lethal Weapon movies, I forget which one. Anyway, Murtaugh is going to make burgers and fondles the meat, and pats it, and plays with it. Don’t do it. Handle as little as possible, your taste buds will appreciate it.

Avocados –

25 July 07

A gift from God in a little green box. The avocado is a tree from Mexico and Central America. Now the main use the Mexicans and Southwest Indians put them to seems to be guacamole. You know, guacamole, a tasteless mess of smashed avocado, tomato, chili pepper, and whatever else strikes the maker. No taste and some amount of heat, usually. Actually, the Indians didn’t really like chilies all that much. For all that the moronic audience cheers every time Emeril tosses some into a mix, they don’t add a whole lot other than heat. At least to my palette. Yes, Virginia, there is something to back this up. When my wife was a young, supple thing (she still is, in her heart and mine) she worked at the Shiprock Indian Reservation in the Four Corners area as part of her masters as a Nurse-Midwife. Since she is ¼ Cherokee, she blended in semi-well. The Indian women would walk for as much as 50 miles to get to the clinic where she worked. The women complained about heartburn and sores in the mouth. So the doctors told them to stop eating chilies. They did. Their indigestion cleared up. Their mouths healed. They said that they could taste the food much better. They also developed scurvy. You see, the chilies were the only source for vitamin C. Now, limes are frequently added to Mexican stuff today, but the Indians didn’t and don’t always have access to them. Particularly not the real desert tribes. So they ate chilies and had heartburn. Or they died.

The Indian women, mostly Navajo, would wander in and tell the docs – “I will deliver a baby”. The docs learned not to pooh-pooh them even if they didn’t look ready. They usually had the kid in the next few hours. The docs wanted to keep the women and children for a while. But in a few hours the women would pick up the baby and head back out. On foot. The only time there was a real problem was if there were twins. You see, the Navajo believe that there is only one soul per birth. The medics knew that the next time they saw the woman, there would only be one child. That’s the way it was.

Onward to avocados – the Mexican avocados were introduced into California and grown successfully in the 19th century. Most of these are of the large green smooth skinned variety. Not my favorites. Suitable for beating into mushy guacamole, etc. Now about 1926 a fellow named Rudolf Hass bought and planted an avocado tree. A tree takes several years to mature and bear fruit. Sometime in the late ‘20s or early ‘30s the thing started to bear. The fruit looked terrible to someone expecting the normal avocado. The thing was a bit smallish. The skin was rough and wrinkled and dark green. But wow, the thing really tasted great. Something like 80% of the avocados grown in California are Hass from grafts from the mother tree. Mr. Hass was smart enough to patent the thing in 1935. The mother tree finally died around 2002 of root rot. Rest in peace, mother tree. You made the world a nicer and tastier place.

You people out in California might be able to home grow your own, but I can tell you they don’t do worth a flip in Atlanta. Now, you know the drill for the kiddies: poke some toothpicks into the pit and suspend it over a glass of water so that just the bottom is in the water. Mostly they die instead of growing. What you want is to get some nutrients into the water and get the thing just enough indirect light to start it going. When it gets some roots and starts to split for the trunk to emerge, get it into some soil and get it more sun. You might make a houseplant or a greenhouse plant.

Now, it seems that there are some people out there who may not have heard how to get into these little treasure boxes. It is really simple. Take a sharp kitchen knife. Chef’s knife, medium size or better. Not a paring knife. You could get hurt. Now put the thing down on the cutting board hold it steady with your free hand. (Keep the hand out of the knife path). You want to slice along the long axis – side, top, bottom, back to start, not around the middle. Gently and firmly slice down to, but not into, the large pit. Now pick the whole thing up and carefully hold the knife steady and rotate the fruit so that you slice a clean path all the way around the thing, keeping the pit in contact with the knife. If you do the initial cut at the bottom of the blade and the blade is long enough, you just walk the avocado down the blade instead of slicing. Put the knife down. A hand on each half. About a 1/8 to ¼ twist and pull the halves apart. Now you have one half with no pit and a nice hole. The other half has a pit. Brace the fruit, pit up on the cutting board with the free hand. Pop the knife into the pit like an ax on the top at about 45°. Careful! Don’t miss or go through, you just want to lodge the knife firmly in the pit. Now, holding the half steady, rotate the knife and pit a bit and lift the pit out. Nearly there. Put down the avocado half. Holding the knife with the sharp edge and pit away from yourself, reach around the knife from the back with the thumb and fingers of the free hand, and push the pit off in a pinching motion. It should pop off easily. Remember – from the back. That knife is sharp!

Whew! This is a whole lot less work to do than to write. It only takes a second or two. Now we have two nice halves with pit holes in them. We can do further operations or we can just stop here. Stop here? Well – yes. Just take any really nice, garlicky Italian type salad dressing and fill up the pit hole. Take a decent teaspoon and scrape a bite of avocado flesh with some dressing. Wonderful! You can use any dressing that you like, but – oh, my – garlicky Italian is really special.

Italian dressing is just oil and vinegar and spices, really: Dump in equal parts oil and vinegar (or whatever portions seem good). Add salt, pepper, smashed and chopped garlic, whatever other spices you like. If you are short on time or just don’t like to make dressing, use bottled. A really nice one is to take the original Newman’s Own Italian and smash/chop a couple of cloves of garlic and stuff them into the bottle. Let it sit for a couple of days to mellow out. Very nice.

If you want to go further with your avocado, say a sandwich or salad or something, do this: For wedges – there are a couple of techniques. Just cut the thing into wedges and then, with a table knife (you don’t want sharp here) strip off the skin. It’s easy if you place the skin on the cutting board and then just slide the knife down the skin. The other way is also good for cubes. Just score with a table knife down to the skin in the shapes you want, either wedges or cubes. With the thumbs and fingers, turn the skin outside in. Then just pop the flesh off with the table knife. Takes a bit of practice to get it just right, but it is pretty easy.

Now the salad is easy, fresh greens, tomatoes, sliced or chopped onions, sliced mushrooms, maybe a shrimp or six, or some strips of nice fish or chicken or whatever, capers, kitchen sink, whatever else you’ve got/like. Arrange avocado wedges on top to look nice. Raisins, cranberries, croutons, nuts, whatever. Cheese of your choice, shredded. I like a bit of Feta crumbled up in here. Salad dressing of choice. I like a smooth red French or Honey Mustard or Blue Cheese Vinaigrette depending on the goodies in the salad. A citrus type dressing also does well if you like that kind of stuff. You really don’t need anything else to eat. This is a super-duper hot weather meal all by its lonesome.

Sandwich – a good, fresh, light bread goes well here. The avocado is a bit delicate for a robust bread. An old fashioned French Pan de Mie or Pullman loaf goes well. It’s a pain to make: takes a special pan and so on, you may want to try a local bakery. A good grade white French is also good and easy to do. Don’t slice too thick, we want to balance all the tastes. You know what you like: Mayonnaise. Mustard – very light, good grade brown, gray poupon, stone ground, German, whatever. Steer clear of the yellow mustards, they just don’t cut it on this level of tasting. But light touch, light touch, we don’t want to overpower. Lettuce, a nice Romaine heart leaf or two goes well. Tomato, of course. Sliced mushrooms are nice. If you use onions make sure they are mild and sweet and sliced thin. Layer on the wedges of avocado. Enjoy. Add or subtract ingredients to your heart’s content.

Oh, the cubes? Use them wherever it seems appropriate. Salads if you don’t want to fool with wedges, although they are prettier.

Of course, if you insist on making something with a paste, just scrape the flesh out with a tablespoon. Easy.

Husband of the earth –

21 July 07

There is a movement among the leftier liberals. The participants thereof are frequently referred to as “tree-hugger” or “environazis”. Not terribly inaccurate, actually. These people are against any use of the earth’s resources. It is almost as though the earth were a goddess and we merely a nasty infection. I disagree with this proposition.

There is, as usual in human interactions, an opposite view. Clear cut, strip mine or whatever else serves the purpose. Dump the products of industry wherever it suits. These people used to be called “robber barons”. Also not terribly inaccurate. There are probably some viler epithets that can be used. They can’t be vile enough. These creatures steal not only from us, but also for our descendants. I also disagree with this proposition, even more strongly.

Now, in Genesis it is recorded that God gave Man dominion over the earth. You can get all kinds of explanation of that basic little statement. The anti-Christian crowd seems to think that this means Christians (and Jews) are supposed to trample the earth. This is a silly and ridiculous statement. The Greek of the Septuagint makes it abundantly clear that the concept is stewardship or husbanding. Among the meanings of husband is the original Norse meaning: Head of the household. Also the familiar: Mate of a woman. Now here’s the real article at hand: To use carefully, to conserve.

I submit that it perfectly all right to use the resources of this good earth. Carefully. The animals that are worshipped by the more radical left use the resources as they damn well please with no regard for the consequences. We must be more respectful. You don’t shit in your living room if you are civilized and housebroken. BTW – you lefties ever seen a wood after beavers have used it? Looks as bad as any clear cut I ever saw. Maybe worse. However, back to business. It is ok to harvest trees. But don’t strip the woods. Do replant properly. Take care that the animals that use the wood will be able to thrive. Mama earth is a wonderful survival machine. God gave it to us. You don’t throw gifts into a cesspool, do you? Strip mining. Actually this can be a total disaster or not. Depending. The removed material can be replaced and planted. Costs a little bit, but less costly in the long run than loosing part of the earth. And you do have to reasonable about when to use this technique. I’m afraid this does have to be covered by legislation, much as I hate extra laws. Mankind can be remarkably shortsighted. And corporations (see an earlier rant) have no conscience except profit.

Now, if you are a housebroken, responsible, and civilized person, and you borrow something from a neighbor, how do you return it? Let’s say a saw. Do you return it broken and dulled? No. You do not. You return it sharp, well oiled, and clean. If it breaks while you are using it, don’t you get it repaired or replace it at your own expense? How then, if we are borrowing God’s creation, should we not be at least as careful and considerate? For, no matter what the deeds to our land say, we don’t own it. We are only borrowing it for a time.

I love it when people miss the whole concept of manhood. Anyone with an I.Q. larger than a rock knows that women nurture. Men, well, most people don’t seem to know what men do. They work jobs, they put food on the table, they have affairs. They plot bad things all day and into the night. Whoa. Put on the brakes. If that was what men were we would have died out a long time ago. What a real man does is husbanding. Yes, he’s head of a household (or a member thereof). But wait – there’s more. For if he does not nurture his family and husband their resources responsibly the family probably won’t survive. At least in the past. Now they may survive physically, but the mind, soul, and spirit will be damaged if the guy does not properly husband his family. Extend it a bit – we must also husband our neighbors, our community, our nation, and our planet. If we fail in this, we as a society will fail and be replaced by a stronger people. If we as the human race fail, we will die in the filth we have made of God’s precious gift to us. Free will, another great gift comes into play here. We also get the consequences of our actions.

Hey — you women don’t get off scott-free, either. You must nurture and respect this earth and its resources, too. I talk more to the guys because they need it more. Women are smarter than men, frequently. You still get all the same responsibilities. O well, welcome to humanity. We’re all in the same boat!

Damn Henry Higgins, anyway –

19 July 07

There is a song in My Fair Lady done by Henry Higgins: “Why Can’t a Woman Be More Like a Man?” This is one of the great mysteries of life to me. I’m sure you’ve met several of the Higgins type, they like sex with women, but don’t like women. They are incapable of any sort of reasonable relationship with a woman, and usually talk pretty bad about them.

The flip side is, of course, the women who just can’t seem to understand that their guys are not their girlfriends and will never do the touchy-feely “sharing” type things that the girlfriends would. (Well maybe a bit in the courtship phase, but not after the lust level has lowered).

Major news release: Men and Women are different critters! I personally like women a whole lot, but I am not one. Thank God Herself is an exceptional woman who realizes that I will never be her girlfriend. That is what she has a daughter, a daughter-in-law, and her biddy buddies at the Red Hat Society. Contrariwise – Herself is not “one of the guys”, even though she really likes the company of men. I can get a guy fix from the woodworkers I see every couple of weeks. Also from work. But Herself is my wife, not a guy friend, and I am her husband, not one of her girlfriends. We like it that way. One of the reasons our life has been so rich and peaceful is that Herself has never set up false expectations about what kinds of things I will or will not do. Therefore she is not disappointed when I don’t do them. Flower, birthdays, etc. I think that so many people set up false expectations about what the other person should do that the strain of having the false expectation not met can be very detrimental to said relationship.

Hormones are powerful drugs.

Agree but disagree ADA –

17 July 07

Us humans are interesting critters. Short-sighted and contradictory at best. First we take the finest document outlining individual freedom – the Constitution of the United States of America – then we twist it, misinterpret it, ignore it, and then amend it damn near to death.

Some qualifications here. I am married to a wonderful woman who has rheumatoid arthritis. There is a long slow crippling going on here. My sister also has really bad arthritis. Her hands are pretty much claws now. Both of these fine women are now classified as disabled. Neither can navigate more than one or two steps up or down at a time. The pain is too intense. I have had the fun of trying to steer my wife around in a wheelchair when her pain level was too high. On her best days she has to use a cane. I put in a lift chair so that she could get to the basement. We are quite aware of the inaccessibility of many buildings and the stupid design of same.

However, my distrust of government intervention is once again proved correct. One of the consequences of the ADA has been the lowering of elevator buttons to wheelchair level. Now wheelchair people can get to the buttons. Good. However – I have a bad back. Originally injured when I was a teen. I was stopped in a Volkswagen Beetle and a 1960 Chevy station wagon doing 60 mph plowed into my rear. The car was a pretzel. The seat was a mess. So were my back and neck. That kind of injury can take years to really show up. It did. Further injuries working the heavy mechanical trades didn’t help. I am also getting older and blinder. I am only medium sized. At the peak I was 6’0”. We shrink as we age, so now around 5’11”, 5’10” when the back really hurts. Now – the point of all that is that when elevator buttons are at wheelchair level and I am having a stiff day, it is pure torture at best to bend over to focus on the numbers and press the buttons. Some days it is not possible. I am not insisting that buttons be inaccessible to wheelchair people, we have the technology to put buttons at both levels. But the ADA is not interpreted that way. BTW – same for water fountains. Some days there is no way.

The next point is that the standard height for temperature sensing devices was 5’0” aff (above finished floor) for over a hundred years because that was the best height to achieve consistent and comfortable temperature, whether sitting or standing and walking. The ADA standard is 4’0” aff so that wheelchair people can get at a thermostat and adjust it. The kick is that 90% of the temperature devices are only sensors and do not have adjustment. Adjustment is done from the control system computer by the maintenance department. There is no reason to lower sensors, but it is done so that there will be no hassle from the state functionaries. Thereby lessening the efficiency of the systems.

Handicapped toilets are wonderful things. They are supposed to be the same height as the wheelchair, thereby enabling the slide from chair to toilet and back with some creative use of grab rails. As long as there are enough normal toilets around, that is not a problem. However, if there is room for only one it will be a handicapped variety. The kick here is that if your legs are shorter than the height of the pot at hand, that posture puts extra stress on the hemorrhoids. This is not a good thing. So, while trying to help the disabled we are becoming a nation of strained assholes. Interesting.

I am certainly for making things accessible to all people, as is any rational person. My distrust of legislation is that, as usual, this thing is not thought all the way through. To be sure, accommodation for all is the goal, but let us use some intelligence to make sure that we get there in a rational and far-seeing way. I don’t know that we will ever make things accessible for all people, but we can do better and more sensibly that we are now.

Now there is actually more to the ADA than just the physical. The legislators tried to make a disability omnibus. That means that mental disability is lumped into this thing. Oh, brother – what a can of worms. Bad enough that these wienies can’t see the long term results of the simple physical access provisions. Now they are going to blunder around in the mental. With no clue. The problem with legislation is that it is generally driven by what is currently socially expedient and popular. Very seldom, if ever, is hard science sought, known, applied. So we have some grab bag statements that lump all kinds of inclusions and exclusions with no science behind them. Interesting.

Legislators – just exactly how is it that gender disorder is in the same class as kleptomania? Huh? Pedophilia is pretty rotten, frequently resulting in damaged or dead children. In exactly what way is that on the same level with some guy putting on a dress? Or a gal putting on a suit? I don’t believe I’ve heard of any trannies damaging kids. The whole thing needs a bit of rethinking.

BTW – I do not know about the rest of Europe and the “socially advanced” EU. But – in Germany handicapped still equals shame. You don’t see wheelchair people in public. And they are supposed to be our models?

DDT and other Liberal Lies –

14 July 07

The first big lie by a liberal that I was conscious of was the whole Ralph Nader thing in ’65. I think it was called “Unsafe at Any Speed”. Nader basically scared the public to death and caused the death of the Covair with half-truth, innuendo and outright lies. I drove the Covair. Particularly the Spyder, which was one hot little car. I thought that it handled very nicely. Yes, it could understeer a bit at 80 or better. Most cars do, and if you don’t have the skills, any car will kill you at large speeds. If you don’t believe that, why don’t you kick your whatever, probably Japanese, up to around 80 or 90 and then jerk the steering wheel about 90°. It should be a learning experience. People should be given facts and allowed to make up their own minds. Isn’t that what libs say when we tell them the drugs they like will kill them?

The other biggie that I remember was the hoorah over Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring”.  Yeah, I know it was before Nader, but I am talking about my memory here. Now I’m not going to knock Carson too hard. Yes, the book was preliminary and perhaps premature. It was, however, a popular book and not hard science. My problem is not so much with Carson as the hysterical libs and tree-huggers who took it as gospel rather than as preliminary. The proper response was not to eliminate DDT, but rather to use it responsibly and to do further research until scientific fact was discovered. Then form policy based on fact, not guesswork, conjecture and wishful thinking. The people in Africa are still dying from malaria, which DDT is certainly effective in eliminating. The problem with most people is that they go with the “a little is good. More is better” school of un-reasoning. Therefore, the people who used DDT went nuts with it. The left went nuts (and continues to do so) with insufficient evidence to support a conclusion. 

Light bulbs – the libs are now convinced that changing a light bulb to the low-e type florescent will save the planet. Now- wait a minute – the new fluorescents cost a bundle more. Well, that is ok if it lowers power bills and lasts long enough. It turns out that the first part is marginally true, barely. OK, now the second. I have used these things around my house for the last 5 years or so. I find absolutely no evidence that they last long enough to be useful or economical. BUT WAIT! – THERE’S MORE. If you bother to read the packaging with these little jewels, you will see that they are all made with mercury vapor. Now mercury is a hazardous substance. It says so right here on the label. If you just toss it in the garbage, you are breaking the environmental laws passed by the afore referenced tree-huggers. If you break it in your house, the lefty laws state that you cannot clean it up yourself, it should be done by a licensed hazardous waste disposal specialist. Cost you about 2 grand, it will. Now wait a minute environazies! Instead of legislation (which is what they’re pushing), why don’t you invent a better bulb, that will be more economical and safer. If you develop a better bulb, even if it is more expensive initially, it will drive the existing bulbs off the market. You will make a fortune, which you can donate to whatever nut cause you like, or even (horrors!) put it in your own pocket, or use it to fund more research, or pay your investors back, and the earth will be a better place. Yes libs, you probably will have to have investors to fund your research. Investors are called shareholders. They tend to want something for their money. Like more money. And no, you probably can’t get a big enough government grant to develop and bring your bulb to market. Maybe this is why it is you libs always want to legislate instead of create? 

Lazy Man’s Ribs & Such –

12 July 07

Barbecue is part of the fabric of the South. All true Southern boys pick up barbecuing by osmosis. Now only one animal is suitable for true barbecue – that would be the noble pig. Only one wood is suitable – seasoned hickory. Now I know that those people in Texas and the Southwest use beef and mesquite. But they are heretics and unworthy of notice. And a grill and charcoal cannot possibly produce true barbecue, they are only suitable for burning hamburgers.

Every boy, as part of the rites of passage in the Old South, had to build his own barbecue pit. I have had all kinds of pits from the simple to the elaborate. Probably the most elaborate is one that came with the first house I ever bought. I had known this house since early childhood. It belonged to my best friend. Well – actually to his parents, but that was my view at the time. Anyway, it coincided rather nicely that my ex and I were ready to try buying a house at the time my bud’s parents wanted to sell. $13,400, a fortune in those days. Payments $100 a month, and that a strain. Now my friend’s dad was a compulsive worker (depression generation). He would put in a hard day at his day job, come home and work till he dropped. The man was a genius gardener. Of course, he planted food. Flowers were mostly useless. Anyway, he had built this large above ground pit with all the trimmings from found rocks. The man never bought anything, he scrounged. Anyway, this was one nice pit. Did some good cooking on it, but my heart was never in this one. I hadn’t built it myself, and that’s part of the ritual.

My favorite pit was the one I built in South Carolina when we lived in Six Mile, a little hole in the road outside Clemson. This was about as simple as a pit can get: cinderblocks (scrounged), and some salvaged oven racks from the nearby appliance store. I guess my friend’s dad influenced me. Everything was scrounged. Now in that neck of the woods, Duke Power rules all. Total electric. Not cheap. There is some natural gas in downtown Clemson, but those people up there don’t trust it or know how to work on it. Let me tell you: If you have total electric and a cold winter, your pocketbook will be rather flat. Duke Power has no mercy and takes no prisoners. Makes you appreciate Georgia Power a whole lot more. Now, the house up there did have a fireplace, but it was conventional construction type. This meant that it looked pretty, but would not draw or heat worth a flip. Now I know that our ancestors were not stupid, but somehow we’ve lost sight of the concept that smoke should go up the chimney and heat should go into the room. We seem to see fireplaces that do the reverse, a lot. With a lot of material and considerable sweat it is possible to rebuild a fireplace to proper Rumfordian function. Rumfordian? Baron Rumford was a contemporary of Ben Franklin’s who did research and figured out how fireplaces should be proportioned and built to work correctly and wrote it in detail. Anyway, it was prohibitive, so I gritted my teeth and bought (shudder) a good quality fireplace insert that had a blower, dampers, catalytic combustor, all the goodies. This thing could heat a 2,500 square foot house (and did!). Now all this is to get to the point that there were some young, greedy (best kind) capitalists in the neighborhood that would go into the nearby forest and collect wood. Yes, they were licensed and careful what they harvested. They would deliver a pickup truck full of wood, busted and stacked anywhere I wanted it for $35. I soon had a separate stack of hickory seasoning nicely.

Back to the barbecue. You build your pit in an open U shape. Two blocks high at the back. As wide as the racks you have. As long as the number of racks plus one. That’s important. Your pit is longer than the racks by at least one space. And don’t bother with any mortar, just stack the blocks like you want them. Now crumble up a layer of newspaper in the area NOT cover by racks. Lay some lighter wood (that’s fat pine to you Yankees or city boys). Built a nice structure of thin split hickory with good ventilation spaces above that. Do not use lighter fluid if you can help it. It can give a funny taste to things. Anyway, light the paper and blow gently or fan it. Old funeral parlor fans are the best, if you know what those are and can get them. Now is you are an impatient wus (I am sometimes), drag a cheap hair dryer (don’t use mama’s best) out to the pit and use it on low speed to gently bring the flames up. When the wood is burning well add some good size pieces of hickory and reduce to good coals. Start raking good coals to the back under the racks as the coals build and keep stacking fresh logs on the front to become more coals. I forgot to mention that you want to face this thing into the prevailing wind so that the smoke goes from front to back. Anyway, after you get the whole coals, rake, more wood, coals, etc. cycle going nicely, place the meat, either ribs or roast or whatever well back on the racks so that it gets lots of nice hickory smoke but not too much heat – proper barbecue is 200° to 210° or so. Any hotter and you are not barbecuing, you are grilling. You want to turn the meat maybe every 15 minutes or so. Now this is going to take about 45 minutes to an hour per pound, so be patient. Ribs are pretty easy to see. Cheat – use a thermometer for roasts and such or you will never get it quite right. The meat should just about fall off the bone. Good barbecue cannot possibly be sliced, it is too tender. Now sauce. Good barbecue is NEVER cooking in sauce – that is added later. What you use is a wash. A wash is easy. Try this one:

Water
Can of frozen lemonade concentrate
Crushed lemons, rind and all
Apple vinegar or wine or whatever you like
Garlic, just crush and toss ‘em in. How much? To taste, if course (Of course, if it is a roast you also want to slice some and lace it into the meat).
Salt
Pepper
Clove, powdered – light touch
Cinnamon, powdered – the secret ingredient – does nice things for pork
Kitchen sink or whatever else you like

Now a good wash tastes pretty rough if you drink it. You have use your future taste buds and figure out what it is going to taste like. The main purpose of the wash is to keep the meat from drying out during the slow smoking process. Slop the stuff on with any kind of thing that will carry the liquid to the meat and spread it around.

The sauce. There are a lot of different sauces. Some thin and hot. Some thick and sweet. Some based on mustard. They are all different in different parts of the South and each barbecue chef has his own recipe. Do what you like. But put it on after the meat is cooked. Usually you just provide the sauce on the side and let people put on however much they like. Here’s one I have been using with great success for years:

MTR’s Super Sweet Killer Diller Barbecue Sauce

1 cup ketchup
1 cup white wine or some decent vinegar
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup molasses
1 Tbs black worcestershire sauce
1 Tbs white worcestershire sauce
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 cloves minced fresh garlic (or to taste)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
about 20 grinds black pepper

In a sauce pan combine all remaining ingredients; stir over medium heat until the mixture come to a boil, simmer for 10 minutes.

Now, make more or less depending on the amount of food and people. This doesn’t keep well, so don’t make too much. However. You may get hurt if you don’t make enough. Diddle the proportions of this, that & the other to suit yourself. And do taste while you work. Much more fun.

Now all the above takes just about a whole day to do. You might just not have that much time, energy, or beer. So here’s the quick and dirty not quite as good, but it works, version:

Set oven to 350 degrees.
If the ribs are meaty (and they’d better be), cut into individual ribs. Place the ribs, ON A RACK in a shallow baking dish, meat-side down (that’s fat side up).
Bake for about 45 minutes; drain and cool.
Make the above sauce while they’re cooking.
Put the ribs in a glass dish and cover with sauce.
Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 1 hour, or until tender (they will be in an hour).

There you have MTR’s lazy man’s ribs. They are a big hit around my house. And I don’t have to nursemaid a fire all day.

By the way, the same barbecue technique can be used with a nice beef roast, just cook somewhere around 20 to 30 minutes per pound. Use a thermometer or you will not get to the correct doneness. Medium rare is about right for beef. Let it stand a good 15 minutes after coming off the fire. Then it can be carved with a sharp knife. Slice about 1/4” to 3/8” and watch the happy faces when they taste it. Do remember that any roast needs to be laced with garlic.

Years ago, back in South Carolina, I made beef roast and pork roast this way for the Pascha (Easter) celebration. Now the Orthodox have been fasting from meat for about two months before Pascha. The Pascha service starts at midnight and ends somewhere between 2:30am and 4:00am depending on how fast the choir moves. So I had made these two roasts and took a microwave that has a thermometer function built in. After the service all I had to do was insert the thermometer and set the temperature. About 15 minutes later out came a perfect roast. The middle daughter of the priest was about 16 and totally beautiful in a gawky sort of way. I don’t think that I have ever seen a woman as happy with her food as that lovely girl when she had her first taste of meat after that fast. It was good, very good.

Today = 30!

11 July 07

This is herself checking in. Today is our 30th anniversary! When we married, there were soooo many nay-sayers that said, “This won’t last more than a year.” A year later, it was, “This won’t last more than 5 years.” Then it was 10 years. Then 15 …. It didn’t stop until 20. We aren’t in touch with most of those nay-sayers anymore, anyway.

We are happier, more comfortable, and content now than ever before. I hope we celebrate lots more years together.

YO! Congress!!

10 July 07

Yo, Congress! –

Is anybody awake up there?

Dems – I reckon y’all must be just about the smartest people in the world. You can legislate about anything. Why, just getting elected seems to turn even a dull dolt in a being of godlike intellect that can figure out anything. You keep diddling with the largest economy in the world with no understanding of rudimentary economics. You can legislate for cars and mandate what fuel economy will be while knowing nothing about physics. Same on refineries and exploration. Now you will be regulating fuel costs without increasing production. What genius! Something for nothing! And GLOBAL WARMING. My goodness, while no real scientist (read interested in facts), knows whether or not we really have global warming, if so, how much, or what causes it, you guys are ready to start legislating like mad and all worked up because we don’t jump on the junk-science bandwagon with the rest of the lib countries. Of course, Kyoto and other such are aimed at us, while Africa, China, most of the developing world that produces most of the pollution now are exempt. But hey, if you can’t blame America for all the problems in the world, you just wouldn’t be happy. What’s that, you say? “There is a consensus among scientists?” First off, science is fact. Repeatable fact. Demonstrable fact. Unarguable fact, not consensus. Consensus among what kind of scientists? Now, it is one thing if the community of climatologists agree on global warming, cause and all. I’m likely to listen. But what do biologists, etc. have to do with anything? These birds can report on effect, if any, in their area of study. They are not qualified to address cause. And it seems to me, the last time I heard climatologists discuss same, that they were unsure if we were having a normal cyclical effect or what. There is considerable evidence that the sun is warmer. There is evidence that Mars has reduced ice caps. It must be nice to know that we are so powerful that using less light and driving less will affect the sun and Mars. Like I said, godlike.

Republicans – you didn’t think you would get off free, did you? Now I’ll agree, most of you guys are relatively harmless. You don’t do much, either. Maybe you take your bribes quietly. The dems are better because they have the press convinced that cold cash is ok & get a pass. Others seem to be happy just chasing pages. Now really, guys, Bill Clinton can get away with it. Ted Kennedy can get away with it. Barney Frank can get away with playing with the boys, but don’t you know that if you are a Republican the press is going to have a field day? On the other hand, some of the Republicans are really dangerous. Particularly the ones that think they are libs. McCain. McCain-Feingold. Not only disasterous but unconstitutional. Not to mention bone-head stupid. That idiot Specter. That moron from Texas that thinks losing a war is cool. George Bush. Now I don’t like Bush. Not for the same reason the libs hate him. I don’t like or want compassionate conservatism that has no backbone and would grant amnesty to 20 million lawbreakers. Nonsense. Looky-here guys. Reagan blew it on immigration, but he was right most other places. While he may be vilified by the press and that hurts your little feelings, it was Reagan Conservatism that put most of you birds in office. That’s what the voters requested. Ya’ll really should be in a circus instead of in Congress. That’s the best bait and switch shuffle I ever did see. You guy are really good. BTW – if the Republicans don’t get a grip we will have lib rule again. And if the country lasts long enough the Republican Party will be replaced by a truly conservative party. Now Republicans, don’t sweat it. When the dems rule for a while they will surrender to Al-Quaeda and you won’t have to worry about being replaced. Why, there just won’t be any more political parties at all.

And goodness, the founding fathers must have really been jerks, imagine, they seemed to think that the Executive branch ran things day-to-day. Really, it seems to be you guys that run the country. Heavens, you hold hearings on everything. You subpoena everything. Never mind that sensitive documents will be leaked by some of your cohorts. You seem to think that the Executive branch can’t hire, fire, or fart without your permission. Like I said, Washington and the rest must have been stupid. And y’all really are godlike. I’m impressed. NOT.


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