Featured

The Greatest: Part III

Tom Brady’s seventh Super Bowl win has sparked lots of conversation about the greatest of all time (GOAT). I riffed on that Monday and Tuesday, (click here and here) and thought I’d keep at it today with The Greatest Foods. The most enjoyable part of this process for me has been seeing other people’s lists and then bantering a bit, because these are all just #opinions.

  1. cereal — Corn Flakes
  2. cut of meat — ribeye
  3. nut — pecan
  4. sliced bread — Mrs. Baird’s
  5. fruit — peach
  6. beverage — French pressed Italian roast
  7. sandwich — pimento cheese
  8. dessert — banana pudding
  9. dish in a bowl — chili
  10. fried food — chicken fried steak

Honorable Mentions: Cap’n Crunch, Frosted Mini Wheats, tenderloin, peanut, pistachio, Wonder Bread, watermelon, banana, Topo Chico, Earl Gray, tomato and cheese, Rueben, pecan pie, oatmeal raisin cookies, lobster bisque, pho, fried chicken, fried catfish.

Featured

On COVID-19 Vaccines

I plan on taking the vaccine as soon as I can.

Now, being a healthy middle aged person I don’t expect to get one anytime soon. But when I can, I will. I know that some of you are suspicious of it and I understand those sentiments, so I am not judging you or anyone else. I do not believe in forced vaccinations for COVID-19. I am simply sharing my thought process.

For certain this process of thinking about it is skewed by the fact I’ve been vaccinated several times throughout my life. Indeed, I think it would be accurate to say I was vaccinated half a dozen times before I could read. These vaccines have made me and others healthy and made the world safer to live in. Vaccines have saved untold lives all around the world and nearly eliminated things like measles, mumps, rubella, whooping coffee, tetanus, and polio. Without vaccines, we all would know someone who had died of these diseases, or we would now be dead ourselves.

But that is not the only calculus in my head. I’m also factoring in probabilities. The risk of having a negative effect from a COVID-19 vaccine is much smaller than the risk of getting COVID-19, and it is smaller than the risk of dying from C-19. In that sense, I perceive rolling the dice on a vaccine is really not that big of a gamble.

I also think about the effects of a potential vaccine as compared to other things I’ve done to my body. I snorted a whole package of powdered candy when I was fifteen. I had a headache for a week. That was probably worse for me than a vaccine. For a skin cancer they once gave me a radioactive cream to put on my face. That wasn’t very fun. I’ve had fillings, root canals, and all kinds of metals put into my mouth permanently. And while I’m on the dentist side of things, the X-ray they take of my mouth is probably way more dangerous than a vaccine, as was probably most of the food I ate in college.

Pixy sticks, weather eaten or inhaled, are probably riskier than a COVID-19 shot

Now if I compare the vaccine’s risk to other dangerous endeavors, the risk factor becomes even more mitigated. I have flown thousand and thousands of miles in airplanes, often in bad weather. I have shot firearms and disarmed threatening people of their firearm. I have thrown knives, axes, and stood over open pits leading to the abyss. I have been attacked with weapons at church, robbed on the street in Dallas, not to mention driven cross country a half-a-dozen times. I’ve driven in Los Angeles. I’ve been caught out on the lake when a lightening storm sparks to life. I have handled snakes, trod on scorpions, and watched a bear eat through trash. I swam in a lake that smelled so awful from industrial pollution people held their nose when driving by.

I have wrestled flesh and blood as well as spirits in high places.

I don’t think a vaccine is the most dangerous or risky thing I’ve done. Not even close.

Of course, all of this pales in comparison to the greatest single reason I will take the vaccine as soon as possible. I want life to return to normalcy, and my society needs me to take the vaccine to do it. By immunizing myself I lower the risk for grandparents, heart patients, diabetics, and asthmatics. The vaccine will make church small groups, unfettered seating, and hugging at church a part of life again. By taking the vaccine, I make the possibility of watching the new James Bond movie in a theater a reality and then having a giant bowl of spaghetti in a restaurant afterward a definitely doable event. I make it safe for grocery store workers. I relieve the burden on the health care professionals who are currently stressed to the level of near exhaustion. By doing my small part I make the economy stronger. I make America stronger. I make the world stronger.

I am not asking you to come to the same conclusion I have come to. All I ask is that you operate from a place of reasoned thought and logic rather than fear and misinformation. When I do the work of thinking about it and analyzing the risk and benefits, it is not even a hard choice.

Playing in the Kitchen

Last night I made something new.

Okay, it was actually very old. Very, very old.

I made this recipe I found in Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR), which is my favorite magazine. The recipe comes from Babylonian tablets originating in ancient Mesopotamia. I’m guessing that means the recipe is at least 2,500 years old.

It is pretty simple to make. I cut up the bunch of leaks and sautéed them in olive oil with some fresh chopped garlic — about four cloves. Just for grins, I put some powdered garlic in as well. I let them cook down for about ten minutes, which is longer than the recipe in the magazine suggested, but I found after four minutes my leeks were still a little firm. I put in plenty of pepper and kosher salt.

When they had cooked down a bit, I added the cilantro and let that simmer, then I added four cups of vegetable stock. Twenty minutes of simmer, and I topped it with a generous double handful of sourdough bread cut into tiny pieces.

I serve it to my family, and they all really liked it. It was far tastier than I had envisioned. When I make it in the future, I will add an onion to the leeks when I cook them down. Carrots, I think, would be good in here too. If you want meat, chicken stock would work well, but I can see in my mind beef, making it almost like pho without the noodles.

I found the name of the stew. The Babylonians called it ‘unwinding’ to refer to what the bread does when it hits the soup — expand and get soggy. It is an interesting way to describe the action. This is a good lesson in the way the ancients used words and, how I might better understand the way I apply the word ‘unwind’ to my own actions. I unwind when I release the tension holding everything tight.

Try it, you might like this old Babylonian stew. I will eat it again.

Nina’s Potato Salad

COVID-19 is kicking into a different gear here in Texas. That means people are gonna need some comfort food. One of the greatest comfort foods is old-fashioned potato salad. Here is the recipe for my mother’s potato salad. I have only altered it a bit.


Ingredients

  • 5 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and cut in quarters
  • yellow mustard
  • Miracle Whip (my mother used Hellman’s mayonnaise – this is my one variation)
  • one large purple onion, diced
  • five kosher pickle spears, diced
  • pickle juice
  • six hard boiled eggs, diced
  • salt and pepper to taste

This is a simple dish, but the procedure matters. The hardest part is peeling the potatoes. Boil them in a large pot until they can be easily stuck with a fork. Drain them.

Put the onion in the bottom of the pot you cooked the potatoes in. Then put the potatoes on top of the onion. This little bit of heat blanches the onions a bit which makes the dish savory and keeps the onions from being too crunch.

Mash the potatoes directly into the onions with a potato masher. Don’t work at this too hard. If this is difficult, you didn’t boil your potatoes long enough. Just break them up nicely. When that is finished, add the mustard. I just squirt it all over the top without any measurement. The mustard gives zing, but the main job here is coloring. However yellow you want your potato salad will tell you how much mustard you want. I know I can add more later, so I play this conservatively.

Add one large spoonful of the Miracle Whip. Again, I don’t measure, but this comes to about a quarter of a cup. In my opinion, you really can’t use too much, so don’t fret.

The real magic is the next step — add two tablespoons (I just eyeball it) of pickle juice. You can’t get enough pickles in dish to give it enough pickle flavor. You need the juice. Throw in salt and pepper as you desire. I use kosher salt and fresh ground pepper.

Use a mixer (I have an ancient 5-speed electric hand mixer) to blend all these ingredients up. When they are well balanced, taste it. Now is the time to add more pickle juice, mustard, Miracle Whip, or salt and pepper. Make it the way you like it. After adding what was lacking, mix it a little more until it is thoroughly blended.

Throw in your sliced pickles and eggs and stir them by hand with a large wooden spoon. When finished stirring, lick the spoon!

Some people prefer to eat this hot. Mrs. Greenbean is one of those people. I usually pull out a bowl for her to eat right then. I like it cold, so I make it the day before I want it. On July 4th, I serve potato salad, so July 3rd always finds me in the kitchen. It is the perfect dish for a picnic, a large gathering, potluck, or in these COVID-19 days it makes us feel all good inside. It pairs nicely with barbecue, hot dogs, fried chicken, asparagus or fruit. When coupled with a slice of white bread, it makes for a meal all by itself.