Wednesday, August 29, 2007

What's on the Grill? Acorn Squash (and the usual)

I know what I like and I like what I know...

Since last night's grilling included for the most part nothing new and interesting, I wouldn't even have bothered posting this installment of my grilling escapades except that I do get to write about two of my favorite things: painfully hilarious injury to myself, and a new food item for the fam.

Since I really only have two nights a week that I can grill for everyone, I find myself getting a little less adventurous and a little more conservative in my grilling. I keep going back to one thing I know I like, and that the whole family also likes, and that's grilled taco night. So once again I marinated a bunch of shrimp and thin-cut sirloin and tossed it on the grill. I also wrapped half the shrimp in bacon. Nothing smells quite as good to me as shrimp in any sort of peppery-marinade while it sizzles on the grill. It's an amazing smell that instantly makes my mouth water, and the bacon added a wonderful kick to the smell, too. I really wish I had one of those new Smell-O-Vision cameras from Olympus. Instead, I've signed up for a new Blooger Pro account, which enables the cutting edge scratch-and-sniff technology for your monitor. Simply scratch the image below, and you'll smell what I mean:

(Did you really scratch? Yeah, you're an idiot.)

Idiot or not, you didn't read this far along to read about something I make all the time... you are waiting for the personal injury part, right? Some years ago I remember someone telling me not to use olive oil to oil my grill because it sometimes left a sticky, nasty residue. I always use vegetable oil, and I did again last night; however, there was almost a quarter cup or so of olive oil in the marinade I used for the steak. I made the steak first, because I learned a couple months ago that bacon grease fires can quickly burn any food left on the grill. After I took the steak off, I noticed there was a considerable amount of burnt charred goo on the grill, and I wanted to scrub it off before throwing the shrimp and squash on. I cranked the grill up and let it run at about 500 degrees for four or five minutes, saw that all the charred goo looked good and crispy, and grabbed the grill brush to scrub the goo away.

I'm not sure if "molten olive oil googlob" is the correct term or not, but when it landed on the top of my flip-flop laden left foot, the pain was horrible. I have pretty strict personal rules about wearing appropriate footwear at appropriate times. I never mow, weedwack, dig, or chop anything in gymshoes, always leather boots. I guess I'm going to have to start wearing sturdy foot protection when I'm grilling, too. Knowing how much Mike likes feet, I had to add this shot in:

(Oh, the reason it looks more like a cut than a burn is because I sliced my foot with the tongs as I was wacking the burning googlob off my foot)

On to the squash. I took several pictures of the squash on the grill, but it really wasn't that interesting. Picture a softball wrapped in aluminium (Zoe: I said that out loud just now, and pronounced it correctly just for you.) foil and you'll have the idea. The squash was cut in half, seeded, then filled with butter, brown sugar, and a half slice of bacon. The end result was fantastic, although not overly-popular with the kids:

Again, not exactly anything earth-shattering on the culinary front; but truth be told, I'm really not that good on the grill; most of what my friends think are things I make well are just ideas I stole from Mike (and then re-created poorly.) But what matter is, I know what I like, and I like what I know ... and I like grilled tacos!

(Did you click the link thinking that there really was a smell-o-vision camera? Be honest, I won't call you an idiot for that one...)

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Let's put something to rest, could we?

Perhaps it's at least partially fueled by Mike Ness screaming over my PC speakers as I'm drinking a beer and trying to think of what it was I had sat down to write, but I suddenly find myself inexplicably angry over something that I must get off my chest...

The freakin' daddy long legs is not the most venomous spider in the world!!!

I've been quietly listening to people spout this BS for years, and I've had enough! No one is impressed by your pseudo-knowledge. First of all, a true daddy long legs isn't even a freakin' spider, for pete's sake! It's called an opilione, and it has no venom at all. Cellar spiders, which are actually spiders and which are also sometimes called Daddy Long Legs, do have venom (as all spiders do according to most spider-ologists) but it's never been known to harm a human at all.

I may regret having written this: for years I've used the "Daddy Long Legs Litmus Test" as I call it to silently screen the likely idiots from people less likely to be idiots. If the word gets out, I'm gonna have to find a new litmus test....

Ahh... Ness is now screaming, "Ignorance like a gun in hand, reach out to the promised land." Seems an appropriate place to end.


(Oh shutup already ... I know they aren't called "spider-ologists", the word is arachnologist. Sheesh...)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Things I heard on the trail...

I finally got around to taking the boys backpacking down in RRG for a couple of days. Other than getting downpoured on for the entire second day on the trail, we had a wonderful time. It's always interesting to see any of my kids in a new experience... first morning at a new school, first day behind the wheel of a car... it's always interesting to see how they react to new experiences. I had two full days to watch the boys react to the somewhat disorienting feeling of being tossed into the wilderness without any comforts they were accustomed to. One thing kids seem to be particularly good at, and at which all three of mine excel at, is summing up life's little issues with a sometimes amazing amount of clarity. Here are some of the things I heard on our short trip, several captioned to an appropriately corresponding photograph:

Nathan: "I like backpacking, except for the walking... and the carrying the pack."

Zach: "If Nathan fell from there, he'd die..."

Zach: "DMQ is stupid."

Nathan: "I'm too tired to pee..."

Zach: "The best thing about backpacking is the food... but I wouldn't like this stuff at home."

Nathan: (referring to his cat-hole) "You can't get away with this at home!"

Zach: "River water is better than home-water!"

Nathan: "...same thing dad does at home..."

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

What's on the Grill? Frybread

Well, actually the frybread was in the fryer... the grill had pepper-lime shrimp and thin-sliced steak for tacos...

The night started in response to Mike posting pictures of his yummy grilled taco meat the other day... ever since then I've had an urge to grill up some more tacos. As usual, I tossed some shrimp on ...

Just before the shrimp went on, my mom called and as we were talking, she told me my aunt Gigi was headed to Mom & Dad's for a visit. When I was a kid, we went to Gigi's house once and she made this wonderful cross between a pita, a tortilla, and sopapilla bread she called Indian Fry Bread. A few years later I ran into it again, and this time a NPS Ranger giving a tour of some indian ruins referred to it as "Indian Fry Bread, or what was once called Indian Chew Bread." This ranger's tale was that the indian mamma used to mix the bread by chewing the flour and water, then would spit the bread into a pan containing boiling suet, to make the bread. I always thought that perhaps the ranger was full of it, a thought that was somewhat solidified by this.

Anyway, I had a bag of fry-bread mix in the freezer, and yanked it out. I fried it in peanut oil instead of saliva and raw beef fat. The results were better than I remembered:

The fry bread makes a perfect container for any sort of taco-related dish... and the kids devoured it.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

I'm no farmer...

For some reason, every year I feel the need to plant a garden. I have a small, ten foot by three foot garden in the corner of my yard, and I always have to plant something in it. I can't explain why, I can't explain what I get out of it... I just have to do it. Perhaps it is the DNA of my farming family peeking it's head out every spring, but I always feel like I need my veggie garden.

This would be a normal gardening-type of blog entry except for one thing... I'm not one of those dedicated gardeners who toils all summer in his garden in order to enjoy the vegetables of his labor come harvest time. I'm what you might call a "plant it and forget it gardener." Sometime around mother's day (because someone told me that mother's day was a good time to plant things) I spend a day or two getting the garden ready and then dropping a few plants in the dirt. For that first few days I'll water the plants to make sure they took hold. Then I check back somewhere around August to see what the garden looks like. No pruning, fertilizing, pesticiding, weeding, or any of that silliness... I just drop it in the ground and come back a few months later to see if I had any luck.

You've heard that even a stopped clock is right twice a day, right? Well, this year I planted two kinds of hot pepper plants, one little tomato plant, a cucumber vine, and some lettuce. When I came back from a few weeks of vacation, I peeked in the back yard and saw that the little bitty tomato plant and the cucumber vines had teamed up to turn into something not unlike the plant in The Little Shop of Horrors. The lettuce had been completely consumed and the pepper plants were being choked out. I jumped into action and hacked some of the foliage away from my pepper plants, trying to save them... the pepper plants are always my favorite.

After, as I was picking some of the killer tomatoes, I looked up and saw something amazing hanging from the cucumber vine wrapped around the makeshift fence protecting the garden from the dogs... I spotted THIS:

Now I'm no farmer, but that's one bigass cucumber, isn't it?

Ladies, let the bidding begin...

Well, a few weeks later, I've picked a peck or two of peppers and tomatoes and my first big harvest of chilies is in the dehydrator now...

Ahhh... the smell of those wonderfully hot little boogers as it permeated the house over the last two days of dehydrating makes it worth all the hard work I didn't do.

Siege Camping

Over a year ago, I wrote of the differences I noted between the sort of camping I have loved most (backpacking or mountaineering), and what I called "car camping."

In the third week of July I was re-introduced to something I had totally forgotten, and which I quickly dubbed siege camping. It was a strange sort of a combination of "returning to my roots" while yet clashing with "everything I know and love about the outdoors." I went to Woodland Trails with my son's Boyscout Troop. As an Eagle Scout myself, I'm hardly a newcomer to "The Boyscout Way"... but since the majority of my outdoor experience occurred after my time in scouting, I apparently had forgotten just how "camping" works for a Boyscout Troop.

I told the Scoutmaster I would be there Monday morning by about 9:00 a.m. True to my word, I packed my Mountainsmith Backpack the night before, containing everything I thought I might need to survive for a fortnight or so, and arrived at the GRC campsite in Woodland Trails the next morning to find THIS:

(Yes, that object in the foreground appears to be a folding cot stolen from a Holiday Inn somewhere around 1972.) Since the first shot misses it, there are four... count them FOUR complete "camp kitchens" under the shelter:

Compare that to my usual camp kitchen, and you'll see why I was somewhat confused upon my arrival at camp...

Needless to say, I had to do a little adjusting... I was suddenly in a place that was more like being in the city than it was "camping" ... with the exception being that the kids smelled worse. The feeling of being at home was even more exaggerated by something that (I think) is completely new to scouting since my departure somewhere around the age of nineteen: MOTHERS coming along on scout camp-outs and scoutcamps. Don't get me wrong: I think mothers are the greatest... my own mom is a saint and my wife is the most wonderful person I know.

That said... mothers don't belong in BOYscouts. Go ahead and call me "sexist" or "old fashioned" or just plain old, "asshole." (You won't be the first) but Boyscouts is about making boys into men... and moms can't do that. Nothing can screw up a boys development into a strong, independent man like a woman shrieking at the top of her lungs for him to "Put that stick down before you hurt someone!"

I understand, lady... you made a bad choice in who was to be the father of your child: he skipped town or died of a drug overdose... you feel like your son needs something else in his life, so you shove him into scouts. Fine... you think to yourself, "Boyscouts will fix my screwed up kid." Although I have my own issues with your motives, I accept your son as he is ... now GO AWAY. Leave. Drop his little screwed-up ass in the woods and let MEN fix him. Shrieking women don't make boys into men... MEN do.

There was a calendar of who had KP when... a list of things that needed done... a schedule of who had what merit badges classes when. Was I in school or in the woods? I couldn't just dig a hole 300 feet from the nearest water source or trail and poop in it, I had to go poop in a nasty, filthy outhouse. Moms screamed at kids to take showers so that "you won't get diseases," even though I know that I have gone up to 21 days on an expedition without a shower and lived just fine. (Kids came back smelling like Zest and getting eaten by mosquitoes...) and moms yelled at kids to put more chemicals (DEET) on their skin to scare the skeeters away. My favorite mom kept insisting that we all spread Bounce sheets around our tent and the picnic shelter to scare the crawly things away... note to mommy: It doesn't work, and MEN aren't scared of little bugs.

So anyway... for one week the boyscouts and their shrieking mothers basically beat this campsite into submission, as opposed to the quiet serenity I had become accustomed to since growing out of scouting almost twenty years ago, but the sum of the parts is good...

Even with the things about scouting that I found myself bewildered by and turned off by, two things kept coming to mind: First, the words of one of the scoutmasters kept floating into my head. He said, "My goal is that I could drop any one of you anywhere in the world and you would be able to survive." Think about that for a second... really think. Your first thoughts were probably of Bear Grills or Survivorman on the Discovery Channel; but the scoutmaster didn't say that, did he? He said anywhere in the world. A ghetto in New York City. Raton, New Mexico. The middle of the Rocky Mountains. A third world island country. Anywhere. It's an awesome and lofty goal, isn't it? But this man meant it, and I have no doubt that he has and will contribute to many, many boys being able to survive anywhere that they find themselves in life.

Secondly, I remember the words of my own scoutmaster, Tom Whitten, as he was handing me a Senior Patrol Leader patch: "Scouting is about boys to leading boys." As I watched during my days at Woodland Trails last month, I could see the cream rising to the top. Leaders were being made.

Monday, August 06, 2007


For several reasons, I seem to have taken a sort of blootered hiatus. (and, knowing the meaning of the term blootered it seems a very appropriate term.)

My excuses for not writing (in the order of occurrence, not necessarily importance.):

1. Moblogging and Incipient Cerebrations made me lazy.
2. I went on vacation in early July and didn't have a good Internet connection most of that time.
3. I was home for a couple days, then left to go to Woodland Trails Scout Reservation for Boyscout summer camp.
4. One of my two best friends in the world (um, the male one) moved in with us for a week or so.
5. I've been busier than in a long time: between work, yard work, and bier, there was hardly any time to write.

That said, there have been many times in the last month that I've thought... "I should blog that!" So over the next couple of days, I'll try and catch up a little bit... starting with my next entry about a different sort of camping experience...