Guest Contributor – War Pig – Autumn Memories – Part 3

Wild turkey has a flavor totally unlike domestic turkey. They feed on insects, acorns and other goodies. Just as wild rabbit tastes better, in my opinion that tame rabbit. When mom was laid up in hospital one year before Christmas, I went up to dad’s and cleaned and cooked for him. My own dear wife had passed on by then. I took up three squirrels I had shot and the first meal I made for him was mashed sweet potatoes covered with squirrel gravy. Sauté the squirrels in a cast iron pan in butter until the meat falls from the bones. Then keep cooking it until the butter browned, add the flour and brown the resulting roux, then put in the milk and make gravy. He ate so much I thought he’d choke. Mom had been sick for weeks before her hospitalization so they had been eating mostly carry out or delivery fast food. Dad would only eat so much fast food before he just stopped eating. I also made him some pie crust cookies. He liked it so much we had leftover squirrel gravy and biscuits for the next two breakfasts

 

I made pork tenderloin fried in that cast iron skillet, baked him an apple pie after making the pie filling in the skillet (par cooking the filling means less liquid to ruin the crust). and then as a Christmas present, I bought them one of those spiral-sliced honey hams. I took most of the meat off it and we had ham for breakfast most mornings, and I froze a lot. Then I took the bone and the meat off the bone and put it in a pot of beans and put it in the oven for 6 hours on low. Hot damn, was it good. Made cornbread to go with it. When mom came home and was able to take over her own household again dad tried to get me to stay a little longer and cook. Mom was a great cook, but she insisted dad needed healthy food at his age. I just fed his belly with what he liked as a child.

Guest Contributor – Jason M – Autumn Memories – Part 2

Late every summer the entire extended family would get together. I mean the “very extended” family. Both my grandfather’s and grandmother’s families and their children and grandchildren. The men would seine the pond in the cow pasture behind the house I grew up in. All the bigger fish they caught would be cleaned and fried that same day for a giant fish fry. My grandmother made the world’s greatest hush puppies and coleslaw to go along with the fish. Come to think of it, I need to see if I can find her hush puppy recipe from one of my aunts. We only had large-mouth bass and little bluegill bream in that pond. I still love bream more than any other fish I’ve had.

This past summer I took my boys to Walmart and got them both fishing rods. Then I pulled my old rods out of my parent’s building and got the reels working again (they hadn’t been touched for 20+ years), and showed my boys where to look for worms. I took them to that same pond and taught them how to fish. We caught several decent sized bream and a couple small bass that first evening. It was enough to take home, clean and fry so my boys (and my wife and daughter, too) could get an idea of how good “real” food can be.

A few days later I managed to land a bass that topped 6 pounds. I got her off the hook cleanly and let her go back in the pond. Maybe one of us will hook her again someday.

I’m trying to give my kids memories like mine. I took my older boy squirrel hunting with my dad last fall. I’m looking forward to more of that this year. Squirrel hunting was one of my favorite pastimes growing up. My best friend and I spent countless hours out in the woods with our little .22 caliber rifles. Would you believe that squirrel tastes like chicken?

By now, the squirrel population behind my parents’ house has recovered nicely. I’m talking to my wife about getting my older boy a rifle for his 13th birthday in a month. Hopefully I can pass along that love of hunting and fishing to him. So far, he’s truly enjoyed it, and I’m encouraged by that. He might just be a better shot than me soon. While I’ll hate to admit it when he finally is, inside I’ll secretly be elated by it. Now to start working on his little brother…

My grandfather used to complain about Canada Geese. I’ve never had it, but apparently it was not uncommon as a Thanksgiving meal a couple generations ago. Grandad told me that the problem with them was that you had to soak them for hours before you cooked them because they ate so many of the wild onions that grew around here the meat tasted too much like onion. He said it smelled bad when you cooked it…to the point that you had to leave the house. He could exaggerate at times though, so I don’t know exactly how serious he was.

 

Several years ago, those same wild onions came up in a conversation I had with my dad. I was asking about milk cows and how many cows a family of 5 would need. Despite growing up with cows on the farm I had no idea because grandad raised beef cattle when I was growing up.

My dad, on the other hand, grew up milking cows. He told me that their family of 6 had so much milk from two cows that they threw half of it out every day. They had enough for milk for all its various milky uses and even enough cream for my grandmother to churn her own butter. I asked him why they threw away half of it and he told me it was because of the wild onions! Of course, that made no sense to me and further questioning revealed the rest of the story: they threw out the evening milk because the cows would be grazing in the pasture all day and the onions made the milk taste bad, so they threw it out. They only kept the milk from the morning because the cows were in the barn all night munching on sweet hay and the morning milk tasted good. I still haven’t decided if a couple milk cows are in our future or not though.

Guest Contributor – War Pig – Autumn Memories – Part 2

There’s nothing like a home smoked ham, is there? Uncle Dana liked his bacon. Autumn also meant that Grandma opened up the first of the bread and butter pickles she had put up the year before. Absolutely delicious. She always allowed them to sit a year in the dark root cellar before she served them to let the flavors mingle. Autumn was also the season for putting up apples and pears in jars. You make simple syrup and leave it plain, or add cinnamon or mint (makes the jars ruby red or emerald green). They have to sit for at least a year. Grandma (and my mom) also made jars of pie filling. Apple, peach, apricot, mixed berries. strawberries with rhubarb, pumpkin and sweet potato. That way you had filling ready for making pies after they were in season. Both my grandfathers were partial to grilled tenderloin or fish tail sandwiches and autumn was the time to eat them as the tenderloin was fresh from the hog slaughter. Us boys would make a weekend trip to Lake Erie and catch a mess of perch and walleye and we’d have a big family fish fry. The catfish we had was locally caught. Perch, walleye, catfish and crappie were the staples. If we were lucky the white bass would run in the local creek and we could bag a mess of them, too.

Fresh game was good, Rabbits, pheasant, quail, grouse, duck, Canada geese and deer. Me and my brother still make our own venison summer sausage.

Aye, we had good times, didn’t we?

Guest Contributor – War Pig – Autumn Memories

My favorite time of the year is Autumn. The summer temperatures moderate, there are usually fewer storms and rains, the air gets crisp, apples are harvested and cider pressed. The light is flat and the colors of the trees are amazing. Falling leaves are a pain to rake but they are also fun to run through, making ‘whoosh’ noises as you run. They also show up little dust devils, tiny cyclones a few feet tall as they whirl and crackle in the miniature tornadoes. We’d see them and run through them to feel the whirl of wind and the leaves. The nights get longer. It’s harvest time on the farms and I helped my paternal grandparents on their farm. Corn and soybeans were picked and put in gravity bed wagons, then hauled off to the local grain mill. The proprietor was a large man, some six feet six and at least 400 pounds. Every trip we made to the mill, he gave me a candy bar and a cold soda. If we made six trips, I got six candy bars and six sodas. I was rail thin back then with growth and constant exercise so they never bothered me.

My favorite month of the year was October. Not just for Halloween, but in general it’s moderate in wind and rain. The almanac says October usually has 19 fine days and I believe it. Football season on Saturdays and Sundays. Some days you wake up to frost in October. One year there was snow in October. It melted off the next day but there was a skiff of snow on the ground.

Another thing that happened in the late summer and autumn was we would find radiosondes on the farm released by the National Weather Service. They were instrument kits sent aloft on balloons for atmospheric readings. They also had a parachute attached. When the balloon burst at altitude, they floated back down on the parachute. The instrument kit has a paper box you unfolded, put the instrument in it and sent it back, free to the Weather Service. You put on a note where it was found and when. We used to find three or four a month in autumn due to the wind patterns. We were allowed to keep the parachutes and us kids had a ball with them. We’d tie one around our waist and see how fast we could run with the chute dragging behind holding air. Or we’d tie various objects to them and go up in the hay loft of the barn and drop them to see how they floated to earth. On really blustery days we flew them like kites but you had to use strong cord as they really caught the wind.

Yes, Autumn is my favorite season, and October my favorite month. The scents of autumn. The smell of leaves, of fires in fireplaces, of smoking meats. It brings me back to my teen years. Hard work in the fields getting the harvest in then plowing and preparing for next year, or planting winter wheat.

A couple of other things happened in Autumn. Uncle Wink grew tobacco. It was harvested and put in special barns to dry. Sometimes in October or November, the weather was just perfect. The dried tobacco was too brittle to move as it would crumble. But in a certain weather, foggy, cool it was time to move the tobacco to the burly. The leaves regained their flexibility. The whole family descended on Wink’s farm and any boy strong enough was put to moving tobacco bundles (50 pounds or more apiece) from their drying poles. The smaller children and the women cooked for us all. I can still smell the tobacco from those days.

 

The other thing that happened was the hog slaughter and butchering. Again, at Uncle Wink’s farm. Every family in the larger family bought a hog or two as a feeder pig. Wink raised them and we all chipped in for feed and such. Wink and his sons, doing the labor raising the hogs, got their hog for free. On a Saturday when it was crisp and cool, we all arrived at Wink’s. The hogs were rounded up and they were slaughtered and butchered all in one weekend. They were killed, had their throats slit, bled, then were opened up and cleaned, washed then scalded and scraped. They were skinned and cut up and wrapped and put in Wink’s ice house or went into his large smokehouse. Each family’s packages marked with their symbol. In a monstrous copper pot, the cracklings were made over an open fire. Everyone got their share of cracklings. At first me and my brother could only skim the cracklings out of the pot or keep the fires in the smokehouse going with lots of smoke. Later we were set to grind sausage. Between two kegs of nails a board sat and on that board was a two-handed manual grinder. One of us would stuff fresh pork into the grinder along with the correct amount of sage for each family. Ours had a lot of sage in it as dad liked it that way. The other would grind using the handles. We converted a #5 tub of meat into sausage. When one of us had their arms give out, the other cranked and the first grinder stuffed and seasoned. We took turns grinding all day except for meals. I’d like to know how many tons of sausage we ground over the years. I can still taste those hickory smoked hams we got out of it. Can’t find anything like that now.

We both had amazingly strong arms due to the sausage grinding and we won several arm-wrestling bouts at school. A few bullies got their comeuppance when they picked on the wrong, skinny kids with the stout arms.

A Hot Dog Program – A Movie Review

This is not a typical movie review because this is not a typical movie.  And even more unusual, this is a PBS production, which normally would repel me as wolfsbane does Dracula.  But not this time.  This movie is a celebration of one of the great American institutions, the hot dog.

A guy named Rick Sebak from Pittsburgh makes documentaries about Americana and this particular one travels around the United States looking at the multitude of ways that people make and enjoy hot dogs.  Of course, he goes to Coney Island, in Brooklyn, New York to discuss the reputed birthplace of the hot dog and while there he highlights the Fourth of July hot dog eating contest at Nathan’s, a truly disgusting spectacle.  Then he visits several hot dog lovers in Manhattan who try to pick between their favorite hot dog and papaya juice restaurants.  From there he goes to Chicago and listens to the Windy City residents declare their variety of hot dog to be the adult version of this American food.  And afterwards he brings us to Georgia, the Carolinas, Ohio, New Jersey and even Alaska where reindeer hot dogs are the standard.

Along the way you’ll meet the mom and pop shops and the industrial scale restaurants and the owners, cooks, waiters and customers who swear by the goodness and special character of whichever local variant they enjoy.  They’ll be boiled, roasted, deep fried or encased in a corn dog.  They’ll be covered in relish, sauerkraut, onions, coleslaw, peppers or baked beans.  They’ll be slathered in yellow mustard, brown mustard, ketchup, barbecue sauce or horse radish.  They can be with or without skin and in Las Vegas you can even get one that’s half a pound and sixteen inches long.

This movie was made in 1999 and what struck me was that the people were from all walks of life and all ethnicities but they all agreed that the hot dog was the American food.  Not German American because it was brought here from Frankfurt or even just white Americans.  Every place they went all kinds of people loved the hot dogs and shared space enjoying them.  I was struck that the scene where the hot dogs were being sold at the Cleveland Indians game probably couldn’t get on PBS anymore because they consider the team name racist.

So, this show is a bit of Americana from before the woke movement would declare hot dogs some form of exploitation of everyone involved.  The movie highlighted the manufacturing of hot dogs and almost glories in the mystery meat status of its ingredients and the unappetizing appearance of the meat paste that makes them up.  And the bizarre sight of hot dogs being shot at high speed out of a machine that strips the temporary skins that the dogs wear while being cooked adds to their allure as a product of industrial age melting pot America.

Of course, all those mom and pop shops and even the big restaurants have now been driven out of business by COVID and the rioters.  And the various ethnicities are at each other’s throats.  And the millennials are all vegan and wouldn’t touch a hot dog if they were starving.  But this movie hearkens back to a happier time in America and celebrates the real diversity, hot dog diversity.  It celebrates the local cultures that all can embrace and enhance something as simple and wonderful as the hot dog.  You can probably rent this from a local library that carries PBS videos.  I rented it from Netflix DVD.  I’ll probably buy a DVD just because I like watching it with my kids and grandkids who have enjoyed it over the years when I had an old VHS copy.

Anonymous – Abdul A-Bul-Bul A-Mir

I love a good nonsense poem or song.  I believe that Sons of the Pioneers released a version of this in the 1930s.

 

 

The sons of the Prophet are brave men and bold

And quite unaccustomed to fear

But the bravest by far in the ranks of the Shah

Was Abdul Abulbul Amir

 

If you wanted a man to encourage the van

Or harass the foe from the rear

Storm fort or redoubt, you had only to shout

For Abdul Abulbul Amir

 

Now the heroes were plenty and well known to fame

In the troops that were led by the Czar

And the bravest of these was a man by the name

Of Ivan Skavinsky Skavar

 

He could imitate Irving, play poker and pool,

And strum on the Spanish guitar.

In fact quite the cream of the Muscovite team

Was Ivan Skavisnsky Skavar.

 

One day this bold Russian, he shouldered his gun

And donned his most truculent sneer

Downtown he did go where he trod on the toe

Of Abdul Abulbul Amir

 

“Young man,” quoth Abdul, “Has life grown so dull

That you wish to end your career?

Vile infidel know, you have trod on the toe

Of Abdul Abulbul Amir”

 

“So take your last look at the sunshine and brook

And send your regrets to the Czar

For by this I imply, you are going to die

Count Ivan Skavinsky Skavar”

 

Said Ivan, “My friend, your remarks in the end

Will avail you but little, I fear

For you ne’er will survive to repeat them alive

Mister Abdul Abulbul Amir”

 

Then this bold Mameluke drew his trusty skibouk

With a cry of “Allah Akbar,”

And with murderous intent he ferociously went

For Ivan Skavinsky Skavar

 

They parried and thrust, they side-stepped and cussed

Of blood they spilled a great part

The philologist blokes, who seldom crack jokes

Say that hash was first made on the spot

 

They fought all that night neath the pale yellow moon

The din, it was heard from afar

And huge multitudes came, so great was the fame

Of Abdul and Ivan Skavar

 

As Abdul’s long knife was extracting the life

In fact he was shouting, “Huzzah!”

He felt himself struck by that wily Calmuck

Count Ivan Skavinsky Skavar

 

The Sultan drove by in his red-breasted fly

Expecting the victor to cheer

But he only drew nigh to hear the last sigh

Of Abdul Abulbul Amir

 

Czar Petrovich, too, in his spectacles blue

Sauntered up in his gold-plated car

And arrived just in time to exchange a last line

With Ivan Skavinsky Skavar

 

There’s a tomb rises up where the Blue Danube rolls

And engraved there in characters clear

Is, “Stranger, when passing, oh pray for the soul

Of Abdul Abulbul Amir”

 

A splash in the Black Sea one dark moonless night

Caused ripples to spread wide and far

It was made by a sack fitting close to the back

Of Ivan Skavinsky Skavar

 

A Muscovite maiden her lone vigil keeps

Neath the light of the cold northern star

And the name that she murmurs in vain as she weeps

Is Ivan Skavinsky Skavar

Langdon Smith – Evolution

Can you find a more American poet than a man born in Kentucky and died in Flatbush, Brooklyn who fought in the Indian Wars of the West, served as newspaper reporter in New York City covering the Spanish American War and the James J. Corbett/Bob Fitzsimmons boxing match but still wrote a love poem to his wife about a tadpole and a fish.  If only Camera Girl were so lucky.

Evolution

When you were a tadpole and I was a fish
In the Paleozoic time,
And side by side on the ebbing tide
We sprawled through the ooze and slime,
Or skittered with many a caudal flip
Through the depths of the Cambrian fen,
My heart was rife with the joy of life,
For I loved you even then.

Mindless we lived and mindless we loved
And mindless at last we died;
And deep in the rift of the Caradoc drift
We slumbered side by side.
The world turned on in the lathe of time,
The hot lands heaved amain,
Till we caught our breath from the womb of death
And crept into life again.

We were amphibians, scaled and tailed,
And drab as a dead man’s hand;
We coiled at ease ‘neath the dripping trees
Or trailed through the mud and sand.
Croaking and blind, with our three-clawed feet
Writing a language dumb,
With never a spark in the empty dark
To hint at a life to come.

Yet happy we lived and happy we loved,
And happy we died once more;
Our forms were rolled in the clinging mold
Of a Neocomian shore.
The eons came and the eons fled
And the sleep that wrapped us fast
Was riven away in a newer day
And the night of death was passed.

Then light and swift through the jungle trees
We swung in our airy flights,
Or breathed in the balms of the fronded palms
In the hush of the moonless nights;
And oh! what beautiful years were there
When our hearts clung each to each;
When life was filled and our senses thrilled
In the first faint dawn of speech.

Thus life by life and love by love
We passed through the cycles strange,
And breath by breath and death by death
We followed the chain of change.
Till there came a time in the law of life
When over the nursing sod
The shadows broke and the soul awoke
In a strange, dim dream of God.

I was thewed like an Auroch bull
And tusked like the great cave bear;
And you, my sweet, from head to feet
Were gowned in your glorious hair.
Deep in the gloom of a fireless cave,
When the night fell o’er the plain
And the moon hung red o’er the river bed
We mumbled the bones of the slain.

I flaked a flint to a cutting edge
And shaped it with brutish craft;
I broke a shank from the woodland lank
And fitted it, head and haft;
Than I hid me close to the reedy tarn,
Where the mammoth came to drink;
Through the brawn and bone I drove the stone
And slew him upon the brink.

Loud I howled through the moonlit wastes,
Loud answered our kith and kin;
From west to east to the crimson feast
The clan came tramping in.
O’er joint and gristle and padded hoof
We fought and clawed and tore,
And cheek by jowl with many a growl
We talked the marvel o’er.

I carved that fight on a reindeer bone
With rude and hairy hand;
I pictured his fall on the cavern wall
That men might understand.
For we lived by blood and the right of might
Ere human laws were drawn,
And the age of sin did not begin
Til our brutal tusks were gone.

And that was a million years ago
In a time that no man knows;
Yet here tonight in the mellow light
We sit at Delmonico’s.
Your eyes are deep as the Devon springs,
Your hair is dark as jet,
Your years are few, your life is new,
Your soul untried, and yet —

Our trail is on the Kimmeridge clay
And the scarp of the Purbeck flags;
We have left our bones in the Bagshot stones
And deep in the Coralline crags;
Our love is old, our lives are old,
And death shall come amain;
Should it come today, what man may say
We shall not live again?

God wrought our souls from the Tremadoc beds
And furnish’d them wings to fly;
He sowed our spawn in the world’s dim dawn,
And I know that it shall not die,
Though cities have sprung above the graves
Where the crook-bone men made war
And the ox-wain creaks o’er the buried caves
Where the mummied mammoths are.

Then as we linger at luncheon here
O’er many a dainty dish,
Let us drink anew to the time when you
Were a tadpole and I was a fish.

 

By Langdon Smith (1858-1908)