Sunday, December 21, 2014

BOUDIN SAUSAGE

My son and daughter-in-law are hosting Christmas this year and Laurie decided she wanted to do a Cajun Christmas for a change. I decided to make boudin sausage (pronounced bow-dan) and gumbo. I asked her to come  over to help me make boudin,  a sausage I fell in love with when Jim and I spent time in Cajun country in southern Louisiana. Our first encounter was at Fred’s Lounge in Mamou, a tavern that is only open on Sundays. We got there early, at 7:30 because there are very few seats. The band starts about 9:00 and plays non-stop until five. The band doesn’t take breaks, they are on radio while playing and one member at a time gets up to have bite to eat or use the bathroom. A couple came in with a paper bag of boudin and another of chitlins to share.  So, at 7:30 in the morning, we ate boudin for breakfast. Man, that stuff is good.
In Calvin Trillin’s words:

“I figure that about 80 percent of the boudin purchased in Louisiana is consumed before the purchaser has left the parking lot, and most of the rest is polished off in the car. In other words, Cajun boudin not only doesn’t get outside the state; it usually doesn’t even get home.”

– Calvin Trillin, from his essay, “The Missing Links: In Praise of the Cajun Foodstuff That Doesn’t Get Around.”

I was given a cookbook, MaBee, What Ya Cooking?  by Janet Theriot in 2010. She had a recipe for boudin.  Her cookbook is homestyle cooking with not exactly precise measurements as in:  “One Boston butt pork roast or hogs head, salt , red and black pepper, 1 cup chopped parsley, 1 cup of chopped green onions and about 5 cups of rice. Cut roast in big chuncks and cover with water and boil until really tender.

I decided to look on-line and get more precise directions and we came up with a recipe for 6 lbs of meat to 21 cups of rice, basically three batches, with the onions and parsley and a number of spices and went to work.
The first batch, we kept tasting and tasting. To heck with the casings, Laurie, Ken,  the boys and I, ate the first batch for dinner with a salad. We put the steaks Ken was going to barbeque back in the fridge. The stuff is scrumptious.

It is a job that dirties every dish in the cupboard, but worth the work. We didn’t have a sausage stuffer and used a pastry tube to load the casings by hand.
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They are variable sizes and uneven looking, and we didn’t actually taste one of sausages since we ate the first batch.
I was a bit daunted by cooking 21 cups of rice, but it is easy in a roasting pan in the oven and turned out just perfect. Now, the rest of the story. Laurie ground both batches of meat and I put in one batch of seven cups of rice. One of those easy miss-steps with two cooks in the kitchen. I have no doubt it will taste good with half the rice. It may be a bit spicier. I’ll let you know.

In the meantime, I wanted to find the origin of boudin so I looked it up on-line. Historian Bob Carriker puts it like this:

The French eat a sausage called “boudin blanc” (white boudin) which is similar to Cajun boudin almost solely through its nomenclature; for French boudin blanc is a highly perishable sausage made with pork, chicken, and/or veal mixed with milk, cognac, and spices. …its flavor bears no resemblance to the link you will sink your teeth into in Louisiana. When the French Acadians (today’s Cajuns) made their way out of Nova Scotia, after having been expelled by the British in 1755, they adapted their traditions and culture to their new surroundings. So, when they set out to make use of a freshly butchered hog, it wouldn’t have been such a stretch for them to mix the pork scraps with the seasonings at hand, push it into the hog’s intestines and call it what they had always called such a sausage: boudin. . Later, once large-scale rice production began in Louisiana at the end of the nineteenth century, cooks added rice to boudin for filler and flavor. Today in places like St. Martinville, at La Grande Boucherie des Cajuns (a communal hog butchering) held the Sunday before Mardi Gras, the age old practice of making boudin is embraced and the custom and community spirit continues to be passed from one generation to the next.

I am so glad to have discovered this special treat and thankful to have MaBee’s cookbook. I’ll be using her ettouffee recipe and a real original called shrimp puppies. I can hardly wait.  You can read more about boudin and find out where to order boudin on this web page.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

HEALTHY RESEARCH GROUP

I get a newsletter from The Health Research Group put out by the respected non-profit group, Public Citizen. Their newsletter is called Worst Pills, Best Pills News and you can look them up online at www.worstpills.org.

In the most recent issue, Director Dr. Michael Carome talked about the Physician Payments Sunshine Act that is part of the Affordable Care Act commonly referred to as Obamacare. It was done in 2010 but finally went into effect in 2014.

So, we are nearing the end of 2014 and the companies manufacturing drugs and medical devices are mandated to report to the federal government payments and gifts to physicians and teaching hospitals. The law also mandates that the companies, physicians and hospitals involved be made public.

On September 30th, Medicare, which implements the act, released the first batch of data. The payments totaled an astounding 3.5 BILLION dollars. Another 1.1 billion was not disclosed for various reasons permitted under the sunshine act.

The breakdown for payments was $1.5 billion for research. (I have to ask, can research on a new drug be unbiased when paid for by a drug company? We've heard some pretty shady stories about that kind of buddy, buddy approach.)

$1 billion for gifts of stock. (That is bribery in my opinion. Same as cash.)

$380 million for speaking and consulting fees; (I Expect the speaker favors the drug company and again, sounds like bribery to me. How cozy.)

$302 million for royalties and licenses; (Don't know what that entails.)

$167 million for travel, food  and lodging and $128 million for other things.

(I was under the impression that travel and food and lodging stuff was off the table. Nope, that is only for senators and politicians. The Doctors and hospitals are still being sweetened.)

And, another 128 million for other purposes undefined?  (I'm guessing, those little trinkets like advertising carry bags, small, soft ice chests,  packets of golf tees, pens, drug and device samples etc. like those I recently saw at a health fair. They are intended to influence we consumers.)

I've never in my life been so cynical. Now I find it is imperative to be cynical in this corporate, greed dominated climate.

Dr. Carome summarizes with these words:
"While some of these payments may seem appropriate-such as those related to the conduct of industry-funded clinical trials-the majority of them have a corrupting influence on the practice of medicine. Financial relationships between physicians and industry influence the opinions and recommendations of health care providers in a variety of settings, including during the delivery of medical care; during Food and Drug Administration advisory committee meetings and deliberations of expert panels that develop clinical practice guidelines. Indeed, that is why so many payments and gifts go to physicians is to influence their prescribing practices.
The bottom line financial interests of these companies are not with the best interests of patients."

I know for a fact I've been over prescribed drugs I didn't need. For several years I had a holistic Doctor who took me off of everything I was taking. I wish he was still in the area. My current doctor always chooses generic drugs and Worst Pills Best Pills gives you the lowdown on drugs even your doctor does not know the truth about. So, if you are concerned, look them up.

As Jim always says, "Sometimes the truth ain't pretty."

Sunday, December 14, 2014

JINXED?

In yesterday’s blog, I addressed problems we’ve had with our building project. I was euphoric that I found a guy who agreed to come out and put up that roof with one day’s notice.

A terrific guy. He went out on Friday and looked at the job, talked to Doug and told me he was impressed with Doug and his work and he agreed to do it.

Then, after the double felting was in place, they began on the ridge shingles. Whoops! It seems the company didn’t deliver ridge shingles. So, Doug laboriously cut shingles by hand to fit until the long ridges on both sides were done. Then the roofer went to work on the fast part of the job, just nailing them up row by row.

“Hey Doug, how come half these shingles are brown and half are gray?”

Not only did the company not deliver ridges, they sent half the shingles the wrong color. Shingles are heavy and are loaded by crane directly on the roof. Unfortunately, Doug had to hand carry them down the ladder, haul back to the company, get the proper color and then hand carry them up the ladder as fast as he could to keep the roofer nailing.
I do not exaggerate when I say not one time has an order, or job segment gone correctly, without a snafu. We decided we are jinxed.

For instance, during the foundation, the guy who was helping Doug finish the cement, got tired and walked off the job.

 Our roofer stayed and soldiered on. They were still putting up shingles in the dark. I am every grateful to a stand-up guy. Doug told me it will be a looooong time before he can look back at this job and laugh.

I enjoyed my four years there with my companion at the time, and it was never the same after he died,  which is why I started renting it. I like rural living and I love my year around stream. So, I’m hoping for better times ahead on Evans Creek.

Today, I’m preparing paperwork for my eye surgery on December 30th. Doesn’t look like I’ll be celebrating the New Year with anything but the television set this year.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

MEET THE DRAGON AND AN UPDATE.

December 13, 2014

My son is an excellent builder with vast experience, so it was a natural to have him build my house in Oregon. We got a late start in September with hold-ups from the building department, including mis-filed paperwork, lost paperwork, demands for tests that were not required-not exactly an efficient system. The delays put us in the rainy season.  And, now that the building is in progress, the rain makes things difficult and slows down everything. There are days when I’m hanging on-line or hanging next to the phone. Our roofer, expected to arrive yesterday, had to bail. Hours of phone calls, I got another roofer and it will be finished today, one of two clear days.The plumber comes in on the 20th.
So, I’m still necessarily absent from this blog a lot, but here is a progress report:
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The foundation was set in late September.
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The West end of the building. It is under 1,000 square feet. But the gutters are on, the rooftop is up, papered and ready for shingles.
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The East end of the building. It was necessary to design a small building, long and narrow, in the same shape as the mobile that was destroyed by an inside flood. We learned the cause during the take down. A tenant had hot wired the electrical and when he left, a pipe inside froze, and the well, still hooked up to the electricity, kept pumping water into the place.
My property has a river running though it and it has flooded twice since 2001. Not at the building site which is considered part of the 100 year flood plain. (I learned a lot about flood plains.)  So, my building site was restricted to the same area where the mobile was. Doug has built it as a one man project. The subs are roof, electric and plumbing.
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The north side of the house faces the road. the window openings are covered with plastic to keep out the rain.
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I did a walk through with the plumber and electrician before Thanksgiving. The windows are now in, the showers/tub, arrived on Thursday after a long wait. I’ve designed this efficient little house to be wheelchair accessible with handicapped bathrooms. Now that these special units are inside the framed building, the sliding glass door can be set in.
My Oregon neighbors tell me it looks great with the siding on and the windows in.  Doug didn’t expect to have to stay in a 5th wheel so long without a break to come home, but he is dedicated to the job and will stay until the plumber and electrician are finished. He didn’t make it home for Thanksgiving. But he will make it home for Christmas.
The fifth wheel he has been living in, the bathroom is so small he can’t use it, he has a porta potty on the job. He is unable to shave in the mirror because his arms hit the walls and he can’t get to his face.  Not a good choice on the 5th wheel, but it does give shelter and laughter.
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Now, meet the dragon. When I first began traveling back and forth between Murphys and my place in Oregon, I enjoyed a roadside sculpture of a bull. Not to be outdone, another rancher set up this marvelous dragon to entertain we passersby. He doesn’t fit well in a single photo. He must be 25 feet long.
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The other joy is majestic scenery. Mt. Shasta is visible in the distance, but she was obscured by clouds when I was at the optimum place to take a photo on this trip.
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A handsome devil, wouldn’t you agree?  My next trip up, early January, hopefully, I’m going to attempt to photograph the bull up close. Hmm!  With those eyelashes, he might be a she.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

THE MAGIC BANK ACCOUNT

I’ve been absent this page for weeks and I’m still engaged in time consuming commitments. Much of it has to do with the building project in Oregon and some time out for friends and appointments, and downsizing here at home, before heading back on the road with Jim. Downsizing my email was also on the list. I’ve got at least three months of emails unanswered or waiting to be deleted. Aha! Light at the end of the tunnel. I ran across this email that I received from a friend and thought it worth blogging.

It is called The Magic Bank Account:
The author is unknown. It was found in the billfold of Coach Paul Bear Bryant, Alabama after he died in 1982.
Imagine, a magic bank account that you had won; the prize in a contest:  Each morning, your bank would deposit $86,400 in your private account for your use. However, this prize has a set of rules:

#1. Everything that you didn’t spend during each day would be taken away from you.
#2. You may not simply transfer money into another account.
#3. You may only spend it.
#4. Each morning upon awakening, the bank opens your account with another $86,400 for that day.
#5. The bank can end the game at any time and say “game over”. It can close the account without warning and you will not receive a new one.

What would YOU personally do?  You would buy anything and everything you wanted, right?
Not only for yourself, but for all the people you
love and care for. Even for people you don’t know, because you couldn’t
possibly spend it all on yourself, right?
You would try to spend every
penny, and use it all, because you knew it would be replenished in the morning, right?

ACTUALLY, This GAME is REAL
Shocked ???
YES!
Each of us is already a winner
of this *PRIZE*. We just can’t seem to see it.
The PRIZE is
*TIME*

1. Each morning we awaken to
receive 86,400 seconds as a gift of life.
2. And when we go to sleep at
night, any remaining time is Not credited to us.
3. What we haven’t used up that
day is forever lost.
4. Yesterday is forever
gone.
5. Each morning the account is
refilled, but the bank can dissolve your account at any time WITHOUT WARNING…
SO, what will YOU do with your
86,400 seconds?
 Those seconds are worth so much
more than the same amount in dollars.  Think about it and remember to
enjoy every second of your life, because time races by so much quicker than
you think.
“DON’T COMPLAIN
ABOUT GROWING OLD.
SOME PEOPLE DON’T GET THE
PRIVILEGE!”
GOTTA GO. HOPE YOU ENJOYED THIS ADVICE AS MUCH AS I DID.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

HAPPY THANKSGIVING AND MEET CJ


A THANKSGIVING POEM.

'Twas the night of Thanksgiving, I just couldn’t
Sleep. I tried counting backwards,
I tried counting sheep.

The leftovers beckoned, the dark meat and white,
But I fought the temptation with all of my might.

Tossing and turning with anticipation,
The thought of a snack became infatuation.

So, I raced to the kitchen, flung open the door
And gazed at the fridge full of goodies galore.

I gobbled up turkey and buttered potatoes,
Pickles and carrots, beans and tomatoes.

I felt myself swelling so plump and so round,
‘til all of a sudden, I rose off the ground.

I crashed through the ceiling, floating into the sky
With a mouthful of pudding and a handful of pie.

But I managed to yell as I soared past the trees...
Happy eating to all...pass the cranberries, please.

May your stuffing be tasty, may your turkey be plump,
May your potatoes ‘n gravy have nary a lump,

May your yams be delicious, may your pies take the prize,
May your Thanksgiving dinner stay off of your thighs.

Remember to share with those less fortunate,
And may your thanksgiving be blessed!


©2001  By C J Beaman
And, meet CJ
www.rawgourmetartista.com.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

TO MISSING FAMILY MEMBERS.

Thanksgiving day, we will be missing several family members. Some years are like that. But, Doug, my son building my house in Oregon, though within driving  range, and a famous cookie baker, is missing and we will sorely miss him. So, this old Edgar Guest poem seemed a proper tribute. He will join folks at the grange and help them cook. Another of his talents.

THE COOKIE JAR   by Edgar Guest
You can rig up a house with all manner of things,
The prayer rugs of sultans and princes and kings;
You can hang on its wall the old tapestries rare
Which some dead Egyptian once treasured with care;
But though costly and gorgeous its furnishings are,
It must have, to be homelike, an old cookie jar.

There are just a few things that a home must possess,
Besides all your money and all your success—
A few good old books which some loved one has read,
Some trinkets of those whose sweet spirits have fled,
And then in the pantry, not shoved back too far
For the hungry to get to, that old cookie jar.

Let the house be a mansion, I care not at all!
Let the finest of pictures be hung on each wall,
Let the carpets be made of the richest velour,
And the chairs only those which great wealth
can procure,
I'd still want to keep for the joy of my flock
That homey, old fashioned, well-filled cookie crock.

Like the love of the Mother it shines through our years;
It has soothed all our hurts and dried away tears;
It has paid us for toiling; in sorrow or joy,
It has always shown kindness to each girl and boy;
And I'm sorry for people, whoever they are,
Who live in a house where there's no cookie jar.

Cedric is the chief pie baker and he, along with daughter Virginia, who prepares a pear tart every year,  and grandsons Owen and Theo, who supply lots of  noise and fun,  are in Australia. We will miss you so much.
Daughter-in-law Laurie has stepped into the gap, and is preparing the pies.
Kristanne and Austin and Mason, will also be absent. It feels downright cruel to be missing so many at this family time of year. When it comes to the clatter round the table, the dogs and yak and fun;  the card games and a bit of wine. we'll try, but without Kristanne,  and Austin and Mason to banter, we feel a loss for those missing three.

This poem FAMILY, by Suzanne Comer Bell describes it perfectly.
Inside a house they reassemble—
food an operation on the table,
dogs sealed against the back steps
waiting for the blessed day’s remains,
and a world of neighbors knows
to leave their gifts and wishes at the door—
then they eat and eat, clear, clean the table,
move to the kitchen and rumble family tales
til the ancestors sound, drown the silver clatter—
no bounds here to joyful noise because it’s family—
then disappear, each wandering off
to a silent, private nest, where
inside the cocoon of sleep will grow
the shapes and skills of being in this family.
One by one they’ll wake to a new world,
take ball, gun, racquet, cards—some
instrument of fun to play with another—
and the skills of this family bloom, reborn
in their memory, in the movement of hands, voices, feet,
the presence of children coming of age or an aunt
who carries the same genes of natural talent,
some newly awakening, some reawakening,
recognizing themselves in the mirror
of each other’s faces. Then they’ll line their shoes
by the door, warm up the leftovers—
do it all over again.

© Suzanne Comer Bell.

While I complain about being bereft of family, I know how very lucky we are and we will be giving thanks and  counting our blessings for our cups runneth over.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

NO REST FOR THE WICKED.

My mother and her sisters, my aunts, always left little quotes at the bottom of their letters and cards. It was always fun to read them. And, my mother was full of homey homilies like, No rest for the wicked, or Itchy palm? You're going to get some money; Cold feet, warm heart; Itchy nose? You are going to meet a stranger; Always eat a little sour with your sweet; Waste not want not.

Her sayings came so automatic, kind of a mixture of advice, superstition, moral admonitions. Who knows where they came from?  It was just a part of her personality. I miss her so much.

I chose the title because I'm so busy, super busy, I feel like the fox chasing his tail.

I'll be absent these pages, off and on while I take a trip into the Bay Area working on a fundraiser for the archive. And, another trip to Oregon for a walk through on the house my son is building for me that will be wheelchair assessable. Then it is time to get ready for Thanksgiving that I'm hosting at my house.  So...

MY FEET

My Feet they haul me Round the House,
They Hoist me up the Stairs;
I only have to Steer them, and
They take me Everywheres!

This little ditty is by Gelett Burgess and I can think of a half-dozen verses to add to it to describe my life right now, but I'll let it go at that.  Maybe some of you can add some verses if you are so inclined. This one is in the public domain and does not require permission.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

E.O. WILSON, EVOLUTION BIOLOGIST.

E. O.Wilson believes the only way to prevent mass extinctions, especially when we think of very large predators declining and struggling, is to provide enough habitat for them to move around.  Animals trapped in small spots without the ability to live like they lived in the wild, isn't working very well. Yes, they are alive, but not flourishing.
He believes the only way to stave off a mass extinction crisis, as devastating as the one that killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, is to set aside half the planet as permanently protected area for the other ten million species. Half Earth. Half for us, half for them. This idea has been circulating among conservationists for some time.

BUT HOW?
He suggests a chain of uninterrupted corridors forming with twists and turns, some opening up wide enough to accommodate national biodiversity parks, a new kind of park that won't let species vanish.These would be wild land chains of long landscapes. Some would run North and South, like the western initiative known as Yellowstone-to-Yukon.
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Instead of just Yellowstone-to-Yukon, that corridor could be expanded to reach Mexico.
This will let wildlife move north as things warm up and those that run east-west may have the benefit of letting wildlife move east , away from the west, which in the future may not see as much rain. We would be enveloped and surrounded by connecting corridors so that you are almost never far from  a national park, or a landscape that leads to a national park.

We already have some partial corridors like the bison ranch in Montana and the Appalachian Trail in the east. The Piney woods echo system in the American Southwest. If we build on them and work at it we can convert the earth in half a century to a "Half Planet."
Near Freeport Florida, a man by the name of M.C. Davis, using his own money, is buying up land and removing intruders and planting longleaf pines to extend that habitat into a corridor. The longleaf pine forest once covered 90 million acres, a 1,200 mile stretch across nine states. There are 3 million acres left, worse than the losses of coral reefs.  He has begun a corridor to connect his lands with a protected longleaf forest. He believes to save the Florida black bear, the gopher tortoise and other threatened species, they have to have room to move around.  If you protect a few, and when they eat to much of their habitat, you kill them off so they don't overpower their habitat, you simply control them. They aren't free and they need to be. Davis's habitat project also saves and encourages regeneration of cypress trees. What he is accomplishing is huge and can be done if enough people get behind it.
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Sound impossible?  Only if you don't think big. Roosevelt electrified the world when he declared our country set aside land of great beauty, to remain undeveloped so all could share it, a National Park, a shared treasure.  No other country had done that before. Some people thought it was stupid and crazy. We now know what a favor he did us.

The map above shows Eglln Air Force Base as a possible conversion to a National Habitat Park. Nokuse Plantation is what Davis bought up and is preserving as longleaf protection. And above Elglin Air base is a series of State Forests. Why not form a corridor of major protection for plants and animals from Nokuse,, include Eglin, to Blackwater River State Forest?

And in the East, also a good start. Joining protected land with partnerships with owners connected to that land and insuring links to continual forest for other  species to roam.
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If we don't think big and get started, will we be sorry we didn't try to save the marvelous natural heritage we have?
Should we do nothing and watch it all degrade and disappear?

I hold my place as a backyard preserve. I promise not to spray and to provide water for animals and birds. We can help, one back yard at a time. It is truly amazing to watch nature work in balance around you.And, we can promote and support E.O. Wilson's "Half Planet" idea.

Friday, November 14, 2014

RETURN OF THE PRIUS

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On June 12th, I got slammed, gently, me at seven mph, her moving into me from a stop sign, but the insurance wanted to total my vehicle. It took a long fight and several mishaps, as in the body shop closed that was scheduled to fix my car; a new bid required and so on.
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Finally, I got my car back in time to take Jim to the Palo Alto Vets, Wednesday and Thursday.
The Kia rental zipped right along, with doors that sounded and felt like tin. I had very poor vision out the back window. The trunk was miniscule. I felt insecure in it. I’m glad to have my trusty, heavier Toyota Prius back on the road again.
 Jim has one more short appointment for his eyes and he is finished. We left yesterday with a test of 20/20 vision in both eyes. Pretty good for 74 years old.

While at the hospital, I read the unbelievable story of a man who has a plan to turn half the earth to its natural state. Sound unbelievable?  I thought so too. But, E.O. Wilson has already started. He teamed with a scientist who also believes it can be done. More tomorrow.