24 April 2006

Braising and Slow Cooking

I've decided that this week is the Chris Bond Semi-Annual Week of Braising and Slow Cooking.

A strange decision perhaps, but I'm of the opinion that next week's theme (National Uncommon Fowl Week) is even stranger.

My friend Adam and I kicked off the week yesterday with a down home pulled pork barbeque sandwich. This was Adam's recipe, and I give him all the credit for the ideas, as well as most of the work, but I did help tear the pork up into tiny, itsy bitsy little pieces. So I get a little bit of credit.

The meat of choice for this recipe was (and, presumably still is) a pork shoulder. The best part of this, maybe even better than the fact that it tastes so good, is that an absolutely huge piece of meat (pigs are big, and so are their shoulders) only runs about three dollars and fifty cents. Our whole meal, in fact, which could have easily fed five or six people, only cost about six bucks.

We bought the meat just down the street, which was a good thing, because the damn thing weighed a ton. After lugging it home, we cut off the skin, trimmed a bit of excess fat, heated the oven to about 300 degrees, and stuck it in the oven. We then sat down and watched a movie.

Three or four hours later, we got to work on the sauce. Now, a good pulled pork should be saucy, but not dripping--at least that's what I say (standing tall atop the soapbox of my extensive experience-- which involves two sandwiches). The sauce we made was basically a homemade barbeque sauce. We first started with a preliminary mix that contained the following ingredients:

vinegar (1/4 cup)
brown sugar (handful)
A1-type sauce (couple of 'dashes')
chili powder (some shakes)
cayenne pepper (some shakes)
Tabasco (some 'dashes')
mustard (about a tsp)

Next, using a couple of tablespoons of olive oil (apparently it's better with bacon fat), Adam cooked up some finely-diced onion and garlic. To this heating mixture, he added a can of tomato puree (none of that nasty pre-spiced crap) and the vinegary-mixture.

Obviously, one must play with this, adjusting spices, etc, and making sure to put in any ingredients that I've forgotten to list. That, in particular, is quite important.

Now, the best part comes next. We pulled the shoulder out of the oven and delicious smell filled the air. Our next priority was to rip the hell out of the thing, tearing the meat off of the bone (a pig shoulder is much like our's--ball and socket) and getting down to the shredding and pulling. Which, I've now learned, is why it's called "pulled pork".

After we got all the pork pulled (and I got over my own lame double entendres and punning), all that was left was to mix up the sauce and meat, cut some nice, thick slices of crusty Italian bread, and get down to the eating of the sandwich. Unfortunately, I was too hungry at the time to remember to take a photograph, but I did take one today of some of the leftovers, just to give an idea of what it looked like in the end. Granted, it sort of looks like dog food, but I think pulled pork is supposed to look a bit like dog food, and it certainly tasted good. No sir, not a bit like dog food.

22 April 2006


So much time has passed, and with it has passed the need to be overly verbose about the happenings missed. So let me be brief. A friend called me a few months ago, sounding dejected. I asked her what was wrong, and she quickly let me know that the cause of her sadness was that she "[would] never have a dinosaur."

I responded as any sane person would, asking if she was drunk, or perhaps stoned.

"No," she told me. "I was just sitting here, sort of sad, and I started daydreaming, thinking about riding atop a brontosaurus, him eating leaves from the tops of tall trees. It was beautiful, and silent, and there was nobody there to bother me."

"And then," she continued, "I got much sadder, thinking and realizing that I'd never have a dinosaur."

"Draw one," I told her. "Color it brightly, vibrantly green, and hang it on your wall."

"I will," she replied, sounding half-convinced.

I returned home that day with my plans already in motion. On the way home, I had bought some white flour and a roll of tape. I was still floating on the success of my recent paper mache project, and I had heard, in my friend's words, an absolute need for my mache-ing skills.

And so I got to work.

I had done a quick search on the internet, looking for drawings of a brontosaurus. I had found a few, although most were overly 'cartoony." I did find out some interesting information, however, like for instance the little known fact that the brontosaurus never actually existed! Apparently, some paleontologist discovered a dinosaur that had already been found, mixed up a few bones, and convinced himself (and the world for quite some time) that he had found a new dinosaur.

And so, I set about to making an Apatosaurus, pretending that I was making a Brontosaurus.

Within a short time, I had made the dinosaur body, using the same paper mache techniques as I had used on my previous project. I had picked up some paint and brushes at an art store downtown, and so with the help of my roommate, got to mixing up the perfect green color for the dinosaur skin. Soon, he was looking great.

Now, after having completed the dinosaur, I was dying to send it off somehow. My friend's birthday was approaching, and I felt sure that I had to find a way to get this green creature to her house on time. I brought the dinosaur to my parents' house with me (imagine the looks on the subway), planning to mail it from Jersey before heading to Canada. Unfortunately, i soon found out that dinosaurs are quite expensive to mail through the US Postal Service or any other conventional means. I was already out the door and on the road however, so it looked as if Dino would be traveling with me.

Bulky as he was, Jacques (as he was soon named) made a great travel partner, and took the opportunity to get in a bit of sightseeing. He particularly enjoyed Niagara falls, although the mist from the falling water made his skin color run off of him at an alarming rate.

The terrible thing about all of this was that I felt as if I were living a double life. I mean, Jacques was a new friend and a proud personal creation. He was traveling with Adam and I to Canada! He was checking out the falls with us! And still, I could not make this friendship, nor our shared experiences, public knowledge. I needed to get the dinosaur to its proper owner before I could alert the general public.

Finally, this past weekend I had my chance, and took the opportunity offered by an Easter Break to deliver Jacques down to the birthday girl. And in the end, he only arrived a week late, and only slightly worse for the wear as a result of his constant travel.

She loved it.

19 April 2006

Almost Time...

I went out of town this weekend for some camping and to celebrate a friend's birthday. I've got plenty to tell and pictures to share, but I'm having a problem with my computer. Well, not a problem with my computer, more a problem with me forgetting cables and chargers and power cords and the like all over the world. Not to mention a phone or two. Nevertheless, within a day or so I should back up and running and I'll post photos and stories galore.

12 April 2006

Down to Dixie

Tomorrow I head South to Charlottesville, VA, away from the smog and the bustle of the city.
I've been MIA recently with the blog, as I'm hard at work on genealogical research, and haven't really lifted my eyes from old copies of the US Census or moldy photographs long enough to see anything worth commenting on.

I am builiding up a wealth of interesting stories, however, so there's plenty to tell as soon as I get around to telling it.

But not tonight. There is this, though, from today's New York Times:

"SOUTH AFRICA: CASE CLOSED. BEANS GIVE YOU GAS. The country's Advertising Standards Authority ruled that eating beans leads to intestinal gas, rejecting a claim by the Dry Bean Producers Organization that a television commerical for Wildeklawer sweet onions was unfair when it implied as much. In the ad, a rugby team refuses to enter a locker room where one of its players is eating beans, while the coach pleads with the player to switch to the onions, which have "no tears, no burn and definitely no stink." The bean producers argued that the commerical negated its efforts to promote beans as a healthy food, but the standards group said that it was "objectively determinable factual reality" that people who eat beans pass gas."

You can't make this shit up.

06 April 2006

Staten Island Sort of Sucks

I went for a little NYC stroll today after work, enjoying the slightly chilly, yet sunny weather.

While walking around lower Manhattan, I decided to take the Staten Island Ferry and get a glimpse of that mysterious land. I stopped to see a few interesting places along the way:

First I went along to the Trinity Church Graveyard, where such notables as Alexander Hamilton and Robert Fulton are buried. The grounds are beautiful, and even standing atop so many corpses, there is something truly soothing about the place. Some of the gravestones are crazy--I guess it was an 18th / early 19th Century American custom to make gravestones as creepy as possible. Tons of them had some crazy poems that basically said, "I'm dead, and you're coming soon," or some other similar sentiment.

I kept on moving South toward the Ferry, and stopped to step into Bowling Green. I was very interested to learn that Bowling Green is called Bowling Green because it was a Bowling Green back in the 1700's. Very curious.

Even more curious was the price paid for the use of the green. Apparently, those of the neighborhood were forced to tender the exorbitant price of "One Peppercorn" in order to bowl on The Green. Extremely curious.

Soon after leaving the Green, I arrived at the Ferry and waited along with the other passengers for the 2:30 boat. The ride is 25 minutes long, free, and quite nice, with views of the Lower Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty, the New Jersey Ports (gorgeous!), and Governor's Island.

In my 35 total minutes in Staten Island, I saw the following things:

- Two Heavy Metal fans (one Caucasian / one African American) discussing Jazz/Metal Fusion. One was wearing Anthrax apparel.

- One definite drug addict

- One possible drug addict

- A lot of delicatessens and pizza places

I also took some time to visit the Staten Island Museum, where I had the "pleasure" to see:

- some arrowheads

- A mastodon molar

- Some glassware (undated) that looked like it came from my Mother's china hutch in New Jersey

- Drawings of baseball players

- "The Wall of Insects"

And so, perhaps I'm just uninitiated, but all in all, my little foray onto the Island of Staten left me quite unimpressed. Nonetheless, seeing as I only visited from 2:55 until 3:30, I will withold confident judgement (for the moment) on the entire Island. I can say, however, with complete confidence, that if you ever find yourself near the Staten Island Museum, you would do well to save your two dollar entry fee.

Buy a slice of pizza instead.

03 April 2006

Trader Joe's

It is early afternoon, and I am standing on a street corner, waiting for the light to turn green. I'm heading across the street to Trader Joe's, a new supermarket in Manhattan, just off of Union Square.

I am engaging my brain, forcing my synapses to do the complicated mathematics necessary to figure out just how many Clif Bars and tubs of hummus and loaves of wheat bread I will buy in this trip. I glance at the people around me. Three women. One is older, gray hair, somewhat short in stature. The other two are young. One is quite attractive. They are both quite normal looking. One is holding two bags, the other clutches her handbag. We are all waiting to cross the street.

My hummus equations are interrupted by a loud yell. I look up. The girl with two bags--twenty something years old, dark hair, somewhat attractive--is looking in my general direction. She yells.

"Don't do this to me! Not here! Leave me alone!"

I look around. Over my shoulder. To my left and right. Back down at the ground. I am minding my own business.

"Leave me alone! Not here! Not again! Leave me ALONE!"

I look up again. Is this girl talking to me? I look at the woman beside me, also young, quite good-looking.

"Is she talking to me?" I ask. She shrugs her shoulders. Smiles with empathy. Another day in New York, another weirdo fighting with someone. The girl keeps yelling. I look at her, and ask her directly, "Are you talking to me?"

"What kind of question is that?!" she screams. "Leave me alone! Don't get me involved in your illegal activities! I don't want to be part of your schemes! I will tell the police."

Now I'm getting worried. What is she talking about? I feel guilty the way I feel guilty when I pass through customs, totally innocent and yet totally shamed into guilt by the stern look on the customs official's face. And what if everyone around us believes her? Will someone call the cops? Will this girl attract enough attention that people start looking for help? Will I get taken "downtown" and have to "answer a couple of questions"?

"I'm sorry, but I don't know what you're talking about," I tell her.

"DO NOT TALK TO ME! I told you I want nothing to do with your illegal doings! Leave me alone!" We're crossing the street now, and she seems to be heading to the right, while I head to the left. It's all ending. There are no cops following me, no sounds of sirens, and besides the people I've mentioned, nobody seems to have noticed.

The other girl from the corner is walking in front of me, down the street. She looks back and tells me, "I think she's got problems, don't worry about it." "Yeah," I tell her, but I notice that her pace quickens and she stays ahead of me, not slowing down, perhaps not quite trusting her own judgement. She walks into Trader Joe's.

I follow, and hope she doesn't think that I am following her.