Some Serious Baked Beans

I may be a slow learner, but this is the third time I made baked beans this week. The first batch was amazing, but I wasn’t following the recipe closely. Last night’s were a bummer, but today’s batch of beans will be a triumph.

One of my favorite treats happens to be baked beans. Most of the time I’ll punch up a can of Bush’s, but I have made baked kidney beans a couple of times.

I know, it sounds awkward like the time my dad tried to tell me about…well, you know…the birds and the bees? I was fourteen and I think he actually talked about birds and bees.

He certainly didn’t teach me anything I haven’t heard in school. The kidney beans are more enjoyable than that distant memory, but they have nothing on the traditional navy beans.

Baked pinto beans are another story, though. I always have pinto beans on hand and the skin is a little tougher than the navy beans, but their subtle flavor and creamy texture allow the mingling of sugars and pig fats to take center stage.

This recipe is similar to a recipe I found on Food Network, but I think the small alterations I made are quite enjoyable.

Ingredients

3 cups pinto beans, sorted and soaked overnight
1 onion, chopped
2 slices salt pork, chopped
2 slices bacon, chopped
1/2 link smoked sausage, quartered and chopped (andouille works nicely)
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon Tony Chachere’s creole seasoning
1 teaspoon Hatch chili powder
1 teaspoon Gebhardt chili powder
1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
1 tablespoon chicken base
3 Mezzetta peperoncini peppers

Method

Sauté meat in a cast iron Dutch oven to render the delicious fat.

Add onions and garlic. Sauté until onions are translucent. Season with black pepper and Tony Chachere’s.

Add both chili powders, tomato paste, brown sugar, molasses, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, yellow mustard, chicken base, and peperoncini peppers.

Add beans and four cups of water to combine.

Bring mixture to a boil, then cover and simmer on the stove for about 90 minutes. Stir occasionally and add water as needed.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Remove the lid and place in oven for the last hour of cooking so it thickens up as only baked beans can do.

Salt to taste and enjoy by itself or maybe with some nice greens.

I dunno if you can call them baked beans with only an hour in the oven, but last night I baked them for five hours and they tasted sad and unfulfilled. Today’s beans were delicious.

Advertisements

Euphemism

I’d be lying if I said that keeping my mouth shut is my spiritual gift. My spiritual gift is more akin to putting my foot in my mouth. I’m getting better, though. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

I used to say whatever came to mind, but I’m trying to replace statements like, “What are you…stupid?” Mind you, I’m not saying, “What are you, Stupid?” It’s not nice calling people stupid but somehow it seems better asking someone if they are stupid.

Now, when I want to say something inappropriate, I try to say, “That’s just terr-ific.” More like , “That’s. Just. Terrrific.” You drag it out for effect. You want to hang on the “r” in terrific to really show your disgust.

Best of all, it works in just about any situation.

“The septic tank is cracked.” That’s just terrific.

“We are out of oatmeal cream pies.” That’s just terrrific.

“Business is slow. We are gonna have to let you go.” That’s just terrific.

This even works when someone is asking how you feel. Terrific. That stops the conversation cold. Nobody really wants to hear how lousy you feel, anyway.

In the meantime, I’m going to try to control my compulsion to slap people. I’ve never actually slapped someone, but people can really say some…uh…terrific things.

Written in response to the Daily Post’s Break the Silence prompt.

Feeling Alive

2373008363_11cc6ffdab_z
CC image courtesy of Gunnar Grimnes on Flickr.

The moment when it feels like your body is eating itself alive is when I am reminded that suffering is a gift.  I know that sounds masochistic, but it’s not.  I.  Hate.  Pain.  I avoid it if I can.

Much of the time I’m like a cranky bear shot up with rock salt and those days are especially hard for my family.  I can declare a time-out, but that doesn’t stop the world.  My family still needs me even when I’m at my worst.

Some days I’m able to move around with fluidity.  There is no hobble.  You will hardly see a grimace.  Other days are unpleasant.  Days like today.

My feverish knees feel like they are on fire.  My ankles feel like the synovial fluid was replaced with pulverized glass.  Tendons in my legs are tight.  They feel stretched.  Maybe they are.  I was dealing with a torn meniscus a couple of months ago.

Then there is my back.  I’m trying to stretch my back to maintain mobility in my spine.  My vertebrae feel heavy and sluggish.  Have you ever held two bricks against each other?  They do not readily slide against each other.  They grip each other and you have to use some effort to push them against each other.  I think that is the drag coefficient or shear viscosity.  It’s just a lot of math telling me that bricks don’t glide easily.  My spine feels as if the vertebrae are made of brick.

Writing about my ankylosing spondylitis seems to be cathartic.  Having a conversation about how I’m feeling is unhelpful.  It’s actually quite boring.  Usually I’ll grit my teeth and say, “I’m just terrific.”  That tells it all.

I’m shuffling like a seventy year old today, but in spite of my physical problems, I’m reminded of the hope I have in Christ.  Unbelievers can’t understand.  They are angry for me.  They stamp their feet and squall that it’s not fair.  My typical response is something like this–

Of course it’s not fair.  Should I wring my hands about my problems?  Where in the Bible does God say that He is fair?  If anything, God is demonstrating his love.

Consider Hebrews 12:7.  It says, “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children.  For what children are not disciplined by their father?”

Or James 1:2–“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters when you face trials of many kinds…”

Paul has insight on this matter as well.  In Romans 8:18, he says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

Another helpful passage is 2 Corinthians 4:8-10–“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.”

I wish I was Mr. Eloquent and could recite those verses from memory, but I more or less am able to explain my attitude towards my physical adversity.  I also am quick to point out the fact that my pain drew me closer to God.

I was given a gift.  It is more than I can bear.  It always is.  I’m reminded of that useless platitude that God never gives you more than you can handle.  That’s nonsense!  If you are able to bear the hardship, you don’t need God.

I’m glad it’s more than I can bear.  That way there is hope that others may see Christ working in me.

Catching Up With the Inevitable

CC image courtesy of hans van den berg on Flickr.
CC image courtesy of hans van den berg on Flickr.

A friend from the radio business died today. I always knew him as Danny Fox. It was many years later when I learned of his real name. At 59, years of chain-smoking had crippled him with emphysema, but in spite of his sickness, he always had a joke so we could share a good laugh.

I had only known him at the workplace, at least until about three months ago. He was hospitalized with little hope of leaving. I visited him a couple of times in the hospital because I had to share something before he passed. He claimed he was going to heaven after he died and affirmed he knew about Jesus. He answered my questions hesitantly and I wanted to be sure he knew about salvation.

I stumbled through the whole conversation but I think he understood. I know ultimately the Holy Spirit is tasked with softening hearts and saving souls, but I have my hope.

I’m staggered by the thinking of nonbelievers. I should be accustomed to it by now as heathens will act like heathens, but for someone to say Danny is working at the radio station in the sky is borderline ridiculous. Let me rephrase–IT IS RIDICULOUS.

Another friend’s response was equally as misguided–

Danny was a good guy…a good person…I know you and I don’t see eye to eye on a lot of religious beliefs, but I think if there’s any Godly justice, Danny has a head start on most of us…

Just for the sake of discussion we will call this friend Hieronymus. Why use a common name like George when you can punch up the story with a name like Hieronymus?

As you can see, he thinks you can get to heaven by being “good.” Jesus says that no one is righteous, but by being a swell guy, many believe that they will gain entrance to heaven. Then he wants to hang merit on God’s justice? I told him that God’s justice warrants that everyone spend eternity in hell.

Post modern thoughts such as these are what make people believe that all roads lead to God. Jesus explicitly is exclusive of all other paths in John 14:6.

Hieronymus hasn’t responded since then, but I knew that the report of Danny’s death would bring another opportunity to share the Gospel with him. I could have gotten that information anywhere, but I thought that the finality of death would finally make him seriously consider his salvation.

Nevertheless, I still hope that Danny found the right path. I’ll find out soon enough.

Tomorrow is a New Day

20140521-134504-49504009.jpg
CC image courtesy of FHKE on Flickr.

Time machines are overrated. They are for old men and forgotten dreams. Those old coots forget that their memories aren’t static. These devices are relatively commonplace, but each time one of these ancient people return from their excursion, they come back broken as they realize their past is only a phantom.

Whether you visit the dream tailors to have fabricated dreams implanted or if you are viewing the past through an expanse of fifty years, you can see nothing beyond an illusion.

As the years pass, you have a tendency to forget some of the bad memories and the mundane moments fade into nothingness. In a sense, the Twilight Zone episode, “Of Late I Think of Cliffordville,” is a cautionary tale. Reality never measures up to the fantasy that has grown in your mind.

I realize that reality is elusive as we are suspended in a virtual reality. Our perspective won’t allow us to really see the world as it is. We only can view reality as we see it.

I just don’t care anymore.

Tomorrow, I’m going to disappear in the time machine. I’m tired of sitting in this living graveyard. Rest homes are convenient for the living, not the living dead.

I want to live a life of intrigue again. In the morning I’ll return to my youth as a Bedouin gun runner. At least that’s what I remember. I hope I’m not spanning fifty years to live a future of past disappointments. My excursion will be different than the others’.

Nurse, is it really time to take my Aricept again?


 

Written in response to the Daily Post’s writing prompt.

The Marriage to Balaam

20140518-233846-85126982.jpg
CC image courtesy of Dauster on Wikimedia Commons.

If one looked at churches today, he might conclude that many have succumbed to the Doctrine of Balaam. Essentially, marriage to the world can be intoxicating, and for churches caught up in the seeker sensitive movement, it can prove disastrous.

Balaam taught the Moabites how to defeat the Israelites by intermarriage. The object was to ensnare Israelite men with the lusts of the world where they would forgo the Living God for counterfeit gods that ultimately led to their destruction.

Today, one can get his “Best Life Now.” He is taught that God is a cosmic butler whose sole purpose is to grant wishes and to shower him with gifts. This prosperity gospel is the opposite of what it preaches. It teaches greed where one trades eternal riches for temporal ones now.

One may be reminded of Abraham’s statement to the rich man. Abraham said, “Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish.” (Luke 16:25 ESV) The rich man had his best life while he was living. Many will be in the same position as the rich man and the false teachers that tempt with material gain are leading the masses into hell.

Not that there is anything wrong with material wealth, but it is the attitude with which it is regarded. Material wealth is an idol for many. They may profess their belief in Christ, but their works show otherwise. We view silver and gold as an imperishable commodity. It is tangible and finite, but we assume it will always be available. 1 Peter 1:18 says otherwise. Even heaven and earth will pass away as it is written in Matthew 24:35, but Christ’s words will never pass away.

False teachers abound, and many of these wolves exploit people’s greed by luring them away from Christ with the empty promises of prosperity. Balaam is alive and well in the dark recesses of the heart, and one must always be on guard.

Hobble Like the Wind

20140518-002132-1292485.jpg
CC image courtesy of Wikimedia.

I remember much of what I saw on television when I was a kid. As I cope with my daily aches, I’m reminded of the commercials promoting arthritis medications. Not much has changed, but I remember my young thoughts. I was only five or six, but I was thankful that I wouldn’t have to endure arthritis when I was older. They would have a cure by then.

Thirty-three or so years later and I can tell I was mistaken. All of those Ben Gay and Anacin commercials with withered old people reflect a broken innocence. It was remarkable that I was cognizant of the deleterious nature of arthritis. I just gave science too much credit. I also remember conversations with my dad where everyone would have flying cars. At least we have the Slap Chop.

I like reading stories of other people with ankylosing spondylitis. It seems that everyone has their own combination of a litany of symptoms. I’m heartbroken to see those with fused spines. Their bodies are hunched and contorted, forever frozen in place. I wonder if that is my future.

The pain is constant and is exasperated by inactivity. It is exasperated by activity. I also have osteoarthritis in some of my joints and flat feet. The pain gets worse at night. I shuffle around like an old man in the morning.

My kids have a raw deal as I never feel well enough to participate in many activities. They take it in stride. They tell me to “hobble like the wind.”

I mentioned that I screwed up my Humira shot nine days ago. The insurance company has been difficult so I probably won’t have my next shot until Thursday. I’m ready to have a few consistent shots under my belt.

I’m encouraged by the fact that I will have a handicap placard one day. I’m also looking forward to the senior citizen’s discount at Denny’s. It seems that old people get all the perks. I say this facetiously, but I’m dead serious when I say I want a placard and a fifty five cent discount off my Grand Slam.

I forgot to mention that one day I’m going to get a cane with flames on it. Everything is faster with flames.

Mustard Greens…And Don’t Toss That Potlikker

20140517-153823.jpg

My initial title for this piece was going to be Infernal greens because there was no way something so bitter smelling could turn out so sweet.

I have spent a lifetime avoiding greens. Sometimes my mom would make them, but I can’t remember eating them. It was one of the rare foods that I wasn’t coerced into eating. I think the other one was sauerkraut.

Two years ago I ate dinner at Emeril’s in New Orleans. Believe me, it wasn’t on my dime. I don’t think I can ever afford that.

Our host ordered a couple of appetizers. I remember the sausage presented neatly on a small bed of turnip greens. I decided I would try a bite and was impressed at how delicious they were! They actually had a texture of chewing tobacco without the full-bodied Redman flavor.

I haven’t eaten greens since.

My wife brought home some mustard greens yesterday, so in the spirit of frugality, I decided I would cook them. It took an hour to clean the greens and they smelled horrible. What is the deal with cruciferous vegetables and their stink? I’m told most people eat with their eyes. Not me. I eat with my nose. If my nose gives it thumbs down, it’s not edible.

Once I had everything cleaned and chopped, I began my greens experiment. I had read numerous recipes, but the two that were the most helpful belonged to Emeril’s (I’d like to get a repeat performance of the last ones I ate) and Miz Chef. I’m writing down my recipe so I can share it if it tastes good and to rail against it if it’s like eating a pot of rat poison.

Ingredients:
2-3 pounds mustard greens
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 slices salt pork, chopped
2 ounces Tasso, chopped
1 onion
1 tablespoon garlic
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
3 tablespoons white distilled vinegar
2 teaspoons molasses

Method:
Wash and chop stems out of the greens. Add meat and olive oil to cook and to render fat.

Add onions and garlic. Cook until onions are translucent. Add cayenne, black pepper, vinegar and molasses. Mix well to combine.

Begin adding greens. As they wilt, add more until all are in the pot.

Add water until greens are just covered. Partially cover pot with lid and simmer for an hour to an hour and a half, stirring occasionally.

Add salt to taste.

Next time I’m going to cook up a bigger batch to render more broth, or potlikker. It’s better than the greens and they rock.

The Magic that is 70’s Television

20140516-233551.jpg
CC image courtesy of Ángel Raúl Ravelor on Flickr.

I grew up watching all manner of television shows. I think being born in the 70s has something to do with it. In all seriousness, I consumed Good Times, All in the Family, The Jeffersons, even Three’s Company. My mom used to cackle watching Jack Tripper and his misadventures posing as a homosexual man living with two women. And she really does cackle. If she had a pointy black hat, green skin, an enormous hairy mole on her nose, and rode a broomstick at night, you would swear that she was a witch with that laugh. Don’t get upset that I’m poking fun at my mom. The joke’s on me as this cackle is hereditary. I’m known as the cacklebeast.

When I watch those shows today I see that some of these shows were edgy with their subject matter. Today’s world is eclipsed by political correctness where everyone takes everything so seriously. What is funnier than George Jefferson calling a white man a honkey? Archie Bunker’s bigotry making him a fool? Were these shows propagating racism? These issues ranged from racism to alcoholism. I actually enjoy how the subject matter is clumsily worked into the script.

The formula is simple involving an informative–yet unrealistic dialogue. How many times have you had a conversation that included statistics? Try a segue into the percentage of Americans with flat feet. I’m working on that one. By the way, I have flat feet.

See how I executed that transition masterfully? I learned my techniques from 70’s tv.

Potlikker with the Kingfish

20140515-094019.jpg
CC image courtesy of findagrave.com.

My wife is distantly related to Huey P. Long. Something about him being her grandmother’s cousin or something. He was a colorful, yet polarizing figure and will remain a figure in Louisiana history for generations to come.

The Kingfish would be not surprised to see that his populist ideas were still popular, but I believe he would be surprised to see how damaging its implementation is to the country. Long was corrupt and bullied his way up the political ladder. Had he not been assassinated, he may have been a threat to FDR in the 1936 Presidential election.

He paved the state with graft, lining the pockets of his cronies, but he was such a likable figure that it appeared nobody really cared about his misdeeds.

Long would be surprised how damaging his wealth redistribution ideas are to the country. On the surface it may appear that wealth redistribution is favorable. In reality, we can see that unemployment is problematic and stealing from the rich to give to the poor solves nothing. We are left with a generation with an entitlement complex who thinks hard work is old fashioned and being on the government dole is something to embrace.

If he didn’t stand on his Share Our Wealth program, he may not have even made it to the Governor’s office. Demagoguery proved useful to Long as it does today, but despite his flaws, he still was an affable man who I’d like to share a meal of potlikker with.

Written in response to the Daily Post’s daily prompt.