Suspenders Make the Man

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CC image courtesy of Roberto Rizzato on Flickr.

I was at Lowe’s today when I saw a guy wearing measuring tape suspenders. I’m sure you’ve seen them. He didn’t even have them on right. His left suspender was twisted. You know the kind of twisted your seat belt sometimes gets when you hurriedly buckle up?

This guy was completely dorked out with these yellow suspenders. He even had a belt on. Seriously. Belt with suspenders? It’s like having redundant systems on a 100 million dollar fighter jet. This guy was serious about keeping his pants up.

You want to know what I thought as I gazed upon this Renaissance man, a perfect specimen of awkwardness? I could rock those shoulder straps.

I’m fascinated by how I have developed over the years. In my youth I was always scared I’d look like some boob. Now I don’t care. I actually will wear things that make me look ridiculous. On purpose. My wife hates it.

I have my old man shoes. I’ll wear shorts with a jacket. My white socks are glaringly obvious. Heather actually will scrunch my socks down so I look a little less clownish. I view the world through scratched up glasses that are noticeably crooked. To complete my ensemble I wear a salt-crusted baseball hat. That’s character. I imagine myself as Clint Eastwood in The Outlaw Josey Wales. Except I’m cooler.

Sardines. They’re That Good.

When people talk about what their dad taught them, they usually mention how to throw a ball or how their dad taught them how to drive. My dad did that, but I also remember how he taught me to eat sardines. Granted, sardine eating isn’t a skill passed from father to son over the ages. It’s more that he fostered an affinity for them.

He was on the road a lot. After a hard week I would see him sit on the floor with his back propped against the couch. His legs would be stretched out and casually crossed at the ankle. On occasion he would balance an open tin of sardines in his left hand while he deftly speared them with a fork in his right hand.

I was probably six or seven when I grew curious about this ritual. The air was heavy with oily fishiness. He would say, “You want a bite?” It’s as if I was able to participate in something that requires a secret handshake. The only thing that compares is when I would watch my ancient great-uncle George hand roll his cigarettes and light it with a strike anywhere match. He would hold that match out so I could extinguish it with my small lungs.

When my dad was on the road and I had to satisfy my craving, my mom would make me devour them outside. There was a brownish spot in the grass where I poured out my sardine oil once. Apparently sardines are so pungent that they can kill grass.

Years later, I still enjoy my sardines, though I don’t eat them with the veracity I should. I can walk to my cupboard and find a couple of cans of King Oscar double-layered brisling sardines in olive oil. These treasures are around three bucks a can, but brisling sardines are far superior to Beach Cliff big honkin’ sardines in Louisiana Hot Sauce at around seventy-nine cents. I’m not a sardine epicurean as I’ll eat just about any brand, but I do have my preferences.

I still have to eat them outside as it is too much trouble to devour them at the table, slide the empty can in a ziplock bag and bury the remains in the trash. If it’s late at night, convenience trumps all where I would eat sardine sandwiches in bed next to my sleeping bride.

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

CC image courtesy of rockyeda on Flickr.

Spicy Orange-Scented Breakfast Sausage

I have never considered orange in my sausage, but this recipe looks scintillating. I remember there was a time when someone got chocolate in his peanut butter. That combination turned out okay. This is definitely going on my must try list. I’ll bet it’s great with redeye gravy.

Get To Grilling!

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What? You can grill breakfast sausage? This is a great spicy breakfast sausage that I came up with for serving with Mother’s Day breakfast. Slightly sweet, a little spicy and nicely flavored with a touch of orange zest. Here’s a tip: use the Bull BBQ Mini Burger Press to make perfect size sausage patties!

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Motor Oil and a Blowtorch

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Grilling or smoking is a relatively straightforward endeavor. At least starting the fire is generally uncomplicated. Who am I kidding? There are as many varied ways to start fires as there are men with pyrotechnic tendencies.

I don’t normally spend time considering ignition methods of charcoal, but when I read Grilling Primer: Fuel and Fire, it triggered a childhood memory that showed me that my dad, though he is from Minnesota, is a redneck at heart.

I was born in Minnesota but spent the bulk of my life in the South. My brother and sister sound like Southerners, but growing up with my dad’s hyper-enunciation, I sound like a Yankee.

I tell you this because people usually connote rednecks strictly as southern jerry-riggers who replace fan belts with pantyhose and rely on duct tape for household repairs. A redneck is a master of backwater ingenuity.

My dad is very skilled with all around maintenance. I’ve seen him do electrical, plumbing, concrete, and even woodwork. It always looks professional. My dad, however, is deficient in the art of cooking.

This man has told me about his time as a cook in the National Guard, but his time as a cook was time wasted. I have had to eat some of the most horrendous concoctions. My dad and his Frankenstein foodstuffs are creative, but not ingenius. Actually his cooking is something that fever dreams and nightmares are made of. He fries great eggs, though. I suppose he had lots of practice growing up on an egg farm.

My dad approached grilling with a laissez faire attitude. He started the fire and put the meat on the grill. He would go watch tv until he smelled the food burning. Then it was time to eat.

We were out of lighter fluid this particular time. At least we had motor oil. He drowned the coals in 30 weight and put the torch to it. Yes, he balanced a blowtorch so that it would ignite the coals. Then he went to wait inside. It’s his tried and true method for grilling meat, only to start the fire to this time. My dad has had his share of sparks of brilliance, but that is one of the best (or worst).

Two summers ago the temperatures consistently hit 110. For me, grilling season is basically over if it’s 85 degrees. I was going to smoke some baby rack ribs, but I was out of lighter fluid and I wasn’t going to use motor oil. Sans propellant, I balanced my blowtorch so that the flame hit the coals just right. Then I went into the house to enjoy the cool a/c and watch tv.

This Advice is Worth at Least Three Cents

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When a tornado victim that loses everything can cope better than you, it may be time to put on your Yoda Underoos.

Stop whining. Quit crying. Do you really think you deserve special consideration?

Don’t worry, I don’t have a defeatist attitude. After years of therapy, discarding the bottle, and finding Jesus, I finally understand. Do I really need to wring my hands over what my dad did to me when I was eight? No, he didn’t molest me. I had my share of whippings, though. My dad flailed his belt like he was swinging for the fences. But that was a lifetime ago.

We cannot always control our circumstances. We can, however, decide if we are going to have a pity party. How many times does someone have to cry about their childhood before they crawl out of the crib to become a man? For me, it was many years. I finally understand that sometimes you just have to suck it up. I received that advice many times before. I just wasn’t listening.

I dole out the same advice to other crybabies. Seriously, do women find a man attractive when he whines about not finding a girlfriend? I doubt it. Sure everyone wants to climb on the pity train occasionally, but there was a time when I just couldn’t step off.

I speak from experience that crying about your woes is useless. Just take your problems to God. Set them at His feet.

God will provide us with what we need. If you are in a valley, you were put there for a reason. God has many reasons to put you there. Just trust in Him.

When science couldn’t cure my chronic pain, I only had two options. One was a bullet. I chose to turn to God. I’m not saying that God cured me and now I’m a ballroom dancing queen. I still have the pain. This is a burden I must carry, but God has promised He will always be with me. As for the other, I can’t be a dancing queen. Those tiaras make my butt look fat.

Life is hard and we are hit with a myriad of problems, but does ruminating help? I don’t want to sound harsh, but the time comes when you have to put on your big boy Yoda Underoos and move on.

I can barely remember all of those hurts I carried around now. I can look ahead to my future now that I’m not bound by my past.

This post is written in response to the Daily Post’s writing prompt.

My First Crack at Field Peas

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It’s nice to get settled back into my regular routine. The past two weeks involved a lot of travel and lots of sweat in the kitchen. All part of being a volunteer of Mercy Chefs. I was given an awesome chef coat, too. Does that make me a chef? Maybe not, but I look cool rockin’ it with a pair of plaid shorts.

Much of the time we eat beans and rice. When we get tired of beans and rice, we will vary our menu with rice and beans. This is part of our effort to extricate ourselves from debt bondage and I will be relieved when we are delivered from it.

I’ve eaten Glory Foods‘ field peas many times, but today I decided to make them myself. I find a lot of similarity between my bean recipes, but what more do you want than mirepoix and some meat for flavor?

I must warn you that I use Tony Chachere’s cajun seasoning a lot. I was reminded of this Friday in Louisville, MS. I had already made 200 pounds of meatloaf with the aid of two assistants and I was tasked with heating up some broccoli as our initial batch of vegetables ran out. I tossed the infernal crucifer into the pan to steam and liberally applied Tony Cachere’s. The chef comes in and spots the spices and said, “You and your cajun seasoning!” What can I say? I like it.

Based on the ingredients on hand I determined that the best course of action was to use the “seek and dump” method.

1 pound field peas, rinsed and sorted
2 slices bacon, chopped
1 smoked ham shank piece
1 12 ounce bag Pictsweet Seasoning Blend (I’d chop my own vegetables if I wasn’t feeling puny from my travels.)
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon Tony Cachere’s
1 tablespoon beef base
2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon oregano

Brown bacon and ham shank. Add seasoning blend and garlic and sauté until onions are translucent.

Dump remaining ingredients and stir to combine.

Cover and summer on low, stirring occasionally for approximately 1 1/2 hours or until peas are tender.

Remove ham shank and remove and chop meat. Return to pot.

I don’t use a lot of salt as I use a lot of salty cajun seasoning and salty meat. Once done, season to taste.

Serve on rice. Or whatever.

Best. Guacamole. Ever.

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The lighting wasn’t the greatest, but this avocado mash was a delightful guacamole green.

There was a time when I held great disdain for guacamole. I just scraped it off my Mexican food. Even the scrapings of guacamole would make me burp guacamole flavor. I don’t know if there is ever a time when a guacamole belch is pleasant.

Maybe a year ago, a friend offered some guacamole. My immediate reaction was to refuse it but something inside told me to try it. I dipped a chip and I was hooked. I ate all of his guacamole.

I don’t make it all the time because avocados are kinda pricey and I sometimes get irritated at the ten minutes of effort to make it.

Bear in mind that I cannot stand cilantro. I can detect it in the most minute amounts. It is an indescribable flavor that makes me think of well, I can’t describe it. If you choose to add cilantro don’t tell me about it as it makes me seethe with rage. The moment when David Banner’s eyes turn a scary whitish blue. Or is it bluish white?

Here’s my take on guacamole:

4 avocados
1/2 onion, minced
4 peperoncini, minced (I used Mezzetta brand)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon parsley
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 teaspoon Tony Cachere’s
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
4 ounces corn
8 ounces kidney beans
1/2 can Rotel with habaneros
Juice from 1/2 lime

Peel and mash avocados. If you are a guacamole champion, you will leave some chunks in it. Add all ingredients and mix well. Normally, I mince a fresh Serrano instead of pickled peppers, but I use what I have on hand. If you try the Mezzetta peperoncinis with dill and garlic, you’ll be impressed. Crazy Tasty. Without the SPAM. Someday I may show you my quadruple decker SPAM sandwich. Or is it quintuple? Yeah, I’m pretty sure I have heart disease.

An Endurance Race

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Today marks my twelfth year of marriage to my beautiful wife. The first seven years or so were difficult as we were both bull headed heathens and refused to submit to each other.

Around five years ago, something special began to happen as we placed Christ at the center of our marriage. I’m more in love with my bride today than when we were first married.

The majesty of Christ has allowed our relationship to not just endure, but to blossom. As a blessing to our commitment, we have three beautiful girls.

I know Heather didn’t realize she would be caring for a physically broken husband, but in my weakness we can see Christ’s strength.

I love you, Heather, and I look forward to whatever we are called to endure. Even if you have to push me around in a wheelchair. I’d like to have flames stenciled on it, though.

It’s More of the Same, Only Different.

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Today has been a great blessing! Another day in Louisville, MS with Mercy Chefs, but a couple of volunteers showed up. How I love supervising! It’s still mentally taxing but I didn’t have to stoop or bend over. It’s the small things that I appreciate.

I’ve still been stiff all day and I had no idea how I was going to work all the way through. Ever since I climbed out of bed I’ve been walking like Boris Karloff. These trips are always physically taxing, and it’s only by the grace of God that I am able to do this.

If that wasn’t enough of a blessing, my wife called my rheumatologist and asked them to refill my Humira prescription because of last night’s debacle. I will be on my doorstep Tuesday, nine days sooner than I would have had my next scheduled injection. Heather definitely came through in a clutch on this one.

The first half of the day was rainy and the rest of the day was grey. It may not sound very pleasant as we spend much of our time prepping food under a tent outside, but my arms and neck are crimson. My neck feels scorchy, and I was glad to have had the clouds today. I also don’t want to completely obliterate my pasty good looks. Fortunately, this burn will tan and in about two weeks, all of this bronze will have flecked off.

When we are on deployment, every day is the same in that we get up early and cook, prep, and plan all day. We may have a menu planned only to scrap it two hours before the meal is to be served. The unpredictability of one of our days can be exhilarating. Some people get jazzed about NASCAR. I get jazzed about the excitement in our kitchen.

Finally, I only worked eleven hours today. I say that with all seriousness because this is a short day. I also had several breaks because we had volunteers. If I don’t have volunteers’ backs to break, my back does the breaking.

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Every day is the same, but every day is unpredictable. I know that may sound paradoxical, but it really is that way.

These trips are never about me or my incessant whining. It’s always about God and how I can serve others in His name. I just hope tomorrow is overcast.

Even A Monkey Can Do It

I’ve been pretty hacked off today because I screwed up my Humira shot this morning. I put it in a cooler to bring it with me to Mississippi so I could take it today. On schedule. I never take anything on schedule. I usually take too much of any medicine I need to take and can never remember to take it on schedule.

I wanted to take it early but Heather thought taking it early wasn’t wise in case I had some unfortunate side effects while I was on the road. It was good advice, but I forgot how to take the shot.

I left the directions at home and in my morning stupor, I fumbled around and thought I took the shot. The shot hurt, but not like I remembered the first time. I tossed the apparatus in the trash and continued getting ready for my day.

I began wondering if I took the shot properly because there was no burning after ten minutes. Come to think I it, there was no burning. I fished the apparatus out of the trash and began fiddling with it.

Sheowccaaaaow! The medicine started shooting out of the pen. Fifteen hundred dollars sprayed all over my hotel room. I’m paying for that error as my aches have been creeping back the past four days or so. I’m sure my joints are going to be screaming even more tomorrow.

Only thirteen days to overcome until my next shot. I’m going to read the directions every time I take the shot now. Just like the directions said.

I thought, only a boob is stupid enough to screw up this little injection.

I know, I am that boob.