Work as Leisure: The Best Way to Travel

…a Speculation Based on Good Experience
(c) 2014, Davd

After reading about European distaste for tourists, some 30 years ago now, i was sitting in an orientation meeting in Helsinki and heard a Dutch student say, “If I were home and saw a bunch of Americans wearing T-shirts that said ‘Hollands Klub’, I would definitely avoid them.1

I had a good time in Helsinki, and methinks it was because i went there as a professor on sabbatical, with skills that could be worked to the benefit of the locals. The first one i put to work was “inspecting English texts”, (and knowing some Finnish was essential to doing really high quality work at that.) My knowledge of the commonest language of science and business was not so special in Canada; but there, it was a skill “in demand”—and short supply.

I went to London [UK] once during that sabbatical year, to deliver a somewhat boring, routine report on behalf of one of Helsinki University’s research and training departments; it cost less to send me than to send a salaried employee, and my English was at least as good as any of theirs. I got to walk around London for a week at little cost, and “en route back,” paused in Germany for another conference in which Helsinki University was not involved.

My year’s sojourn in Helsinki and my weeks in London and the Rhine Valley, were far more enjoyable exactly because they involved a lot of work—work i chose to do because, in context of where it was done, when, and with whom, it was fun—much more fun than sitting and watching TV or any other commercial entertainment.

It’s well worth mentioning, that the work i enjoyed, was based on my better skills and on their scarcity in the places where i travelled. Foreign workers who undercut locals in wage competition are of course unwelcome… but inspecting academic writing for subtle ambiguities and delivering technical reports at foreign meetings, are a far cry from “busing” tables at a fast food joint or picking up litter in a park. They are not skills likely to be over-abundant much of anywhere.2

Twice, when i arrived at monasteries for visits of different length, i asked the first Brother i met [who in each case was doing work of a practical rather than ritual sort] “Is there anything I can do to help out?” Once there was, once there wasn’t; but what better way to arrive anywhere? … assuming you’re in good health and don’t need rush off to the can.

It’s got to where if i don’t have work to do in a place … i don’t go.

Once i even got my travel costs paid do go to a conference and deliver a paper titled “Work as Leisure.” (If that title reads to you like a contradiction, the reason might be that you have worked mainly under close supervision and strict rules. In these sad closing days of the Industrial Revolution, those conditions seem to be getting worse again… but any apparent contradiction between work and leisure can be punctured with a cooking fork—or a spading fork, or a garden trowel, an artist’s brush, even a pair of knitting needles.)

Cooking up a good pot of chili is definitely work! useful, too. So is putting in a herb garden to support a good kitchen, or smoking several kilos of herring or mackerel or river sucker for future enjoyment. All are things men have enjoyed doing, additional to the future pleasures of better eating.

Once, not far west of the border between the provinces of Alberta and B.C., i built a sauna for a family i was visiting. Another time, nearer the Pacific Ocean, i gathered apples at a cider-making Saturday “work party”. Definitely useful—without my menial labour, at least three gallons of cider wouldn’t have been made—and since i took home one of those gallons of cider for a little ageing, i can attest it was good.

I’ve never been in the Southern Hemisphere—nor in Asia or Africa—so far. I doubt i ever will go there, unless i can find something useful to do when i arrive. And while i’m not the kind of “American” that Dutch lad was referring to, methinks even a Canadian group being led around by a tour guide, whether the writing on the bus said “Hollands Klub”, “Sociedad Española” or “Treasure Tours”, would also be avoided by the locals unless they were paid to talk to it.

What’s fundamentally wrong with being a tourist in the usual sense of the word, is that what you have to offer the locals is money—and as far as they know, nothing else. Result: Apart from sheer charity, they have no reason to want to deal with you, but getting money; and you increase the congestion—so we hear stories from returning tourists, about greed, even theft, by the locals. Those are the locals they attracted—the greedy ones, some of whom resorted to theft.

Arrive with work skills, especially work skills that are in any kind of short supply, and you meet quite different locals. You are welcomed because you are contributing. If, for instance, you are part of a Habitat for Humanity project building a boardinghouse for homeless men to live in and operate with their own labour, you’re likely doing work no one would have paid for—so local talent hasn’t lost the jobs you’re doing. Locals will be glad to see a problem taken off the streets—especially if they are among the homeless. And you will come back with an appreciation of the place far greater than you can get at a fancy hotel3 or on a top-rank tour.

A major theme of this “Jobs and Working” series, has been that work itself is good4, and the more useful the work you do, the better. Finding work that you enjoy and do well, is vital to living well and making the most of your time alive.

Even “on the road.”

Notes:

1. Yes, in English. Dutch isn’t spoken much in Helsinki, and several of those at the meeting weren’t functional in Finnish.

2 .. given that the language of the text being inspected is not local to the place where the inspecting is done.

3. These days—unlike 30-50 years ago—even fancy hotels have serious problems with bedbugs, for instance. (CBC Radio told me so, last year. I haven’t been in a fancy hotel since the 1980s, and seldom even then.)

4. I’ve read and heard Christians to say that work is a curse from God because Adam and Eve ate that forbidden fruit. Not so: Earlier in the first book of the Bible, we read (Genesis 2:15) “the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.” Part of being in Paradise was tending that holy garden. The curse (Gen 3: 17-18) fell on the working conditions; work had been man’s from the start.

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Truth, Power, Feminism, and Mother’s Day:

Is Something Wrong with this Picture?
(c) 2014, Davd

With three days until Mother’s Day, CBC Radio News reports that the Liberal Party, under Justin Trudeau’s command, has joined the NDP in requiring that all candidates be “pro choice”. (The first announcement about the Liberals was yesterday; today CBC emphasized that the NDP has required all candidates to support abortion for some time already.) It is obvious to those who know recent Canadian history, who has the choice, and it’s not fathers, not sires, not the unborn.

In a totally Feminist world, methinks, there would be two Mother’s Days each year: The second Sunday in May, and the anniversary of the day you were born, On the anniversaire, as the French call it, you would thank your mother, profusely, that she did not have an abortion.

As a Christian, I cannot in good conscience vote Liberal nor NDP. I know enough biology to realize that:
‣ a foetus is alive {that’s part of the definition of foetus};
‣ a foetus belongs to the human species;
‣ a foetus is genetically and anatomically distinct from the woman in whose uterus it temporarily resides.

Therefore, a foetus is a distinct human life—it is a living being, different from its mother, and its species is Homo sapiens. To say abortion is not homicide is to utter a legal fiction. It may be deemed in law, that abortion is not homicide, but that is invalid biologically. I trust biological science more than i trust the vagaries of politics and lobbying… and I cannot, as a Christian, vote in support of killing any human being because some other human being on whom a foetus depends for some months for survival, doesn’t feel like bothering. It is now Liberal as well as NDP policy, from which party candidates are not free to dissent, to persecute Christian churches in regard to abortion.

It’s true, that men don’t get pregnant. It’s also true that women can avoid getting pregnant. There is one sure way to avoid pregnancy—sexual abstinence. And very rare indeed, are the cases where a woman modestly dressed and of sober conduct, determined to keep abstinence, fails to keep it. Those who get pregnant are those who act erotically. Modest women don’t need abortion.1

Distinct from the fact that abortion ends a human life in obedience to the will of a different person—which would be called homicide and crime after birth—is the question of whose will is given this power. Feminism refers to “a woman’s control over her own body,” but does not come out and say candidly “and if some body that is totally dependent on that woman’s uterus for a few months, dies as a result—tough luck!”

The foetus has no say in an abortion decision. Neither has the sire. If a man and woman start a pregnancy—and excepting the story told in Luke 1: 26-38, no woman has got pregnant otherwise2—and if the man will be financially obligated if the woman completes the pregnancy and bears a child; then would it be fairer, to require the sire’s consent to an abortion? If the sire decides not to consent, but to take responsibility for the child at birth or at weaning, he could reasonably take on a financial obligation during the pregnancy.

It’s true, men don’t get pregnant. It’s also true, modesty and self-discipline can protect women from doing so. (The more you display your sexuality, the more you imply an intent to make it active.)

Politics is about power, and very often, about coercive power. There is an old saying, “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Feminism has succeeded in granting women absolute power over the survival of the unborn in most of Canada and in forbidding anyone who wants to become a Liberal or NDP candidate from disagreement with that policy. Women who bear children have been granted a new “guilt trip” with which to abuse their children: They can say “You owe me your very life, on my terms of payment—I could have had an abortion.” It will not be the best women who make the most use of it.

If i have Christian moral revulsions about abortion based on mere choice, and don’t happen to agree with the Conservative party—have i lost my vote?

It’s true, that the human population of the Earth is “too large”—at least twice what it ought to be, and perhaps 3-10 times what it ought to be, for humankind to live from renewable resources. There has been too much motherhood, these past 60-70 years—and as early as 50 years ago, when the US population was maybe half what it is now, two US demographers warned that population was already too many (Day and Day, 1964). There has also been too much STD [formerly, “venereal disease”] during the past few decades. Applying prudence and discipline to our sexual urges3 will deal with both problems—and in a manner that treats men and women as equals, which abortion on one woman’s say-so alone, does not4.

It might be too late to organize them this year, but alternatives to Mother’s Day are in order. The best mothers should indeed be honoured—and not only on the second Sunday in May. But not all mothers are angels; and truth is better than Political Correctness. Many Christians venerate the Mother of Jesus; but those who know the doctrines well, do not worship her—nor St. Peter, nor St. James, St. John, St. Paul, nor Mother Theresa, nor the Bishop, nor their own mothers. As St. Paul wrote and a Council of the Church chose as part of Holy Scripture “all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God.” Including all mothers.

Motherhood is a mighty responsibility. So is fatherhood, which much of Feminism has sought to negate (Nathanson and Young, 2006, 2012). Motherhood without fatherhood is less effective, as much research has shown. Abortion is a morally false solution to the problems, and abortion based solely on one woman’s say-so is worse still. The power to kill a foetus that could become a healthy baby, will indeed corrupt, and has to some extent done so already. From the vantage point of my prayer garden, the Liberal and NDP parties, perhaps even the Greens, are already corrupted.

If motherhood becomes matriolatry, “Thank You, Mother” could become an ironic imprecation5.

References:

Catton, William R., Jr. 1980 Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change. Urbana, London, and Chicago: University of Illinois Press. Paperback 1982

Day, Lincoln, and Alice T. Day 1964. Too many Americans. New York: Dell

Lewis, C.S. 1952. Mere Christianity. NYC: MacMillan paperback.

Nathanson, Paul, and Katherine K. Young, 2006. Legalizing Misandry: From Public Shame to Systemic Discrimination against Men Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University
Press.

Nathanson, Paul and Katherine K. Young, 2012. “Misandry and Emptiness: Masculine Identity in a Toxic Cultural Environment” New Male Studies v. 1 Issue 1: 4-18

Schneider, Stephen and Lynne Mesirow 1976. The Genesis Strategy: Climate and Global Survival. New York and London: Plenum. This book predates the “Global Warming” issues, and focuses on the unusual stability of climate in the first three quarters of the 20th Cantury. It is cited here as more evidence in support of population reduction.

 

Notes:

1. When abortion was generally illegal, exceptions were made for forcible rape [which is very, very different from blaming the man when two drunken or 'stoned' people have intercourse, very different even from seduction] and situations where the woman’s life was endangered by continuation of a pregnancy.

2. “AI” and “IVF” still use sperm produced by the body of a man.

3. Dan Aykroyd may not have said it best, but perhaps he said it funniest, in the comedy remake of Dragnet: “Two things distinguish human beings from monkeys. We use cutlery, and we can control our sexual urges.”

4. Before Jesus’ time there were the Eleusynian Mysteries, and Persephone, legend has it, said “A man is nothing. The belly carries the child.” (in Mary Renault’s novel The King Must Die.)

5. .. as “Yas’m Boss” and “Yassuh, Boss” seem to have been when the races were not equal in the USA?

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Vignettes of Female Volatility and Violence:

.. We men have a fair claim to be the Gentler Sex:
(c) 2014, Davd

When people talk about fury and violence, an expression often used is “stirring up a hornets’ nest.” How many of the people who say that, realize that most bees, wasps, and hornets [and stinging 'soldier' ants] are (non-reproducing) females? Those kamikaze-like attacks from a disturbed nest are carried out by females! The males [often called by the name drones] are quite peaceable.

Listening to Handel’s Messiah one Christmas Day : “For we like sheep have gone astray, every one .. to his own way.” Oops! A flock of adult sheep is more than 90% females. (As for the juveniles, the lambs follow their mothers to the age when the majority of males are castrated… by the time the lambs reach an age to go astray—the majority are females, and of the minority, a few are entire males and the most are “wethers”—the sheepish equivalent of eunuchs.)

The most feared military unit in World War II, not in battle* “but to be captured by” was made up of Russian women, two colleagues with strong interests in military history, told me. Not Nazis—Russian women. They treated the men they captured more harshly than any other unit—at least, than any other unit that ever made itself a reputation—and if there had been a meaner unit it more than likely would have made a reputation.

How many times, watching movies or “live theatre”, have you seen a man slap a woman’s face? How many times have you seen a woman slap a man’s face? .. and does he hit her back? Dare he?

When i was a boy, girls seldom slapped our faces but some kicked our shins and then danced away singing “Can’t hit a Gir-rul” to the Nyah, nyah, nyah, nyAAAA—Nyah! tune. In some cases, it seemed they attacked simply because they could get away with it, or because we weren’t paying attention to them. (We didn’t nag them to pay attention to us…)

In his book Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman recalls [p. 130], “As i was entering a restaurant … a young man stalked out the door, his face set in an expression both stony and sullen. Close on his heels a young woman came running, her fists desperately pummeling on his back while she yelled, “Goddamn you! Come back here and be nice to me!”   Which of those two was the more violent?
(No hint from Goleman, nor from what i read on men’s websites in 2011-12, that the woman would be punished—but if the sexes were reversed …?

Perhaps Kipling should have the last words, written a century and more ago, before the First World War. He starts his poem with an encounter between peasant and bear: If the bear is male, he may avoid a noisy human; if the bear is female, she will attack. Click the link to see how he continues in reference to our own species.

Kipling is not always exact;
—he writes fear where i would write prudence, for instance;
—he is more sure of women’s fidelity to their mates, than men today who have been through divorce—or whose friends have;
—read in today’s context, he overstates the dangers of childbirth**
—but the difference in fury v. restraint, is clear enough.

… So which is the Gentler Sex?

 

Notes:

To offer further examples for the collection or to look into blogging for everyman, use the contact form or write to replies [at you can probably guess what]

* The most impressive battle units in the European war, or so i’ve heard, were made up of Estonians fighting against the Russians, and Japanese-Americans fighting against the Germans. The Finnish units fighting against the Russians were also impressive, but the Estonians, who like the Japanese-American unit were volunteers (while the Finns were regular army soldiers), were even more so.

** The largest single reason why women now live longer on average, than men, is that childbirth is far safer today for women, than in his time and earlier. War is still very dangerous for men, as are many of the jobs done mainly by men. Warren Farrell’s two interviews in New Male Studies mention some telling details.

 

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Blender Mayonnaise:

Better than the Jars, Versatile if Spring ever comes:
(c) 2014, Davd

As i began to write this “technique description”, on the first day of spring, there was a Heavy Snowfall Warning in effect, and indeed, more snow falling on top of the metre or more that covers the ground, including the ground where—if Spring comes before Hell freezes over—herb plants might again send up green leaves. More than four months, more nearly five, have gone by since i last cut fresh chives, never mind oregano, tarragon, or such tender herbs as basil. So this post will be about the basic technique; i won’t harass you with stories of summer delights that are still months away…

(If spring ever comes. The radio has told me thirteen times or more, if it has told me once, that this is the worst winter in decades; and in Canada, it is easy to keep in mind that every so many thousand years there has been an Ice Age. Maybe that’s what comes next. To a Canadian, “climate change” doesn’t necessarily imply warming.)

To make mayonnaise this way, you’ll need a blender, eggs [“large” is the default size], at least a litre of vegetable oil, powdered dry mustard and paprika, salt, and vinegar. I prefer canola oil and white vinegar for the basic mayonnaise; and expect that for US readers, sunflower or corn oil would also serve well. If and when spring is well along, and the chives bloom, I’ll write about making herb-flavoured vinegars, and then about making herbed mayonnaise with them. Because cleaning a blender after making mayonnaise is somewhat tedious, i make at least four eggs worth at a time.

If you have recently bought a new blender, there should be directions with it; if you have one you are used to, you should know by now how to put it together. Take notice of the “pulse” feature, however that is implemented on the brand you have. “Pulse” blending stops when you lift your finger off the button. “Normal” blending keeps on until you press a “STOP” button (or imaginably, flip a switch somewhere.) This technique works better with “pulse”.

The hardest part of the procedure, is getting the finished mayonnaise from the blender container into a holding container for storage in the fridge. If you have somebody around to help you just with the 2-5 second “three handed part” of that, the rest of the job is straightforward and in my experience, reliably successful.

Crack an egg into the blender. Add one tablespoon1 of vinegar, and half a teaspoon [or slightly less] each of mustard powder, paprika powder, and salt. Fill a one-cup measuring container with oil2.

Put the cover on the blender, run it for 10 seconds or so; then lift up the inner cap (which leaves a hole in the middle of the cover) and pour about half the oil with the motor running. The first few times you do this, you may choose to stop the blender while removing the inner cap. I’ve been making mayonnaise this way for about 40 years; and i usually lift the inner cap once the egg, vinegar, and seasonings are mixed, then pick up the oil with my right hand and pour it through the opening. This first half pour you can do fairly fast, but i recommend the stream be thinner than a pencil3.

When the first half of your cup of oil is mixed in, stop the blender—that is, take your left finger off the pulse button. Add a second tablespoon of vinegar, and leave the inner cap lightly over the hole in the cover as you re-start—it may splash.

As soon as the second tablespoon of vinegar is mixed in, lift off the inner cap and pour the rest of the oil through the hole slowly. A stream half the thickness of a pencil is about right. As the last of the oil is poured, the sound will probably change… indicating that the mayonnaise is becoming semi-solid.

For the last of the process, things may get a little tedious. As the mayonnaise becomes semi-solid, air tends to form a pocket around the whirling blades, which may completely stop the mixing process and will reduce the resistance to the blades, allowing them to spin too fast. So, you have to stop the machine and using a rubber spatula [metal can cause damage if the blades hit it] work the air pocket up and out, and the mixture back around the blades.

Blender directions sometimes tell you to push the nearly-ready mayonnaise in from the edges and over-top the blades. This may work to keep the mixing happening, by putting enough mass of mayonnaise above the air pocket, that it bubbles up and out of the mass. It also risks having the blades hit the spatula—which is why only a rubber spatula should be tried. If you have a very steady hand and the blender container seems shaped so that the spatula trick will work with the blades spinning, try it if you choose. The cautious way is to stop the machine when the sound indicates the blades are spinning too fast; then poke the air pocket with the spatula, which will let the air bubble up and out .. then start the machine again. The PULSE button is much easier to use for this.

When the mixture is uniform—the same colour and consistency throughout, with no pockets of oil—you’ve made mayonnaise.

Now—how to get that mayonnaise somewhere for storage? I recommend plastic or glass containers, and i usually make 4-6 eggs worth of mayonnaise at a time. The task isn’t easy: You have a blender container with semi-solid mayonnaise in it, and if you try to pour that mayonnaise a lot of it will cling to the blending container. The best way to proceed is to take off the base of the blending container [by unscrewing it] and then push the mayonnaise down through the open bottom into the holding container.

This would be easier if you had three hands. You need one hand to hold the blender container and two to unscrew and remove the base—which will have a large blob of mayonnaise on it surrounding the blades. If the base has a wide, “cute skirt” rather than resembling an upside down jar lid, things will be more difficult—but you do need one hand on the handle of the blending container. I can usually manage to hold the sealing ring and blades against the bottom of the blender container with one finger, while taking off the screw-cap and swinging it out of the way.

That tricky part done, you remove the sealing ring and blades, set them down nearby, and push the mayonnaise down and out of the blender container, into the holding container. Then using the rubber spatula, take the mayonnaise from around the blades and put it also, into the holding container.

You could stop with one egg’s worth of mayonnaise, but it’s just about as much work to clean up after making one egg’s worth, as after making six—so i usually make 4-6 eggs worth once i start. In winter, the procedure above is all there is to it…

… or you can finish up with 1-2 batches to which you add a one-inch cube of blue cheese before you start the blades turning. (If you make the blue cheese batches first, the little bit you can’t easily get out of the blending container, will give a taste to the plain batches, so do the plain batches first!) Obviously, you store plain and blue cheese mayonnaise in different containers. Blue cheese mayonnaise isn’t only a salad dressing, but it does serve very well indeed, in that use. It doesn’t get as thick as plain mayonnaise, and will pour or spoon onto salads “quite nicely.”

In summer, you can add fresh herbs (also before starting to ‘blend’): I usually make chive-tarragon, basil-oregano, and if i have lots of dill, dill mayonnaise. Chive-tarragon goes especially well with fish and chicken; basil-oregano, with tomatoes, and dill with cucumbers and red meat (most herbed mayonnaise goes pretty well with cold red meat for a simple sandwich.) Methinks i should re-post about herbed mayonnaise and making herb vinegars, when the winter ends…4

Notes:

1. The spoon I use is at least two teaspoonfuls in size, but may be short of the three teaspoonfuls that cookbooks define as “one tablespoon”. It works with this recipe, using “large” size eggs. If the tablespoon in your kitchen is quite large and the first batch of mayonnaise you make tastes too acid, fill the tablespoon less than cram full for the second batch.

2. You can put one cup of oil in a larger container, but i never have. “Measuring cups” usually pour well (having handles helps with that,) they are usually easy to clean, and why leave that much more oil on the inside of a larger container? I usually set the measuring cup on a cutting board (I have four: One for fish, one for meat, one for vegetables, and one for bread. The two largest are red oak, the others are larch; which woods are antiseptic. I pick whatever board is clean and could use oiling.

3. Why do i refer so often to the thickness of a pencil? Because nearly every household has pencils, and they’re all of a standard thickness, which for most men is easier to visualize than a measure in inches or centimetres. It also avoids the hassle of stating both measurements, since Canadian and most European readers think in metric while US and many UK readers think in feet and inches.

4 … as of April 9th, that’s barely begun. There was more snow last weekend… but maybe that much has melted since …

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Feminist International Declares Victory:

Boys and Men Now Need Special Help to Catch Up

Richard Cox, reporting

The Feminist International, a body whose membership is a secret as closely guarded as the memberships of the KGB, Mossad, Bohemian Grove, and the 1965 Nielsen ratings panel; has produced a draft report confirming what many men have contended for years: Legal and bureaucratic changes responding to Feminist lobbying, Affirmative Action programmes, and vestiges of former chivalry, have placed women in Europe and North America in a position of advantage comparable to that of white South Africans in the mid-20th Century.

Girls, the report reports, now dominate university student populations. Women under 40 in large cities average higher earnings per hour or in monthly salary, than men of the same age. Entrants to the professions are mostly young women. Recent psychological research has shown that boys are naturally ill-adapted to current school culture; and that systemic misandry has lowered boys’ and young men’s self-esteem to levels approximating those reported by Clark and Clark among Negro American children in 1947.

Special help for girls, the report concludes, is no longer required in most fields of study. Major changes in school culture and instructional practices are now needed to seve boys as well as girls are served. Boys and men abused by women number somewhere between 70% and 150% as many as girls and women abused by men; and need Houses of Refuge in at least half the amount of Women’s Shelters, while some Women’s Shelter spaces are used by “clients” not in need of protection; so overall Shelter funding, like special tutoring and self-esteem funding, “might need an increase less than it needs a sex-change.”

The report will be published some time in the next fifty years. “We have not set an early publication date,” explained committee chair Carol Anne van Dyke, “because frankly, having 87% daughters among the children of the authors and the supervisory committee, we want our girls to benefit from our legal and policy achievements before we level the playing field.”

It’s

Not

the

facts

purported

above,

(which

are

true

enough)

but

the

notion

that

a

Feminist

International

(if

it

existed)

would

admit

to

such

inconvenient

truths,

that

makes

this

report

….

April
Fool!

 

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Tuna and Noodles:

..Fast to Cook, Long Keeping Ingredients—a Classic One-Man Meal:
(c) 2014, Davd

The salmon,” goes a mid-20th Century joke, “is a fish which grows to maturity in the oceans and appears as if by magic from a can, when unexpected guests arrive for dinner.” I lived over half my lifespan along the west coast of Canada and the US in the watersheds where Pacific salmon appeared as if by magic at the mouths of rivers in the autumn, to swim upstream, spawn, and die.*

When i was a student in Seattle, canned salmon was still a fairly economical, long-keeping foodstuff. Today, there are fewer salmon and more grocery-shoppers; and you are lucky to buy canned salmon** for less than $15 per kilo; while a one dollar can of tuna, which contains 120 g of meat and 50 g of broth, works out to $8.33 per kilo. Sadly, that’s a fairly good price for any decent tasting kind of fish these days; and so, it might be wise to have a few cans of tuna, bought on those dollar sales, in the cupboard for occasions when there’s no meat in the fridge that appeals to you, and you’d like a quick, fairly good tasting meal.

Tuna and noodles is very much a bachelor food: One can of tuna has just enough meat in it to feed one man one meal, and far too little for two, even for two six year old boys. Pasta keeps several days in the ‘fridge, cooked; and is quick to cook from its dry form. The seasonings can all be kept for months. I’m going to describe it the way i cooked it this winter, in a small (7-inch top diameter, 5½-inch bottom diameter) stainless steel frying pan, to use some canned tuna that was approaching its “best before” date. (I bought it for 70-90 cents per can “in the old days” before 2012.) The pan nicely held the tuna, cooking liquid, seasonings, and pasta—one pan is both cooking utensil and “soup plate” with handle—a classic bachelor cooking-for-one situation. A man living alone can make very efficient use of such a pan, very often; in a household of two or more, it’s mainly useful for making small amounts of sauces or when only one man is at home.

I would not use a cast-iron frying pan for this job: Cast-iron frying pans are best for frying but poor for wet cooking. (Well, best for frying unless you cook over a gas flame in the French manner, which almost no one does at home in North America. If you go camping and plan to cook over a fire or a gas stove, leave the cast iron at home; stainless cooks better over flame and is also easier to clean.) The pan i used was discarded by a neighbour who has a typical Canadian electric stove; i salvaged it because i have a woodstove on which i do most of my winter cooking. If i bought one, i’d have insisted on a 6-inch bottom diameter (to fit the smaller elements of normal electric stoves), but for free—this was a good deal.

If you don’t have cooked pasta waiting in the ‘fridge, half-fill a pot of water for cooking it and start that heating, with the dry pasta standing by. Spaghetti works fine, fusilli, rotini, and linguine should also. Penne and elbows, i’d use for something else; and vermicelli is too thin, really. A wee bit of oil in the pasta cooking water helps prevent sticking. Cook enough pasta, if you haven’t any waiting in the fridge, that the next time you want pasta, you will have. (It can always become pasta and cheese, or pasta salad with mayonnaise, and before long i’ll write about an easy way to cook chicken cacciatore.)

Into the pan (or cooking pot if you’re making this up for more than just one man) goes a little stock. If you don’t keep stock in your fridge you’ll probably use the water from the canned tuna, perhaps from a jar or tin of olives, maybe even a little plain water. With the pan on the stove and a little stock in the pan, add the Seasonings: Celery [leaf or seed, or "lovage"], Sage, Oregano, Hot Paprika, Pepper, and Onion or Chive, cut fairly small. (If you don’t have hot paprika you can skip it, or add regular paprika and a wee pinch of hot red pepper or 1-2 drops of Tabasco type hot-pepper sauce.) Now turn on the heat, fairly low if it’s electric. Let the stock and seasonings simmer for 2-5 minutes, and keep the heat low so the stock doesn’t boil away (add water or more stock if it threatens to. A glass lid really helps here.)

I use “vegetable stock” made from vegetable trimmings, herb stems, and old herbs that have lost some but not all of their flavour. A packet of fish or shrimp broth powder from one of those 85g [3 oz] bags of ramen noodles will also do, if you have one you didn’t put in with the ramen; or half the brine left over from a jar or can of olives. The water from the can of tuna won’t be enough by itself (or it can be used when adding the cornstarch). Don’t use beef or chicken stock.

Now add the tuna and if you have some handy, you might want to add some pimento, a few olives [black or green], or a few capers; (don’t add more than one of them, unless you’re very familiar with using them and are confident you’ll like the combination. If you fried the onions to where they just started to brown, that will provide the oil to get the starch to thicken; if not, add a half teaspoonful of cooking oil or bacon fat.)

While the tuna is heating up to boiling, mix a forkful of cornstarch into some liquid, preferably stock (and-or the ‘water’ from the tuna can if you didn’t use it already.) When the tuna has boiled in its seasoned liquid for even a minute, add the cornstarch and stock (stir it again, with the fork rather than a spoon for best effect, before and after adding to the pan.) If using electricity, you can raise the heat setting, but not to highest.

Soon, the liquid will thicken and begin to bubble. Cut the heat back to low [or move the pan to a cooler part of the woodstove] and mix in the pasta. If it’s cold cooked pasta from the ‘fridge, then it will need a few minutes to heat, and if you use high rather than low heat the thickened sauce may stick.) If the noodles were cooked at the same time and added boiling hot, mix them in, shut off the heat, and allow to cool back to eating temperature. When the noodles are eating temperature, it’s ready.

If you don’t yet have a seasonings collection, you can make a quite decent meal of tuna and noodles using a “seafood seasoning” such as Johnny’s or Tony Chachere’s as seasonings, and the liquid from a small jar or can of olives or pimentos [maybe from bread and butter pickles] as stock. (Do not throw away such flavoured liquid unless you already have an abundance of it in the fridge or the cold cellar. I make pickled eggs using the liquid from dill pickles, a trick i learned from an old Ukrainian welder; and the leftover liquid from bread and butter pickles or green olives will also work, with a different tasting result, obviously. I doubt that dill pickle ‘broth’ would make a good stock for tuna, because it is so acid; but if you like acid sauces you could even try that.)

For a vegetable to accompany tuna and noodles, in winter, i tend to heat some frozen spinach, cook cabbage with caraway, or have cabbage heart or cole slaw. Carrot-raisin salad is also OK but i prefer a green vegetable, or maybe beets, with this ‘dish’. I’ve eaten it for breakfast with an apple, banana, orange, or even rhubarb, especially if i wanted a quick breakfast.

One pan, easily cleaned, cooks and serves the ‘main dish'; and there are several ways to accompany that main dish without having to cook anything else but the pasta. Efficient one-man meal, and tastes good enough you could eat it often if tuna were still cheap.

Notes:

* Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) can spawn, return to sea, and return from sea a year or two later to spawn again. Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchys spp.) die after spawning (unless the fishermen catch them before they enter the rivers.)

** Chum or keta salmon (Oncorhynchys keta) can sometimes be bought in cans for $9 or so per kilo, but it is the least tasty of the Pacific species and was known as “dog salmon” during my youth. When other salmon species were abundant it was fed to dogs while the other species were eaten by the
humans; i count it as edible fish but would not call it “salmon” among serious cooks. Pink salmon (Oncorhynchys gorbuscha) can be had in cans for between $8 and $10 per kilo in years when the spawning runs are largest, and should be treated as similar to brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) by Easterners. I recommend canned pink salmon for cooking, though sockeye is the best canned salmon and coho and chinook, better than pink. Fresh pink salmon is good steamed, which the oilier salmon species, in my opinion, are not. Pinks were sold in Atlantic Canada in 2013 for $5 per kilo and less, whole frozen [drawn].

 

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Something Average Women Can Do Better than I Can:

… and it’s not about the Reproductive System, either:
(c) 2014, Davd

One early March morning, as i was sitting in my bed doing an important chore, it occurred to me that an average-sized woman could do it better than i was, for good anatomical reasons.

(Yes, the bed is a clue. The fact that i was sitting up in bed [with my back propped against three pillows] is a better clue.)

I was mending a felt boot-liner, with a needle and thread. Some seams had come open, probably due to the original thread wearing through; and while the felt is fairly easy to sew, the places needing mending would be impossible to fit into the business end of a typical household sewing machine *

So there i sat, mending seams in a felt boot-liner; and the work went just fine except when i had knots to tie. I was using polyester thread, because it “takes wear better”, and a small-eye needle so as to disturb the integrity of the felt as little as possible. Threading the needle went almost well, given good light; though the diameter of the thread was something like 80% of the diameter of the needle’s eye. The problems came when i had to tie knots in that very fine thread, and couldn’t do it by manoeuvring the needle. Tying two short [2-4 cm] lengths of fine sewing hread—well, guys, as most of you know, our fingertips are just too [ahem.. NetNanny won't allow that word] stubby to do it even half easily. I got the job done, but not nearly as easily …
… as a woman whose three middle fingers are about the same thickness as my “pinkie” [aka “little finger”—NetNanny seems to be OK with baby talk, and that's one BabyTalk word that fairly many “grownups” actually speak.]

With three fingers a few mm thicker than a pencil, and a pinkie about the same thickness as a pencil, on each hand; a woman in the smaller half of the hand size distribution would have found that knot tying much easier than i did.** So while hand mending isn’t necessarily “women’s work”, some of it is work that should be women’s when the men have work to which our anatomies are more suited, enough to keep us busy—work like heavy gardening, for instance.

It made more sense that cold March morning, for me to spend an extra 5-10 minutes tying knots that a woman’s hands were more suited to tie, than to take the job somewhere else for smaller fingers to do. Taking the job elsewhere and fetching it back would have taken much longer. It makes more sense for me to do fine detail work involved in growing tomato plants indoors to be planted out when the frost is gone, for the same basic reason. But if i were living with a woman whose hands were less stubby than mine are, i’d dig the transplanting holes (over a cubic foot in size, anyway) and split the firewood, and she could transplant new tomato sprouts. We’d each be doing sex-appropriate work.

Notes:

* Perhaps a shoemaker would have a machine that could do such jobs, and i can remember when there was a good working Scandinavian shoemaker in Thunder Bay, to whom i took not felt liners but leather boots for work. That was 25 years or longer, ago; and i wonder if there are any shops like his, today.

** (Assuming, if anyone had thought to quibble, that her hand-eye coordination be about as good as mine and her intelligence anywhere above the bottom quarter of the range.) There may be times when small boys can do fine-fingertip work better than their stubby fingered fathers and elder brothers.

I do some 50 hours of mending, give or take a dozen or two, each year. That’s partly because i don’t care a [ahem.. NetNanny might not allow that word either] of a lot about Looking Nice when working in the forest and the gardens, and partly because it costs me an hour or more, and $10 or more [sometimes much more] in fuel, to “go shopping.”

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Carrot-Raisin Salad:

..Something Juicy from Last Summer’s Garden:
(c) 2014, Davd

The snow is two feet deep at least, and if you dug down through it to the garden, you’d get nothing worth bringing into the kitchen. The nearest to fresh food you can get from a summer garden in winter, will be roots, apples, and cabbages. So .. how to make roots fresh and juicy? and give them some of that sweet taste that really good vegetables can have in the green season?

In the case of carrots—shred them—and add raisins. Shredded down to spaghetti thickness, carrots turn out to be quite pleasantly juicy; raisins add a complementary flavour, extra sweetness, and have a texture that goes well with the shredded carrots.

You can use a “grater” to shred carrots, or an electric “food processor”. My favorite tool is a hand-cranked, three-legged arrangement that uses tapered cylinders to cut the vegetables.* The cylinder i use for carrot-raisin salad shreds the carrots into strings just slightly thinner than uncooked spaghetti; and if you use a “grater” to shred them, or an electric “food processor”, that’s still the thickness i recommend.

When the carrots are shredded, all you do is add raisins—and as usual, i advise adding fewer rather than more to start. You can always add more later; they are near enough to impossible to separate out once added, that i’ve never seen anyone try. (If you do have too many raisins, you can leave some in the bowl, shred in another carrot or two, and put it in the ‘fridge for another day. I haven’t tested how long carrot-raisin salad will keep, but covered in a fridge, it ought to keep say, 2-4 days.)

What kind of raisins to add? My preference, again “as usual” is for robust flavours, so i add darker rather than lighter ones—and smaller rather than larger. If Corinthian raisins, which are often called “currants” in stores, are the same price as larger and paler ones, they are what i’d recommend. I suppose i usually use Thompson seedless raisins when i use store-bought because Corinthians have lately cost a good deal more.

I also have a Beta grape vine, which produces dark blue grapes with a fairly strong flavour and soft seeds; and they have made me good salads many times. I believe i prefer Beta grapes as raisins in the winter, when the garden isn’t producing, rather than as fresh grapes when there are all those other tasty things coming from the garden.

Beta grapes are reported to be hardy to -40; they should grow where most Canadians live. Of the very hardy grapes, they are my favorite so far.

Whatever grapes you dry or buy as raisins, and whatever variety of carrots you shred, this salad belongs in your winter repertoire. The ingredients can be grown in most Canadian gardens, their cost in the stores is moderate compared to most vegetables and sweets today, they keep well until you’re ready to use them, and the taste is quite different from those of beets, cabbage, peas, spinach, and other vegetables that you can freeze well or store in a cold-room or ‘fridge.

- – -

* The tool might have the name “salad-master”, but i’m not certain of that—nor do i know for sure if there might be more than one such tool with different specific designs—i bought mine at a yard sale. I find it easier to use, cooking for one man or maybe two or three, than an electric “food processor”; there is less fuss to setting it up and to cleaning up after. It’s much faster and a little safer for my fingertips, than a flat “grater.” I can set a bowl under and a little outside the cutting cylinder, to catch the shreds, and then eat the salad out of that bowl if i’m eating alone.

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Beans, .. Beans, .. Beans, .. Beans…

… this time, Black and Pinto …
(c) 2014, Davd

Home made pea soup can be a welcome part of your regular diet; but if that’s the only pea-family protein food you cook, it’s likely to get monotonous, eating pea soup at noon every day. i like to alternate my leguminous protein meals among peas, chickpeas, lentils, and especially, at least two kinds of beans. The beans are the ones i like best: Black beans, pintos*, and chili-sin-carne [meatless chili] to be exact. In this “post”, i’ll describe cooking black and pinto beans; chili-sin-carne is a little more elaborate and merits a “post” of its own*.

Pea soup cooks almost quickly to a thick purée; black and pinto beans cook more slowly to a tender but still distinct consistency in which you can see, and feel [in your mouth] the individual beans. Each of the three legumes has a distinctive flavour, as different from the others, say, as beef is from pork is from chicken. They should each have a distinctive seasoning as well. Black and pinto beans can be soaked and cooked in the same basic way—but i advise you not to try switching the seasonings from one to the other, any more than you’d season beef with sage.

Beans follow the same basic cooking pattern as peas and lentils; but their soaking times are longer. They benefit from savory, onion, and celery or liveche, but the other seasonings are different—and quite different for black vs. pinto beans.

The basic pattern, to repeat, is: [1] Soak with savory, but at least overnight this time;
[2] add a little soda for quicker cooking,
[3] season with herbs (no smoked fat),
[4] bring to boiling [stirring down foam is more a problem with black beans than pintos] and
[5] simmer until the texture is “done”, which with these beans will require one to three hours.

As with pea soup, then, measure a volume of beans one-eighth or less as large as the volume of the pot you’ll use, into that pot or some container that can take some heat. Then measure 3-4 times that volume of water (or vegetable stock) into another pot, add some savory if you have savory, and bring it to the boil. If you have added savory, lower the heat to a gentle bubbling, and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Then turn off the electricity if you used an electric stove, and pour the boiling water onto the beans. (You can also put the peas in a bowl or other holding container, heat the water in the pot you’ll use to cook the soup, and pour in the beans when it’s ready.)

Next, let the dry beans soak up water for 8-12 hours. (They shouldn’t need longer, but they can soak for a full 24-hour day without harm.) When they’re ready, they will have visibly swelled and there will be much less water on top of them.

Since acid legumes take much longer to cook, add some baking soda to the beans when you put them in the pot to cook (or if they soaked in that same pot, when they’re about to go on the heat.) Stir the soda in well, and you might see some bubbles—perhaps less likely than with peas or lentils.

While heating the beans in their soaking stock, fry some onion in vegetable oil (or collect some chive if you’ve chive growing in your garden.) If you have celery leaves and trimmings, or liveche, add that. Add chives whenever you like—it can be good to add some when the beans are coming to the boil and some more when cooking is done. Fried onions should be added as soon as they are lightly browned.

To black beans, add also one or two bay leaves. Bay leaf, savory, celery-liveche, and onion [or chive] are my favourite seasoning for black beans, developed from the recommendation of a chef who trained at a fairly famous Toronto restaurant.

To pintos, add chili powder and oregano—plus celery-liveche and onion, and the savory in the soaking water.. My cooking spoons are more nearly two than three teaspoonfuls in size, and i add one rounded spoonful of chili powder to 2/3 litre of dry beans [soaked up overnight to well over a litre]. However, chili powder varies in “heat” and you may have to do a bit of trial and error to find how much of the kind you have fits with your personal tastes. (As usual, err on the “light” side to start—put in less chili powder rather than more. You can add more later; you can’t subtract it once it dissolves.) I use home grown “Greek” oregano, which is stored as loosely crumbled rather than a fine powder, and add a bit more in loose volume, than of chili powder.

As the beans come to a boil, black beans tend to foam a good deal “worse” than pintos. Stirring the pot will help to work down the foam. This is something to watch and be ready for, when cooking any legumes from scratch.

For black beans, choose a pot that the soup fills about half way, two-thirds at the most, so there is some room for the foam as they approach boiling. When they start to boil, and you’ve reduced the heat to what keeps them simmering (boiling slowly and gently), the foam should disappear or reduce to a very thin layer at the top of the soup. Pintos can be cooked in a relatively smaller pot; but if in doubt, use the same size as for black beans and pea soup.

If you add salt to the pot before tasting, err on the “light” side, as with chili powder—put in less salt rather than more. You can add more later; you can’t subtract it once it dissolves into the soup.

As an estimate, these beans will take one to three hours to cook to a pleasant softness. As the beans begin to soften, take out a half spoonful, set it on the stove top to cool, and then taste. (I keep a jar lid or a tiny saucer near the back of the stove top as a “spoon rest”.) If it seems to you there should be more chili, celery-liveche, chive, or oregano, add more now; but if in doubt, don’t. Some seasonings seem to gain strength with time.

Beans, like pea soup, are economical protein balancers for bread or boiled grain, hearty enough to satisfy, warming and comforting in cold weather. They should be regulars in a frugal and especially in a semi-vegetarian diet. Black and pinto beans can even be mixed with plain boiled rice or barley, and will give the grain enough flavour to make a decent tasting dish. (I don’t recommend mixing pea soup or white beans with plain boiled grain, though.)

I tend to enjoy both black and pinto beans more, eaten cold, than i do pea soup.

Notes:

* Romano beans are fairly similar to pintos. Until recently, pintos were the least expensive of the retail beans in this area, and i cooked them quite often because they taste so good with chili and oregano. Then Wal-Mart raised their price by well over 50%, and i haven’t cooked them as often; i like black beans at least as well and they now cost slightly less in this area, where before they cost 50% more. If pintos are the low-cost beans where you are, i do recommend them.

I don’t cook white beans often; because as i’ve written a few times before, i prefer robust flavours. If they’re inexpensive where you are, or you especially like them, i recommend some kind of meat to flavour them: Bacon, ham or a light-tasting sausage like “hot dogs”. (If you abstain from red meat or from pork, you can get “chicken wieners/frankfurters” to flavour your white beans…or you can use those smoked soybeans.) Frying the onions in bacon fat might be enough; and as with all dry legumes, i recommend savory in the soaking broth and celery or liveche.

There is also the molasses [and i don't know what else] technique which has made Boston famous: White beans baked with molasses and [??] eaten Saturday night and Sunday morning … and then they went to church [ahem].

 

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Pea Soup from Scratch:

Beans, .. Beans, .. Beans, .. Beans…
Chickpeas, .. Lentils, .. SplitPeas, …
Frugal, Staple, Healthy Food…
(c) 2014, Davd

Perhaps you know that marching song:
“They’re good for your heart
The more you eat, the more you [ahem .. this site is restricted to PG-13 language*]
And when you [ahem] you feel so fine!
So eat those beans up every time…

Well, all you kiddies chanting as you hike, or riding the bus to ski or hockey camp, i’m hoping along with you, that those beans, chickpeas, lentils, and green and yellow peas are indeed good for all our hearts. For the past few years, i’ve eaten meatless mid-day meals most days—over 90% of the days of 3-5 years. There are several good reasons for eating [beans, chickpeas, lentils, and peas] most days, and [ahem]ing isn’t among those good reasons.

Appreciating meat more by having meals without it—is. By eating lunches of black beans with bay and onion, chili-sin-carne, pintos with chili powder and oregano, chickpeas gurdwara-style, split pea soup with bacon or ham, and curried lentils, i include several flavour combinations in my diet beyond those of beef, chicken, [white] fish, pork, and salmon. That makes my meat meals more enjoyable because they are less “routine”.

It also saves me a serious bit of money, and no small amount of time.

When i cook up a breakfast of pork chop or ham slice and porridge, the meat cooking effort serves me for one meal and the porridge effort serves me for three. When i cook chicken cacciatore for dinner, the meat cooking effort serves me for two meals and the pasta effort serves me for three. When i cook up a pot of beans, chickpeas, lentils, or pea soup, it usually provides the high protein part of 3-7 meals**. Legumes [in the botanical rather than the French usage***of the word] are especially valuable as food because they are high in protein, and their protein complements grain protein well: Pea soup and bread or popcorn, beans and rice or barley, curried lentils and whole-wheat bread, any of them with rice or barley heated in salsa, and you’ve a meatless meal that gives you a decent, adequate amount of protein toward your day’s needs.

Cooking all these dry legumes follws the same basic pattern; but soaking times and seasonings vary with the size, texture, and taste of the different crops. I’ll use pea soup as the example this time, and soon, i’ll post some variations for lentils and a few major kinds of beans.

The basic pattern is: [1] Soak with savory, [2] add a little soda for quicker cooking, [3] season with herbs (and perhaps smoked fat), [4] bring to boiling [stirring down foam in some cases] and [5] simmer until the texture is “done”. It can be completed in a half day with peas and lentils and needs almost a full day (i usually work by soaking overnight and cooking in the morning) in the case of black, “chili”, and pinto beans. Don’t expect to cook dry legumes from scratch in an hour or two.

German cooking has some important wisdom for us about beans, peas and lentils: Savory [Satureja hortensis and S. montana] improves the flavour of all the dry legumes and should be added to the soaking water. German cooks call the Saturejas, Bohnenkraut [bean herb]. Some cookbook i read over the years, said they also reduce beans’ tendency to cause [ahem]ing. Whether or not they do that, i’m satisfied with their good effect on the taste. S. montana [“Winter savory”] is perennial and i’ve found it easier to grow than S. hortensis—which most cooks believe has the finer flavour for elegant dishes. For soaking legumes, i use S. montana.

To start a pot of pea soup, then, measure a volume of “split peas” one-eighth or less as large as the volume of the pot you’ll use, into that pot or some container that can take some heat. Then measure 3-4 times that volume of water (or vegetable stock) into another pot, add some savory if you have savory, and bring it to the boil. If you have added savory, lower the heat as when making coffee or sausage soup, and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Then turn off the electricity if you used an electric stove, and pour the boiling water onto the peas. (You can also put the peas in a bowl or other holding container, heat the water in the pot you’ll use to cook the soup, and pour in the peas when it’s ready.)

Next, let the dry peas soak up water for 2-3 hours. (Black, chili/kidney, and pinto beans should soak 8-12 hours—“overnight”, usually—and can soak for a full 24-hour day without harm. Peas and lentils should soak no longer than overnight, though in a cool room they may tolerate up to 24 hours.) When they’re ready, they will have visibly swelled and there will be much less water on top of them.

While soaking, legumes have some tendency to become acid, and acid legumes take much longer to cook. Therefore—for cooking speed and not because you want more sodium in your diet—add some baking soda to the peas when you put them in the pot to cook (or if they soaked in that same pot, when they’re about to go on the heat.) Stir the soda in well, and you might see some bubbles—you almost certainly will see some foam when they near the boiling point.

While heating the peas in their soaking stock, fry some onion in ham or bacon fat [or vegetable oil if you abstain from meat or from pork]. If you do abstain from meat or from pork, i suggest getting some smoked-soy-protein [imitation bacon] to add instead, at least for one try; but it is not necessary. Onion is pretty well necessary; and seems to me to go best if lightly browned, preferably in smoked fat. In summer, you might prefer chives—which should not be fried [duuuuuuuhhh].

If you don’t use ham or bacon fat, nor imitation bacon, then adding a bit of thyme might give the pea soup a little extra vigor.

As the peas come to a boil, they are likely to “foam up”, and stirring the pot will help to work down the foam. This is not a food to put on the stove at high heat and then leave for a half hour—you’re likely to come back to burnt foam around the bottom of the pot, and a somewhat unpleasant smell in the kitchen. If you keep watch on the pot of peas as they heat, you can probably do some other chores near by, but choose chores that you can put down to stir the pot and adjust the heat.

Also, choose a pot that the soup fills about half way, two-thirds at the most, so there is some room for the foam as the peas approach boiling. When they start to boil, and you’ve reduced the heat to what keeps them simmering (boiling slowly and gently), the foam should disappear or reduce to a very thin layer at the top of the soup.

If you add salt to the pot before tasting, err on the “light” side—put in less salt rather than more. You can add more later; you can’t subtract it once it dissolves into the soup.

You might also want to add a bit of liveche or celery leaves and trimmings, if you have either; and perhaps some pepper. Myself, i suggest you try some of the celery-liveche flavour while the soup is cooking; but hold the pepper until you eat your first bowlful (because it doesn’t need to cook into the peas and broth the way celery does, for full value.) If adding pepper after cooking pleases you, you can add some during cooking next time. As with salt, err on the “light” side in adding celery or pepper—put in less rather than more. You can add more later; you can’t subtract it once it dissolves into the soup.

As an estimate, pea soup will take half an hour to an hour to “cook down”. Cook it until the peas “mush” to a smooth consistency. As the peas become obviously soft, but have a while to cook yet, take out a half spoonful, set it on the stove top to cool, and then taste. (I keep an upside-down jar lid or a tiny saucer near the back of the stove top as a “spoon rest”.) Then, if you want to add celery, salt, or pepper, they will have some time to merge with the soup.

When they are “mushing”, peas may start to stick to the bottom of the pot. You can feel them starting to stick with a spoon … stir often enough that the soup, as it cooks, doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot .. which means, the hotter the element, flame, or woodstove top, the more stirring. If the sticking gets really difficult .. they’re probably done

Pea soup is an economical protein balancer for bread or boiled grain, hearty enough to satisfy, warming and comforting in cold weather. It, and beans and lentils cooked as i’ll describe soon, should be regulars in a frugal and especially in a semi-vegetarian diet. I normally have grain and legumes, with no meat, for my mid-day meal, which is the meal i most often “don’t want to take much time cooking.” In the summer especially, i can take out cooked beans, lentils, or pea soup, cut some bread, heat rice or barley in salsa, or perhaps fry chapatis [whole-wheat-flour tortillas] and be fed and back to work in jig time.

I’m planning to make the next ‘post’ a description of the different timing that cooking beans requires, and seasonings for black and pinto beans. Later i’ll describe curried lentils (which for timing and consistency, cook like peas rather than like beans), a hot South Asian style of cooking chickpeas, and how to make good chili without meat.

The pea-family of large edible seeds, like the grains which are large edible seeds of the grass family, provides good staple food at relatively low cost. Once you’ve cooked any of these seasoned legume foods a few times and can reliably make it taste the way you want, you can take it to potlucks and—in this age of commercially seasoned “pre-cooked foods”—you are likely to get as much appreciation as if you’d brought something much more expensive. Commercial seasoning tends to be bland and timid. The herbs i use with these legumes, are not—only the chickpeas in South Asian style are “hot”, but good herbs used with a fairly generous hand, give a strong savoury flavour that really improves peas, lentils, and beans…

.. whether or not you [ahem]… and on the modest amounts potluck guests usually take of any one thing, they pretty likely won’t.

Notes:

* .. and millions of boys and girls younger than 13 have sung “f..t” on hikes and even tour buses, but perhaps the Net Nanny is prissier than they are…..

** To re-heat pea soup, i use a small stainless-steel bowl with a wide bottom, which i sit on a less-hot part of the woodstove top. Those of you who use electric stoves only could use a small stainless steel frying pan on very low heat, a “double boiler”, or the microwave if you have one.

*** en-Français, legumes refers to what Anglophones call vegetables. Botanically, legumes refers to the pea-family of plants, whose roots host bacteria that can fix nitrogen from the air in the soil, into forms that plants can take in and utilize. Beans, chickpeas, lentils, and peas are high in protein that complements grain protein well, because of those bacteria hosted by the roots of the plants that produced them.

 

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