As anyone who might happen upon these digitized thought balloons will quickly discover, they have either nothing, or maybe everything, to do with grilled cheese sandwiches; and most likely never touch on anything relating to cooking or the kitchen... except perhaps, the very first posting. And so, with your indulgence, may I present, the ramblings of a reforming philosopher...

Monday, January 27, 2014

IOC Eye-Opener
A moment of seriousness...
Even though I enjoy the concept and potential of the approaching Olympics, I am not a big fan of the International Olympic Committee. Over the years, after reading so many articles detailing the financial finagling and general mismanagement which has gone on within the organization, I have developed a decided distaste and mistrust of their highly self-touted motivations. It is my personal feeling that like many noble endeavors, this group, despite all the good they may have accomplished, seems increasingly more focused on developing dollars than pure athleticism. And, as one rule of human nature indicates, the money the organization can and does generate has given them power. Unfortunately, history also records that power frequently corrupts and every four years now, the organization seem intent in following and enhancing that tradition.
An article I read a few days ago in the Washington Post, almost hidden amongst the gradually swelling pages of electronic print promotion and advertising, provides a very tough but much clearer picture of what is happening behind the scenes of enthusiastic athletes and preening officials. The author Sally Jenkins, from her tone, is not a fan of Premier Putin the current Russian head of state, and makes little effort at stifling that bias in her reporting. However, it is the details she presents, not their inflection, which makes the information cut as deeply as it should.
I don't like to pass on any such items unless I think they have some merit and are extremely newsworthy, but this particular one has almost a prophetic flavor about it, well in advance of the event. Consequently, I thought I would record it, just in case some of the things talked about within actually do take place. At least the comparison of the report against what actually happens will provide something of a measuring stick, with which to gauge later commentary.
And as for the money machine pumping away at the core of those zeros, here is some additional reading. - J.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Wild Turkey Suprise!

International Dutch Oven Society
I lied about the cooking. I am a Dutch oven aficionado!
I don’t do it terribly well or profess any real mastery of it’s cosmically subtle nuances; but I do enjoy the vibrant miracles that result from my feeble efforts and marvel that such a pioneer process, so simple in concept and process, produces such incredibly tasty rewards.
Dutch ovens are those 5 to 15 dollar cast iron pots you quite often see under tables at garage sales, or hanging much more expensively in antique stores. You can also purchase them at outdoor recreational outlets or online. They are fairly heavy, will usually be of sufficient size to handle a small chicken or large roast, and traditionally have three cast iron legs protruding from their typically rusted underbellies. Covering the top is a matching cast iron lid sporting a decent one inch ridge rising upward from its rounded rim.
Lodge camp ovens
The one inch legs on the oven were originally designed to keep the pot sitting above the charcoaled nuggets set ablaze beneath it. The ridged top edge serves to contain more hot embers, permitting additional heat from above. The resulting top and bottom, slow roast effect of the iron clad combination, either performed in dug out ground-pits, on surfaced fire places, or even in conventional home electric ovens, is absolutely amazing.
However, the repeated hoisting and repositioning of several of these pre-microwave beasties during a cookout is not for the weak or faint-hearted. I have in my stronger days, cooked for upwards of 200 people during one countrified camping scenario or another, and by the end of the workout, have fully enjoyed the analgesic attributes of Robaxacet or some equally successful muscle relaxant. You see, it takes considerable effort shuffling the various sized pots about for two to three hours whilst ensuring adequate heat advantage for each of the internalized simmering delights. During pioneer times, women and men were frequent users of such heavy hardware, but with the advent of modern culinary capers it is easy to understand why these muscle builders have almost gone the way of the Dodo.
And yet, in hopes of forwarding promotion to revive this ancient and almost lost art, I must proselytize that one small pot is quite easily maneuvered. Comfortably, and with little more effort than that used for an electric slow cooker, a Dutch oven can help you relive the colonization history of our forbearers and provide a sumptuous and highly flavorful feast, while permitting you to skip completely the serious hardships of the pioneering experience.
My peculiar favorite recipe is “Wild Turkey Surprise”, a concocted title fearlessly gleaned from a Bugs Bunny cartoon of the late 1950’s. The merrymaking begins by sautéing approximately ½ lb of chopped bacon in a preheated, 350 degree pot (use a conventional oven if you have one) followed by a healthy portion of finely diced onion (1 cup at least). These two are baked in the Dutch oven itself until the ingredients are decently cooked. How long is up to you, but around 10-15 minutes is usually sufficient.
Then, previously secret-spiced, browned, and reasonably large, tennis ball sized meat rounds - made up of equal portions of finely ground hamburger, veal, and pork, each now center-stuffed with a large chunk of mozzarella cheese - are placed lovingly inside the Dutch oven and amply rolled about within the bacon and onion mixture. Just how many of the delectable orbs you create depends on the size of the pot, the number of Tasmanian Devils you are cooking for, and how desperately hungry you may be, once you are as hooked on the art form as I am.
The wonderfully aromatic, but certainly not calorie conscious concoction is then returned to the coals (or conventional oven) for browning, and then as long as it takes to permit the next bit of culinary magic to happen (approximately 30-40 mins.)
At this juncture, the Dutch oven is filled with your favorite spaghetti sauce recipe, stirred gently so as to fully engage all the ingredients, and then popped back on the coals to be simmered at a lower, on the bottom fringe of bubbling, temperature. The stirring should be repeated at 10-15 minute intervals, or whenever you remember.
After an hour or two of this steeping procedure, and appropriate taste testing, the meatballs and sauce may be amply served onto either prepared spaghetti noodles, or as my family used to prefer, garlicked, mozzarella cheese-toasted, hoagie halves (two each, naturally).
Warning: This meal should probably only be consumed on rare occasions, simply to prevent a coronary, or increased hardening of the arteries… but it is very, very tasty! The process is loads of fun and the mystery of how well it works is really quite captivating. The surprise, if you haven’t guessed it already, at least in this particular recipe, is that there isn’t any turkey at all. Nothing is wild, and by the last forkful, nobody even cares!
And so, until the next thought bubble decides to burst… here’s wishing you the best of everything the good world has to offer. – J.

Article Copyright J. Michael Lyffe - 2014

Saturday, January 25, 2014

As Simple As 1... 2... 3...

8 Reasons Normal People Should Juggle
A very dear friend of mine, in her budding days of recent retirement, has taken up the challenge of learning how to juggle. Her weekly letters, detailing both progress and pause, make me admire her tenacity, and her special idiosyncrasy in selecting this peculiar activity.
I clearly remember the day I woke up from a very sound sleep and knew without doubt, that I too, must learn to juggle. I have no idea what my motivation was at the time, other than I just knew I had to learn how to do it.
Being of sound body, but also of narrow focused viewpoint and short attention span, I immediately drove down to the local sporting goods store and bought three orange, lacrosse balls. Some cosmic other-worldly knowledge told me that their heft and size would be perfect for my novice efforts. And, in the short time it would probably take to get me to the intermediate level, would also be suitable for more advanced tricks. These projectiles, I pre-calculated, would also provide me with the appropriate bounce and rebound energy I would require a few days later, once I had established mastery over the art.
And so it was that I raced home, eager to begin my newly imagined career as a street performer, circus clown, or wild animal trainer. Whatever I had imagined at the time, all I could think of was that the solid rubber trio now jockeying for their appropriate positions in my hands were the keys to future fame and fortune.
One can therefore imagine my distain, shock, and heartfelt disappointment when upon launch, the law of gravity did not redirect itself at my will, and the first two of the orange spheres sheared off in opposite directions after colliding mid-toss. Almost immediately, the rebounding property of solidified rubber came into play and both balls ricocheted from whatever surface to which they had connected. One of the orange bullets glanced off my right shoulder, the resulting whack causing me to turn in that direction. Thus distracted, the opposite side of my pumpkin-like head was now open to attack from the other missile and was greeted with an unhealthy thud to the temple.
I may have been dazed but I was not discouraged.
Once the two balls had settled from their paths of destruction, I retrieved them and gingerly repositioned them in my hands. This was simply a matter of physics I kept telling myself as I once more hefted their weight and gauged their potential trajectories; completely forgetting of course that I had only passed that high school class with a questionable C+ grading.
A few more seconds of calculation and once more the balls were airborne…
This time however, I needed to shield myself from all three, as I quickly hunched over in reactive panic, my arms flailing madly in defense of their Newtonian blows.
Regretfully, I’m not the swiftest runner in a shoestore full of sneakers… so it took a couple of more body blows for me to figure out that either I had to obtain softer items to juggle, or I had to prevent the lacrosse balls from hitting the floor. Seeing as how I was too lazy to obtain alternate implements of destruction, I chose instead to toss the balls while standing alongside, and facing, my bed. This proved to be one of those moments of epiphany, as not only were the spheres prevented from escape and further damage to the house, I also didn’t need to constantly stoop down or bend over to pick them up.
From this dramatic moment in my timeline, I also discovered the peculiar human attribute of  knowledge sharing; and the fact that others, before me, had learned this amazing form of art and had documented their revelations for anyone who might care to follow. From those experiences, and the books the explorers wrote about them, I learned that you really begin to juggle with just one ball, just as you begin any journey with a single footstep.
Now, where did I put those oranges?
Article Copyright J. Michael Lyffe - 2014