Wet cold days in quarantine

Splotches of color liven up springtime pastures.Some recent gray rainy days of “look but not too closely” at my fellow walkers have been cutting into my enjoyment of outdoors. I don’t need sunshine every day, but I have a rule I’ve stuck to as long as I can remember being allowed to make rules.

Wet is OK. Cold is tolerable. Wet cold is unacceptable. It can only be made better with a bowl of homemade soup.

My friend from a previous life, Anne Thomas, nudged me into the idea during a Facebook conversation when she mentioned Ox Tail Soup. I often make soup with ham hocks to warm cold winter days but many winters have passed since I had ox tail. My first wife made ox tail stew. I loved it, but she left this plane for a higher one about two decades ago, and I haven’t had it since.

So I found a recipe, which I dutifully did not follow but from which I took a few ideas, and Wednesday afternoon I pretty well messed it up. It was not terrible, and I’ll probably have only to chisel the bottom of the cast iron pot a couple more times to get it pretty smooth.

I probably should have followed Anne’s suggestion: “I boiled the meat off the bones, let it sit overnight, skimmed fat, added potatoes, carrots, garlic, pepper, parsley, this time added barley too. Delish. Or you can just cook the meat off, make gravy and put it over noodles.”

Maybe next time.

Another of my favorite recipes I never learned was tongue loaf – baked ox tongue in a bread pan. Mm-mm-Good!

“My Nana used to make tongue,” Anne said. “She boiled it with veggies, then skinned it. Served it hot with potatoes and veggies, cold for sandwiches. Never my favorite so I don’t make it.

“But, back in our day you ate what they gave you or you didn’t eat. At Nana’s if you didn’t eat it for dinner, you’d get it again the next day.”

My mom had similar ideas. She said the most sincere way to compliment the cook was to take seconds, and clean your plate.

“We must be related,” my friend observed. “Oh, and don’t forget, no dessert unless you ate all your dinner.”

Absolutely. Mom’s rule – and she stuck to it – was if you were too full to clean your plate, you were too full for shortcake.

Leftovers from dinner became lunch the next day; some meals were planned for leftovers. For instance, Saturday night was Boston Baked Beans – a couple pounds of navy beans baked all day in a huge brown crock with an onion, a chunk of fatback the size of a man’s fist, some powdered mustard and molasses.

Followed on Monday by baked bean sandwiches – cold beans and a spot of Heinz 57 ketchup in mom-made bread – for school. At first, other kids thought the idea was yucky. Then a couple brave young ladies tried it. I probably could have made good money, had I not been so generous.

“We packed either PB&J or cheese (sometimes meat & cheese),” Anne remembered. “Hey, I love Pocket Pies. I still make them.”

I don’t know Pocket Pies, at least not by that name. But I know how I came by my rotundity.

I still do not like wet cold days, except that being confined to the house is a great excuse for a couple of hocks and some veggies or a package of beans that warm a person on the outside with the smell of cooking, and on the inside with the taste of the results.

Thanks for taking me along for part of your day. I hope you enjoyed the ride. Comments are welcome, and please feel free to share. Please click the “Share” button to share it on social media, or copy the URL and send it to friends and acquaintances you think might appreciate it.

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