Sunday, September 25, 2005

Captain Beef Heart

I guess you could say that this blog entry is a confession of sorts, a bit like when I finally admitted to the fact that I had removed from my house, in 1980, and taken to The Humane Society, a male cat, who had severely sprayed the house for months. Though ridden with guilt, I kept that little Bondian caper a secret from my children for years. (see “Rocky Bob” below) This confession isn’t quite as bad, and once again, I believe I had the health and welfare of my family in mind.

In the early to mid 70s, when my daughters were quite young, we were poor. I had been in my band, “The Morning Reign”, until 1971, where I pocketed, for several years, the huge sum of $75 per week. Later, after the band, I had a succession of jobs, and though I was pleased to have a little more money coming in, well, let’s just say, the food budget was a bit slim.

But I was getting more and more interested in food, and as some of you may recall, I did end up owning a bakery/restaurant for over 20 years. But in the days before I took the plunge and started a business, I was experimenting in the kitchens of our little rental houses, and guess who was the beneficiary of my self education??? Why, my young daughters, of course!

Now, I don’t know who of you have “picky eaters”, in your midst, but I bet most of you have had one in your world. My daughters, God love’m, in their early years, were not terrible eaters, but they definitely had their druthers. So even though I wished to prepare succulent and healthy meals, and also enjoy my time in the kitchen, I had to be careful not to, oh, for example, have a tomato within 50 yards of the dining table.

But if I got’em good’n hungry, used a little "timing" to my advantage, they'd eat.
Then, If I put a nice homemade beef stew on the table, laced with carrots and potatoes, for example, and maybe some bread, they ate hungrily. Nachos and homemade pizza, bingo. But on such a tight budget, I had to resort to a few tricks.

My ex-wife’s family, especially the older guys, were a bunch of hunters and fishermen. Many times, on our trips to Portland, from Seattle, to see family, I would be the recipient of some recent "catch of the day" ...... elk, venison, even game birds, pulled from an aunt's freezer stock, which I was grateful for.

It was, however, a bit of a challenge to prepare game meats to the liking of my family. Over time, I figured out the best way to do it was in a stew type of meal, where the meat would cook for a long time, and be infused with other flavors, heavy on the oregano, which kept that gamey flavor at bay. I got pretty good at it, and, after a time, I would just tell everyone it was beef, and got no complaints. Elk was especially easy to disguise. With game birds, though, I admit, it was a bit difficult, after suggesting to my tribe that it REALLY WAS “chicken” in the soup, to explain away those little round pieces of buckshot lying in the broth.

Later, after opening my bakery, and experiencing some success, we were able to buy more and better groceries. But I have always had a thing for experimenting in the kitchen, and saving money on lesser cuts of meat, which continues to this day. At some point, I discovered beef heart, wheeling my cart past pricey sirloin at the Shop'n'Save.

Maybe you have done it before, I dunno, but it’s a bitch cleaning up a beef heart, and getting it ready to cook. Alll those little veins'n shit, yuck. But I taught myself how to do it, a lotta years ago, and folks, if you do it right, and slow cook it, like in a crock pot, with spices and veggies, like a beef stew, it’s fantastic. Slice it thin, make a gravy from the broth, it’s tender and delicious. My daughters love it. They may not realize it, but they have eaten it many, many times.

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Pacific Beach, Washington, United States