“I learned the truth at seventeen,
“And those who’s names were never called
When choosing sides for basketball”
Well I can’t say that my name was never called…. I went to Catholic school and the nuns wouldn’t have allowed that. But it was often next to last, or last.
I was never very athletic; never very strong.
I had no musical talent whatsoever; couldn’t carry a tune on a platter. (The nuns DID ‘kindly’ ask me to leave the choir – singing Praises to the Lord being far more important than mere playground antics).
What I did have was a mind like a steel trap. I was good at tongue-twisters, complicated jokes and stories, brain-teasers, all that nerdy stuff…
Long before it was cool to be nerdy.
This morning I woke up with the lines from an old Memory Test skipping through my mind. Also known as a Sobriety Test back in the days when drinking was an acceptable hobby and Political Correctness was an oxymoron.
I ‘passed’ the test on my first try (late one night with ample alcohol in my system) and proceeded to irritate the heck out of my ‘tester’ for the next 2 days, as I followed him around, repeating it until I had it down pat.
It’s come in handy over the ensuing years:
Something to recite to myself as I sit in the dentist chair trying to ignore the 2-foot needle filled with Novocaine stuck in my lower jaw.
Or to entertain myself whilst stuck in yet another interminable traffic jam during rush hour.
The test went something like this:
He: Repeat everything after me: One duck
Me: One duck
He: One duck, two geese
Me: One duck, two geese (Thinks to self: oh golly gee whiz, is this ever tough….)
He: One duck, two geese, three fat hens
Me: One duck, two geese, three fat hens (yawn, snore…..)
He: One duck, two geese, three fat hens, four corpulent porpoises
Me: Repeats. Thinks: Well, at least he tossed in an interesting adjective…. ho hum…. Cute guy at the bar…
He: One duck, two geese, three fat hens, four corpulent porpoises, five Limerick oysters
Me: Repeats. Thinks: Are we done yet? I could do this using only 1% of my brain! I’ll humor him… maybe take a nap
He: One duck, two geese, three fat hens, four corpulent porpoises, five Limerick oysters, Six thousand Syrian soldiers suited in silvery, slippery, satiny sneakers.
Me: (Oops!) Repeats. Thinks: Maybe I should pay a bit of attention. (Would hate to embarrass my smart-ass self!)
A few minutes later – the finish:
He: One duck,
Three fat hens,
Four corpulent porpoises,
Five Limerick oysters,
Six thousand Syrian soldiers suited in silvery, slippery, satiny sneakers,
Seven thousand Macedonians in full armor carrying spears,
Eight aiabetic, diabetic old men eating asparagus,
Nine nymphomaniac nuns nipping nectar,
Ten tall men from Toreador pushing perambulators through Dorrity Park
Me: Same as above, repeated successfully, with much concentration. (Hah! Retains self-awarded crown of reigning smart-ass!)
We all need our talents.
One other talent that I have been working on since I started cooking for only two, is how to use up the leftover bits in the fridge.
I may be cooking for two but I haven’t gotten that shopping thing down yet so there is always the odd carrot or sunchoke lurking in the in the drawer.
What better way to use them up then in a stew?
And I was hungry for barley.
There are other ways (than drinking beer) of getting the benefits of this nutritious grain. It’s full of dietary fiber, selenium, tryptophan, copper, manganese and phosphorus. It’s great added to soup, as most of us know. But it’s also good on it’s own, cooked like a risotto or, as here, added to stews.
This is my official good-bye to winter. It may not be over but I am through with IT!
I like putting meatballs in stew. They add a bit of meat flavor without having to cook for hours. You can use ground chicken or turkey in place of beef, or leave them out and use tomato juice in place of beef stock for a Vegetarian Version.
Meatball Barley Stew
2 sunchokes (Jerusalem Artichokes)
2 cloves garlic
15oz (450gr) white beans
15oz (450gr) whole tomatoes
1 cup beef stock
3/4 cup barley
1 tbs oil
1 tbs paprika, smoky or sweet
3 bay (laurel) leaves
1 tsp dried thyme
Chop onion. Mince garlic. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add paprika and sauté 1 minute. Add onion and sauté briefly. Then add garlic, sauté a few minutes longer. Peel/scrape carrots and roll-cut into chunks. Scrub sunchokes and cut into similar pieces. Open and drain tomatoes, reserving juices. Roughly chop tomatoes. Add tomatoes, reserved juices, stock, carrots, sunchokes, herbs and barley to skillet. Bring to a boil. Add meatballs. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until meatballs and barley are done, turning meatballs periodically, 20 – 25 minutes. Depending on what type of barley you use you may have to cook longer and/or add more beef stock, wine or water.
When barley and meatballs are done, stir in drained and rinsed beans and simmer another 10 minutes.
12 oz ground beef (350gr mince)
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1 tsp Dijon-style mustard
1/4 cup red wine, stock or milk
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
In medium bowl lightly whisk egg. Add breadcrumbs, mustard, wine and herbs, mix well. Add beef and mix well. Form into meatballs, about 1″ (2.5cm) in diameter.
Be sure to visit Green Olive Tree on Monday for the recap of all the yummy recipes.
And next week, Weekend Herb Blogging is chez moi: Right here at Thyme for Cooking! Come and play!
Regarding the ‘mind like a steel trap’:
I’ve still got it (she says, modestly);
It’s the trait most, er, under-appreciated by mon mari;
It may not have gotten me picked first for softball but it got me into Mensa! (So there!)