The Best Food Joke of all Time

If you want to start an argument, ask who is the comic GOAT (greatest of all time). Evidence submitted: Richard Pryor. As comedy fans know, Pryor once set himself on fire while free-basing cocaine. His response was to turn it it into a comedy routine involving milk and cookies.

Let me tell you what really happened… Every night before I go to bed, I have milk and cookies. One night I mixed some low-fat milk and some pasteurized, then I dipped my cookie in and the shit blew up.

Richard Pryor

He had a zinger to finish this bit:

I’m not addicted to coke, i just love the way it smells

Richard Pryor

Pure genius.

Creole Shallot “Josette,” aka Spring Onion, White Multiplier Onion

Josette Shallot?

As this plant has at least three common names, I’m going with the most provocative, and yet the most historically accurate one (if you want the whole scoop, read the long discussion from 2008 on Nola.com about the issue). Creole food expert Poppy Tooker of New Orleans believes the original ones from France were actually shallots, but that only the green parts of the plants were used, and that eventually any green onion became known as a “shallot.” Here she is–

I believe in all those original old Creole recipes, people were actually using shallot tops, because they were growing them like that out in their garden, then, later, probably buying them in whole bunches with a little oniony part on the bottom and the green onion part on the top. . .I really believe this is the truth, and why we call them shallots instead of scallions or green onions or spring onions.

Poppy Tooker

Common names of plants are really only as useful as nicknames anyway, so this debate is about as important as what your dog’s name really is–is one of our Aussies named Siegfried, or is it Ziggy? Either way, he’s still a dog.

This plant does have a provenance of sorts, as the person I bought these bulbs from wrote “I obtained a start about 1972 from an elderly Creole gentleman in Golden Meadow Louisiana.” That’s good enough for me.

I think of these scrawny things when I hear multiplier onion.

Ready for Replanting

These are the common yellow multiplier, which come in various varieties. Fortunately, scientists have come to the rescue, and reclassified all onions and shallots as just Allium cepa, with different types. Now to the questions of whether or not Elephant garlic is really garlic: Hint: it isn’t. A scallion? Different species also. For now.

Another Alabama Kangaroo is on the Loose–in Tuscaloosa County

As per Al.com, our local news site, this roo is no beer drinking, pickup riding, good time Aussie. It is a sure enough public menace. And I remember the good old days when a PBR would get an Alabama roo into your F-150.

Says Tuscaloosa County Deputy Martha Hocutt, “These are wild animals; these are not the cute little fuzzies.”  On a side note, Nick Saban is rumored to be recruiting this beast to run for the Crimson Tide.

Making Sourwood Tool Handles

Unfinished and Shellaced

Sourwood is a fairly common tree in the South, known primarily for its Lily of the Valley like blooms, and the famous Sourwood Honey, the result of the partnership between said flowers and honeybees. One particularly large (for a Sourwood) tree was uprooted when it was whacked by a broken off White Oak during our latest tornado. That led me to search for uses of Sourwood lumber.

The most common answer for traditional uses of this wood was for tool handles. More deep diving came up with spokes and arrow shafts. These things all had something in common, which is the best quality for all of these dinguses is resistance to splitting, even when made from green wood. This is the result of the fact that Sourwood has a very low T/R ration, which means it is unlikely to split while drying from green wood to seasoned.

The T/R ratio is the ratio of tangential to radial shrinkage, which for wood working purposes, should be as close to one as possible. This info is easily obtained for most species via a simple Google search. Species with very low T/R ratios are usually little used or non-commercial woods, such as Southern (evergreen) magnolia, and sourwood. Evergreen Magnolia has a T/R ratio of 1.2, and sourwood is 1.4.

Making the traditional octagonal carving tool handles was simple enough, and only needs two or three tools–a drawknife (optional), a smoothing plane, and a drill. Take a round limb of unseasoned Sourwood slightly larger than the final handle, and rough it with a drawknife or plane into an octagon. Continue spinning it around, and taper it down to an inch or so at the tang end. When satisfied with the results, drill a tang sized hole and whack in the tool blank. The green Sourwood will slowly shrink around the tang of the tool, and will never, ever, come off.

I bought these Italian made carving tools from Mountain Woodcarvers for $6 each, although they are mistakenly selling them as USA made. I didn’t have the heart to tell them about the mistake. They might raise the price.

Spud or Peeler?

Because I have more sourwood on the ground that I can say grace over, I also decided to turn another limb into a handle for a log processing tool, a bark peeler, aka bark spud. This one a a beastly tool that doubles as an axe/brush cutter by having both sides beveled and sharpened. It is made by Ochsenkopf (Oxhead) in Deutschland. After five months of drying, the handle has no sign of a crack or split. Big tool handle is in a permanent world of hurt in this household.

Americanized Pasta alla Pastora and Crostini

Pasture Pasta

A literal translation for Pasta alla Pastora would in fact be pasture pasta, but the usual translation is Shepherd’s Pasta. This dish was developed by Italian shepherds, who needed food that could be prepared while out in the pastures, and so the cuisine that developed around quick food made from a few simple, portable, ingredients became known as “alla Pastora.” I made this one even simpler by using common off the shelf, supermarket ingredients.

I formerly made my own ricotta cheese and Italian sausage, but soon enough got tired of the effort that went into something that is supposed to be simple. Here’s the result.


1/2 pound Country Sausage, aka Breakfast Sausage

1 tablespoon Olive Oil

Penne Pasta

Pasta Water

8 ounces Cottage Cheese

Grated Parmesan

Salt and Pepper

Make it Brown

First, thoroughly brown the Sausage in the olive oil, adding salted pasta water to form a sauce. This takes about as long as it takes to cook the pasta. When the pasta is to your liking, add it to the cooked sausage. Stir it a couple of times, and turn off the heat. It’s that simple.

Next, add the two cheeses, and stir until they melt into a creamy sauce. Taste for seasoning, and you’re done.

I also make some quick and dirty crostini, with homemade baguettes and some pre-blended Irish garlic and herbs butter. This whole thing is easy enough to make with one eye on the food, and the other one on the sheep.

Masonry Stove, aka Potager, Stew Stove

New, but not Improved

The old school outdoor kitchen just got even-older-school, as I just finished this potager, or French style masonry oven. It’s a simple enough device, with two fire chambers with holes at the far end, through which the heat escapes, and the food gets cooked. I call this French style because it most resembles existing ovens from the Continent. Check out the parody of the French cook in the English cartoon below.

English Satirical Cartoon, 1772

It is good to know that the severe case of cooking envy that afflicts the Brits is centuries old, but this cartoon’s claim to fame is the potager stove that the snuff snorting dandy is cooking on. The most efficient way to use one of these stoves is to shovel in hot coals from a fire, say, from a brick oven or fireplace. Snuff and a sword hanging on the wall are optional.

Drying Scotch Bonnet Peppers

Twenty Hours Later

This time of the summer is so hot that my outside labor is essentially done by ten or eleven in the morning. The rest of the day I am huddled in my workroom, or, such as today, staring at a computer monitor. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t outside work that I can’t do while I’m inside.

That would include dehydrating vegetables. My big pepper shaker full of dehydrated hot peppers has lost some of its zing since last year, and needed some help. When I saw these scotch bonnet peppers at the Festhalle, there was my answer.

Scotch bonnets are not to be trifled with. With a Scoville range of between 100,000 to 350,000 units, they are closing in on the blistering level. (Pepper sprays, for example, start at 2,000,000 Scoville.) Therefore, I wore gloves when I cut these in half and removed the stems and seeds. Then I threw them into the drying tray, and put them in our dehydrater.

After a couple of hours of drying without much result, and of thinking of how much carbon pollution was being produced by Alabama Power, at the same time, I decided to switch gears. Out to the solar panels they went.

UV Rating—Extreme

The peppers were propped up on clay pot feet supports for around a total of 18 hours, spread out over three days. The air circulation helped create the crunchy feel that a well dried pepper has, and these are the best I have seen. The only thing left to do is to grind them, and bring out the pizza.

Sourwood Mattarello (Rolling Pin) and Hanger

Honking Big Rolling Pin

A Matterello is a specialty Italian variety of rolling pin, used primarily to turn out wide sheets of pasta. Generally, the sizes run from two to four feet long, the longest widths used by professional pasta makers (Sfoglino). The one I made is a more overall useful length of about two and a half feet long.

The reason I chose to make one out of sourwood is two fold. The first is that it turns easily while green, like many hardwoods; the much more important one is that it has a very low T/R ratio, which means it is unlikely to split while drying–even at the pith, or center of the tree or limb.

The T/R ratio is the ratio of tangential to radial shrinkage, which for wood working purposes, should be as close to one as possible. This info is easily obtained for most species via a simple Google search. Species with very low T/R ratios are usually little used or non-commercial woods, such as Southern (evergreen) magnolia, and sourwood. Evergreen Magnolia has a T/R ratio of 1.2, and sourwood is 1.4.

My original intention was to make just a straight cylinder, until I realized that such a tool would be difficult to store. I finally realized that the more traditional design with a knob on each end is to hang the mattarello vertically. So I made a hanger as well.

Nice Fit

The hanger is Virginia juniper/red cedar, with juniper being a more accurate name. I drilled a one inch hole, sawed out the sides, trimmed the business parts with a paring chisel, and finished off with a carving knife. The finish of the mattarello is walnut oil wax, which makes it both exceptionally long and exceptionally fragrant.

Russian Slutsky Says Yes to Grain, No to Peace

From the website Deutsche Welle, the Voice of Germany, yesterday, comes this story about Russian politician/negotiator Leonid Slutsky, and his attempts to help make the Russian Federation fascist again. Here’s the quote:

“Russian negotiator rules out peace talks with Ukraine

Leonid Slutsky, a Russian lawmaker who took part in peace talks with Kyiv, said agreements over grain export from Ukraine will not lead Russia to resume negotiations with Ukraine over a possible cease fire.”

This is a food blog, and so any story about grain during an international shortage is fair game, especially if the only source is a Russian named Slutsky. Apparently DW could have used any of the negotiators for the story, but they picked the one whose first name is a yearly meteor shower, and whose last name is Slutsky.

They are so clever.

Brick Oven Rebuild, Part Five–Completed Masonry Work

Bigger is Better

The masonry work on the re-built brick oven is finito, and the oven has been getting a work out. We have cooked a few roasts, re-seasoned some cast iron, and churned out multiple pizzas, including six one day during the weekend of the fourth. And we still have that big stack of firewood on the west wall.

I haven’t shown all three walls, as the two side walls are identical, and the back wall is just a smaller version of the other two. The east side is an entirely different story. Here’s picture worthy of a contest.

A Brick Hutch for Giant Rabbits?

There are actually two projects going on over here. One is actually attached to the brick oven, but is not part of it. It is to serve an altogether different function. The old steel wood stove is soon to be attached to another part of the outdoor kitchen. Needless to say they all involve burning wood.

Anyone who can nail the purpose of each of these two units will be awarded an honorary certificate from the Institute for the Advanced Study of Southern Using What You Got. I’ll add a heavy hint–think of something that Monticello and Mount Vernon have in common, and I don’t mean the Presidents.

A Box of Soup Tomatoes

Peas Sold Separately

“Soup Tomatoes” was an unknown term to me until a few years back, when I asked a vendor at the Festhalle what variety of tomatoes she was selling, and she responded “soup tomatoes.” Soon enough I found out that those were specially priced tomatoes for home canning, not a particular variety of tomatoes intended for soup. Now we look forward to the arrival of soup tomatoes every year.

Why? These are really just tomatoes that have an odd shape or blemish of some variety. They won’t fetch the premium price of perfect slicing tomatoes, which can go for as much as a buck a pound. Used for canning, prettiness is second to taste, and since none of these will ever live to the entrance age of Miss America Tomato, quantity is the key. All tomatoes look the same, after being run through a food mill.

The bottom line to this story is that this twenty five pound box of tomatoes went for ten bucks. All skin flints such as myself immediately see a mental image of a sign that says twenty five cents a pound. Through the food mill they go, and the puree, with salt and fresh basil added, goes into the jars, and gets topped off with some olive oil. Then we have a superior product at about 1/5 of the cost of a commercial one. Forget inflation–don’t worry, be happy, and buy some soup tomatoes.

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