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December 13, 2006

You Need Help, So Reach Across Species Boundaries


There comes a time when it is proper to ask for help. Perhaps there is something you need moved that is too heavy for you. Perhaps you need to paint a room in your house. Perhaps your car has just exploded on the interstate and you need to push the flaming hulk out of the way.


This principle extends to the kitchen, and you might find yourself in a situation where you must go outside your species, and even the animal kingdom, for assistance. In these times, it’s common to turn to our old friend, the stewed tomato.


It starts with our good friend, the onion. Cut it. Slice it. Free it of its orbular bond. Once warmed in some oil and garlic, it will repay you.


Yet, looking at the solitary onion in the pan . . . it is lonely. There are days when it will prefer to make this trip by itself. This is not one of them. It understands where you are headed, and knows it is not by itself up for the task. Do not let it meet its destiny feeling unfulfilled.


Slice into small chunks – say, one-inch square – a green pepper and some mushrooms. Add, and stir. You might hear what you think to be vegetables sizzling. It is not. It is the soft, excited talk of vegetables greeting their neighbors.


Once all have come to the point of softening – but before they go limp – add the chicken, a whole leg quarter.


Some folks eschew dark meat because it has flavor. They prefer the blander breast with its more pleasing texture. The breast would certainly work here, but the legs and thighs are typically cheaper. Allow the combination of flavor and frugality to blow your mind. Think about it again, and allow your mind to again be blown, just to let it sink it. A twice-blown mind is more apt to remember.


Separate drumstick from thigh. The question here is what affect proportion has on relationship.  With a whole chicken, large chunks of vegetables are proper. But, here we are driven by the size of our vegetables. Smallish vegetable chunks dictate smaller pieces of meat. In all things, proportion is a key ingredient to a successful relationship.


Add the chicken, and turn it until browned, salting and peppering the outside of it.


We have reached a danger point. You must keep things moving in the skillet, the vegetables most of all. They have produced very little juice, and there is the ever-present danger that a chunk will grow fond of being on the bottom, and resist later being moved. It might cling on, fighting for dear comfort and wind up burned.


Avoid this at all costs, because it throws the relationship of all things into disarray. Pepper wonders why onion is so privileged, mushroom bad mouths pepper, and onion questions the moral fiber of the chicken. Loose talk of conspiracy arises, and there is the possibility of mutiny. It is the ruin of meals.


Stirring regularly over a moderate heat is a good way to prevent harmony from going sour, at least until it is time to introduce the mediator – stewed tomatoes.


Once the chicken is browned, add stewed tomatoes. Stir them in. They will enforce the peace by releasing the juices that will create a burn-free zone on the bottom.


Toss in a small handful of dried oregano and stir, so that everything is nice and mixed. Your best interests are now represented.


Simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes. Perhaps sit down for a quick game of euchre, call your mother, create your own blog to log your various aches and pains. Stop in and occasionally stir – there is always the dark possibility that good order has broken down – but otherwise do not meddle.


Once the chicken is close to done, boil some water and throw in a handful or two of wide egg noodles. It won’t take long for these to cook, just about six or eight minutes, which is about how much time is left before the chicken will be practically falling off the bone (the sign of lusciously cooked meat).


Next, obviously, comes the draining of the noodles and the topping of same with stuff from the skillet. Salt and pepper it again to taste, and add enough of the tomato mixture so that it can again represent your interests – noodles unsauced are unhappy noodles, and will exact revenge on your taste buds.


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