Back in the early 1960’s, there was a TV programme called The School Around the Corner, on RTÉ (Ireland’s then sole broadcaster). It was presented by the affable Paddy Crosby. On the show, he would interview schoolchildren. He had a way with him and managed to extract stories from the young ‘uns. Stories that were charming in their innocence. One infamous interview had a young lad telling a story about a horse that fell into a hole in the road. The horse was beyond saving. A vet was called and he decided to shoot the horse. Paddy asked the innocent child “Did he shoot him in the hole?”. “No” replied the youngster, “he shot him in the head”.
“I’m a mild-mannered man.” Or so said one of my Holy Ghost Father teachers before knocking seven levels of hell out of us with a stiff black leather. Primary school education back in 1960’s Ireland was not what it is today. I well remember a dozen of us being punished for cycling in the yard after school. The punishment was “six of the best”, with the leather, on each hand. I was moved for my secondary education to the Christian Brothers in Monkstown. That is another oxymoronic story altogether and probably has no place here, not today anyway. So, with mild manners in mind, here’s a delicious recipe for Mild Lamb and Aubergine Curry. Just like that Holy Ghost father, it too has the appearance of mildness yet packs a bit of a punch.
I arrived home from work last Friday evening to find a strange man in our kitchen. Actually, it was my hunting friend Brendan. It’s not that he’s strange per se. It’s just that I wasn’t expecting him and I certainly wasn’t expecting him to have two beautiful cuts of venison as a gift for the Wife and I. He reminded me that he had promised to drop some in at some stage after a shoot. The promise to “drop some in” is one made often by hunters as a way of ending conversation with greedy non shooters. It leaves everybody’s dignity intact and is not a promise that anybody expects to be kept. I understand this and, recognising myself in the latter description accepted the promise for what I believed it to be worth.
Most of the time, I don’t really care if you try what I prepare or not. Would be unreasonable of me to think that the majority of my readers are actually reading with some purpose? Yes, it probably would. Though, there are a small cohort who do try my stuff occasionally and most of the time they enjoy it. However, this one is different. It’s very easy. It’s very healthy. And, last but not least, it is incredibly tasty. You just have to try it.
The expression ‘pork and beaner’ brings to mind a very grim time in modern history. Depression era USA had huge unemployment with transient populations doing what they could to keep body and soul together. Any of you young enough to wonder “What is the old git on about now?” should read some John Steinbeck to get an insight into that depressing world. Back then, a ‘Pork and Beaner” was a boxer, usually old, unskilled and destined for a painful bruising, who would fight for a plate of food. Often the staple, pork and beans.
We Irish are all small little people. We wear greasy flat caps and are inclined to doff our forelocks to our betters. We are introverted and talk in such a thick accent that no civilised person can understand what we are saying. This leads to further introversion, perpetuating our inward looking approach to life.
The Texans, on the other hand, are all big people. They add to their grand stature by wearing snake-skin boots with Cuban heels and top off their suntanned heads with large multi-gallon hats. They speak in loud, booming voices and stride about in a powerful, overbearing fashion. We could not be any more different to each other.
I blame the lingering recession / bank crisis / political ineptitude (pick whichever one you fancy) here in Ireland for young families following so many from previous generations and emigrating. Back then, it was a big thing. Children left and lost all contact with parents. It was a real life sentence. Nowadays, there’s a lot of emotional claptrap spoken about this, usually by people who like to look backwards into our fraught history rather than forwards into a brighter future. With low-cost air fares, Skype and generally improved living standards, the long journey is not the trauma it once was. The other end of the world, yes. But not the end of the world.
We had a good night on Saturday at the Blog Awards Ireland 2013. For me, it was more than just a chicken dinner. It was the culmination of a year of slaving over a hot stove, slaving over a hot camera and slaving over a hot computer. I was nominated for the Best Food Blog (after a subtle campaign) and I entered one of my recipes for the Glenisk competition. Given that I haven’t won anything since accepting a carton of 200 Benson and Hedges in a rugby club raffle over 30 years ago, I was not anticipating a lot.
“I see. So you focus only on meat dishes. Is that right?”
“No. I do a range of stuff. I do a fair bit of fish and some desserts and so on and meat, of course.”
“Why’d you call it One Man’s Meat then?”
So wandered a recent conversation. I stoutly defended my right to call it what I like and I went on (at some length, no doubt) to labour the point of the “One man’s meat is another man’s poison.” analogue. Meaning the blog was not for everyone and perhaps it was not for him. I reckoned I put the guy in his place. He was being pretty pedantic and, I suspect, winding me up a little.
Nothing is likely to upset a Texan more than telling him you can cook a better chili than he can. No doubt, his recipe will have been passed down through generations of trail hardened cow-pokes. The exact mix of chili, the cuts of meat to use and the number of cans of beer are all closely guarded family secrets. They demonstrate their culinary prowess by boiling up great pots of the stuff on the back of pick-up trucks while downing slabs of beer, tipping back their ten gallon hats and belching to each other. Or so I hear…