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Stews

Spanish rabbit and bean stew (12 of 13)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. 

Pork and bean stew (14 of 15)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.

Pork Chili

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. 

Venison shanksI 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.

Lamb CurryWe 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. 

Osso Buco“So, what’s your blog all about Conor?” 

“It’s a food blog”

“Oh! You write about cooking. What’s it called?”

“One man’s meat.”

“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. 

Beef chiliNothing 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…

Venison shoulderLast weekend, a couple of friends and I decided that it would be a good idea to go for a long cycle on Sunday morning. It had been snowing and the forecast was for things to clear. So, with a degree of abandon, we met soon after sunrise and headed south.  Temperatures were holding above zero and after about 30 minutes cycling the pain (along with the feeling) went out of my extremities. 

Vinison StewWhat do you do? The Wicklow Hunter’s youngest brother calls to the office and leaves a sack. He tells me that it’s a gift from the brother. “All legal ‘an all” he assures me. I thank him profusely and check the contents. YES! It’s another venison leg, from a pretty young deer by the looks of it. This gets me thinking. 

I used to think it was pretty straightforward. “Build it and they will come” was my approach. A pork stew was a pork stew. If I announced it and cooked it, they would be there, happy to be fed in the family kitchen.  In more recent times, I have noticed a worrying trend. The casual conversation is no longer “Whatyacooking Pops?”. No, it has shifted slightly towards “Oh, Pork Casserole. How are you cooking it? What are you adding? What will make it really special this time?”.

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