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Monday, October 24, 2016

A Precious Season

I’m a warm weather person, so it will seem a bit strange after hearing that, to hear too, that this period of the year is precious to me. I was born in Santa Cruz, California, along the northern coast of fabled Monterey Bay, spent my high school years on the Island of Guam, and the U.S. Army felt a need for my services in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Simply stated, I love warm weather.

Now, about that precious statement. Growly and grumpy old men turn into slobbering puppy dogs or mewing kittens when seeing visions of roast venison or slow smoked duck at Thanksgiving. Battling, mean-tempered old witches become sainted on thinking of a finely decorated tree, and enjoying the aroma of a roasted goose, or even a traditional turkey.

And I’m right alongside them all. Patty and I protect these holidays; they are ours. We can have family in but we don’t go out unless it’s family. It’s a roast goose for Thanksgiving this year, done on the Weber, with some bourbon soaked oak chips providing the smoke. The oak is staves from whiskey barrels, and the aroma from that smoke will tempt the neighbors into an invasion.

I’m planning acorn squash soup for starters and sweet potato pie covered in whipped cream, the real stuff, to wrap it up. More than likely we’ll take a short walk to get things settled and then sink into easy chairs and spend a couple of hours with a movie.

It’s the plottin’ and plannin’ that makes it so much fun. I learned, nay, that ain’t the truth, Ruth. I’m still learning the art of slow roasting on the Weber, allowing the heat to come down before putting the meat in, stacking the coals to the sides and allowing for convection to work its magic, and adding coals at the proper time. Pork shoulder is my favorite to roast, and a large slab of beef would be next. Ribs? Always!

Chicken, duck, and goose take a little more finesse to roast, as does rabbit. Goat and lamb are as much fun as pork and beef, and the one that Patty likes the most is when I slow roast a large trout. She hovers near the hot kettle, picking up the smoke swirling from the top vent.

Tradition, as Tevia said, is more than just tradition, it’s that feeling one gets, way down inside, the thought that might bring a tear or a quick intake of air. On Guam, pigs were wrapped in banana leaves and put in the ground on top of hot rocks. In Cold Springs, I wrap the pig in seed bags and soak them in a tub full of white wine and put them in the ground on top of hot rocks. I like it both ways.

Fish too were often steamed while wrapped in banana leaves, and breadfruit would be sliced and fried or roasted as potatoes might be. And so, we slow roast the trout in the kettle and serve it with French fries.

It’s the food of every season that makes them special for me. Open pit grilling and barbecuing with roasted corn on the cob and ice-cold salads for the hot months, and steamy rich soups and roasts of large animals and fowl in the cold months make life worth living. The traditions of having family in, the giving and receiving of gifts, and the pleasure of the lights and music add to the winter season, but it’s the food that I take most pleasure from.

A pork roast in a Dutch oven, simmering in a Mexican sauce and served with great crusts of French bread can make the coldest day warm. Or a sirloin of beef on the Weber splashed with a Texas mop sauce will brighten spirits quickly. And, then, a large cast iron pot filled with venison, beef, pork, and goat, half a ton of Jalapeñoes, onions, garlic, and tomatoes, simmered for an afternoon is simply heaven on the coldest day of the year.

Yup, mi compadre, the winter season is precious. Until next time, read good books and stay regular.

Johnny Gunn
Member, Western Fictioneers
Member, International Thriller Writers
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