Don’t know if it’s my “right brain” makeup or what, but I neither read tech manuals nor cookbooks. I say I can’t. Betsy says I won’t and I s’pose to be fair, she’s closer to “on the money”. I do know that either one of those type documents’ll cause my brain to shut down quicker’n a “failure to attach part A to part B with hex nut and lock washer C and D”.
Yup, as my friend David Sparrow would say, there’s a long “trail of wreckage” following me because of the times that I was “smarter than the book”, like when I installed an electric water heater in my parents’ home. Everything was going “swimmingly” with that heater until I attached the last wire nut, threw the breaker and heard a loud “pop”...I had failed to put water in before I started her up, a point covered in bold print on page one of the book! Then there was that time I replaced our baler’s shear pin (a weak pin designed to break and shut a machine down before major damage occurs) with a number five hard steel bolt. I’d gotten just part way around the field when suddenly there was a deafening “bang” immediately followed by shrapnel “zinging” everywhere. I stopped the tractor and looked back to find my New Holland Super 77 more resembling tornado aftermath than something to bale hay with!
As I have said, my “manual minimization” caused by, and I swear that I’m right, an acute lack of left-brain activity also relates to things “kitchen”. Being an avid eater, I want to contribute to the culinary area of our household and not leave it all up to Betsy. This desire always peaks at holiday time. A few years ago, I traveled about twenty miles to purchase a fresh, farm raised turkey for Thanksgiving. Since I had called late, the farmer sold me the only one he had left, a huge bird that was too big for all his other customers. He assured me, however, that this bird would be succulent and tender. I remember as I wrote out the check (which was, by the way, in the $60 range), him saying “Burr, once you’ve experienced a fresh bird, you’ll never go back to a supermarket frozen one”.
I thanked him and took my prize home. Betsy, always the skeptic, noted the size when I, all out of breath, carried it into the house. “I don’t know, Burr” she said “that’s awful big and I think you have to cook those fresh ones differently, maybe less time.”. To that, I said “Oh Pshww, any damned fool can cook a turkey...I heard somewhere y’give ‘em about 13 minutes per pound at 450”. At that point, my dear wife gave me that “Ohhh...Kay” look, turned around and said gobbler cuisine would be my job. I located the biggest baking pan we had, slathered some butter and salt on the turkey’s surface, and stuck it in the oven at 450. At about hour three, Betsy said she had a bad feeling about the bird. At hour four, her “bad feeling” was verified by both an unappetizing smell and a bluish haze...when I opened up the oven, that rascal had’nt been quite diminished to Cornish game hen size but was well on its way! Needless to say, we had to make other accommodations for Thanksgiving dinner that year!
As well as having multitudes of culinary failures, once in a while the law of averages points to a success. One evening last week when Betsy was at work on her night shift, I attempted spaghetti sauce. Shortly before that, I had lamented to her that my spaghetti sauce never turns out delicious like hers. She said the secret to good spaghetti sauce is a touch of sugar... “As weird as it seems Burr, a little sugar’ll bring all the other seasonings alive.” Remembering that, as I fried up some ground beef with an onion and garlic, I added, you can no doubt guess, some Grade B maple syrup along with salt, pepper and diced tomatoes.
That’s it. And yes, I’m sure there will be plenty of Italian purists out there saying “non è possibile!”, but it was about the best spaghetti sauce I’ve ever had (sorry Betsy!).
I’m going to call it “Burr’s Yankee Spaghetti Sauce” and will highly consider putting it on my web site and suggesting we trade recipes. But... after thinking about this, however, I’ve concluded it would be a bad idea. After all, it would simply be unfair to all of you because, remember, I won’t read your recipes. Instead, I’ll just say “Merry Christmas” or for you purists, “Buon Natale”!
Burr Morse is a seventh-generation Vermonter who cooks up tales in East Montpelier.
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