Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Pork And The Pea

The true Southerner is a funny character with many peculiar habits. Most of us like to hunt and fish. We all talk funny, have gun racks and drink ice cold Miller. Oh I might pop a Shiner every now and then but I've managed to keep Miller in business for many years.

One of our most unusual tastes is for our friend the pig. In fact, it would be an accurate statement that I've probably fried more bacon than any other household in East Texas. I've got a number ten skillet so black from pork fat it shines like a mirror made from wet tar and I'm happy to say I'll  be heating the iron once more as I prepare for the New Year's tradition of black-eyed peas.

I think a true Southern cook would find it most interesting that this custom dates back to the Babylonian Talmud compiled around 500 CE which was like a book of rules or laws for the Jewish community. Within it were recommendations of eating certain symbolic foods that were thought to bring good luck.

"Now that you have established these good-luck symbols, you should make it a habit on your table on the New Year."

Qara (squash)
Rubiya (black-eyed peas)
Kartei (kind of like an onion)
Silka (beets or spinach)
Tamrei (dates)

Knowing this, I'll have to ask all my Jewish friends to look away as I'll be adding Porky to the table like any good Southerner would. I'm so sorry my Jewish brothers and sisters but you just can't cook black-eyed peas without pork.

From the table of Paula Deen, I bring you...

Spicy Black-Eyed Peas


4 slices bacon
1 medium onion, chopped
1 (16-ounce) package dried black-eyed peas, washed
1 (12-ounce) can diced tomatoes and green chiles
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 cups water


In a large dutch oven, cook the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon, crumble, and set aside to use as a topping for the peas. Saute the onion in the bacon drippings until tender. Add the peas, diced tomatoes and green chiles, salt, chili powder, pepper and water. Cover and cook over medium heat for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the peas are tender. Add additional water, if necessary. Serve garnished with crumbled bacon.

Aside from the luck the black-eyed peas will hopefully bring you this year, I wish you the best for a healthy and profitable 2012. 

From me to you, Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Original Underdog

Time and time again we are reminded that the best things in this world are in such unexpected places. It's very much like the book and the cover thing as we lean towards judging something due to it's appearance. It's the very reason for the success of Susan Boyle due to the shock factor she delivered to the crowd when she performed on Britain's Got Talent in 2009. Out walks this older and extremely frumpy looking older lady with a voice that managed to bring the house completely down.

Such is the story of Charlie Brown and his less than perfect tree selection in the classic Charlie Brown Christmas. Much like Charlie, it's a loser. Or at least that's how his peers see it when he shows up with a tree that in their opinion, will never amount to anything. And if you know the whole story, the tree shines in the end as a symbol of hope for us all. The little tree that could barely hold up just one ornament.

Life is like this for all of us as I'm a firm believer that God rallies behind the underdog. The Christmas story is no different as two souls journey across the desert only to find room in a stable full of animals. Both of which had to be exhausted which was followed by labor pains and then a delivery on a dirt floor. And nobody ever talks about Joseph in all of this as I would wager to say he was probably in a state of shock given the environment. I've seen that four times and even in a hospital, the whole thing is just disturbing. I don't care what some granola says about it being beautiful as they don't know what they're talking about.

One would think that Mary would have said, "Hold on there Joe. This is the Son of God Himself. Where's my limo? Where's my four star room at Presbi? And make sure you order the epidural." But she didn't as like her Son, she was also an underdog. A pregnant woman riding a donkey for at least 70 miles taking anywhere from 6 to 8 days in travel time. I don't know about you but donkey and pregnant woman really don't go together very well. For the record, I got reamed out on several different occasions for hitting every pothole on Hillcrest from Stanford all the way to Park Lane. Literally a ten to fifteen minute drive but I digress.

Every year, we get caught up in our own holiday hell. I don't particularly care for all the commercialism that surrounds Christmas and I have to remind myself what it's all about. And if you really take notice of the story, you'll see that it's about the underdog. The original underdog that came to save us all in the very humble surroundings of a barn. Not the Ritz Carlton but a barn.

Take heed this Christmas my friends. You never know where you'll find a treasure as they always show up in the most unsuspecting places.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Protesting to the Blind

2012 Civic Natural Gas ©2011 American Honda Motor Co.
In their now third attempt to stir up a market that's hard pressed to buy, Honda has launched the new 2012 Civic Natural Gas. I say it's hard pressed as I'm sure there will be some folks that will purchase the car. For instance, in 2008 the state of Utah made a huge move installing natural gas stations due to gas prices and a little jump in sales occurred within their market. To put that in perspective, only 800 natural gas cars were sold in the U.S. back in 08 and 200 of them were sold in Utah. But this is a mere drop in the bucket when you consider that there are probably 150 thousand gas stations in the U.S. with an estimated 150 million cars on the road.

Protestors in Washington, November 2011 - Note: Markers are made from Petroleum.

In November, the all knowing environmentalists marched in Washington to protest the Keystone XL pipeline project as in their opinion, it posed a danger due to potential leakage. And to them, getting it postponed or reevaluated is considered a big win. Hooray!!! Hooray for what? Managing to push a project into next year is the the best you can do? Showing up in Washington parading around with a bunch of signs is your idea of change? Excuse me for wanting some originality but this kind of exercise got old during the Vietnam war and none of us with a brain in our head will find this to be a successful and tactical solution. Don't even get me started with the whole occupy Wall Street thing.

So what's the solution for our gas guzzling appetite?

I was asked about natural gas cars a couple of weeks ago from a young person and my response was they are a wonderful invention. They burn clean and would be ideal for around town excursions. Not to mention we have plenty of natural gas and with the device you can purchase for your home, you can easily fuel it right in your own garage.

So what about electric cars? Same thing. Cool concept and would work just fine for around town excursions. Drive around town, come home, plug it in and your off to the races the next day.

So why is this such a hard sell?

People have a hard time with change. And not because we can't but because it means functioning differently than what we've become accustomed to. We have now lived for 100 years with the ability to get from point A to point B whenever we want. If I need to get to Dallas, it's as easy as jumping in the car and I'm there in an hour or so. Giving up this kind of freedom would mean a 90 degree turn in my behavior and even if it made all the sense in the world, I would still have a hard time shifting gears. It's just the way we're made.

A great example of just how ridiculous we can be when it comes to changing our habits can be found in clear Coca-Cola. Coke is actually colored using a food coloring and the color adds absolutely nothing to the taste. Coke decided to sell the drink without the color in 1992 and couldn't move one bottle or can off the shelf. Tastes exactly the same but it was clear so we're not drinking it which sounds like an irrational child refusing to eat something at the dinner table because it's green.

When you step back to examine yourself and the effects your behavior may have on the world, the environment can be a big issue. I'm really not bashing the environmentalists as I do believe we should take care of our planet. What I am bashing is a failure to make a difference through solid creative thinking as well as changing the way we live. Especially when we can control these things just by adapting our behavior.

For example, in 2008 gas prices got so high that it became a real challenge for employees to get to work. The cost to fill up was effecting their home budgets and for a lot of people, that meant cut backs in areas that are a little tough to cut back on. Kind of hard to fill up your stomach when you have to keep filling up your tank.

To help with this problem, we started letting employees work from home three days a week while only coming in on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This put us on technical duty loading all files on-line which allowed staff to exchange working documents as needed either through email or straight off the server. By doing this, it saved our back sides when Dallas was hit with record ice and snow in 2010. The ice was so thick underneath all the snow that it stranded our designers within their own homes for a whole week. No worries as we were already set up to work at home and we never missed a beat.

So with technology flowing in more places than filling stations, why doesn't America see this advantage? Do we all have to go into the office every day? How much time is wasted in mindless meetings? I've seen it first hand and granted you have a good work ethic, you'll get the work done come hell or high water no matter where you are.

I'm not saying this is a solution for everyone and I'm also not saying that it would work every day. It helps to get that one on one time with people especially when you need to bounce ideas around and stay on track with tasks. But if it were made possible by companies everywhere, just think of the difference we could make? What would this do to our pollution levels? Where would our fuel prices go?

I have a real hard time with protestors and seeing any real change that resulted from someone holding up a poster board. If you want to change the world then take a stand. Stop drinking artificially colored Cokes, put down those idiotic signs and create change with yourself. We hold the keys to this country so let's all grow up and drive it. 

And nowadays, you can even use natural gas to fill it up.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Christmas List

This time of year always brings out the best in me at some point. I always have a hard time getting into the Christmas groove but the cold weather along with the relentless Christmas music playing gets me every time. Not to mention it looks like Chris Kringle vomited in my house. The little boys appear as though they have been drinking Starbucks coffee all day just waiting to rip open any gift tucked underneath the tree.

I miss those days as it seems like Santa forgets grownups. We all get the shaft with new socks and an occasional pull over. Oh...I'm not complaining as it's a real kick to watch the kids on Christmas morning but I have to say that just once, I wish old Santa would remember me.

So this year I launched a pretty extensive campaign with Santa for adults like me who want more than socks and sweaters. After several conference calls and market studies presented to the North Pole, I'm extremely pleased to deliver this message from Santa Clause himself. I hope all of you will take a little time out of your busy schedule and let him know what you want for Christmas. I'm giving you permission to be a kid just once more. 

So be a kid.