Monday, May 29, 2006

A Day to Remember

It's Memorial Day or at least the day we now choose to celebrate this holiday.
Moving the celebration of national holidays to Mondays was a good move, allowing folks to have a long weekend to celebrate with friends and family. Over the years, many of us have turned this day of parade watching and flag waving into a pool, picnic, barbecue day. And fashion mavens use Memorial Day as the harbinger for the white shoes and white handbags that were officially relegated to storage last Labor Day.
But how many of us actually remember what this day signifies? Over the weekend, I saw a WWII veteran in front of the grocery store with the traditional red poppies. Over the years, the number of these valiant men has dwindled. I remember always seeing two or three hale and hearty vets gathered together on street corners and at the entrances to stores, raising money and awareness of the needs of veterans with the sale of red poppies at Memorial Day. I also remember that almost everyone walking on the street, bustling about their errands, sported a poppy, showing support for the men who fought for freedom for us. Times have changed. We don't see many people walking on the street these days period, never mind sporting poppies at Memorial Day and Veteran's Day. I guess many of those folks driving along may have a poppy. Who am I to judge? But I strongly suspect, the change collected in those little canisters didn't amount to much this past weekend, even though we are a far more affluent society than we were 40 + years ago. Our priorities have changed.
Or maybe it's just that our way of donating and contributing has changed and it's no longer de rigeur to look for handouts on the street corners, better to mail address labels or mount a telemarketing campaign. But that's so impersonal, isn't it? I liked having the smile and thank you from those wizened faces and the firm handshake of a calloused hand from a man who left home and family, took up arms and faced an enemy, so I could grow up, safe and sound in America. There's something very personal and very special about that.
Today is a day to remember all those who gave their lives fighting to make our world a better place. A feature article in today's Orlando Sentinel used the figure 619,837 lives lost from World War I through today's war in Iraq. Over half a million brave men and women. Regardless of how we feel about the wars we've fought or the current war we're fighting, let's remember and respect the many lives given in the name of freedom. They've helped make it possible for us to grill that frank or smoke those ribs today.
For those of you who prefer to do your 'cue indoors - count me at the top of the list - I've had great success with slow cooking beef brisket simply sprinkled generously with a spice rub. I like a Cajun mix but a straight salt and pepper combo will do, as long as one of those peppers is cayenne. Wrap the meat well in foil, place in a shallow roasting pan in a 250 oven and let it cook. Plan on at least 40 minutes per pound. Whatever you do, don't rush it. I often put a 3 - 4 lb piece of brisket in early morning and don't remove it from the oven until late afternoon. Well wrapped, it won't dry out. You want the meat to be fork tender and shred easily. I treat the meat liked pulled pork, using two forks to shred it. But you can slice it against the grain with a very sharp carving knife if you prefer slices. I slather the beef, when serving, with Bobby Flay's cola based sauce (see recipe) and serve with cole slaw and onion rolls or fresh, crisp Kaiser rolls as a sandwich. Great way to enjoy an inexpensive cut of meat. No fuss, no muss, it cooks itself while you go about your day and if you wrapped it carefully in a foil packet, the pan only needs a quick rinse! What could be easier? Fast food it's not. But you'll have to admit, it's easy and oh, so good. Give it a try.
BBQ Sauce
Courtesy of Bobby Flay
1 cup cola
1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
3 TBS A1 Bold
1 minced shallot
1 minced clove garlic
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
Combine all ingredients in small saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and simmer until reduced by a quarter.
I'm spending the holiday with Julia and Paul Child. I'm deeply immersed in My Life in France. Who knows how I'll be led to cook the bay scallops I took out of the freezer this morning? But with Julia encouraging me, it's sure to be good. Till next time . . . keep on cooking!

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