Category Archives: Humor
You might have noticed I took a little break from blogging life for the past few months. It wasn’t planned, I just got so busy I haven’t had the drive or time to do much for The Beef Jar. I’ve written some freelance articles, participated in an AgChat conference and the coolest thing is I went to the South. Twice!
I haven’t traveled for a long time. In fact, the last time I took a vacation that was away from the ranch for more than two nights in a row was back in 2007. It was time to leave the ranch. The guy I was dating is from Alabama, so I was able to visit him. I went once in December and since I had such a good time, I went back in January!
It was a wonderful experience both times. I’ve always been fascinated by southern food and culture so needless to say, I was in heaven. I got ushered around the Southeast by a local, eating amazing food and having the time of my life. I got to see several southern places, including Nashville, Lynchburg, Atlanta, Birmingham, Asheville and Washington County, Tennessee.
My ex-boyfriend’s family has a plantation in Coosa County, Alabama. That was home base during my time down there. It was an amazing farm with totally different agriculture from what I was used to. I got to spend several days on their farm learning about local agriculture, history and again, food.
Until this point in my life, my knowledge of southern things comes from Paula Deen, Jill Conner Browne, Alton Brown, and other various southern authors. Oh and Reese Witherspoon movies. I imagined magnolia trees, dripping with Spanish moss, acres and acres of cotton, tobacco and sweet potatoes and BBQ everywhere. I’m sure it’s like when people think of California and think we are just beaches and movie stars. The South was so much more varied and different than what I expected (I mean, except for the BBQ part, and that was super cool)!
I was amazed at all the pine trees in Alabama. For some reason I had no clue Alabama had so many pine trees! I was expecting it to be far more open farmland and magnolias. I did see a cotton field and lots of cow/calf operations. However, one thing I noticed that really bummed me out was it seemed like there was a lot of abandoned farms. It kinda made me want to buy one and move to the South.
Since I did get to see several different areas of the southeast, that means I also got to see some of the Smoky Mountains. They were beautiful. I’ve seen enough photos and movies about them that I knew what to expect, and they did not disappoint. I want to go back and take pictures and poke around – I might even consider camping there. Maybe.
One of the happiest moments of my life happened in Nashville. I was in a boot store on the strip. The smell of new leather and BBQ was in the air. I had a slight Pabst beer buzz. I had just seen an amazing country band. I was eating chocolate because, of course, there was an old fashioned candy store next to the band and bar. I actually had to stop and ask if that was real life. The Country Music Hall of Fame was also a major highlight! So many neat costumes, cars and instruments!
I think my favorite though were the rolling green hills of Tennessee. The farms were all gorgeous, stuff of dreams. I had serious agriculture envy the whole time I was there. I was seriously looking up the farms and ranches I saw for sale, because I really could live there and happy raise pigs and cows.
I was also shocked at the water. The rivers and lakes seemed to be everywhere and they were huge! Coming from drought stricken Nor Cal, it was almost overwhelming!
The cemeteries were a trip to me. They were everywhere. And the were old. It was a good reminder just how “new” California is. Many families had their “own” graveyard on their family farms. My goal when we were in Washington County was to find my family graveyard. I was so close, but that is for another post.
Birmingham was awesome. It was there where I had real BBQ for the first time. I got to go to Good People and Avondale Brewing. Just getting to walk down the streets and see some of the amazing old homes was enough to make me really happy.
I almost had a come-apart in Atlanta when I finally saw a real alligator and an albino one at that! One of my major goals while in the South was to see an alligator. I’d been to Florida in September, and was sorely disappointed I didn’t get to see one then. The alligator I did see was at the Atlanta aquarium. It was amazing, really. It breathtaking. I missed the Coke experience by a few minutes (it closed), but I’d like to see that at some point.
Asheville. I understand why the second Sierra Nevada is there. It has a Chico vibe to it. I made the treck to the second Sierra Nevada, like all Chico natives should. It was a glorious building and the food was fabulous. We went out on the town after Sierra Nevada and again I had a ball! It was freezing and snowed while I was there, but the amazing music and people made the cold bearable. I’d love to go back to Asheville and spend a few days, it deserves it.
Let’s talk about the food now. Southern food is better. There I said it. I can simply never go back to how I was before. I actually ate skin from fried chicken and loved it. Sweet tea is nectar from the gods, and BBQ is mana.
I actually tried to experience as much regional food as I could. Blue Bell Ice Cream? Check. Duke’s mayonnaise? Check. Boiled peanuts? So good. White Lily Flour? Took 10 pounds home. 30 pound Country Ham? It was in my carry-on. Okra, I love it now. Fried pickles? I have a recipe. White BBQ sauce? White yum. (if you send me Duke’s or Lily White, I’ll send you jam, jelly, pickles or California olive oil).
I’ve experienced SAW’S, Dreamland BBQ and Jim and Nick’s. BBQ is not a joke down there. It changed me. Southern’s do magic with a grill and some smoke. Magic, I tell you. If you haven’t experienced real southern BBQ go ahead and just book yourself a flight and go find some. Do it. I’ve been working very hard on recreating many of the dishes I had while in the South, I’m getting good, but it’s just not the same.
Waffle House. Oh my Lawd, I did not know. I mean, I’d heard some great things from Anthony Bourdain. But Waffle House is something you must experience to understand completely. Drunk college kids in California do not know how amazing Waffle House is and what they are missing. I was urged to try and have a drunk Waffle House experience, I did, in Birmingham, and was again one of the more glorious experiences of my life. Drunk southerner’s, amazing waffles and smothered hash browns – it should be a reality show.
Cracker Barrel – food, candy, clothes, games, all the things. Cracker Barrel is like the mecca of the South. Go there, rock in a rocking chair, eat some chicken and dumplings, and pay your respects.
Southerner’s are nice. They are friendly. Pleasantries are exchanged at every opportunity. They buy you a lot of drinks when they hear you are from California. They have manners. Door’s are held open, ‘bless you’ said after a sneezes, polite chat is made.
I loved it. I always embarrassed my friends and family because I will randomly start conversations with people. In the South, it felt like you were rude if you didn’t. I’m pretty sure I belong there.
I never really harbored the idea of ever living anywhere but on the Ranch, here in California (this is God’s country after all) but after seeing the southeast, I daydream about owning a little farm in Tennessee. Or Georgia, or anywhere. Seriously, The South is America’s travel secret.
I just renewed my passport and was starting to plan another trip back to Europe. But I’ve decided I’d rather spend my money and time in the South. Learn more my own history and culture.
So I’ve started planning my trip back this winter. A couple of my girlfriends are looking into going back in December or January. I’m in my early stages of planning but I’m thinking maybe about flying into Nashville, doing a bourbon tour, going up to Bristol, Asheville and leaving out of Atlanta. However, I know I have lots of Southern friends, so I am open to suggestions. Is there something I need to experience? Tell me! Give me advice!
But in the meantime if you an agricultural organization and you need a speaker, panelist or moderator, let me know. I’ll waive my fee, just pay for my flight and a bed and point me to the nearest BBQ joint when we are done.
I met John a few weeks ago and we immediately bonded over our mutual love of food. He impressed me with his knowledge of heritage pork and all things gravy (a great mix, FYI). Since then, he’s been gracious enough to teach me more about Southern food and culture.
I was 30 kinds of excited when he taught me how to make these collards. I absolutely loved them. I have some in my fridge right now! I cannot believe this isn’t a “thing” out here. Seriously. I feel like it is important to share this magical concoction with as many people as I can, so I asked John to author a post for this blog, you know, in the interest of education. Make these. Promise me? You need to try them, they are delicious.
Let’s Talk About Collards, Y’all…
Food is a huge part of southern culture, and the magical ways in which true southern country dishes, or soul food, are prepared are varied and complex. Recipes usually aren’t written down or gathered in great collections. This sacred knowledge is often times only accessible through the family cooking cult’s supreme leader; in my family, this is Granny. Granny is the culinary queen of Coosa County, Alabama and the patron saint of Rockford; the nearest town to our family farm. If she’s not on the front porch reading the Good Book and talking to her hummingbirds, then she’s in the kitchen rattling every pan she can get her hands on. If she’s not in the kitchen, then she’s probably at church because those are the only places this lady goes.
In our house, food is love. You know your Granny loves you because she makes an effort to see you smile every time you eat. Your Granny knows you love her because you eat the mound of savory beauty she piles on your plate. You eat all of it. You say thank you. Then you get some more.
One of my all time favorite loves that my Granny makes is collard greens. They grow very well in that area of the country, and because collards don’t mind being frozen or canned, they are a regular appearance on many a plate in the south throughout the year.
It has come to my attention, since moving to Northern California back in May, that the mighty collard is underutilized in this particular region of the country, and drastically under appreciated by everyone except the health nazis who think that greens should just be eaten raw, or even more appalling, juiced! Blasphemy, I say! Blasphemy! I feel obligated to share a true southern recipe for preparing collard greens. This is Granny’s way. She’d be so pissed if she knew I was doing this…
As I mentioned earlier, southern dishes like collard greens are prepared in many different ways, whether it be from region to region, family to family, or generation to generation. This is how I learned, and even though I am very much biased I’ve had them all, and I believe this is by far the best way to prepare the greens. If you don’t like what you get, try something else. Collards are magic food that can take on a bunch of different flavors, so don’t be afraid to mess around with flavors and spices you are more drawn to or comfortable with.
When I met Megan a few weeks ago we quickly found that we share a passion for eating, drinking, and cooking, and she has been kind enough to be my Chico culinary tour guide since then, showing me the best food and drink the area has to offer. Last Saturday, we went to the Saturday Market in Chico to peruse the goodies and plan a good meal for a beautiful but chilly day. As we were walking the rows of the market we came upon a stack of fresh kelly green collards sitting on a table and Megan turned around and informed me that she’d NEVER EATEN COLLARD GREENS!!! Her excitement and joy from learning that I know the way of the greens was enough to melt my cold dark heart and dishonor my family by giving away my Granny’s trade secret. We bought two bundles and decided to do the damn thing. We had a blast cooking up all kinds of stuff that day, but Megan was really impressed with the greens and asked me to share how to do these things right with all of you. So, here’s how you make Granny’s Collard Greens. Share them with somebody special!
Granny’s Collard Greens
Warm a medium to large pot to low-med heat. You can also use a big cast iron skillet if your heart so desires. Add some fat –
fatty thick cut bacon, bacon ends, bacon grease, smoked neck bones, butter, something…don’t be scared to get greasy. I prefer bacon ends or thick cuts of bacon, cut into small pieces. You want this to cook slowly and to maintain a soft texture so that you release the fat and smokiness. Low and slow is the way to go.
Let your choice of fat cook for about 10 – 15 minutes, stirring regularly
Add some garlic. 4 – 6 whole cloves should do the trick. Let your garlic sweat until it starts to soften. You don’t want it to fall apart just yet, so don’t let it go too long.
Add some broth. 2 to 3 cups of chicken broth is my go to. You can use beef or pork broths as well.
Heat on medium and let all that get aquatinted together for about 10 minutes.
Add some flavor:
go heavy on the smoked paprika
go heavy on the fresh ground black pepper
add half an onion. Just cut it in half and drop it in there. I prefer reds or vidalias.
add 1/4 to 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar. If you like tanginess use 1/2 cup, if not use 1/4. If you’re timid, just roll the dice and trust the southerner. I mean you no harm.
Stir and simmer for another 10 minutes.
Prep your greens:
Remove the leafy greens from the central stem. You can use a knife or scissors to cut them away, or you can go old school and simply tear them away by hand. Wash your damn greens. Even if they look clean, collards are a very porous plant that grows near the ground, so the leaves can absorb a lot of soil and grit. The best way to ensure they are clean is to fill your sink with cool water and then add your greens and a half cup of coarse salt. Gently bath the greens in the salty water then drain the sink and rinse the greens with fresh water. I’d even go so far as to spin them as well. Gritty greens are no good.
Add your greens:
Slowly add your washed greens in small handfuls at a time. Stir each handful into your broth and add more as they cook down. When all of your greens are in the pot you want it to look sorta soupy. There should be an ample amount of liquid allowing the greens to not be clumped together or weighing heavy on the bottom of the pan. Add some water or more broth if you think you need to. Continue gently stirring until all the greens begin to darken in color, usually about 5 minutes. Put a lid on it.
Come back and stir it in 20 minutes. Put the lid back on.
Come back and stir it in 20 minutes. Taste your broth. By this time, you should be able to get an idea of what your working with. You should have some tang, some spice, and some smoky fatty goodness going on in there. I usually add more paprika right here. Bring your heat back down to low-med, put the lid back on, and let the magic happen.
Continue checking and stirring every 20-30 minutes until all the green are very dark in color and soft in texture. When you taste them they should not be chewy or crispy or fibrous, but soft and savory. They should be ready to eat after about two hours of cooking.
Serving your greens:
I just slap em on the plate and go to town, but some people do prefer to add pepper sauce or hot sauce to theirs’. Do as you so please. I usually add some more pepper just because pepper is amazing, and a little salt can go a long way if you have undercooked or unevenly cooked your greens and are getting some bitter flavors in there.
Saving your greens:
Collard greens are amazing left over, so don’t throw them out if you don’t eat them all. In most cases, they will continue to ferment in that heavenly broth and continue to taste better and better over the next few days. They also can be frozen and stored away for entire seasons without losing anything with the time.
When you’ve had your fill of the greens be sure to keep the broth. The broth is called pot likker, and is the best soup base you could ever ask for. Some old country folks even drink it straight, you know, for vitality and what not.
This is a deathrow food for me (you know, if I ever have to request a last meal, this will be it). It’s simple, no frills – yet absolutely delicious. If it had carbs and chocolate all my favorite food groups would be represented. People have been know to hide bowls of this in the refrigerator from other family members. I love to take it to potlucks because it is always a hit. It’s also really easy to change depending on your tastes and preferences. You can use raisins instead of grapes, omit the onion, etc. I also enjoy using flavored vinegars. Fruity flavors such as pineapple or mandarin work well. Just go make this, and hide a bowl for yourself…
Bacon Broccoli Salad
- 2 cup seedless red grapes
- 1 pound good bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
- 2 cup fresh broccoli florets
- 1 cup chopped red onion
- 1.5 cups sharp cheddar cheese
- 1 cup sunflower seeds
- 2/3 cup mayonnaise
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons vinegar (I like to use a mix of a fruity and a balsamic)
In a large bowl, combine grapes, bacon, broccoli, onion, cheese and sunflower seeds; set aside. Mix together mayonnaise, sugar and vinegar; pour over broccoli mixture and toss to coat.
Cover and chill for at least 1 hour. Stir before serving.
Social media makes a small world even smaller. This past January my friend Jesse Bussard, recommended I become friends on facebook with this guy named Steel. Steel was coming to Chico State, from Montana, for a semester exchange. We became facebook friends and made plans to meet for a beer and a tour of Chico when he got here.
We met up at the world famous, Sierra Nevada Brewery for a beer and a beer cheese pretzel. I figured I’d have a beer with this guy, introduce him to some Chico people and that would pretty much be it. He would find his niche in Chico and my life would be no different. I was wrong.
We met, had our beer, and started talking about what it was like to grown up on a ranch. It was a good time, we had a lot in common. We both had similar childhoods, we had interests in politics and agriculture. He mentioned that he was looking for stuff to do while he was in town, preferably ranch type stuff. That got my attention. We are always looking for part-time help on the ranch – but it’s impossible finding someone with the needed skill sets. Ranch kids have a tendency to either work on their own ranches or not want to be ranch kids anymore.
Steel started coming on out to the ranch pretty regularly. He worked hard. I tried my best to keep up with him while we were working, but I’d have to give it up after a few hours. My prideful pride wouldn’t let me admit that I couldn’t keep up, luckily I was able to say I had to take a break so I could start cooking dinner (I’m pretty sure no one knew, so shhhh). Steel would work all day, doing gnarly ranch jobs like building fence, taking down old barns, and teaching me to weld, for only dinner and beers.
I, in turn encouraged him to start a blog. Agriculture needs all the advocates we can get and I knew Steel would have an unique and educated voice that we so desperately need. I also gave him some cooking pointers and seasoned a cast iron pan, so when he went home he could do more than grill. I also tried to educate him on the finer points of Californian Mexican Food, because Taco Bell does not count. At all. Not even a little.
Then, as they do, something bad happened and I thought the light had left my life forever. All I wanted to do was lay on my couch watching Gilmore Girls, crying and eating burritos (I did for a week too!). Steel, in no uncertain terms, told me to knock that off. He came over and picked me up and took my on a little day trip to the snow, giving me a pep talk and a chance to get out of my head and see the big picture. It was just what I needed.
Then he made me a ranch hot-tub out of a watering trough and barrel. It’s really hard to be sad when you have an awesome hot tub in your yard.
Despite my best effort to introduce him to a lovely Chico State student here so he’d stay, I had no luck and he went back home to Montana. It was wonderful getting to know Steel and I am a better person for getting to know him. However I am now looking forward to delivering a Boo puppy and some pork to him this fall, when I go visit my Montana friends!
Keep an eye on this guy, friends. He’s a wonderful human that is going to do some great things.
I don’t watch much TV. I especially don’t watch reality TV. My reality is enough for me! However, it has come to my attention that a popular reality TV dating show is featuring a farmer. I know this because I have seen multiple blog posts about what it is to date or marry a farmer. This is great, most of us need all the dating advice we can get. But it’s been just a whisper one-sided. Where are the blog posts about what it is like to date or marry a woman farmer or rancher? Since I am a woman rancher and I usually date non-farmers or ranchers, this is a topic I am especially familiar with, so I give you my list of advice.
1. Don’t be intimidated by us. Yes, we have an unique skill set, work ethic and a can-do attitude that can be daunting but there is nothing sexy about a man who is scared or threatened by a woman who is self-sufficient.
2. Working in agriculture is often a dirty, bloody, dusty, muddy, smelly job. Sometimes we like to be pretty and knock the poo off, take us out occasionally so we can wear our town boots and smell nice. Of course not during planting, harvest, calving or shipping season though.
3. We can castrate with our teeth. Enough said.
4. Our prefered topics of conversation will make you uncomfortable or grossed out for a while. Don’t worry, you’ll get used it and eventually like it. Example dinner topic at my house: “did you see that abscess on that cow finally popped?!? What was the scrotal circumference on the new bull?’
5. Don’t “little lady” us on our ranch. By that I mean don’t treat us any differently than you a man doing our job. Not only is it incredibly insulting, it can get someone hurt. We know our job and how to safely do it. You do not.
6. We cuss like well-educated sailors. It’s a result of being “little ladied”. For example, if it comes between dropping an “F” bomb to get your attention, or watching you get mucked-out by a mad mama cow because you were trying to do my job, I’ll let loose a string of expletives that would make a trucker blush.
7. The farm and animals will always come first. Often, our ranch is the work of generations of our family’s blood, sweat and tears – we know this is a legacy that we cannot lose. Respect that, even offer to lend a hand (even if you just bring us dinner to the tractor or field). Bonus points if it’s during our busy season.
8. Sometimes we won’t be able to take that romantic getaway or attend that wedding with you or even go on that date, our schedules are not like our non-farming counterparts. The animals don’t care if you have plans and the harvest can’t wait. Give us lots of notice for events and forgive us if we cancel on you – our whole season’s work might be in jeopardy.
9. A clean house may not always be our top priority, but we can cook better than your Mom, probably your Grandma too. And, extra bonus? Our deep freezers often contain more beef, pork, lamb and wild game than you ever imagined!
10. We can hunt and fish. And own excellent places to do that. We also clean and gut our own game, yours too, if you compliment us enough.
11. We are damn handy to have around. Most of us possess a plethora of skills honed over our lifetime of manual labor on the ranch. Need some welding done? Maybe some plumbing? Have some heavy equipment you need operated? Maybe your pet needs some vaccinations? Let us know, we’ll take care of it.
12. We are confident and fearless. We rarely take shit from anyone. If you make us mad, you will know about it. We work with animals and equipment that are much larger than you and not as reasonable, everyday, all day.
13. We can breed, plant, assist with birth, raise, harvest and slaughter our own food. We are connected to agriculture in almost a spiritual way. If you spend any amount of time with us, you will learn more about agriculture than you ever thought possible and start to love it as much as us.
14. If you love us, you will love our life. It just comes with the territory. Farming and ranching is not always easy, pretty, fun or comfortable, but it is one of the most rewarding ways of life ever. If you are lucky enough to date a farmher or rancher, told on tight, we are worth it.
Don’t believe me? Here is some more advice!
‘You gotta quit this sh*t Megan, it’s getting ridiculous’ – (my Dad)
To be fair I think Dad was referring to the fact that I have had two different forms of news out to The Ranch in less than two weeks. The first was The Sac Bee, and the second was my local news station, KHSL-TV.
But it’s not quite that simple. Over the past few years I’ve been using social media for more than cows, plows and sows. I’ve used it to engage my local politicians, namely my Congressman, Doug LaMalfa. This all culminated with our President’s State of the Union Address last January.
You see, I was “live tweeting” it on twitter. If you are not familiar with twitter or live tweeting, that means I was, at 140 characters or less, giving my thoughts and opinions on the President’s speech. Congressman LaMalfa was doing the same thing. It happened to catch the eye of Brian Johnson, which led to an interview out here on the Ranch.
Now, the Congressman and I have been tweeting at each other for a few years now. Ok, to be fair, I have done MOST of the tweeting. I firmly believe that our elected officials should interact with their constituency. I do understand how busy our elected official must be, especially our Congress, but that is the beauty of social media – you can address those issues for many people rather quickly. It does make me sad that my Congressman does not really take advantage of that opportunity.
Brian Johnson came out the morning after SOTU for the interview. We had a great visit, and it was fun to have him out to the Ranch. He filed a wonderful report! The feedback I got on my social media feeds was all super positive. It was a wonderful experience for me!
However, I’m not sure how my Congressman felt about it. I have a feeling I might have upset him when I mentioned that sometimes he responded to my tweets and it is getting harder to ignore me. Since the interview he hasn’t tweeted or facebooked me back at all, despite multiple attempts.
I have to admit I do find it disheartening. I think when the next generation of ag leaders are actively seeking to engage with current leaders, only good things can come of those interactions. It hurts to approach my elected official in a positive and polite manner only to be rebuffed, again and again. I know we might not have the same political beliefs but having open and respectful dialogue would help foster understanding on both sides and be an excellent example for many.
Stay tuned! I have no intention of giving up my quest to communicate with my Congressman. I believe that our Government is for the People, by the People, and it is our responsibility to maintain that. Many of us have slipped into complacency and general sense of disconnect and we no longer engage in our political system. It’s time to change that and if I can inspire just a handful of people to do that, then my job is done. #aghagforcongress