Thursday, March 23, 2017

Biggie—Year Six—Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

This has been an interesting year.  In a couple of previous posts I’ve talked about moving away from my home of 20 years, as well as Biggie’s mom also moving away.  It meant at the time the probability of never seeing Biggie again.  However, a few last moment changes in moving plans left us only 12 miles apart, and I get to have Biggie over for visits on a regular basis. 

Right now Biggie is doing one of his favorite things—he is asleep on our sofa, and I’ll let him stay there as long as he desires.  He used to take over my chair, so I gave up and started sitting on the sofa.  Now he is taking over the sofa, and I’ve been relegated back to my old chair.  This little guy is 10 years old now, and in a few months he will be 11.  His age is beginning to show, but then again, so is my age.  But this doesn’t stop us from having fun.

My wife and I live just a short drive from a coffee shop overlooking the Pacific Ocean, and it is a peaceful location where one can relax and enjoy getting hyper on caffeine spiked with sugar.  The outdoor patio is a perfect place to bring a dog, and the coffee shop will serve dogs a cup of whipped cream if requested.  Biggie knows this.  And there is more.  They know Biggie and will often bring him his whipped cream BEFORE it is requested. 

We had Biggie in the car with us one day, and I mentioned getting a cup of coffee.  Biggie went crazy.  He was jumping all over us with excitement.  My idea was to go to another place closer to where we were driving, but Biggie had his own thoughts on the matter.

As I drove past the turn that would take us to the coffee shop by the ocean, Biggie started barking uncontrollably at me.  At first I didn’t understand he was telling me I missed the turn.  I pulled into the nearby place I had in mind, but Biggie was whining and refused to get out of the car.  We decided to drive around a bit more to calm him down, and as I again drove past the turn to the coffee shop by the ocean, Biggie started barking once more.  That’s when I decided to just drive on over to the coffee shop at the overlook.  Biggie’s barking stopped, but he stood on my wife’s lap with his tail wagging out of control.

When we pulled into the parking lot, Biggie was again wild with excitement.  We hooked up his leash, and he almost dragged my wife over to the patio while I made our coffee purchase and requested a cup of whipped cream for Biggie.  I looked towards the back door of the shop exiting onto the patio, and there stood Biggie with his two front paws on the door’s glass looking in at me (tail wagging, of course).  Oh, what a happy dog!  All of this was a result of simply mentioning to my wife that I wanted a cup of coffee.

Also, near where we live, and well within Biggie walking distance, is a take-out restaurant specializing in chicken wings.  The first time we brought Biggie over to our new home, we drove by this restaurant, and Biggie’s nose went into overtime sniffing.  He couldn’t see it, but he managed to calculate its location and distance from our home.  When I took him for his first walk from our home, Biggie walked straight to the restaurant.  Even though it was closed at the time, Biggie placed his paws on the door glass and started barking for them to open.

This chicken wing restaurant is a chain with many locations.  I asked his mom if he had ever been to one in the past, but she assured me he had never been to one.  Still, on each and every walk, Biggie wanted chicken wings. 

One afternoon we drove to a nearby outdoor shopping center, and while my wife was shopping, I gave Biggie a walk.  He seemed to be determined to walk the length of the mall without stopping, and when we reached the last storefront, I realized it was another of these chicken wing restaurants.  It was everything I could do to prevent him from dragging me in there.  His nose knows.

I actually would love to treat Biggie to chicken wings (sans bones of course), but he is allergic to chicken.  Bummer.  Maybe the big attraction is the desire for forbidden delicacies.  I understand this.  I love peanut butter, but I can’t have it even in small quantities.  So I guess I understand Biggie on this point.

Well, in spite of moving away, Biggie continues to be a large part of my life.  We recently had him over for a visit of several weeks, and I was glad to return him to his mom.  (The advantages of having a part-time dog.)  The problem is though, as soon as he goes home, I start to miss him.  At least he is still a part of my life.

Thursday, March 2, 2017


I like to barbeque, grill, smoke, and everything else associated with outdoor cooking.  Rarely have I ever been without some form of outdoor cooking apparatus in my possession, and when that has happened, I’m not happy.  That doesn’t mean I use it every day, but when I want to cook outdoors, I want to cook outdoors.

Stub is the name of my gas grill.  No it’s not the only outdoor cooking system I own, but it is probably the most used since it is quick to fire up and slap something onto the grates.  Stub gets its name from the fact that it needs fours legs to stand upright, but one of those legs is broken off about three inches above the ground.

Stub has been with me longer than any grill I’ve owned except my first kettle grill purchased about 40 years ago.  That first one lasted almost 25 years through heavy use and abuse before I handed it over to a new owner, but only Stub has rivaled it to any degree for longevity. 

I purchased Stub all shiny and new from a major hardware store several years ago.  This particular store had sent to me a gift card, a large discount card, a card with specific dollars off if I spent over a certain amount, and a rebate from a purchase I had made earlier in the year.  And all of them could be combined.  My net cost to purchase Stub was just the sales tax and the gasoline to get there and back.  This is my kind of shopping.  Stub replaced Brownie, my previous gas grill.  I was happy to see Brownie go, but it did leave a big cooking hole in my life, so Stub was very welcome when he arrived. 

Brownie had been a rescue grill from the alley behind our apartment.  When I found him cowering beside a trash bin, he had been sadly neglected, and had suffered from an obviously abusive relationship.  I brought him into my garage and slowly brought him back to health.  A good scrubbing, several new parts, a new glass across the front (think 1980’s styling), and a new coat of paint.  Brownie was looking good, but Brownie had an attitude.  I think I know why his previous owner beat him and left him in the alley.

The first time I fired up Brownie, he was very cooperative.  He gave me perfectly cooked chicken breasts, and I could not have been more pleased.  The next time I tried to utilize his talents, he refused to light until I finally laid a flaming stick on the burner and turned on the gas for several minutes.  When he did finally light, the fireball was probably seen two counties away.

Brownie was a test of my patience, and my patience has never fully recovered.  When Brownie finally pushed me past the point of no return, I made certain no person would ever again be plagued by this sadistic monster.  Basically I disassembled every part from every other part and took those parts to different trash bins in different alleys over a period of several weeks.  Done.  Good riddance.

Last week I decided Stub had suffered enough with his broken leg.  Carefully I turned him on his side and very quickly and decisively sawed off the jagged edge of his stump.  A 2x2 and a few bolts later Stub had a peg leg.  A little black paint and he now stands proud and tall once again.  No more leaning at a frightening angle, and no more being propped up by a brick.  Stub is now keeping up with the best of them once again. 

Stub’s charcoal burning friend Smoky Roundhouse (an old kettle style grill) also got a new lease on life with a few new replacement parts.  Now each time I walk to the back yard, I can only smile at these two old timers standing side by side ready to cook up some good eats.

David’s Thick Barbeque Sauce:
I usually prefer a thin vinegar pepper sauce with most of my smoked meats (if I desire a sauce at all), but sometimes I just want something a bit sweeter and thicker, especially if the meat has been direct flame grilled.  This goes great with pork or chicken—especially chicken.

Makes about 3 pints.

1 (12-ounce) bottle commercial chili sauce
3 cups ketchup (up to 4 cups if desired)
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1 cup prepared yellow mustard
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup yellow mustard seeds soaked in the apple cider vinegar for 2 hours
1 tablespoon garlic powder (do not use fresh garlic)
1 tablespoon onion powder (or ¼ cup minced red onion)  
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce (optional, but I like it)
1 chipotle in adobo sauce, minced
1 tablespoon pure ancho chile powder
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon liquid smoke
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
½ cup honey
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

Combine all ingredients except honey and brown sugar in a saucepan.  Very slowly bring the mixture to a simmer.  Remove from the heat and add in the honey and brown sugar.  Mix well.  As the sauce cools mix again three or four times.  Can be served hot, warm, or room temperature as needed.  Store in a covered container in the refrigerator up to one month.