Week of grief and tragedy, but thankfulness

This past week has been a mixture of personal grief, unbelievable horror in the school shooting, concerns for those affected by the nasty floods and great thankfulness for the good news for us here on the hilltop. This column is in honor of my cousin, Dwight, and in thankfulness for the safety of our grandson, Rhys.

Many in the MOV knew my cousin, Dwight Biehl, who passed away recently. He has been part of many of the stories that have been written about in this column. We grew up on side-by-side farms in the hills between Stanleyville and Lawrence. As kids in those early days, we had to make our own enjoyment without cell phones, TV, or even radio. Jumping in the hay in the haymow, even when we had to post one of us to watch for grown-ups (as we weren’t allowed in the haymow when there wasn’t much hay left), was a favorite thing to do. We had a “farm” in the woods, where the loggers had made a trail. There were fences, made with binder twine, and a “kitchen” furnished with pans discarded by our grandmother. The same woods furnished the moss to line our Easter nests, and included a snake we didn’t know we had gathered up with the moss one time. Our toys were sticks for Cowboys and Indians and an old buggy was our “pretend” transportation for imaginary trips. We had very few “real” toys; we were “country kids” and made our own, but we had a wonderful childhood. Now, only my brother, Bill, and I are left to recall that magical time as Dwight and his twin, Dwain, have both passed on.

The school shooting in Florida touched our family. One of husband Norm’s grandsons is a student in the school where so many were killed. He was on the third floor of the building where the shooter went. When the fire alarm went off, his teacher told them that was not a real fire drill as they had already had one earlier, so something was wrong. He kept them in the room, in a safe corner, and locked and barricaded the door. The students were safe but had to witness the scene left in the hallways when they were led out. We are so thankful for the ones not hurt but in prayer for the families of those lost. It will be in the memories of all the young people who lived through this horrible event.

The teacher who was honored as the “Florida Teacher of the Year” had posted what I think is the best comment I have heard. If you can find it (on Facebook or a news report), it says what everyone should read. I believe she has put this event and many others in the right perspective. She says it isn’t mainly a “gun” problem, but a problem of our own making in the way we have turned, as a society. I was impressed the way she put it, but I don’t remember where I read it.

The laws we already have should be enough protection. They just need to be enforced. Mentally ill people should never be allowed to buy guns. These horrible shootings happen in areas where the bad and sick guys know guns aren’t allowed. There needs to be people trained to stop a shooter in all places, especially where children are. If all guns are confiscated from law-abiding citizens, only the ones who are doing the killing, and other crimes, will be free to do what they want. Evil people will always find a way to have guns and use them, especially if they know no one will stop them. We need to start paying attention to those around us and report what we see that isn’t right. If you see something, say something.

We can lay blame on many things, but it is us. We have created our sick society by being so divided and permissive. We think laws are for others, not us, and have taught our children the same. We have allowed those to be in our country who would love to make our country like the ones from which they have escaped, even though that makes no sense at all. There is no “money tree” in Washington — those who work are paying the way for those who don’t, but are able to do so.

Thousands of people are killed by drunk drivers, but no one says to outlaw the cars. Cars and guns can’t do anything on their own; they are inanimate objects — it takes sick people to do the killing. If we could find a way to eliminate the sick from operating cars and buying guns, we will have half the problems solved. We, also, need to stop the fun of killing in the movies and violent video games. Kids, especially with problems, sometimes mix reality with fiction.

Please pray for the children and families in the Florida school shooting, the healing of our country, and those who protect us. Let your family members know you love them, and always, hug your little ones. Life is so short and we never know when it is our time.

God Bless!

***

RED BEANS AND RICE

(Favorite Southern

Lenten dinner)

1 lb. dried red beans

1 meaty ham bone (1 lb.)

1 3/4 quarts water (or enough to cover ham bones)

3 cups chopped Bermuda onion

1 bunch green onions, chopped

1 cup fresh parsley, chopped

2 large garlic cloves, crushed

1 tablespoon salt

Dash red pepper

1 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon sugar

Dash Tabasco

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 cup tomato sauce

Seasoned salt to taste

Cooked rice

Soak beans overnight in water to cover. Drain. Cook beans and ham bone in water slowly for 3 hours. Add all ingredients except seasoned salt and rice. Cook slowly for 1 1/2 hours. Cool. (This can be done a day ahead.) Reheat and simmer 1 hour. Add seasoned salt to taste. Serve over hot, cooked rice.

For true Lenten Beans and Rice, don’t use any meat. Ham flavoring can be added.

***

SWEET AND SOUR GREEN BEANS

2 lbs. fresh green beans

1/4 cup water

3 strips bacon, diced

2 tablespoons grated onion

1/2 cup vinegar

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Fry bacon until crisp. Drain bacon on paper towels and reserve 1 tablespoon bacon fat. Discard the rest (or keep for flavoring another dish.) Wash and trim ends from beans. Cut into Julienne strips and place in a 2 quart saucepan with 1/4 cup water. Cook 25 to 30 minutes, or until beans are tender. To the 1 tablespoon bacon fat in a saucepan, add grated onion, vinegar, vegetable liquid (drained from the beans) sugar, and seasonings. Bring to a boil and pour over green beans. Place in a serving dish and crumble bacon pieces over the top to serve.

***

CREOLE JAMBALAYA

1 tablespoon shortening

1 lb. smoked sausage or ham, cut into ¢-inch cubes

1/2 cup chopped green pepper

1 tablespoon flour

3 cups cooked shrimp, cleaned

3 cups skinned tomatoes, diced

2 1/2 cups water

1 large onion, sliced

1 clove garlic, minced

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

2 cups uncooked long-grained rice

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon red pepper

Fresh parsley for garnish

Melt shortening in a large skillet; add sausage or ham and green pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Stir in flour until smooth and cook a minute or two longer. Add shrimp, tomatoes, water, onion, garlic, and parsley. Cook to a boiling point, then stir in rice and remaining ingredients. Cover and cook over a low heat for 30 minutes or until rice is tender and all the liquid is absorbed. Sprinkle with chopped parsley for garnish.

NOTE: This dish can also be made with crab, oysters, chicken, ham, or whatever the fishermen bring in that day. The ingredients can be used alone, or two or more combined. The name jambalaya actually comes from the Spanish word for ham, and ham is usually used in the flavoring.

***

STUFFED FLOUNDER

4 medium flounders, or 4 large flounder fillets

1 1/2 lbs. shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/2 cup fresh or canned crabmeat

1/2 cup finely chopped celery

1 cup finely chopped onions

4 cloves minced garlic

1/2 cup cooking oil

3 stale buns soaked in water

4 eggs plus 1 yolk for brushing tops

1/2 cup cracker meal or bread crumbs

1/2 cup green onion tops and parsley, chopped

Salt, pepper, and Cayenne (red) pepper to taste

Boil shrimp, cool, and chop. Put oil, celery, onions, and garlic in heavy pat and saute until onions are wilted (slightly translucent). Add chopped shrimp, crabmeat, soaked buns, and 2 unbeaten eggs. Mix well. Add 2 egg whites and mix. Then add 2 egg yolks, cracker meal or bread crumbs, green onion tops and parsley. Season generously with salt, pepper, and Cayenne. Split flounder lengthwise, removing bones is using whole fish. Stuff with prepared mixture. Brush egg yolk across tops of fish and broil 10 minutes on each side. Serve with drawn butter or garlic butter, a lemon wedge, and a sprig of fresh parsley.

***

BAKED RED FISH

1 — 5 lb. Red Fish (or 5 pounds thick fish fillets — different fish vary in taste)

1 cup chopped onions

1/2 cup chopped celery

4 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup cooking oil (I use olive)

2 cans tomato sauce

1 lemon

2 cups cold water

1 can whole tomatoes

Green onion tops and parsley, chopped

Salt, black pepper, and Cayenne

Season with salt and the peppers and place in buttered baking dish. Put oil in heavy pot with chopped onions, celery and garlic. Cook over medium heat in uncovered pot until onions start to get translucent, stirring constantly. Add whole tomatoes and tomato sauce. Cook over medium heat for 40 minutes or until oil separates from tomatoes. Add 2 cups cold water, season to taste with more salt, pepper and Cayenne and cook for another 20 minutes. Pour this mixture over the fish and bake at 325-degrees for 30 to 40 minutes. Baste several times with the sauce. When fish is done, cut lemon in thin slices and place on top of fish. Sprinkle with the green onion tops and parsley.

I serve this with rice, a green salad, hot and crusty French bread, and white wine for a complete meal.

***

Patty Christopher is a longtime columnist for the Parkersburg News and Sentinel.

COMMENTS