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WHIDBEY RECIPES: My bucket list has a hole in it
What’s in your bucket ?
There’s a game recently making the rounds, called by various names, but basically having to do with making your own personal bucket list.
In other words, if you found out you were going to kick the bucket in a few months, what would you most want to do before it happened, or what would you most regret not having done.
There are variations on the idea, but that’s the basic plot, and it’s designed primarily to get you thinking about setting priorities instead of frittering away your years always talking about “someday I’ll...” (Fill in the blank with your dream.)
A couple of days ago, we (hubby John and I) were out pulling up our crab traps. It was both windy and very choppy, with large waves coming at us from too many directions, water conditions I never enjoy.
And there, paddling around in the midst of the water turmoil, were two kayakers, trying to avoid getting themselves swamped, but obviously enjoying the challenge and tinge of danger. That’s when it struck me.
Instead of dwelling, at this point in my life, on what I should have done, might have done, ought to have done before I kick that proverbial bucket, I’d rather concentrate, now, on what you might call the opposite of my bucket list.
Instead of regretting things I’ve not done and may, at this stage in my life, never get around to, I’ve decided to think about all the things I’ll never do, want to do, need to do, or have to do before my day on earth is ended, and that I’ll have no regrets about for even a moment.
Kayaking is high on my empty bucket list, for example.
As much as I love boats and being on the water, at no time in all my life have I wished I’d learned to kayak. I think it had something to do with the part about learning to roll yourself over in the water so you could get upright again before you had to inhale. Yes, it looks like fun in the water, but too bad for me; I’ll never learn to kayak.
Same goes for mountain climbing.
Oh, I love hiking the trails on Mount Rainier and some paths in the Olympics, but when I think of bundling up like a sherpa, watching my breath freeze as I pant my way upward, perhaps making it to the summit of some snow-clad peak without killing myself, only to have to find a way down again without falling into an icy abyss, cowardice is the only word for my feelings.
Husband John was a mountain climber before I met him; all I can say is it’s a good thing he got it all out of his system before we ran into each other. Another easy item for my list.
There are, it seems, dozens of other things I’ll never regret not doing before I kick my bucket.
Skydiving, flying a small plane from here to anywhere, owning a Hummer, eating monkey brain, bungee jumping off a bridge, joining a circus, playing a piano concert at Carnegie Hall (I used to throw up just having to play in those recitals piano teachers always have), going down in a submarine, traveling to the Arctic or Antarctica, hitchhiking across the United States, learning to play a tuba, appearing on “So You Think You Can Dance” or “Oprah,” working at McDonald’s, getting a tattoo or nose ring, learning Chinese (probably a good idea these days, but not for me), posing for Sports Illustrated or Playboy (perhaps AARP magazine, but only if it’s tastefully done), having my boobs “enhanced” or my face lifted; well, as you can see, my list could become both boring and virtually endless, so I’ll quit for now.
I find it very refreshing and relaxing, for reasons I’m not sure I can explain, to think not about all the things I meant to do, thought I might do, haven’t time, patience, strength or will enough to do now, and consider instead how many wonderful opportunities there are out there that I don’t regret not taking.
My empty bucket runneth over.
There are foods that would also fit into my empty bucket list, some dishes I’ve tried and will forego for the remainder of my life, such as raw sea urchin, eel, pickled venison brain (my grandmother used to do this, and we ate it as kids, but I’ll never eat pickled brain again, thanks), fish eyes (yes, I did, but it was a stunt played on me by my evil older brother), creamed tripe; well, you get my point, I’m sure.
But a few others, such as beef tongue, are on my bucket list of things I’d like to have again...sometime.
My mother and my grandmother did wonderful things with beef tongue (it was very inexpensive meat then), and I have their recipes. I’ll share, just in the event some of our readers also recall how tasty a cold tongue sandwich could be. Remember, in many European countries, this is a true delicacy.
1 fresh beef tongue (available in most supermarkets, but not always on a regular basis; ask at the meat counter about availability)
½ celery root (or 2-3 stalks celery)
Water, to cover
Fill a deep pot with enough water to cover the tongue. Add salt and tongue, making sure water covers it, and bring to a boil. Lower heat to simmer and simmer tongue 3 to 4 hrs., or until tender. During the last half hour of cooking, add the onion, carrot, parsley and celery root or celery.
When tongue is fork tender, remove from the pot, place in a cold water bath for a few minutes, then skin the tongue. It should come off easily. Reserve the stock for soup, sauces or roasting. At this point, the tongue can be refrigerated until you decide what you want to do with it, or it can be sliced and eaten warm, with horseradish sauce. Or, slice, dip slices in egg and then bread crumbs and saute the slices until crispy. Serve with horseradish sauce. If you refrigerate the tongue, it is excellent for cold tongue sandwich next day, on rye bread, with lettuce, tomato and onion slices and with mayonnaise and/or horseradish sauce, wasabi mayonnaise would be excellent, I think).
There is another wonderful thing my grandmother did with venison parts she often had to deal with (never throw anything away if it can be made edible), a delicious pate’ I’d love to have the opportunity to taste again (it’s on my bucket list), with a glass of chilled white wine and some thin, crisp toast rounds. I’ll share her recipe, because you can also make this with veal liver and impress your friends at the next gathering.
VENISON LIVER PATÉ
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 lb. deer liver (or elk, moose or antelope), trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 med. carrots, finely chopped
1 med. onion, finely chopped
3 T. butter
3 T. snipped fresh parsley
½ t. salt
1/8 t. pepper
1/8 t. ground nutmeg
6 T. butter, cut up
2 hard cooked eggs, sliced or chopped (optional)
In a large skillet, heat oil over med.-high heat until hot. Add liver; cook and stir until liver is cooked through, 5-7 min. Place liver in food processor and set aside.
In same skillet, melt the 3 T. butter and cook and stir the carrot and onion in this over med. heat until tender. Add this to the liver in the food processor. Add remaining ingredients except eggs. Process until smooth, scraping side as needed. Spoon liver mixture into a bowl or crock, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 8 hrs. (You can also put liver mixture into a lightly buttered 1-qt. shaped mold, if you wish, unmolding when ready to serve.) Garnish pate’ with eggs, if desired.
Note: I have recipes for kidney soup, liver soup, gizzard soup, creamed sweetbreads soup and even creamed brains soup, should anyone out there be odd enough to want them, as well as recipes for brains with scrambled eggs (yes, that’s one of the things I ate as a kid) and breaded beef or veal brains. Even typing that into my computer makes me queasy, but should anyone care to have a look at them, e-mail me and I’ll gladly pass them along to you.
Margaret Walton can be reached at email@example.com.