“Mom bought some stuff so you could cook dinner,” Claire informed me, “It’s in the kitchen. She bought beef stew fixings so just do that, OK? Just beef stew and nothing funny.”
Nothing funny? Now, how would that go?
“A penguin, a rabbi and a beef stew walk into a bar…” Er, no.
“There was a beef stew from Nantucket…” Er, no.
“Take my beef stew. Please!” Er, no.
There’s nothing funny about beef stew but I knew what Claire was getting at. Funny would be beef stew with lemon grass. Funny would be beef stew and octopus. Funny would be beef stew and Red Dye Number 5; all of which I’ve probably tried over the years.
Unfunny beef stew would be the basic recipe:
Onions, carrots, potatoes, celery, turnip
Herbs and spices (but nothing “funny” like curry powder or cinnamon)
Time. Two hours at least. Three even better.
“OK,” I said, “one unfunny beef stew coming up. Where’s the stuff?”
“In the kitchen, Dad-0, just rummage around. It’s pretty small. You shouldn’t have any trouble.”
Claire, my daughter, is a student at UT here in Austin. Her condo has the basics and for her the basics are: plate, cup, fork. It’s not quite that bad, but not like the Clean, Mean, Kitchen Machine I’m used to back in Houston where I have a specialty knife for every vegetable. The conversation went like this.
“Where do you keep your potato peeler?”
“Why would I need that?”
“Where do you keep your chef’s knife?”
“What’s a chef’s knife?”
Claire came into the kitchen, opened a little drawer and pulled out what she claimed was her kitchen knife.
“Here’s a knife,” she offered hopefully. The poor knife was small, dull and had seen better days.
I shook my head sadly, reached into my pocket and deftly flicked out my Benchmade Griptilian 551SBK.
It snapped loudly and Claire took a step backwards.
In my best Crocodile Dundee I said, “Now, darling, that’s a noife!”
“Whatever,” Claire returned to communicating with her 160 friends on Instant Message.
Griptilian looked up and said, “What’s up, Boss? We got a job to do? Cut a hawser? Open some cans of food? Slash a steel cable? Skin a buffalo?”
The Benchmade Griptilian is a way cool knife. Matte black, sharp as any Hatori Hanzo sword and tougher than nails, the Griptilian has gotten me out of several jams in the woods. One-handed action, locking blade, slip-proof grip, the Griptilian lives up to it’s name as an all-weather, all-terrain, all-purpose slicing machine.
I looked down at Griptilian who was vibrating with anticipation in my hand.
“Well,” I said, “we’ve got a job in front of us. We’ve got to peel and chop some carrots, skin a turnip and quarter some potatoes. Also, we’ve got a bit of sausage to slice.”
Griptilian blinked, “You’re kidding, aren’t you? You really need to cut an oil drum in half or slice down an oak tree. I’m right, huh, I’m right. We ain’t gonna peel no carrots. Tell me we ain’t gonna peel no carrots!”
“Hey, hey hey!” I gripped the knife tightly, “Calm down! Sometimes we have to do what we have to do. Some other time it’s teaching a grizzly some manners. This time it’s stew. We’ve got to make the stew and it’s got to be the best stew ever. I can’t do it alone, man! I need your help. Are you with me?”
Griptilian paused for a moment, searched his steely soul and, finally, I detected resignation.
“Yeah, man,” Griptilian conceded, “we got to do the big AND the small. But, we’re a team. We work together! I’m with you, man. Let’s do the stew!”
With fury we attacked the carrots, potatoes, turnip, celery, onions and sausage. Aromas began to drift through the condo and Claire commented that things were starting to smell good.
At last we scraped the remaining ingredients into the pot and paused for a short rest.
Griptilian looked around and said, “What are those?”
“Those over there?” I replied, “Those are fresh figs. They were on sale this morning and I thought I’d do something interesting with them.”
Griptilian looked at the simmering stew pot and chucked softly. “I suppose that would make the stew ‘funny’, you know, like funny-peculiar rather than funny-ha-ha.”
I regarded Griptilian and as if in a trance reached for the figs and began preparing them.
“Heh, heh, heh.” Griptilian was beside himself. “This makes it all worthwhile!”
Time went by. I adjusted the liquid so the stew wouldn’t dry out and the natives in the condo grew restless. Finally, I turned down the heat to low simmer, grilled some French bread and garlic, tossed an impromptu salad and called “Dinner Time.”
Through the ensuing gnashing, slurping and yum-yum noises, Claire of the sensitive palate noted that the stew was very good, but there was something, just something she couldn’t quite place. A little sweet…maybe the sausage.
“Anyway,” she concluded, “it couldn’t be anything ‘funny’ because I don’t have anything funny to put in! Nope, nothing but ordinary meat and potatoes stew with nothing funny!”
I felt my pocket vibrate as Griptilian shook with laughter.