Closed Door

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Part 29


Dear Diary, 

The homemade formula works!  I’d jump up and down and shout hooray but it’s just too blasted hot. 

Feels like the hottest, wettest, most miserable July on record.  Not much at the produce stands.  Not much in the garden.  Mostly up to now we’ve been dependent on fishing for something fresh to eat.  Cal and Josh go fishing every chance they get and that is more often these days than in the past.   

Josh’s mouth got him stationed out here in the so-called boonies with Cal.  Seems that Percival Perfect let slip the identities of several confidential informers and one of them wound up dead.  Josh complained of a cover up just because of who PP’s father is.  He got treated the same way Cal did.  Now they are partners again and they’ve made a place for themselves in the community.  Josh is renting a garage apartment from Dorrie’s grandmother and she’s glad to have him.  She says his sheriff’s car warns people off. 

Cal finally got his cow and I’ve been elbow deep in flesh and blood.  Gross when using the descriptives but totally yum when all is said and done.  He had a call that some guy was reporting a rustling.  Yeah I know, but this is the rural end of the county, and from what talk Cal brings home from work, while the normal crap head statistics are holding steady, crime statistics where people are just out doing what they shouldn’t because they literally have nothing at home to eat are really starting to make their mark. 

The cattleman said he was unable to continue to feed his small herd of beef cattle so he was going to cull their numbers anyway but someone stealing from him really burnt his biscuits, especially since the steer was found two miles away with only about a quarter of the meat inexpertly hacked out.  The poor thing died hard from what the one witness that came forward said; they were cutting on it before they euthanized it.  Barbaric. 

Anyway, in a follow up interview Cal went back and asked how much he would charge for one of his cows and if he knew any butchers.  

“You’re looking at one son.  I’ve worked for both Winn Dixie and Publix … at their plant and in store.  But before we talk price I need to see the color of your money.” 

“Cash.  Eighty percent up front, the remainder on delivery.” 

The old man chortled, “You’ve been doing your research.  Tell you what, you take this monster eater whole over here and I’ll charge you $500 for the cow, $40 dollars for the kill, and $.50 a pound for processing.” 

They settled on $500 for the cow, $40 dollars for the kill, $.40 cents a pound for processing and even though that was still on the high side for processing in this area it came with butchering lessons from the cattleman and Cal got to pick his cuts.  In the end Cal wound up with almost five hundred pounds of meat plus a large bag of soup bones and all the organ meat and sweet breads too.  We had to load the chest freezer back in his truck to transport the meat back here.  It also meant that come pig butchering time Cal said the cattleman was willing to work on shares. 

I wanted to object to his assumption that he could just arrange my life as he thought best but the truth is I only remember Papa and Daddy buying their meat from the little carneceria shops, I know we kept animals when I was little but that went away after Abuela and Momma died and I can’t remember how the butchering was handled at all.  I wasn’t looking forward to learning to butcher a pig on the fly so I suppose in the end Cal’s bossiness will save me some work but I am not a charity case; I would have figured it out on my own in the end even if I made a few mistakes along the way. 

With the way things are going it is shameful to be picky but the honest truth is that I just cannot stand chittlin’s … more properly called chitterlings … even more properly called tripe or intestines.  I saw Cal and Josh trying really hard not to make a face when they were loading them into the freezer so I knew they weren’t all that fond of them either.  So I did something perhaps I shouldn’t have.  I made a barter deal with the owners of the carneceria. 

I’ve been able to fill just about every hole in our pantry except for flour and cornmeal.  Rice yes.  Oatmeal yes.  Pasta yes.  But flour and cornmeal, not so much, and every time I run out the price has gone way up.  It is a huge lesson learned but there is no way to go back and change it.  The carneceria is one of the few places I’ll use my debit card because most of what I get from there is fresh anyway as they received their federal license to operate.  They cater to the Hispanic population but I’ve noticed other people around lately, if grudgingly.   

The carneceria also has a little banderias (bakery) and a taquerias (restaurant) and one of their specialties are frugal ethnic soups that use up every bit of the animal … Menudo and Tripe.  Menudo is beef stomach soup and Tripe soup is … well tripe soup.  I traded some of the organ meats (most everything but the liver) and sweet breads (I’m not fond of brains either) to the cook – Abuelita to the family that owns the carneceria – for fifty pounds of flour and fifty pounds of cornmeal and a jar of bay leaves so I could store it without having to worry about weevils so much.  I also got a lesson about how to turn the dent corn that I crack for the chickens into maseca which is corn flour rather than corn meal. 

I was really scared that Cal was going to blow a gasket that I had done something with his stuff but he just gave me a long look and then shrugged.  “I was wondering how long it would be before I had to give up your biscuits and wasn’t looking forward to it.  The Desk Sergeant was complaining just the other day that he’s down to eating tuna on stale crackers because four bucks for a small loaf of bread is just more than his wife is willing to spend.  Sounds like you made a good deal.  I told you I have to keep my lunches locked up in my trunk when I’m on patrol; if I don’t the guys pick them apart because sharing is just what friends do.”  The last was said with sarcasm so heavy you could weigh it on the bathroom scale. 

He and Josh and a couple of other guys are off fishing now.  Blue crabs are in season and so are bay scallops. While half the crew going is collecting crabs, the other half is diving for scallops.  The licenses to do either are really expensive so they decided to create their own cooperative.  Half would do one, half would do the other, and then they’d split what they brought in evenly amongst the whole group.  I moved the last of the beef into the standup freezer in the utility room and they loaded the chest freezer into an enclosed trailer that someone used to use to go to motor cross meets with.  Cal is pulling his boat and another guy is providing the location to camp at up in Homosassa on some shoreline his family has managed to hold on to despite the property taxes. They’ll be back in three days. 

Cal was so eager to get away for a long “guy weekend” that his safety lecture consisted of a few pointed stares and a couple of raised eyebrows.  First day he was gone I had a Calgon-Take-Me-Away day where I soaked in the tub without having to listen for someone knocking on the door needing to use the bathroom or shower before going to work.  I walked around the house in next to nothing since it was so hot and didn’t have to worry about shocking anyone but a few herons that had decided to dry off after their dip in the river using the back porch railings.  I also didn’t have to worry about cooking to feed someone roughly the size of city hall so that they didn’t grow faint and cranky from lack of calories. 

Now I am off to bed and thank goodness for ceiling fans.  There’s not much wind tonight off of the river.  I just hope Cal and company have a good time fishing ‘cause they’re going to need it.  The only sustenance I saw packed was a cooler of beer and while some men may consider that manna it doesn’t fill up the empty spaces for long.

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