Cows with Jobs: Uncle Pat Goes Hollywood

Cows with Jobs: Uncle Pat Goes Hollywood

Monday Moo-sings: random farm happenings, snapshots & recipes

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Look what big lugs Zig and Axel are today...

I’ve mentioned this before, but maybe you forget. Some of my cows come from a long line of well trained working cows.  Devons have long been a drover favorite because of their hardiness and peppiness – they are the fastest walking breed of cow you know.

Of course, just like work for humans is different than it was 200 years ago, cow jobs are a little different too. Visit Colonial Wiliamsburg, Historic Brattonsville, Mt. Vernon, The Farmers Museum and you’ll see oxen acting out the jobs their ancestors used to do so we can remember the way life was way back when.

If you’re paying attention, you’ll notice Devon cattle in the movies and on TV here and there.  The lure of Hollywood is great – when it pays off, it pays big, but sometimes you have to wait on a lot of tables to become an overnight sensation….

M.J. Knight from Ulysses Livestock Conservancy in Pennsylvania once took her entire herd to be part of the cast of The Village. Not your typical day at the office.

And Uncle Pat from Ox Hill Devons has now gone full time Hollywood.  Hit the big time. No more hash slinging for Pat. No sir-ee.

I call him Uncle Pat because he is Uncle to our steer,  Zig and Axel.  Zig and Axel were two of our very first calves and my word are they a pair of gentle giants today. Their mothers, Zay and Suki were the daughter and granddaughter of Pat’s mother and aunt. Pat was trained by Howard and Andrew Van Ord from Russell Pennsylvania and with his mate Willie has traveled far and wide demonstrating the value of oxen and Devon cattle.

Well, wouldn’t you know, late in life Pat got a big promotion. You can check it out here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lHs-lBNTEQ0&feature=player_embedded

I think it’s safe to say Pat isn’t letting Hollywood go to his head.

I mentioned Pat’s new gig to Zig and Axel at dinner and they didn’t really seem to be all that interested. Well, apparently I was mistaken because later, when everyone else was out butting heads and wrestling around, where were Zig & Axel??

Zig & Axel tell me they’re too busy polishing their resumes and looking for agents. They say they’ll have their people get in touch with my people….

In which I wonder: are you kidding me?

In which I wonder: are you kidding me?

From all over the place and Snopes.com. Originally posted in the Daily Journal, Kankakee, Michigan.

 Can this be? Is somebody somewhere having a huge laugh watching this thing go viral? Or is this truly possible in our alternate American universe?

I would never believe that this was anything but a joke except for one thing. I actually know people struggling to maintain this kind of convoluted relationship between their brain, reality and food. Most of them would never go this far  but they can get pretty riled up in their heated rants against hunting.

Of course, I don’t think I know anyone who doesn’t understand that somehow the package of plastic wrapped meat they found at the grocery store was at one time a living, breathing animal. They just choose to press that bit of fact out of their rational everyday thoughts.

For a long time, one of my pet peeves has been misleading marketing. As I’ve grown older and hopefully matured, I find my understanding and beliefs about marketing have deepened and evolved. Having spent much of my adult life working in sales and marketing, boy do I understand the spinning of a message. And the power of an image.

Today, I’m reading Kitchen Literacy by Ann Vileisis. While I’m not finished yet and have much more to say about the book, I couldn’t wait to mention it in relation to this classified ad (hoax or not) because it does much to explain how such ignorance could actually exist in our “smart” modern society.

Successful marketing consists of things like appealing display cases, helpful FAQS, buying guides, recipes and romanticized stories. Since the eating of animals is something we feel squeamish about, marketers know that we will grasp at the flimsiest evidence to either push the whole idea out of our heads completely or to support our belief that what we are doing is OK.

And they are more than happy to make full use of our desire to not know.

Marketers know that a pretty description including very little factual information, or an invented certification seal is usually all it takes to get us to turn a blind eye (whew!) to industry practices that no one would ever feel comfortable performing in their own home.

Marketers also know we no longer have any deep food knowledge with which to judge their products. We have no memory of what makes one cut of beef better than another. We are more than willing to be herded towards the most convenient solution offering the “best” of limited choices, mainly due to our preference to not know the back story.

Meat made at the store, where no animals were harmed…

Friends, pleaseBy far, the unkindest cut of all is willful ignorance.  It’s not cute when you giggle, “Don’t tell me, or I won’t be able to eat it” about your meat and dairy. If you can’t stand the knowledge, then you shouldn’t buy it or eat it. Delegating the dirty work isn’t innocence, and it’s not funny or charming.

I have to quote my meat hero, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall of The River Cottage Meat Book fame; no thinking carnivore should be without this Bible in the kitchen.  Hugh says:

“The cruel practices I have mentioned have been increasingly publicized and clearly do not have popular support. Numerous polls and surveys indicate that the vast majority of the public objects to them and would like to see them banned. So surely they soon will be. Won’t they?

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Not just yet, it seems. Because the same moral majority of the pollster’s main street becomes the immoral majority, once they get behind the wheels of a shopping cart. They continue to buy the products they are so quick to condemn. So these appalling, abusive practices, it turns out, do have popular support – albeit that the supporters are in denial (it seems that nothing suppresses the exercise of conscience as effectively as the words ‘Buy one, get one free’). But there’s no getting away from it: if you buy something, you support the system that produces it.”

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I’m sorry,  I haven’t been much fun lately, but back to the original point. Is it a hoax, or is it genuine? I suppose it doesn’t really matter. It, and the scorn and ridicule it has attracted on the internet has reminded me of our complicated relationship with our food and the natural world.

Looks like a long, hard road ahead Ladies…..

This post is part of Fresh Foods Wednesday, a lively blog hop hosted by our friends at Gastronomical Sovereignty. If you’re looking for tips, recipes, projects and ideas about real food and farming, you need to get over there.

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In Which Failures Turn to Valentines

In Which Failures Turn to Valentines

Oh, Valentine, Get in my Mouth!

I’ve failed a lot this month.  I think of this today, because yesterday I was really, really, REALLY frustrated. Like almost ready to quit frustrated.  This ice is starting to get me down; everything is twice as hard as usual in this weather and it bums me out even more to know that before it gets better, it’s going to get worse. But, I have mouths to feed so I pick myself up, scrape off the mud and trudge out there for another go.

I’m a believer in the character building value of a Big Fat Failure.  I see no shame in it, rather I applaud the attempt.  Something you never knew you needed:  a little guidance from Seth Godin about failure here. If you’re going to do it, you may as well do it right, don’t you think?

One of my big screw ups last year involved strawberry jam.  Lots of it.  Ironically, one of the highlights of my year was also strawberry jam.  Again, lots of it.

My favorite berries are from a nearby Amish pick your own farm. So, I’d get up early and head over there after chores and pick my own berries.  Then the three-day process of making the jam began immediately to preserve the freshness of the berries.

You’ll have to take my word for it, but these preserves were worth every back-breaking minute.  They were my Mona Lisa.

In my excitement over my preserves and my new Auburn Meadow Farm jars & labels, I decided to re-pot my best jam in the new jars.  Fast forward to the story of the Overcooked Rubber Strawberry Jam.

Now, being a farm focused on making the most from the least, I couldn’t bring myself to throw this rubber stuff away. In classic lemon to lemonade fashion, I now bring you homemade strawberry chocolate Pop-Tarts!

These tasty treats are a triple threat:

  1. Who doesn’t like chocolate with fruit?
  2. The novelty of homemade Pop-Tarts is fun & memorable
  3. This pastry is tender perfection -a truly special treat

I’ve used this dough recipe in regular tarts also and it is really tender, tasty and easy to handle. And, it works equally well for both sweet and savory.  My mind is revving with savory Pop-Tart options, but I still haven’t cracked the savory glaze code.  Suggestions anyone?

I’m sending you over to Smitten Kitchen for the perfect step-by-step photo tutorial of hardcore Pop-Tart making, but don’t forget to come right back.

The filling I used was actually pretty unscientific – I took my rubbery strawberry jam, warmed it in the microwave and mixed in Nutella until I really liked it. You’re probably using properly set jam; I would follow Smitten Kitchen’s instructions to add some corn starch & water, then add the Nutella.

The only improvement I can contribute to the Smitten Kitchen version is a perfect glaze recipe. You may not agree, but for me, an unglazed Pop-Tart isn’t worth eating.  And, the glaze needs to be a hardened shell, not soft icing.

Glaze Makes it Great!

This recipe for basic sugar glaze is from Tish Boyle’s The Good Cookie. It isn’t as rock hard as a commercial Pop–Tart’s and probably won’t stand up to toasting but the gently crisp shell is just perfect and doesn’t make the Pop-Tart pastry soften.  Trust me, you won’t miss the toasting one bit.

  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted
  • 1 TBS unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 TBS heavy cream ( ½ & ½ works fine)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment (don’t worry if you don’t have one), beat the confectioner’s sugar, butter, heavy cream, vanilla extract, and salt at medium speed just until combined, about 30 seconds.  Cover the surface of the glaze with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature until ready to use.

Store glaze in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days; bring to room temperature before using. Makes 1/2 cup. (It’s really good on oatmeal raisin cookies too.)

While the Pop-Tarts are still warm, brush with the glaze several times, allowing each coat to set before adding the next.

Failure turned sweet success!

Strawberry: The Official Fruit of Valentine's Day