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Native Cooking Column by Dale Carson

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We're knee deep in winter. I'm looking out the window towards the woods and the barn watching the snow come down. It's really quite beautiful. While I was planning to write about something very different I had this great image pop into view through the falling snow, but only in my head. I see a wigwam with a little smoke coming out through the hole in the top between the bark sheaths. There is a woman inside and two little ones still sleeping. The woman moves some of the hot coals out from the center of the fire and adds some twigs to them. Then she places three good-size rocks in the coals and places her large, wet pointed clay pot in the middle of them and wiggles it a bit until it stands straight. She adds water to the pot from another vessel and starts to put in dried things. A new day has begun.

Then, I see the other woman. She's in a wood house wearing scruffy things on her feet and a tattered robe. Moving slowly, she picks up the long black thing on the wood counter and jabs the two prongs on the end of it into two holes in the wall. Coffee! A new day has begun.

Oxtails were readily available and pretty cheap until recent years. This happens with all good parts, like liver for example. Once the greedy find out people make use of something seemingly insignificant, they up the price. The meat of the oxtail is unique and sweeter than other parts of the animal. In fact, I sometimes put it in when cooking a lean beef ragout. It adds just the right amount of fat and enhances the flavor of beef or buffalo.

Oxtail Soup
2 - 3 pounds of oxtail, cut in 2-inch lengths
2 quarts of water or beef stock
1/4 teaspoon each - basil and oregano
1 large bay leaf
5 peppercorns or juniper berries
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon parsley
1 large onion, chopped
1 14.5-oz. can of diced, peeled tomatoes
2 carrots, chopped or sliced
1/2 cup turnip, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped or sliced
2 teaspoons cornstarch - dissolved in 1 tablespoon cold water

Brown the oxtails in a small amount of fat in a heavy soup pot. Add the stock, basil, oregano, peppercorns or juniper berries, bay leaf, salt and parsley. Bring to a boil, then add the onion, tomatoes, carrots, turnips and celery. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for two or three hours until the meat falls off the bones. Remove the bones. Add the cornstarch and cold water to the soup to help thicken. Heat for a few minutes more, stirring constantly. Serve hot with a crusty bread.

Vegetable Chowder
2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 large stalk celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 raw potatoes, washed, not peeled, chopped
1 cup squash (any, summer or winter), chopped
1 can creamed corn
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 tablespoon parsley
1 quart broth, vegetable or chicken
1 quart water
1 cup milk

Melt the butter in a heavy soup pot. Saut? the onion, pepper and celery until limp. Add the rest of the vegetables and seasonings, the broth and water (be sure there is enough water to cover the vegetables). Cover and simmer all for one hour. Stir in the milk and ladle into bowls.

Sweet Parsnips
2 pounds of parsnips
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Dash each of nutmeg and cinnamon
1/2 cup melted butter
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons light brown sugar

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Cook parsnips with skins on until tender. Remove from pot and let cool, then peel and slice them lengthwise. Season with the salt, pepper and spices. Dip them in the melted butter, then into the flour and sprinkle with sugar. Fry or saut? until golden.

Parsnips contain fiber and folate. The fiber in them is soluble, meaning it becomes gel-like in the digestive system, helping the intestine block fats and cholesterol. Parsnips are a member of the parsley family. They may look like bleached carrots but they don't take as long to cook. I've used them mashed with turnip, sweet potato and carrots. A very different root side-dish.

Notes & Tips

oTwo good hints when baking. Put all the ingredients out to the left of the bowl you'll be mixing in. Set items to the right after you've used them. This way you'll know how far you have gone if you get interrupted. Works for me. The second hint is to set your bread to rise in its pan or bowl, on a heating pad. Put it on low and see how much faster the dough rises.

oE-mails lately have started with a couple of words, you know, 'you might be a red-neck if ...' or, 'I've learned that ...' Well, the latest one I've received is about mothers and it starts out, 'Somebody said ...

'? being a mother is boring ... somebody never rode in a car driven by a teenager with a driver's permit.'

'? being a mother is what you do in your spare time, ... somebody doesn't know that when you're a mother, you're a mother ALL the time, there is no spare time.'

'? you can't love the fifth child as much as you love the first ... somebody doesn't have five children.'