Tuesday, September 30, 2014

10 things your dachshund won't tell you

By Bonnie and Billy Ray Dryden
"With nearly 25 years of combined experience 
under our collars, you can trust us to tell the truth."
1. You think we miss you when you’re gone. The truth will astound you.

You desperately want to think that someone, anyone, needs and misses you when you aren’t home. Sure, we yelp and wail as you’re walking out the door just to mess with your head but the moment you leave, we’re off to la-la land. When we’re awoken by the sound of the garage door opening, we start weeping loudly, like the dogs in the youtube videos when their masters return from overseas military duty. You assume we’ve been hysterical with grief the whole time.

The fact of the matter is, it’s nice when you leave so we don’t have to pretend we care about you 24/7.

2. How do we really feel about children? You may be surprised.

Labs, Golden Retrievers and Irish Setters are said to be “good” with children. So if you, for some inexplicable reason, genuinely like human children, by all means get one of those simple-minded breeds. We dachshunds despise children. We’ll generally leave them alone, keeping a wary distance, but if they reach down to pet us we won’t hesitate to bite. We know that, if push comes to shove, you’d get rid of the kids or grandkids before you’d get rid of us. We have that kind of hold over you.

3. Your home is our Poland.

Like another well-known German (OK, technically he was from Austria but this isn’t a history lesson) we get off on seizing territory that doesn't belong to us and making it our own. Your favorite easy chair? Ours. Your bed? Ours. Those rooms you want to keep us out of so you can have at least a few pieces of upholstered furniture that aren't covered with stains from our incessant paw licking? Ours. Every rug in the house is ours, too. So is the front passenger seat of your car. Ours ours ours.

4. We’re little Houdinis.

Every dachshund can open any door – including locked doors – any time we want. That means that you’ll have no privacy, even when using the toilet. (We like to watch.) How do we do it? That’s a trade secret but it has to do with applying gentle, steady pressure at the very bottom of the door, something our low stature makes it easy for us to do, which springs the latch, enabling us to waltz into rooms you want to keep us out of.

5. Cross us and you’ll regret it.

Forbid us to enter the dining room while you’re hosting a dinner party … remark to your spouse about how, just this once, you’d like to be able to roll over in bed without coming face to face with a dachshund … refer to one of us as a “wiener" (how’d you like to be called, say, a “Butterball?”) … go on vacation and check us into a boarding kennel instead of taking us with you … and you'd better watch your back. Or, more aptly, your feet. Specifically, what they step in.

6. We’re high maintenance.

Your annual vet bills will approximate the gross national product of a Central American country. We have extra salivary glands that generate twice the drool of ordinary dogs, so our teeth require cleaning at least twice as often. It’s a long stretch between our front and rear legs so our backs can and do go out on a regular basis; a substantial percentage of us will require disk surgery costing thousands. We hate having our nails trimmed. If you try to do it yourself, we will twist and turn and shriek with so much feigned pain that you’ll be afraid of injuring our backs, so you’ll take us to a groomer -- exactly what we wanted in the first place because we love car rides. We get bored lying around the house all day looking cute.

7. We’re one-person dogs. And that person isn’t you.

For purposes of discussion, let’s say there are two people in your household – Person A and Person B.

Let’s assume that Person A walks us, feeds us, gives us treats when we make ca-ca or peeps outside, cleans up after us, takes us to the vet and groomer and defends us vigorously when Person B complains about our breath and/or nonstop barking when she is trying to talk on the phone and/or unfriendliness toward strangers.

We will ignore Person A and lavish all our affection on Person B. Don’t ask why. It’s in our DNA.

8. Our favorite thing to eat is …

something we hesitate to mention by name in a family forum like tomdryden.com. But when your back is turned, we’ll happily pounce on a steaming pile of this delicacy the same way you pounce on a platter of chicken wings at a Super Bowl party. Then you pick us up and kiss us. If you only knew …

9. We think you’re an idiot.

You talk baby talk to us. You cook us beef and chicken (organic) whenever we seem bored with the expensive canned food you carefully mix with the kibble that’s supposedly formulated to strengthen dachshund backs you special-order from Denmark. There are no repercussions when we do things that disappoint you, such as eating your sofa. (We know of one Florida couple who tell friends they’ve had to buy one sofa for each of the six dachshunds that have owned them during their thirty-some years of marriage. Their friends think they are idiots and so do we.)

We sleep in your bed, live in your house, lounge on your furniture, get great medical care, etc. How much do we pay? Zip. Nada. You pick up the tab for everything then allow us to rule your lives. That’s as it should be. We’re smarter than you and don’t you forget it.

10. We’re addictive.

Once you live with a dachshund, you’ll never even consider another breed. Why?

Re-read the last sentence of point #9.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Lunch with Tom and Will

Hostess: Is this table okay?

Tom and Will:  It’s fine, thanks.

Tom (addressing Will): So, you’re looking fit. How come you’re wearing a suit? I thought you were coming from the golf course?

Will: Going to a funeral.

Tom: Who died?

Will: The president of our community association. He was trimming a palm by his pool and, kaboom, a massive heart attack – dead before he hit the ground.

Tom: Seems like you’re always going to funerals. Who was it last time we were supposed to have lunch and you had to cancel?

Will: My cousin in Boca.

Tom: Oh yeah, I remember.

Will: Third funeral this month. They’re dropping like flies I tell you.

Tom: What’s with all those bandages on your face?

Will: Had a dermatologist appointment this morning to have some growths removed. He’s almost sure they’re squamous. If that’s the case I’ll have to have Moh’s surgery to make sure they got it all.

Tom: Yikes. Are you fully recovered after your … what was that procedure you were about to have last time I saw you?  

Will: Which one? I had three – an MRI, a CAT scan and a cystoscopy.

Tom: Uh, the last one. What’s that about?

Will: They shove a camera up your dick and take pictures of your bladder.

Tom: Holy shit!  How big is the camera?

Will: I dunno. I was knocked out. Didn’t see it.

Tom: I’ve never heard of such a thing. It’s making me nauseous to even  …

Will: I peed blood for two days after.

Tom: I’m sorry I asked. Let’s change the …

Will: The urologist says everything looks fine.

Tom: Well that’s good.

Will: Next week I’m having a prostate biopsy.

Tom: Jeez.

Will: They take 12 pieces of tissue all at once.

Tom: Why are you having that?

Will: My PSA’s borderline high. Do you know yours?

Tom: Yes. It's fine. So, how’s Marilyn?

Will: I’m taking her to the hospital tomorrow first thing for surgery.

Tom: What’s wrong?

Will: Nothing life-threatening. They’re repairing her rotator cuff. She tore it playing tennis.

Tom: This isn’t your month, is it?

Will: We oughta order, the funeral’s at 1:30. What are you going to have?

Tom: Same thing I always get, the grouper sandwich.

Will: Uh, I don't think there's anything I can eat on this menu.

Tom: What do you mean? We 've eaten here a dozen times. The grouper sandwich is good. Tell them to grill it, that’s healthy.

Will: My doctor told me not to eat fish. He ran a blood test. It showed I have toxic levels of mercury in my system. He says it's because we eat too much fish. 

Tom: Well, they make a great burger.

Will: My cholesterol’s too high. It’s off the charts even with the statins I take.

Tom: Here you go: "Two scoops of cottage cheese surrounded by seasonal fruit." Surely you can eat that.

Will: Nope. Just found out I’m lactose-intolerant.

Tom: Well, the rolls here are good. You can eat some of those while I eat my sandwich.

Will:  Do you know if they have any that are gluten-free?

Tom: I wouldn't know. How are those nice neighbors we met at your house last month? We really hit it off with them. We oughta all go out together some night.

Will: Andy and Jane?

Tom: Yeah.

Will: He’s dead.

Tom: What? He couldn’t have been much over — I'd have to guess — 55 at the most. He looked healthy.

Will: Didn’t wake up one morning. She’s not handling it well.

Tom: Well I’m sorry to hear that, we really liked them. And how are the grandkids?

Will: They have that virus that’s going around up north. Our daughter had to take the younger one to the E.R and it’s a good thing she did.

Tom: Why?

Will: They discovered he’s anemic.

Tom: Waitress? Can we order?  My friend here has to take off in a half hour.

Waitress: Certainly. What can I get for you?

Tom: A Maker’s Mark on the rocks.

Will: I thought you were going to have the grouper?

Tom: I've lost my appetite.

Will: You might want to see a doctor. My cousin in Boca lost his about a month before he ... you know. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Chef Tommy makes the world's best Pasta Bolognese

It’s raining here in Southwest Florida and I’m bored. I could haul my fat ass to the gym – I haven’t been in months – but screw that.

Instead, I'm going to cook my favorite dish, pasta with Bolognese sauce, and show you how to make it.

When I say “Bolognese sauce,” I’m not talking about an Oscar Mayer product swimming in some sort of liquid. I’m talking about a meat-based pasta sauce that was invented in Bologna, Italy, the city's way of redeeming itself for giving the world lunch meat made from pig entrails.

I tried every recipe I could find but none were perfect. So, over the years, I've created my own by borrowing a cuppa this from one and a pinch of that from another, then adding some secret ingredients.

Even honest-to-God Eye-talian-Americans – people who drop the final “a” from mozzarella and the “o” from prosciutto to remind you they come from a culture that serves food so sophisticated that yokels like you and I can’t even pronounce the ingredients properly – have asked for my recipe.

Ready for a culinary adventure? Put on your chef’s hat, roll up your sleeves and let’s go to town – specifically, to Bologna where, in three hours or so, we’ll be sitting in an outside cafĂ© inhaling pasta topped with a sauce so sinfully good you’ll feel like having a cigarette afterward.

(Note: This recipe makes enough to serve eight. Assuming you don’t know that many people you want in your house at the same time, you will have plenty left over. No problem. The sauce freezes well.)

Step 1: Grate some carrots.

You know that half-empty bag of carrots in your fridge you bought to serve those annoyingly thin people down the street, knowing they’d turn up their skinny noses if you served your standard cocktail hour appetizer of Velveeta® dip and Fritos® Scoops®?

Throw the leftover carrots into your food processor and use the grate attachment to cut them into toothpick-thin slivers. (Yeah, I know it may seem strange we're using carrots but you’ll never taste them and they help make the sauce thick.)

If you don’t have a food processor you can buy bagged grated carrots at most supermarkets. You’ll need 1 ½ cups. If there are any left over, use them as compost – that’s all they are otherwise good for.

Step 2: Do like Popeye.

Get Olive Oyl hot. Pour 3 or 4 tablespoons into a big pot on top of your stove, and turn the heat to medium. You can use virgin, extra virgin, 72-virgin, any kind of olive oil you have on hand. 

Step 3: Slice and dice.

As the oil is heating, dice a big red onion.

Step 4: Cook the vegetables.

I forgot to take a photo of this step so here's a pic of grandson 
Teddy and me at an Eye-talian restaurant in Washington 
last weekend. Teddy says he can't wait to taste grandpa's world-famous 
Pasta Bolognese.
When the oil is hot, throw the carrots and onions into the pot, stir them around so they get coated with it, and let them cook for ten minutes or so. Stir every so often to keep them from sticking to the bottom. The key here is to take your time. There’s no rush. Don't turn the heat up past medium because you don’t want the vegetables to start browning and/or become crispy.

Step 5: Add the meat.

When the vegetables look perky (no longer raw), toss in two pounds of ground beef or, better yet as I have done (above), a pound of beef and a pound of ground turkey. As the meat browns, stir the pot occasionally to break it up (the meat, not the pot) and integrate it with the vegetables.

Step 6: (Optional.)

As the meat is browning ...

... open a can of Cesar Cheddar Souffle, divide in half, place in two bowls and add a handful of kibble to each. (Eukanuba Senior is our house kibble.)

Serve to any small dogs who have crept into the kitchen, attracted by the smell of the cooking beef and turkey.

Bonnie, our 13-year-old dachshund, lives to eat.
Billy Ray, 11, could care less about eating. When he is fed,
he guards his food not because he wants it but because he doesn't want Bonnie to get it.
After 10 minutes or so he loses interest and walks away.
 Then Bonnie sneaks around the kitchen island and eats it.
No wonder she weighs twice as much as he does.

Step 7: Spoon off the fat.

You don’t want your finished sauce to be as greasy as John Travolta’s hair in the movie in which he and Olivia Newton-John sang all those annoying songs so once the meat has browned, spoon most of the olive oil and the meat drippings from the bottom of the pot and put them somewhere safe where the dogs can't get to them.

Step 8: Add some garlic.

You can use fresh garlic and mince it but that's a lot of work and makes your hands, which already reek from slicing the onion, stink even worse, so do what I do – buy a jar of minced garlic and add three or four teaspoons from that to the pot. (Can you imagine working in that factory? Me neither.)

Step 9: Spice it up.

Heap the following spices onto a small plate or bowl:

1 tsp. kosher salt: It is essential to use kosher salt, not uncircumcised salt. (I’m kidding. Use whatever type you have handy. Salt is salt.) Don’t stint on the salt. I don’t care if your doctor told you to reduce your intake. Throw caution to the wind this one time. 

3 tsp. basil: I once bought fresh basil to use in this recipe and while it was a nice touch it was a pain in the ass to chop and I had a lot left over I didn’t know what to do with so now I use dried.

3 to 4 tsp. dried oregano: Is there such a thing as fresh oregano? I dunno.

Lots of pepper: I grind my own because I’m a pepper you’re a pepper, he’s a pepper, she’s a pepper, wouldn’t you like to be a pepper too? fanatic.* At least one teaspoon – two if you like. The hell with it, add three.

*This sentence will make no sense whatsoever if you are under 40. If you’re wondering what I’m talking about watch this, one of the most unforgettable commercials from the 1970s.

Dump the spices into the pot all at once, stirring vigorously to distribute them throughout the vegetable/meat mixture, which needs to cook three or four minutes longer.  

Step 10: Shake some Worcestershire sauce into the pot.

Three or four generous plops from a bottle of Worcestershire Sauce will bring out the flavors of everything you’ve cooked so far. Use the liquid to loosen whatever has stuck to the bottom of the pan so you can scrape it up into the meat mixture, then proceed to the next step.

Step 11: Add an 8 oz. can of tomato paste.

Step 12: Promise yourself you won't believe everything you read in the future.

Remove can from meat mixture. Open it and scoop contents into the pot and stir.

Step 13: Add some wine.

Add about half a 750 ml bottle of red wine – Two Buck Chuck from Trader Joe's or any other cheap wine is fine. I use two 187 ml mini bottles I buy specifically to make this sauce because we’re not red wine drinkers at our house – my wife claims it makes me belligerent. No red wine? White will work fine, too. Once I even used a leftover bottle of that god-awful White Zinfandel stuff we keep on hand for my mother-in-law but I don’t recommend it because it made the sauce too sweet.

Give the pot a stir … turn up the heat to high until the mixture boils … then back down to medium-low and let it simmer for a half hour or so until some of the wine has cooked off.

Step 14: Pour in two big cans of tomatoes.

Eye-talian TV chefs don’t use fresh tomatoes because they know, as do you and I, that store-bought tomatoes – even Beefsteak tomatoes that sell for $3.98 a pound – have no taste whatsoever. So open up two 28 oz. cans of whole tomatoes and pour them in, juice and all. (Note: If you live in my home state of Missouri where the world’s most flavorful tomatoes grow so prolifically that gardeners put them in baskets then place the baskets in their front yards with signs inviting passersby to help themselves, by all means chop them into eighths or sixteenths and throw them into the pot in lieu of canned tomatoes and Fed Ex me some while you’re at it. Readers in the Northeast: You can use fresh Jersey tomatoes if they are in season, which they are right now. In the 35 years I lived in the New York area I never knowingly tasted a Jersey tomato because I couldn’t fathom that anything that grew in New Jersey soil wouldn’t cause instant death but millions of folks apparently think they’re swell so by all means use the equivalent of two 28 oz. cans of them.)

Step 15: Clean your work area.

Dump all the dirty dishes, the chopping board and empty cans, bottles and jars you’ve used up to this point in the sink for your Significant Other (if applicable) to deal with as punishment for complaining that you’re making Pasta Bolognese yet again. Your S.O. should be grateful you want to cook and are capable of turning out something this delicious so it’s only fitting he or she should have clean-up duty because you’ve been slaving over a hot stove all afternoon not to mention you went to the store and bought all the ingredients.

Step 16: Pop some zits.

Check to make sure the sauce is simmering and you're basically free for the next two hours except for stirring every 15 minutes or so, sneaking a taste whenever you do. Each time you stir, gently press a couple of the whole tomatoes against the side of the pot with your spoon until they pop open like zits and all the seeds and gunk inside them comes gushing out.

Step 17: Sweeten the pot.

An hour or so into the simmering process, give the pot a big stir and taste the sauce. If it tastes the least bit bitter, (and it might thanks to the Worcestershire, basil, oregano and/or tomato paste), add some sugar. Start with a teaspoon, stir, then taste it again in a couple of minutes. Still bitter? I am. I lost the election for fraternity president by one lousy vote 41 years, six months and three days ago and I’ve never gotten over it but we’re talking about the sauce here. So if it still tastes bitter, add more sugar a little at a time until it doesn't. Then let the sauce simmer another hour or so. 

Step 18: Add milk.

At this point, if you are in the Naples/Ft. Myers area, call or text to let me know dinner will be ready in about 30 minutes. Then add one cup of milk to the pot. Use whole, 2%, 1%, anything but skim which isn’t milk anyway, it’s white water.

Turn up the heat until the mixture comes to a boil, then turn it back to medium-low and let it simmer while you …

Step 19: Cook the pasta.

I’m not going to insult your intelligence by telling you how to boil pasta. If you’re so sheltered you’ve never cooked pasta before, you will have fmucked up this recipe long before you get to this step anyway. You can use spaghetti, fettuccine, rigatoni or that pasta that starts with T whose name I can’t remember because you never see it in stores, only at Eye-talian restaurants.

Step 20: Place some pasta on a plate and top it with sauce.

Add some grated Parmesan (capitalized because, like Bolognese, it’s named after an Eye-talian city) or Romano (ditto) cheese and serve with garlic bread.

Step 21: Buon appetito!

Ingredient recap

1½ C grated carrots
1 red onion, finely diced
3 to 4 tbsp. olive oil
2 lb. ground beef or 1 lb. each of ground beef and ground turkey
3 or 4 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. salt
3 to 4 tsp. dried basil
3 to 4 tsp. dried oregano
Pepper – lots of it
3 or 4 generous plops of Worcestershire sauce
8 oz. can tomato paste
Red wine – half a 750 ml bottle or two 187 ml mini bottles
2 28 oz. cans whole tomatoes
1 C milk

Pasta (spaghetti, fettuccine or rigatoni)
Grated cheese

Coming someday soon: Chef Tommy's world-renowned beef stew recipe.