TND – Solomon Grundy

March 10, 2011

The Paschal season gives us Palm Sunday, Shrove Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday . . . what, I ask you, did Monday and Saturday do to get left off the list*

Dinner this week fell on Shrove Tuesday aka Fat Tuesday aka Mardi Gras.  In the more dogmatic days when Lenten repentance and reflection was reinforced with fast days and a list of foods you weren’t allowed to eat, Mardi Gras functioned as the last hurrah before 40 days of abstinence and penitence.  These days Mardi Gras gets celebrated by a lot of people who aren’t planning on giving up anything for Lent, must less embracing the abstemiousness that’s supposed to characterize the next six weeks.

In the US Mardi Gras has become practically synonymous with New Orleans, beads, hurricanes (the drinks, not the weather patterns) and parade floats.  As a consequence any time you look at a Mardi Gras menu it invariably features Creole and Cajun classics like gumbo, jambalaya, beignets and king cake.  Now, I would be more than happy to sit down to a plate of any of those things, but other than king cake there’s nothing about any of them that’s actually specifically related to Mardi Gras.

In the UK Mardi Gras is known as Shrove Tuesday (from the verb to shrive – which is what you’re supposed to be doing on the day before Lent starts).  It also frequently goes by the name Pancake Tuesday in recognition of the pancakes that are traditionally eaten to use up the fat, sugar and eggs that are/were restricted during Lent.  Much like, as a Jewish friend of mine noted, using up all the flour in the house before Passover starts.

Seeing as how Dinner actually fell on Mardi Gras this year, and I was aware of this as long ago as last week, I contemplated actually doing something to embrace that confluence of events.  However, I refuse to make pancakes for more than two people, so  a rendition of Pancake Tuesday was out.  I thought about embracing the popular zeitgeist and going N’awlins for Mardi Gras and got as far as looking at a lot of recipes for gumbo and jambalaya before deciding that (a) I was intimidated by making roux, (b) it would involve a lot of ingredients I’d have to omit for allergy reasons (shrimp), (c) ingredients I’d have to go to Whole Foods to find (andouille sausage), and/or (d) ingredients I’d chase all over suburban Boston trying to find, failing, and eventually replacing with a pale substitute (tasso).  At that point you’ve probably made a tasty rice based dish, but I’d hesitate to call it gumbo or jambalaya.  Plus, it seemed like a lot of work and I’m going to New Orleans this summer so I can wait for someone else to make me an authentic version.

However, having spent three days looking at a series of recipes that all started with bacon, and then involved ham, some more ham and then a little more ham for good measure, I was craving ham.  Fortunately that’s something I can get hold of without going to Whole Foods, so ham for Dinner.  Plus, sweet potatoes because I can always eat sweet potatoes.

* Apparently in the Eastern Orthodox Churches the Monday of Holy Week is known as Fig Monday and commemorates the withering of the fruitless fig tree (Matthew 12:18-22) as a symbol of what happens to those who don’t repent, but it’s not really celebrated in the West by either Catholics or Protestants and I’ll be honest, I had to look it up.  A friend’s father refers to the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday as Boring Saturday, but I don’t think that’s one that’s caught on yet in wider society (although if you’re looking to start a trend, I believe it’s traditionally commemorated with brunch and a trip to the mall).

Ham Steaks
Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Dark Greens
Cranberry Sauce

Ham Steaks

Recipe (?) previously given:  More Than One Standard Deviation From the Norm

Roasted Sweet Potatoes
I added a couple of peeled & diced apples to the mix.  When I do this for two of us the apples tend to crisp up and caramelize a little.  When I made this for Dinner the baking sheets were crowded enough that that apple steamed rather than roasting and broke down a little.  Both ways are tasty.  One gives you little caramelized apple chunks, the other gives you sweet bits of apple puree coating roasted sweet potatoes.

Recipe Previously Given:  Let’s Party Like It’s 1517

Dark Greens
Wilson Farms had all kinds of interesting greens this week and I bought a little of everything – turnip greens, mustard greens and plain old ordinary spinach.

I wilted them all down in a pan and then allowed them to drain before sautéing them in olive oil infused with (lots and lots and lots) of garlic until they were hot.

Incidentally, the greens in the picture were one of three batches of greens I wilted down – three huge piles of greens served 4 of us with a small serving left over, but probably could have been stretched to feed six if we hadn’t all sat around the table taking just one more spoonful to eat as we talked.

Cranberry Sauce
Normally this is the kind of Dinner that I’d make apple sauce to round out, but with the apples in the sweet potatoes that seemed a little redundant.  Fortuitously Wilson Farms has been hawking fresh cranberries recently and there’s no particular reason that you can’t have cranberry sauce at meals other than Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Plus, sometimes I make things just because I like them; that’s the prerogative of being the cook.

Recipe previously given: Obscure Realities


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: