Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Color of Sound

When you think of your favorite color what sounds come to mind?

When I was really little, I shared a bedroom with my grandmother who lived with us until her death. The room was painted what I think they called rose, but was really more of a vivid salmon pink. She loved that color, that of the roses her Norwegian logger husband gave to her before an accident in the woods, the weight of the world falling down. Doctors could do nothing for such internal injuries so they brought him home to quietly bleed out, there beneath her tears. She was just 36 years old and had three children. She never remarried.

As a kid I hated that color.  It certainly didn't match my G.I. Joe action fort I'd built in the corner of the room. I swore if I ever had my own place it would NEVER have a pink room. But I loved my grandmother and when I see that color I can hear her musical voice as she dusted the precious things she brought to her room, stopping to give me a hug as she did so.
A few years after Grandma passed away Dad stated  that my room needed repainting, (Yay!)  I asked if I could paint it and maybe paint a rainbow on it (hey, I was in 6th grade). He said yes, but he was only going to buy the base color. Anything else I did to it, I'd have to use what was in the garage of the leftover paint.

I chose yellow. Let's just say there wasn't much to pick from for the rainbow which is why there remains to this day (though the yellow has been painted over), two rainbows, a half one behind the bed, and a full one on the other side made out of 70's yellow, gold and aqua and yes, the remainder of the horrid salmon pink. Dad refuses to paint over them and surprisingly, when he had his kitchen fire, my room was the only one closed off to the point it had no smoke damage.
There is no accounting for taste in color. When my daughter and her husband bought their first home, the price was a steal given the area, which was quite upscale, but for a good reason. Some of the walls were painted black (the rest seemed to be covered in those press on mirrors). Bits of the back yard looked like it had been torched, and the carpet inside was damp enough with spilled beer that you could probably grow wild rice in the living room. It had been some young hipster's bachelor pad (or Darth Vader's, we're still not sure). Now it is painted white and varying shades of blue, with three stories of glass that look out onto the Rockies, the walls seemingly joining the sky.

I'd say that if I had a favorite color, it would still be yellow, the color of butter, of daisies, and the sun that makes you weep as you look into it. It's the color of the deep throated roar that is a Stearman R680-13 300 hp engine firing up, it's the gentle tap of a waltz that is the J3 Cub.  Yet, there are other colors that bring back memories. The Range living room is this antique looking sage green.  It could stand with a redo, but the color will remain the same, I think, as I go to the paint store to look at samples.
It's the color of my parents living room, and the sound of laughter that so often came from it.  It's not the green of the apples in the tree in the backyard, that hung low over the limbs we'd hang from like monkeys.  It's not the deep grey green  swirl of a river full of steelhead.  It was more of the aromatic sage of something wonderful coming from the oven; the laughter of Mom and Grandma in the kitchen; the recipe born of white paper and cursive script.  It's memory of those sounds that make you weep for the lost colors of childhood.

In looking through all the little squares of paint at the store, I think to myself that we always seem to associate scent with certain periods of our lives, but how about color?

There, in one display, are the rich vivid hues of sunrise. That takes me back to my last  time camping out in the woods, watching the sunrise from my spot underneath a tree.  At first there is only darkness, the colors of the starless night, of a deep ocean crossing, the sky then gathering a bit of light in the depths, like the eyes of Jesus that look down on us from a cross on the wall, eyes that show no age as they show no forgetting. From the woods comes the hoot of an owl, the soft crunch as the fairy feet of some small animal looks for a safe place to sleep.
The first hint of day is red, the royal blue-red, that in centuries past would have been forbidden to be worn by the masses, on threat of death, then oranges and yellows, dripping like forgotten fruit into the horizon, their taste and texture, fragrant and lush against the plate of the earth. Pink and white, the color of salt water snails found in the submerged sands of paradise, washed clean of their prison with a spray of water that can be heard hundred of yards away. Then finally blue, just a hint of blue, paler even than the bluest sky I remember from my last time aloft, just a hint of blue, fading, for into the sky comes the weather, thick clouds pulled up by the still slumbering earth to cover it and keep it warm as in the far distance there is a rumble of thunder.

I love being out at such times - before the the sun could even warm the earth, warm me, blue grey gave way to grey, like the whole of Lee's army taking on the battle between dusk and dawn.  The blood red of the sunrise leaches into the earth until the world goes suddenly and softly grey again.  The clouds mourn and the birds sound an echo of taps up in the trees, as I sit and remember a battle of my own, tracing invisible scars of it upon soft skin.

Then, there in another section of the paint store are the blues and greys.
In the Spring of my childhood, after the winter cold and snow retreated, Mom and I would head outdoors, just the two of us, along the shores of local bodies of water looking for stones, stones that may have not been unearthed for years, abundant embedded in earth and sand. They're quiet treasures on the shores of the the West, wind swept lands riddled with unclaimed treasures that people simply pass and forget, not knowing what they have underneath their feet. Beneath this great land lies jeweled richness of stone, and prehistoric bones, telling tales as they surface, dotting the future with pieces of the past.

Some stones are so tiny as to be little bearings of smoothness, the size of a small birds egg. Others take both hands to hold. My Mom as well, was fascinated by stones, and we'd search through the grey and dark and cold surfaces looking for the one that will break open into glorious color of gemstone. Rich colors forged in heat and fire and fate. We'd hunt down an agate, and knowing what we will find inside of it, we'd smile.

In native Indian culture agates were believed to cure the stings of scorpions and the bites of snakes, soothe the mind, prevent contagion, still thunder and lightning, promote eloquence, secure the favor of the powerful, and bring victory over enemies. In this agate, Mom might not find a cure for the stinging bite of what she has within her that was too soon to take her life, but in it she found strength and beauty, swirling colors of joy in that moment, something to sooth the thunder that rolled through her in dark frightened moments.

She hand picked them, and cataloged them by color and origin. I happily worked with her,listening to the sound of her voice that stays with me still as she captured the deep energy of the earth, that grounded her to us.

Then, there are the reds, the color that is the crowning head of birth, the liquid grace in a gold chalice. It is color, that like blood, has as many variances as does the way it can be spilled, there in a flash of light, a burning, a blow, one instant of sublimation, then darkness again. It is the color of the senses, the depth of rose, a lover's whisper, a splash of red wine, of desire and loss.

For red is also the color of warning, the beep beep beep of a cockpit warning message, the flash of a light at the approach end of the runway that tells you if you are too high or too low. Such lights glare with luminous boding of the nearness of earth, the red and white lights that slide across the night itself, speaking aloud with silent sound to eyes that sometimes see what the soul cannot.
You took in those sounds and their colors and process them with a quick movement of hands, as your aircraft bears down upon the earth, holding in check, the vast mass of weight and gravity as long as you can, until the engines pant as if breathless, the power brought back in the last second as the wheels kiss the pavement with a soft "chirp chirp".  Sometimes at that point you are breathless yourself, as the white centerline lights lead you gently in.

I think of that bright white as I look through the second of white paint. The section of samples of white is bigger than one expects, ranging from Casper the Friendly Ghost pale to rich cream, from the crystal purity of light that sparks off of a diamond ring to the wood scented smoke that is Fall. White brings to mind snow; not the snow of the ground, but the snow aloft, where thick water droplets the size of guppies give way to a thick white spray that parts as we fly through it in waves of frigid courtesy, the sound of the engines outside the only constant in this day.
On such a flight we fly in silence, but for the occasional chirp of a radio, our movements in sync. Today, they'd call that Cockpit Resource Management.  Back then we sort of worked in some sort of unspoken telepathy that was both trust and history aloft,  like two birds that leave a guy wire at exactly the same time. Our hands move in a silent prayer of ritual without words, a communion of motion and metal.

Flying on a clear night, one gets the sense that movement stops as if your ship is hung suspended from the stars with no forward progress. But when the snow hits, if the moon is bright enough, you have a sense of speed that is the wild leap of a toboggan off a hill.  As the miles trail behind us like wake, we look out into the snow much as we did as children, mentally sticking our tongues out to catch a flake and let it melt, looking through the windshield with a sort of hushed searching for something so far beyond us, we can't as yet grasp it. It's a look that's both the wonder of the unknown and knowledge that is profoundly intent, time slowing down even at .82 Mach.

We had command of millions of dollars worth of steel, and a mission. But in that moment, we were simply children, our craft not burdened with time's dragging weight which the old garb themselves with each day, but with the unfettered fast movement that are those lost moments of play out in a snow covered field.
Color is memory, and with memory comes sound, there in its own vivid color.  One may bring back the other yet neither will ever be exactly what they were. It's like an ancient recipe scribbled on frail paper, the letters faded, even if the intent is clear, familiar in form and sense, the name and presence of elusive and sentient forces of grain and yeast, water and love, a taste and smell that you can recreate, yet it will never be exactly the same. Yet, even if it is not the same, the shape, the faint taste, brings you back.

It comes back to you at odd times, sometimes when going full tilt into your day; sometimes as you sit in quiet reflection, a resonant distant hum of the dog sleeping beside you.  The colors around you have a spent quality, like the rise of dissipating smoke, of the steam of an ancient engine, even as they softly gleam with light, pushing from their solitude into yours, nudging that memory of the past.  It's a past that can be cold and vacant or warm with color.  It's all how your soul sees what your eyes sometimes cannot.
I think of my Dad now, the hollow sound of his feet moving across his bedroom floor in the cold, the room nearly empty, but thunderous with the presence of my Mom.  I remember the day he first opened her closet after she was gone, to see the remnants of her existence in colorful pieces of cloth, in those favorite colors of agates, blues, and black obsidian and ivory, blues and golds, discovered like gemstone when that door was broken open. How vivid the look on his face as he found them. Not a look of grief, or incomprehension, but a look of fierce affirmation that she had been here, that she had loved him. A look of recognition, of the subtle, complex beauty that she left us - her spouse, her children.

As the sun comes up early this morning, I sit with my bread and coffee. Down the hall is a salmon pink bathroom that was the favorite color of a young Swedish woman who was the love of someone's life before she was my Grandma.  It could be redone right now, but it won't be.

It sits as proudly in morning light as my Grandmother did, in the bright glare of grief where shadows not only defined and became personal, but formed and shaped her unexpected destiny. I'd like to paint it yellow, and someday I will.  But for now it remains.  She loved that color and so, for that moment in the past,  for that memory as I recall her singing with newfound happiness,  I will let it lay upon the walls in peace.

- Brigid

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

1911 - Proven by History, Carried by Thousands

We were the good guys. We had a plan.  It was a complicated plan, one that needed to be followed exactly.  You know how on CSI type shows they'll be out in the field where they can come up with a way to match DNA with a can of Aquanet and a long tube? (Wait, that's a potato gun.)  Real life is not like that. Coming up with a way to conduct a complicated experiment involving materials technology with what's on hand is usually a bit more detailed. In this case, the plan would come to fruition with the implementation of a design, one that was thought out and laid on paper, to the last microscopic detail. Of course that means someone usually decides to "improve on it".

So in this mission, essentially that happened and the original design was "tweaked",  without consultation, which meant it wouldn't work, at all.  The plan had to be re-written, not only to solve the problem, which was growing uglier as one waited, but  to also the fix the new problem that the freelance "improvement" to the design made.

The Second Design came with it a Mil Spec no one else would recognize.

MIL-TFD-1111

There were a few eyebrows raised. Finally someone had to ask.  "What does that mean?".

"Make It Like the Friggin Design Four Ones." (for once)


A design proven by history.

There are many 1911 style weapons out there, from “plain vanilla” straight 1911s to full adjustable sights, underlug accessory-rail equipped weapons designed for special ops, both military and civilian LEO type.  Many of you have one somewhere in that range, in your home or in your holster and for many a good reason.

This is a firearm  that is essentially unchanged in 100 years.

Some things you just can't improve on. Like a firearm that's proven itself over a century. The gun that sits on my table, that rides on my hip, is, but for the smallest accommodations in a few external parts, a few cosmetic updates (and likely better steel), is the same fundamental firearm John Moses Browning developed and Colt produced a little over 100 years ago. 

The first 1911 was born in the Colt Factory the year Roy Rogers was born.  If you are now saying "who is  Roy Rogers?" please go play a video game and come back later with a note from your Mom. It was the same year that Ginger Rogers was born, when John Rigby designed his .416 caliber rifle on original Mauser action for African big game and the same year the Ottawa Senators won the Stanley Cup. (Go Sens!)

When Gavrilo Pincip shot the Archduke Francis Ferdinand of Austria in 1914 with a  32 caliber FN Model 1910, much of the world realized that war was imminent and firearms would play a part in it. There were numerous firearms manufactured at that time, but it was John Moses Browning's .45 that was provided to the soldiers, with some two and a half million or more of  them manufactured to fight the war. To get that many firearms in service, contracts went out to other manufacturers besides Colt and Springfield Armory to make them, including a couple companies up in our neighbor to the North, Canada.

Twenty-One MILLION people died in that war, soldier and civilian alike. The losses continued through WWII, Korea and onward.   I am sure many lives were defended because of that firearm.  Something else that has not changed over time.

I'd toyed with the idea  of getting one, I already have more than one .45 to shoot, but I've heard so much about the 1911, all positive.  So it was no surprise that when I picked this one up, a Loaded 1911-A1, for the first time, I said.  "Oh, Yes."

"Loaded" 1911 does not mean it has a round in the magazine or chamber.  Consider it loaded, like your sub sandwich  or burger would be.  It has ALL the goodies, full length guide rod, polished feed ramp, enlarged ejection port, extended ambidextrous safety selectors, custom trigger and beavertail grip safety.

Concealed Carry - For carry, there are a variety of holsters.  I'm a big fan of  Dennis at Dragon Leatherworks holsters and his Talon  holster fits this firearm well and distributes the weight evenly.  But holsters notwithstanding, there are three basic ways to carry this firearm concealed.

Door #1 - The hammer is down and the chamber is empty.  This means you have to manually cycle the slide before you fire it.  Then, to return the firearm to its previous carry position you have to drop the magazine, empty the chamber, drop the hammer, and reload and reinsert the magazine, all without doing something stupid that's going to put a hole in anyone, including you.  You might as well carry a two and a half  pound hammer as a self defense tool.  It's likely quicker.  Carrying for quick self defense with an empty chamber poses more of a hazard to you than the criminal who is coming right at you.

Door #2 - The chamber hs loaded with a round but you must you cock the hammer with your thumb prior to firing.  If you've fired a single action revolver with a large hammer whose purpose IS be cocked by your thumb, you're familiar with the concept and it doesn't feel odd.  Still, this requires that you pull the trigger carefully and lower the hammer over a loaded chamber prior to re-holstering the firearm. Again, that's an extra step between the bad guy and the defense of your life. Personal choice here.

Door #3 - The one that makes liberals, old ladies and poodle dogs shudder in their shadow and that, my friends,  is cocked and locked.  This means the hammer is cocked, the chamber is loaded with a live round and the thumb safely is ON.  This means that the weapon is ready to fire NOW. All you have to do is click the safety down, pull the trigger while maintaining your grip and click it back up after the threat has the prerequisite hole in it. That's something that Barkley could even manage had he opposable thumbs.

But remember, when  the gun is cocked and locked, the sear is blocked from releasing the hammer. Further, unless a firing grip is on the pistol, the thumb safety swept off, and the trigger is pulled, the gun will not go off.  In my opinion, that's safer than the carry condition of some firearms.

Again, it's a personal choice, but I prefer Door #3.  Instant readiness.  If that door opens and a bad guy rushes in, intent on harming or killing, you can react in an instant.  That is why I carry a .45 for self defense in this manner.  Not to to be considered cool in the tactical sense, nor to balance my somewhat forward center of gravity, but to get the firearm in action when my life may depend on it, NOW, with the fewest opportunities for mistakes.

Some armchair gun enthusiasts like to say that you shouldn't carry a 1911 cocked and locked "because it requires more training than other guns".  I humbly disagree, at least for this particular model.
I'm no expert.  The gun manufacturer's don't pay me or give me freebies to write reviews and I doubt any of them will read them. I'm a better shot than much of the population, I'm a worse shot than a lot of my readership, I'm sure.  I simply know the basics.  I keep practicing the basics.  As such, I can say that I found the operation of this particular 1911 cocked and locked IS instinctual and functional. And I SO did NOT miss that very long and dreaded trigger pull on some double action autos that is like waiting at the doctors for that "you'll just feel a little pinch".

Again, my opinion, and as I tell anyone that reads here, for any new firearm, find a friend that's actively owned and shot one for years to offer guidance.  Even better, for a new firearm OR new to shooting, get an experienced NRA instructor like my friends Lynne F. Keads and Bill at Eastern Iowa Firearms Training  and get some "dual" on it as  we pilots would say.

Size and Weight - the barrel is 5 inches. That's a nice long sight radius for you to peer down for accuracy. Stainless steel, the height is  5.5 " and the weight 40 ounces (with empty magazine). This is a heavy firearm and for some folks, size and weight tend to go against the grain for the concealed concept, as they want light and small.  There are many folks that can and do carry "duty" size pistols and with the right holster and clothing, they conceal them well.  Weight, for me is not an issue as I'm not going to be carrying it all day long, nor size, as I'm 5 foot 8 in bare feet and curvy.  I also like it for recoil. Go fire a tiny lightweight gun with a largish round and then fire the 1911. You'll notice a huge difference in both recoil and comfort. I'd as soon be tied to chair and forced to watch "The Bachelor" than fire 100 rounds through my Kahr 40. The 1911, I can easily shoot for a morning at the Range and although my grouping gets a little looser as I get tired, it's still quite manageable.

First day with the 1911 target.
Trigger - Not just Roy Rogers trusty stead any more.  The 1911 A-1 trigger is nice.  It seemed like my finger just traveled about one nano-millimeter before it encountered resistance, and then just traveled another short distance until releasing with no discernible over travel.  It breaks as crisp and easy as that piece of Grandma's china after someone had too much eggnog.

With that, let's go to the thumb safety on the 1911.  If you've ever operated the bass-ackwards thumb safeties on some double actions, you will fall in love with the simple up/safe down/fire function of the 1911.

But remember, the primary safety is between your ears. Never rely on a gun’s “safety” to protect you from unsafe gun handling. A safety is only a mechanical device, not a substitute for using some common sense.

Grip - I can't count the number of  people I've talked to that try out a new handgun and immediately compare the grip to that of their 1911.  For that "new" firearm they're trying, it's like being the second wife after the first wife died after winning Miss Universe, curing cancer, and waking you up every morning with. . . bacon.  You will ALWAYS be compared to that first, impossible to replace love.  The 1911 is like that for some people.

The feel of the grip is unique, but not in a "she has a unique personality" way, but comfortable, like something you've felt before.  It just fits like it was built for YOUR hand.  The grips, as well, are beautiful.  Sure you could replace with a set of Crimson Trace laser grips, but would you want to? Springfield Armory, as well, seems to have somehow tweaked the original grip safety (an ornery afterthought designed by a committee who have never handled a weapon while under fire) so it works well even when gripping the firearm riding the thumb safety high, for use at any moment. I'm not sure as to what was done, or if it was just my perception, but it did perform well and it's infinitely better than some modern firearms that are lawyered up with a wealth of safeties that only a six year old could operate under duress. 

Accenting the grip area is a nicely cross set of wood panels that contain the double-diamond pattern, along with the Springfield Armory logo. It's not just nice looking, the texture of the surface provides for a positive hold.
The magazine release button  is easy to push in with either the thumb of the right hand, or the middle finger of the left hand (the "how am I driving" finger).  The magazines slide in well, and drop freely when you push the release button. The magazine is 7 + 1, and the firearm typically comes with two when purchased.

Accuracy - You don't necessarily need the "FBI crouch" of old movies and you most certainly do NOT want the "gangsta style" stance unless you want to make  sure the threat gets a chance to get a round off at you first.  Shooting "from the hip" works if you are being attacked by a hippopotamus on Ambien, but in most cases it's going to result in your getting your ass kicked, probably with your own weapon that is grabbed out of your hand.

Learn to use your sights.  Unsighted fire may work at powder burn range, but sights weren't put on a firearm so you could hit a zombie woodchuck in the eye at 200 yards. Sights were made so you can hit a target that's coming at you when you are not going to get a second shot. Using your sights takes practice and concentration.  I don't have a single handgun with laser anything though I have AR15s equipped with holographic technology and some night toys.  Iron sights are my friend and the ones on the 1911 here were very easy to adapt to, even in quick draw.

Stripping and Cleaning- Stripping and cleaning is pretty much standard for any of the 1911's.  http://how-i-did-it.org/detail-1911/field_strip.html for some guided instructions.

Much easier than the take down of the Ruger Mark III. (below)
Would I recommend the "Loaded" 1911 A-1?  Absolutely.  It's got a grip you will always feel comfortable with.  It's manufactured with the best in American Made quality, to one of the highest standards there is.  It's not an inexpensive firearm, but it's one you will own for a lifetime, and then likely pass on to your child or a niece, a nephew.  It's one you'll let your best friend shoot. This is a firearm that will retain its history, over time.

Springfield Armory has nailed the exemplary character of a distinguished sidearm and I'm proud to have one in the home and by my side.

 - Brigid

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Friday, August 26, 2016

Bacon Jam - Your New Addiction

After a long work day and no desire to make a five course meal,  a grilled cheese is easy.  But how about adding a leftover fried chicken thigh and homemade bacon jam made with your favorite hot sauce?

1 lb smoked bacon, sliced into small pieces (or use regular bacon and liquid smoke)
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 medium brown onion, sliced
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce - I used my favorite from

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar (I use Braggs)
1/4 cup pure maple syrup (not the additive laden cheap grocery store"maple like" syrup)
cracked black pepper (to taste)
Extra water (see directions)

Directions.
In a non stick pan, fry the bacon in batches until lightly browned and beginning to crisp. Fry the onion and garlic in the rendered bacon fat on medium heat until translucent. Transfer the bacon, onion and garlic into a heavy based cast iron pot and add the rest of the ingredients except for the water. Simmer for 2 hours adding 1/4 of a cup of water every 25-30 minutes or so and stirring. When ready, cool for about 15-20 minutes and then place in a food processor. Pulse for 2-3 seconds so that you leave some texture to the “jam”,

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Abby Lab - On the Constitution

Abby - do these white shorts make my butt look big?

Abby wisely, and silently, pleads the Fifth.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Dock Dogs Quotes for the Day

 Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.
- T. S. Eliot
 Jump, and you will find out how to unfold your wings as you fall.
- Ray Bradbury
 No need to teach an eagle to fly.
— Greek Proverb
 Time is flying never to return.
- Virgil
 I have not yet learned to keep still.
 Apollonius of Tyana
The backbone of surprise is fusing speed with secrecy. 
Carl von Clausewitz 
  You have freedom when you're easy in your harness.
- Robert Frost
 The knack of flying is learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss.
- Douglas Adams
 He who is brave is free.
- Lucius Annaeus Seneca
  Boldness be my friend.
- William Shakespeare
 No man is free who is not master of himself.
- Epictetus
 Courage is fear holding on a minute longer.
- George S. Patton
 Man is free at the moment he wishes to be.
- Voltaire
 The flame that burns Twice as bright burns half as long.
-  Lao Tzu, Te Tao Ching
 My soul is in the sky
— William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream
 It is even better to act quickly and err than to hesitate until the time of action is past.
- Carl von Clausewitz
 Courage is knowing what not to fear.
- Plato
A man with outward courage dares to die; a man with inner courage dares to live. 
― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
 Life must be lived as play.
- Plato

Sunday, August 21, 2016

No Step

We have successfully ripped out the back steps (the first floor sits on top of a walk out basement) and will be assembling the new ones, so blogging will be light until tomorrow night or Tuesday. The old steps (which were no longer structurally sound) went straight down to the drive which made putting them inside a fence impossible, given the layout of the drive, yard and garage.  The new ones will go back 90 degrees into the yard (with a landing) so the fence can go in that allows doggie direct access to the yard in bad weather.


It's been a learning experience.  I've learned Partner in Grime is pretty darn good at construction. And I learned that I'm pretty good at making sandwiches.  See you all later!


Friday, August 19, 2016

DIY Dinner

On the basics -

"The gunsmith should, and probably will, be quite content to master the task of screwing in a brass front sight on a shotgun without having the sight look as if it had been mashed between two moving gears."
- Professional Gunsmithing by Robert J. Howe (1946)

On the Shotgun -

"During the course of a year there is probably no other type of weapon that will cross the gunsmith's counter in such quantity and variety as the shotgun - from the engraved expensive British and German double barrel custom made jobs to the single shot eight dollar price of a boy.  And like a mother chick with her brood, the gunsmith must learn to know and love them all, for woe betide the gun craftsman who publicly refers to some customers pet scatter gun as being inferior to another type."
 - Profesional Gunsmithing by Robert J. Hower (1946)

There's all sorts of ways to do things, but sometimes just the basics can be as good as all the new found gadgets.  The books these quotes are from is an excellent one for a basic understanding of Gunsmithing.  The skills are timeless, only the technology and tools have changed (if you don't have the skills all the technology in the world is useless).  It also has some info on how to use old Atlas Lathes and Mills.

You have to understanding the basics.  Such it is with gunsmithing, such it is with another craft - foodsmithing.

With a kitchen full of expensive gadgets, mixes and packaged food, most people can put dinner on the table. But truly understanding how basic foods are cooked and why flavors turn out as they do is the difference between an "OK" cook and a "why is there a line on my porch?" cook.

What do we have to work with? There's  a few hamburger buns left from the cookout, a few canned goods.  A cheap chunk of roast beast was picked up, one that will be best prepared by slow cooking as  that will soften the connective tissue without toughening the muscle.  Still, it will need something to bring out the flavor.

It's DIY dinner time.

First you need to sear the meat the get the flavors that come only from the Maillard Reaction.


 No, not Mallard! It's MAILLARD.

It's a form of nonenzymatic browning resulting from a chemical reaction between an amino acid and a reducing sugar, normally with heat (and named after a French chemist who described it, not in the context of a French Dip but in attempt to reproduce biological protein synthesis). The reactive carbonyl group of the sugar reacts with the nucleophilic amino group of the amino acid, and forms a complex mixture of poorly characterized molecules responsible for a range of odors and flavors.
  
In the reaction, hundreds of different flavor compounds are created, that in turn break down, forming yet more new flavor compounds. The browning reactions that occur when meat is roasted or seared are complicated, but most  occur by Maillard browning with contributions from other chemical reactions, including the breakdown of the tetrapyrrole rings of the muscle protein myoblogin (you've all just been waiting for this, haven't you?)
 
This enhances the flavor of any food that contains proteins and sugars and there are some food whose flavor profiles owe a LOT to Dr. Maillard.  Grilled roasted meats, crusty bread, dark beer, roasted coffee, chocolate, toast, cookies. Any food that you are cooking at temps above 250 F are going to have some Maillard components giving it color/texture/aroma.  If you know that, and can take full advantage of it, your dinner guests will thank you, even if you experiment on them, like I do. 

So don't forget to sear.  It's a scientific chain reaction of "MMMMMM". 

Range Beef Dip

Into a crockpot went:

2 1/4 cups beef broth (with added water to bring total liquid up to 2 and 1/3 cups
1 cup Merlot
1 can cranberry sauce
1 package Knorr French Onion Soup Mix *
1 heaping teaspoon crushed garlic
a couple of grinds of fresh  tellecherry black pepper
3 1/2 to 4 pound rump roast

*homemade soup mix  (no MSG)=  3/4 cup dried onion, 1/3 cup Penzey's beef soup base or bouillon powder, 1/4 tsp celery seed, 1 tsp parsley flakes, 1 tsp turmeric, 1/4  tsp pepper.  Store in air tight container and use 4 Tablespoons for most recipes that call for a package of soup mix. 

First, lightly and quickly sear roast in a smoking hot pan covered with a thick sheen of oil.  It's done properly when there is a light brown crust on each side and the smell is pleasant, not acrid.  Don't overdo!

Place roast fat side up in crock pot and cover with the remaining, ingredients which you  have blended in a bowl. Cover and set to lowest setting. Seven to eight  hours later, the meat will be falling apart tender and the au jus will be  fragrant and  incredibly good,.  The cranberry adds a delicious undertone, not a fruity taste.  I'd have preferred some crusty Ciabatta rolls to stand up to dipping the sandwich, but messy will work with a knife and fork.

Try it.  It may not be as great as your Mom's recipe, but, like a basic shotgun, it's still pretty darn good.