Waste not, want not, even if you have to wash the meat

Strange title, I know, but it's a lesson I learned today that I thought everyone should learn. As most of you know, I'm from South Carolina, the home of Carolina mustard based BBQ sauce. It's really pretty much unlike any BBQ sauce you've ever tasted (unless you were raised there too), and
takes a little getting used to (sort of like boiled peanuts and fried okra).

My neighbor is from New Jersey, which tells you a lot if you're talking about BBQ. I made her some pulled pork once with some of my special "secret" sauce, and she loved it. The problem was, she wanted to make it. She's a nice enough lady (for a NJ Italian Republican), so I helped her pick out the meat and gave her my recipe - well, not my real recipe, but the easy-peasy one that you can't mess up, no matter how hard you try. All you have to do is mix Kraft Honey BBQ Sauce and yellow mustard in equal parts. Easy, right? Evidently not. She screwed it up...BADLY.

This morning, she asked if I wanted a little of her BBQ to take home. She was telling me it "tasted too much like mustard", so she put in more BBQ sauce. She didn't measure anything, which was probably the problem in the first place. Then she put in brown sugar. Why, I can't imagine, but she did. Then, because she didn't have the common sense to cook it on high enough heat for it to thicken before time to eat, she put in cornstarch to thicken it. No, I'm not joking...cornstarch.

I brought the concoction home, and tasted it -- and immediately spit it out! There was so much sugar in it that it was all you could taste. I tried doctoring it, but it didn't work. I tried adding more mustard, some vinegar, still too much sugar.

In years past, I would have consigned the entire bowl of nastiness to the garbage, but I've changed, so I washed it. Yep, washed it. Put it into a colander and washed all the sauce off of it. I mixed a little of my easy-peasy sauce, added a tad of vinegar, and boiled it down. It turned into a mushy mess, but it tasted o.k., so I ate it, so as not to waste it. It was, after all, good meat.

The moral of this story is that if someone gives you something totally unpalatable, and you can doctor it to make it work, do it. This doesn't just apply to food, it applies to all things. If someone gives you a gift, accept it with grace, and make it into what you would want it to be, if at all possible. If life gives you something you don't think you can possibly tolerate, make it into something you can. In other words, make what you're given into an ingredient, not a finished product.

Of course, this isn't always possible, but the story of my friend's swamp is a good example. In Florida, it rains almost every day in the summer, and I'm not talking about short afternoon showers. Last week, water was actually standing in my yard, which is hard since it's pure sand. You can imagine how much rain it would take to saturate pure sand to that point.

My friend has gardens. She also has a back yard that is so boggy in the summer that most things she planted drowned. In the winter dry season, it was a beautiful place, full of flowers and lovely shrubbery. In the summer, it was a swamp full of dead and decaying annuals and dying shrubs. She tried everything to fix it, hauled in tons of sand, but for some reason, that back yard wants to be a swamp. So she dug up all her flowers and shrubs and moved them to the front yard, and created bog gardens in the back, with hundreds of native plants dug from roadside ditches. She added cannas and gingers that do well in bogs, and planted a red maple, which loves boggy soil. She built raised walkways out of free pallets, placed on beds of gravel. It's mostly green in the winter, and some of the plants die back, to be replaced with potted annuals for color. Then the summer rains come, and it rises from the dead and puts on a display that rivals any back yard garden you've ever seen, a spectacular blend of colors and shapes, complete with a host of singing frogs, flitting butterflies and dozens of brightly colored dragonflies.

My friend wanted gardens. Nature gave her a swamp, so she filled it with swamp flowers. She says now that her swamp is a gift, that made her stretch out into growing things she never would have thought of in a million years.

So don't waste what is given to you, turn it into an ingredient for something good....even if you have to wash the meat.


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